A month into the recall movement against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the fight has drawn serious opinions from supporters and opponents alike and faces difficult odds as it works to collect the approximately 54,000 signatures due before February 22 are needed meeting.
On August 23rd Eileen CarterCantrell’s former social media manager, and Belden ‘Noonie Man’ Batiste submitted recall petition for Mayor Cantrell. Both Carter and Batiste hold leadership positions at the New Orleans community level.
Many locals supporting the recall are focused on the taxpayer money issue. In July, Cantrell spent almost $30,000 on first class travel tickets to Europe, funded entirely by city tax dollars. Cantrell said The first class seats were for her safety as a black woman.
Some local voters at Tulane University oppose Cantrell’s travel spending.
“She uses people’s tax dollars to pay for their vacations when there are so many other problems in town,” said Rene Guillot, a sophomore from New Orleans.
Sr. Joan Benjamin, a New Orleans native who said she doesn’t plan to sign the recall petition, said Mayor Cantrell has “sometimes questionable decision-making ability” regarding her first-class flight booking.
But, “I don’t think there’s enough evidence to really remember Cantrell,” Benjamin said.
New Orleans’ rising crime rate, a concern for decades, is a constant talking point. This year, New Orleans is poised to return as the Murder Capital of the United Stateswhich exceeds Baltimore’s homicide rate by 7.7 per 100,000 residents as of June 30, 2022.
Rosalind Cook, an associate professor at Tulane who has worked in the mayor’s office along with former mayors Marc Morial and Ray Nagin, said crime is a key issue for voters.
“I think the biggest problem is the crime situation,” Cook said. “But we have to look nationwide. And certainly the crime situation was pretty extensive across the country.”
Cook begged the question: Should the citizens place full blame on Cantrell, or, as the city’s leader, is she simply feeling the brute force of rising crime and homicide rates?
“She didn’t really see it [decreased crime] not yet,” Cook said. “And certainly she would need to see that in her second term, I think, for people to actually realize that she’s done some positive things.”
Mayor Cantrell’s discourse on legislation during the first wave of COVID-19 is another heated talking point. It’s an emotional issue for many New Orleans residents, as the city was one of the first in the United States to face a major outbreak.
“PPeople tend to forget that New Orleans was an epicenter of COVID,” Benjamin said. “I think part of the reason their restrictions have been so strict is because of that.”
“I think she was kind of between a rock and a hard place with those restrictions because obviously they weren’t very popular,” she said.
Guillot said she sees Cantrell’s politics in a different light.
“Their regulations resulted in the closure of many businesses in the city that have been here for decades,” Guillot said.
But amid the debate, the question remains: is a recall viable?
“Aside from the numbers you must have, the state must verify each name and confirm that each of these individuals is actually registered in the Parish of Orleans.‘ said Cook.
Many citizens, whether they support or oppose the possible recall, are hesitant about the movement’s success.
“I pretty much doubt she’ll actually be recalled, but I guess we’ll see‘ Benjamin said.
“It would be a very, very uphill battle to have a mayor removed,” Cook said.