Viewpoint: An open letter to Mayor Cantrell: Only New Orleans can save New Orleans


Mayor LaToya Cantrell removes her mask before a press briefing on May 11.

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

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

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


20 thoughts on “Viewpoint: An open letter to Mayor Cantrell: Only New Orleans can save New Orleans

  1. Unfortunately, it’s too late.
    The business community has voted with their feet, and with a city government so hostile, I don’t blame them.

  2. I want to live more than I want to have fun socializing. What’s a few more months of social distancing? If it saves just one life… Kudos to the Mayor for getting the virus under control. Just stay the course folks. New Orleans will survive.

    • Thank you, Peggy Cotogno! At times, being the Mayor of New Orleans must be a daunting task in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. “The City that Care Forgot” better take another look. Mayor Cantrell has a strong backbone and, against the force of a desperate tourism industry, has stood her ground – resulting in a declining number of cases. Bravo, Mayor, give yourself a big “Attalatoya” from me!

    • I didn’t vote for Mayor Cantrell. But I know she’s done a great job of leading our city during this Pandemic.
      Your nasty comment is unwarranted and reflects badly on you.

  3. You miss celebrating the holidays, going to the Dome, the Bayou Classic? I miss people who’ve died. I’m in pain for friends who’ve lost family members, and worried about friends and family who have recovered but don’t know what the long-term health consequences will be. I’m also watching what’s happening in other parts of the country (see: Wisconsin, field hospitals), where spikes are happening precisely because people are doing things they’ve missed–and that they could have waited to return to. That’s not a promising example to follow.

    I don’t have answers to the dire economic issues you point to. But putting people’s lives at risk won’t help anything.

  4. I applaud Mayor Cantrell for standing up for keeping the citizens safe in N.O. Think about all of those who attended Mardi Gras & other activities that has died and still dying because trump didn’t care about the people he was suppose to protect. People, stop putting the blame on those who are trying to save lives. “Say that name” “Trump.” You know where the blame goes. As soon as Mayor Cantrell give the word to allow these activities that you are longing to die for,”What then? “Oh it’s all her fault. Trump is holding on to money that is not even for him. He has the power to help. But if it doesn’t benefit him “oh well.”

  5. All Things Considered the virus has been handled way better than the Hard Rock tragedy. Regarding the virus we must be sensible as flu season approaches
    We are all in the same boat

  6. Well Danae Columbus is right on the money about New Orleans needing to save itself. What she missed though is that the extended closure of New Orleans has nothing to do with Covid-19. Everybody knows that this is being done, by many Democrat mayors and governors, to make the economy look bad for the upcoming election, in hopes that Donald Trump will get defeated.
    Unfortunately, Donald Trump had nothing to do with closing all the businesses in New Orleans, nor did he p___ away millions of dollars trying to clean up the Hard Rock Hotel mess. Cantrell is a disappointment as mayor. The Morials, Sidney, Moon Jr. and Ray-Ray all helped contribute to this mess, but I was really hoping that Cantrell would be a step above the incompetence that let New Orleans get to its present state.

  7. Dance. You’re right about the State Leg
    but New Orleans can only be reopened if strict observance and strong law enforcement of directions is assured ( if this is possible now?) Then appeal can be made to outside sources to raise funds and come to NO to preserve a Historic city and it’s essence found no where else in the world.

  8. What you are suggesting is dangerous. Take a drive around and witness how many people are refusing to mask up properly, even now. Don’t blame public health protocols for the lost revenue. This city had every opportunity to play it safe on their own and that’s why these measures are in place. Let’s look at the spiking numbers in Paris and London now, they are going back to harsher protocols. What you are suggesting will prolong the dangers of this pandemic.

  9. Nice letter but once they have you infer their thumb they got you besides there’s less to govern when it’s closed

  10. She isn’t going to give two craps about this letter. She has tasted what having absolute power is like and doesn’t want to give it up. I don’t remember learning in civics class that the local mayor has total dictatorial authority over his or her city.

    • Hairplants is the only one that makes sense on here and is 100% right. Safe. What BS, and the numbers are all skewed bc they mark people with Cancer having Corona , bc they get $$$$$..people will believe anything. She will keep us shut down as long as she likes!

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