It seems Mayor LaToya Cantrell finds herself in an unenviable and difficult situation. A campaign to recall Cantrell is underway and appears to be picking up steam. Yes, it bothers us that there are members of the Black community complicit in this activity, blindly doing others’ dirty work. However, we could never be upset at citizens availing themselves to the democratic process. It’s your right. Carry on . . . 

Just be prepared. While you are out here collecting signatures, thinking you are doing some great service for the people of New Orleans, there are others fine-tuning their real plans for this City; and those plans do not include you. When all is said and done, you will not get what you hope for, but what you deserve–a city devoid of Black political power.

Oh, and let’s get one more thing out of the way. Those who dare suggest that The Tribune’s position on the current state of affairs in New Orleans is an indication that we are in the Mayor’s pocket or getting any type of largess for our commentary, you obviously don’t know us at McKenna Publishing at all.

For more than 37 years, our voice has been unfettered. We are, in the words of Shirley Chisholm, unbought and unbossed. In 37 plus years of publishing, we have lost advertising revenue because our editorial content has never been for sale. That very fact has given us the freedom to say they things no one else will say.

Now let’s get to it. For full disclosure, when Mayor Cantrell first ran for the office, here at The New Orleans Tribune, we pegged her as the candidate most favored by the same folk–the wealthy, elite, powerful Uptown crowd–that handpicked Ray Nagin to run years earlier. And well we know what happened to the naive Nagin. As soon as the folk who plucked him out of his executive job at Cox found him dispensable, he was indicted and sent to prison.

At any rate, we are certain that those same folk had appointed and anointed Cantrell as the one they could influence and use for their benefit. And to be perfectly honest, that is why she didn’t get our endorsement in her first run for mayor. 

Despite our misgivings, as Cantrell assumed office, we watched closely, hopeful that she would work for the benefit of all New Orleanians and do the job that she was elected to do. We wished her the best, understanding that her success would be success for all. 

As it turned out, our hope was not misplaced. Mayor Cantrell found her own voice. While we appreciated it, the elite business community didn’t like it one bit. And that, friends, is at the heart of this recall effort and the criticism being piled on top of her. 

We Said What We Said

It is not potholes. It’s not trips overseas. It’s not the New Orleans East Target that never was. It’s not even crime. For those of you repeating the “crime is out of control and the city is going to hell in hand basket” rhetoric . . . okay, if that helps you sleep at night. 

The reality is Cantrell didn’t let the powerful and elite class bully her when it came to choosing her chief of police. They didn’t like that. She did not back down when she declared that the City would get more of the tourism tax dollars that pour into New Orleans every year, with a plan to ensure that some of that money went directly to our culture bearers. They didn’t like that. She didn’t let them push her around when they wanted to reopen the city in the middle of a global pandemic because she understood that the residents that would be adversely impacted by such a move were mostly poor, mostly Black men and women working in the hospitality industry, and that just didn’t seem right or fair especially when Black people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. They didn’t like that.

In short, she made the decisions she felt best for the people of the City–all of us–and she did so without apology. And they really didn’t like that. Have there been missteps along the way? Sure. Name one mayor that hasn’t had one. Have we agreed with every single decision? Nope. Should you? Of course not. But nothing she has done or said is recall worthy. Anyone who believes that what is playing out right now is not tainted by racism, sexism and, most of all, by political aspirations on the part of those who would rather have someone else in City Hall–someone they can actually control–is delusional at best. 

They wanted her out last year. But, it’s hard to unseat an incumbent mayor in the middle of a global pandemic and while the region recovers from yet another hurricane. So what do you do? Well, you sit back as she runs essentially unbothered by any real challenger. We will say it again: If this city’s business elite thought there were any real contenders able to defeat Mayor Cantrell last fall, they would have put every dime they could spare behind that person in an attempt to get rid of her. If they could have found one, they would have pulled him or her out and branded either as the change “we” need. If they could have beat her in 2021, she would be at the house right now. But they couldn’t. So they didn’t even try.

She runs and wins. Whatever are they to do now? Welp, if you really want her out, better still, if you want to exercise control over City Hall for years to come, you attack, malign, nitpick, and disparage her; and in doing so, you cast aspersion on Black leadership in general. You weave a narrative about corruption and ineptitude. You make sure the local daily leads with a story almost every day. And it certainly helps to have both of the at-large members of the New Orleans City Council, with their own eyes set on moving into the mayoral suite at City Hall, begin their terms by vociferously attacking the Mayor . . . and they have not stopped. Meanwhile, as demographics in this city continue to shift, you use this opportunity to ensure that Black leaders in New Orleans will have an increasingly difficult time getting elected citywide or that the ones that do can only do so with your blessing and support. If you are really crafty, you even get Black folk to buy into your narrative and to serve as the face and voice for your plan.

Boy, are they good. They have folk out here talking about trips, first class tickets, juvenile justice court proceedings and press conferences and policies about upgrading flights like that is legitimate fodder for discourse. 

