Dec 102015
 

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell speaks during a campaign event in 2013. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell speaks during a campaign event in 2013. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

As the New Orleans City Council prepares to move into what was expected to be the final round of discussions on a plan to remove three monuments to Confederate leaders and one to a white-supremacist uprising against the Reconstruction government, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced that she will oppose the plan because it was “thrust upon the city” from above.

A more nuanced discussion was needed, Cantrell said, that evaluated each monument individually as well as considering others symbols not originally proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. A more substantially inclusive discussion would have ended with a more united decision, Cantrell said.

To read Cantrell’s statement in full, see below:

I would like to clarify any speculation from the public at large about my position on the monuments. I am opposed to the current ordinance before Council that will remove four of the multiple Confederate monuments and memorials of our city.  The reason I am opposed is because it was not a community driven process based on the concerns of citizens.  This idea was thrust upon the City and the Council from the top down after it was created by a small, select group of individuals.

There was no movement rising up to demand this action.  There was no willingness to take into account people’s outrage about other symbols of racism not included in this ordinance. There was no discussion on whether one or two of the selected monuments might be more offensive than others.

Rather, it was determined to be necessary by leadership from the privilege of power.  This is not fair.

I also oppose this ordinance because it is a distraction from the real issues I hear about every day that need to be addressed:

  • that parents fear for their children who might get shot or assaulted;
  • that our roads create a nightmare out of our daily commute and challenge small businesses during the holiday season;
  • that over 70% of our citizens pay over 30% of their income for housing;
  • that blight remains unresolved in our most challenged communities;
  • that our city is in awash in illegal guns;
  • that we as a city need to pay our debt to citizens who have been waiting for court settlements for many years;
  • that restaurants have had to hire security so that people will be willing to patronize their restaurants without fear of armed robbers;
  • that children on playgrounds are unprotected;
  • and last but certainly not least, that we have to take radical and immediate measures to have a sustainable future in New Orleans.

Finally, I oppose this ordinance as it has been written and debated because it divides us into two groups: ‘for’ and ‘against.’  In my many years of working in the neighborhood, my leadership was always informed by a diverse public who provided insights on the way forward.    From this inclusive process, we succeeded in rebuilding a community that people had given up for lost.

As leaders, we need to move the New Orleans forward by addressing the needs of citizens and by building the trust and the determination of all of the people to work together so we can become a welcoming, inclusive, equitable, and tolerant city.

  • wombatnola

    My god, they do exist – a politician who actually makes sense, who actually seems to listen to the concerns of her constituents. Quick, get this woman out of office. This might be contagious! Thank you, Councilmember Cantrell.

  • QuienesSomos

    I have absolutely no clue what she is saying! Is she for the removal or against? Or (more likely) trying to take a parsed political position?

    • Lauren Anderson

      I believe that she is questioning the process and acknowledging that she does not have a firm opinion. I respect both. Sometimes we feel that we overwhelm an issue with process. In this case process is important to allow this sensitive issue to not be divisive but inclusive. LaToya is being a reflective, respectful leader rather than being a politician.

  • Steve Goodson

    the amount of time, effort, and resources being devoted to this “issue” is beyond disgusting. The city council should be meeting 24/7 to resolve the crime issue……then the streets……Ms. Cantrell is quite correct

  • Hudson

    Good on her

  • H. J. Bosworth JR.

    This is very reasonable and very wise. I am pleased to know that someone on the council is listening to those she represents.

  • Nicole Wickenberg

    Wow! In other words, Ms. Cantrell is making an early announcement of her candidacy for Mayor of New Orleans. Bravo, Ms. Cantrell! So many of us have been feeling the same way, that all of this was concocted by Landrieu in an inexplicable ploy to divide us as a city, and distract us from the very important business of dealing with our real problems. Perhaps to distract us from questioning Landrieu’s ability to lead the city through these problems. We have so many problems, and this is NOT one of them. This rational move could only come from someone in your position. Nicely played!

  • Jennifer in N.O.

    Agreed.

  • Turlet

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day. She picked a good time to finally be right about something. Is Nadine Ramsey capable of the same?

  • Sabine Winter

    Oh, really. How typical and hypocritical. Since when does she have a problem with imposing ordinances from the top down that were not a community driven process based on concerns of citizens but rather were determined to be necessary by leadership from the privilege of power after having been created by a small, select group of individuals without any prior movement rising up to demand that action? And this from someone who had asked Superintendent Harrison whether free massages at local spas would help officers in their fight against the rising crime. Outstanding leadership as per usual business…

    • R P

      We as citizens should all have a problem with an ordinance being imposed from the top down by a small, select group of individuals without the prior presence of a broad movement in the community demanding whatever action, as is the case with this application of the public nuisance ordinance.

  • Godoflight

    She’s not saying she’s for the monuments or against the monuments. She’s saying fundamentally that this issue, pressed upon her and the other council members from above, is a distraction from the real, current, immediate, and very serious daily issues that face citizens — and tourists — of New Orleans. It makes perfect sense, QuienesSomos. Reread her statement and let it sink in.

    • Sabine Winter

      What I meant was that if e.g. she as a Council Member had pressed the issue upon the Council and the people of New Orleans (or if either direction would clearly work in her personal interest), she wouldn’t have any problem with it. She
      stated that she’s opposed to the “current” ordinance, i.e. in the current form which is still in discussion. In turn this means that she could just as well change directions if the reasons she lists as to why she is opposed to the current ordinance were addressed.
      And since this is such a divided issue between about equally large groups of proponents and opponents, she’s imho not yet clearly taking sides cuz she’d be outraging just about as many people as she’d be pleasing (and potentially alienating too many from supporting her possible future plans of running for Mayor). So, she’s hiding behind a lot of blah blah blah about what else has been and is going on (with regard to which, as she had previously stated herself, she’s at a loss anyway) while hardly anything gets done to that extent. These serious issues that we all are facing have been going on and getting worse for quite some time now. But she seems to only pull those out of the closet and put them on the table when it suits her, not when we need her to take action and come up with a feasible plan to tackle those issues.

      I suppose she’ll eventually go with whichever side ends up having the most supporters. Watch.

  • Sabine Winter

    Yes, we should. And I do have a problem with such ordinances. But she doesn’t seem to have a problem with it when it serves her own interests and purposes. That’s what I meant.

  • Middleton O’Malley

    Councilwoman Cantrel has written perhaps the only smart, reasonable, and constructive, position paper that I’ve ever seen or read on the subject of monument removal, and what should be the real civic priorities deserving of our intense focus. I’ve almost fallen down in a dead faint. At last, a politician who understands reality. Hooray!