Dear Mayor LaToya Cantrell:
Long gone are the days when the Louisiana Legislature is willing or even able to solve New Orleans’ financial problems, especially in the years of ever-tightening budgets and Republican dominance of the upper and lower chambers. Though we appreciate you asking state leaders for an extra share of available federal dollars, surely you knew in advance it was a futile attempt.
Every city and town in Louisiana is hurting, especially those that have been hit once or even twice by storms this season. Legislators are elected to bring home the bacon. How could they explain to constituents that additional funding for New Orleans should be their priority?
The very people that can save New Orleans from even greater economic disaster are the citizens of New Orleans – the business owners small and large who are desperate for customers; the Saints fans who want to watch the games from inside the Superdome; the music lovers who want to dance at Tips, the Maple Leaf or on Frenchmen Street; the foodies who want to linger inside their favorite bistros or savor chef Meg Bickford’s new Sunday brunch at Commander’s Palace.
The ongoing regional and national media coverage detailing New Orleans still-strict COVID-19 restrictions has scared away many potential visitors. It has put a damper on conventions returning, on national developers’ willingness to invest in our city, and on the ability of too many citizens to eat, pay the rent and keep their utilities on.
We’re proud of your role in ensuring that Louisiana is one of the few states that has handled COVID-19 effectively and that cases are not exploding in our city. We also feel the economic pain of your decisions and its chilling effects on everyday life. To survive and thrive, we need our visitors back now. You can help by telling the world that New Orleans is still a great, safe place to work and play.
Most New Orleanians know what to do. We understand mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing and staying away from dangerous situations. We know to get tested; self-isolate, or visit the doctor if we feel ill. We also know that following all those precautions won’t necessarily protect us from exposure to the virus, as Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee-Sheng and others can attest. Some of us are going to get sick. Every person must weigh the risks of exposure and prepare to move on with life, albeit cautiously.
Halloween is right around the corner. We must celebrate our holidays, cheer the Saints in the Dome, and catch beads at Mardi Gras parades. We miss the Bayou Classic, concerts and second-line parades. You need tax revenues to fund city services; we need a vibrant economy to rebuild our tax base.
Only New Orleans can save New Orleans. Time is of the essence. You and our other elected leaders must step up now to reopen the city without further delay.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.