By: nola – Times Picayune
Mayor Latoya Cantrell waving to crowd and Shown above Mayor LaToya Cantrell husband Jason cheers, New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell hugs her daughter RayAnn as she celebrates her victory Saturday (Nov. 18) at the New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City. (Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
LaToya Cantrell was coasting to victory and into the history books on Saturday, November 18, becoming New Orleans’ first female mayor. With more than a third of the voters counted, she was on the way to a resounding win against her opponent, former Judge Desiree Charbonnet who, despite a substantial early fundraising edge, could not recover from political action committee attacks that largely did the political dirty work and allowed Cantrell to keep her hands clean.
With a sizable mandate, Cantrell will take over as New Orleans’ 51st mayor as the city marks the 300th anniversary of its founding. “Almost 300 years, my friends, and New Orleans, we’re still making history,” Cantrell said to supporters at New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City.
Cantrell told the crowd she had spoken to Charbonnet over the phone and congratulated her on making history. “Our history was two women making that runoff, and we both deserve to be proud of that,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell started the race as an against-the-odds candidate who struggled to raise money early in the race. She finally broke out of the fundraising slump once she topped Charbonnet by nine points in the Oct. 14 primary.
She also withstood intense scrutiny over the use of her City Council credit card, an issue Charbonnet’s campaign hammered away on relentlessly in the final weeks of the campaign.
Some of Cantrell’s spending remains unexplained, particularly the usefulness of her international travel. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor is investigating all City Council credit card spending, which has totaled more than $400,000 since 2013.
While that probe takes place, there will be an unusually long period of transition that will place Cantrell in a position where she has no real administrative authority until May, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu steps down after eight years in office. The six-month transition period is a one-time quirk in a charter change that was designed to align New Orleans’ election schedule with statewide elections, but political observers have said it could be particularly useful to help the next mayor get up to speed on some of the most challenging issues the city has faced since Hurricane Katrina.
Cantrell will take over a city that Landrieu has placed on far firmer fiscal ground than his predecessor, Ray Nagin, who is serving a 10-year term in federal prison on corruption charges. The city is also riding high on the announcement that DXC Technology, a global technology company, is bringing 2,000 jobs to downtown New Orleans.
Yet more than 12 years after Katrina, residents and business owners still worry that seasonal downpours could destroy their property. Cantrell will have to consider whether the fixes needed at the Sewerage & Water Board include making it a city department, a change that would have to go through the Louisiana Legislature and then before city’s voters.
As for the money needed to upgrade the outdated drainage system, Cantrell has said she would be open to stormwater fees paid by all drainage system users, including tax-exempt nonprofits such as the city’s universities and hospitals.