Enough with the innuendo and idle speculation. If LaToya Cantrell has committed some high crime, then do what needs to be done. Let the chips fall where they may. Otherwise, stop getting people worked up. Hush up and let her do her job.

Does our City need attention? Yes. Do we have major issues that need to be addressed? You better believe it. But miss us with that “the city has never been in worse shape than it is right now” malarkey. 

We know better.

You Can’t Go From Worst to Worst . . .

New Orleans is not in worse shape now than it was eight or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. In 2007, there were 209 murders in New Orleans. In 2011, there were 200 murders in New Orleans. And let’s not forget those shameful years that the city’s murder count approached and even topped 400. It’s true that we have already surpassed the 200 threshold this year; and with about four months to go, we expect that more lives will be added to that count before the end of 2022. That is an unfortunate circumstance. No one should be okay with that. Yes, we have a crime problem, but it did not start this year. The truth is we are about four decades deep into a major crime problem. 

To act as if New Orleans has not held the infamous distinction of having one of the highest and if not the highest per capita murder rates in modern times, is ridiculous. To feign that there is a legitimate distinction between 200 homicides and 220 homicides or 240 is offensive. Keeping the number of murders in New Orleans to 200 or less should not earn any mayor bragging rights or a prize. 

That’s the problem now. We are counting bodies much in the same manner that we once weighed trash after Mardi Gras. It’s idiotic. One murder is one too many. Hell, if the murder rate is what has y’all in a tizzy and clamoring for a recall, then every mayor from Moon Landrieu on down should have been the subject of a recall effort. Check the record, it was during his tenure in the early seventies that New Orleans’ murder rate began its steady climb.

For the last time, the mayor can’t stop crime.

The one we have now can’t stop it. Anyone that might waltz into office riding the wave of this recall effort will not be able to stop it. The crime problem is a systemic one that will take a multi-faceted, holistic set of solutions applied consistently and comprehensively over time and across the economic, education, housing, healthcare arenas. We are so tired of saying this!

But here’s the gag, Black folk. This ain’t about murder or the crime rate, at least not the murder and crime that has impacted our neighborhoods and communities for the last 40 to 50 years. It is about crime hitting too close to the wrong zip code. Folk that thought their bank accounts and exclusive addresses provided them some protections are learning the hard way that containment as a crime fighting tool only lasts so long. Black mothers and fathers have been burying their sons and daughters for a long time in New Orleans and there hasn’t been one recall effort in the city’s 300-year history.

Yep, we are making comparisons. Yep, we are saying the Mayor is not a magician able to wave a wand and fix New Orleans. We are saying it because it is true. Not one mayor before has been able to do that. Of course, when crime in New Orleans peaked in the mid-1990s, Marc Morial was able to get a handle on things by wisely bringing in Richard Pennington as NOPD’s Superintendent. The murder rate began to decline for a while. Still, any criminologist will explain that violent crime ebbs and flows, rises and falls, depending on a variety of variables. And any sociologist will tell say that until its root causes–poverty, inequity, miseducation–are addressed, a community will never make a significant dent in crime. Recognizing that fact is not kicking the ball down the line or excusing what might be seen as a lack of results. It is facing reality–the sort of reality that needs to be faced if New Orleans is ever going dig itself out of the hot mess we are in.

By the way, to suggest that we should not compare the condition of New Orleans under Mayor Cantrell with conditions that existed under other mayors is hypocritical. Anyone who dares utter that the city has is in the worst shape it’s ever been . . . is making a comparison. And if we are going to compare conditions, we damn sure ought to be able to compare reactions. 

Under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the unemployment rate for working-age Black men in this city skyrocketed to 52.4 percent. Mmmm, let’s say this another way: In 2011, more than half of the Black men in this city did not have a job; yet not one of y’all chaired a committee to petition for his recall. But a Black woman takes a first-class flight, misspeaks about the arrival of big box store or holds a press conference to defend her record and does not kowtow, and y’all want her head on silver platter. Yeah, okay.

Where we are right now, where we will be four years from now, eight years from now, 20 years from now is the result of multiple decades of neglect and misplaced priorities. It is the result of systemic issues that we have borne the brunt of while many our White neighbors have never had to worry. And now that it is at their front steps, on their porches and running down their pristine, tree-lined streets . . . now, we have a problem. 

Oh, and what do we mean by misplaced priorities? Well, we repeatedly tell y’all that nearly half the public schools in the city are failing and most fourth graders aren’t reading on grade level, and hardly anyone flinches. The Mayor says that maybe we can’t have Mardi Gras next year because NOPD doesn’t have the capacity to handle the event, and folk are ready to riot in the streets. If what the local daily reports is true, NOPD is downgrading sexual assault reports because they don’t have the manpower they need, and y’all worried about Mardi Gras balls and parades — MISPLACED PRIORITIES!

The folk that will riot over the idea of Mardi Gras being cancelled are not the folk whose fourth graders can’t read. Their children don’t even go to school with ours. They are the folk who make millions of dollars off of the annual display of debauchery. They don’t even care that your fourth grader can’t read!

This Ain’t About Us

A full 32 percent of all Black households in New Orleans live in poverty, compared to only 10 percent of White households. And this disparate poverty rate between Black and White New Orleanians has been the case for decades. Where was the NOLA Coalition then? This ain’t about US!

In previous commentary, we have pointed out that the current attacks against the Mayor are not about her at all, but about disparaging Black leadership. Right now, LaToya Cantrell just happens to be the highest-ranking elected Black official in New Orleans. Taking her down (or any of the other top Black elected officials currently serving in Orleans Parish) is merely collateral damage in a decades-long quest to regain control of City Hall. 

But it is deeper than that. This outrage that we are all supposed to feel collectively about the direction of the city and the so-called failures of Mayor Cantrell is not even about US.

A full 32 percent of all Black households in New Orleans live in poverty, compared to only 10 percent of White households. And this disparate poverty rate between Black and White New Orleanians has been the case for decades. Where was the NOLA Coalition then? This ain’t about US!

As long as crime was concentrated in 70128, the Mayor could go to the moon and back. Now that those children who can’t read on a fourth-grade level are a little older and jacking cars in 70124 and parts of 70118, they act as if the Mayor should not be allowed to leave the parish let alone the country because of rampant crime.

Crime has been running rampant. All of a sudden, business folk are creating foundations, raising money and handing out grants like candy. And that’s fine. In fact, it is wonderful. But let’s call a thing a thing. And if no one else is willing to do it, you can count on us to do so without trepidation . . . and NEVER for remuneration. 

Our problems have never been everyone else’s problems until they were actually EVERYONE ELSE’S problem. Now, we all have to come together, sign petitions and sing Kumbaya to get rid of the Mayor because this is bigger than race or gender . . . it’s about our quality of life, yada, yada, yada . . . 

Shame on you, Black folk, who are falling into this trap. This isn’t about crime, at least not crime in your neighborhoods, and it is not about US.

If this were actually about our quality of life or the crime that has rocked our communities for a very long time, where has the outrage over the challenges that beset US long before Cantrell became mayor?

A full 32 percent of all Black households in New Orleans live in poverty, compared to only 10 percent of White households. And this disparate poverty rate between Black and White New Orleanians has been the case for decades. Where was the NOLA Coalition then? 

This ain’t about US!

About 80 percent of public-school students in Orleans Parish are Black, yet they make up less than 20 percent of the students in the top-performing public charter schools. Meanwhile, White students make up roughly 10 percent of the public-school population but fill the majority of the seats at the high-performing schools like Lusher, Ben Franklin and other top tier schools. Some of OUR children walk right pass Lusher every day to catch a bus to a D- or F -rated school. Where is the outrage!

This ain’t about US!

The Black homeownership rate in New Orleans is ranked among the lowest in metro areas across the country. Homeownership for Black New Orleanians is 48.8 percent compared to 71.4 percent for White New Orleanians. It’s been time for a change!

This ain’t about US!

The median household income for Black households in New Orleans is less than $25,000, compared to nearly $70,000 for White households. Y’all can sign all the recall petitions you want to . . . if you can afford a pen. This still ain’t about US!

Black New Orleans, the truth is we ought to have an extensive agenda of to-do’s that we should be bringing to elected and appointed officials in all areas of governance in our city, demanding results and meaningful, measurable change. But this attack against the Mayor . . . this feigned outcry about out-of-control crime as if it has not been out of control forever and a day as far as we are concerned . . . y’all better wake up . . . this ain’t about US!

They would even set us up to think that Mayor does not have a handle on what’s happening in New Orleans by setting her up to announce that a Target store was coming to New Orleans East, only to have Target officials the very next day say they have no plans for a new store in New Orleans. Mayor LaToya Cantrell is an educated woman. She understands well. If she announced to residents that a Target was coming to New Orleans East, we say it was because she had every reason to believe that was the case. Some of you are mad because she has not come out and said she misspoke. Did you ever consider that she didn’t misspeak, that she was led to believe what she was led to believe just to have her appear as if she was speaking out of turn?

New Orleans East was neglected, dejected and abandoned long before Hurricane Katrina. Hell, if the business class and powerful elite had their way, New Orleans East would be gentrified with green space and parks right now! Now all of a sudden, because Mayor Cantrell supposedly incorrectly announced that Target is coming to the area, she should be lambasted for getting that wrong.

Y’all better wake up . . . this ain’t about US!

Make no mistake; it’s all a part of the nefarious plan to undermine her credibility because if you can’t beat her, you recall her. And if you are okay with that, then proceed. Just know that every last one of US is being undermined in the process.

The New Orleans Tribune

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