Mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell kicked off her LaToya Listens tour in Broadmoor yesterday evening. With the Free Agents Brass Band playing on the front porch of Lee Isaacson’s Napoleon Avenue home and a sumptuous spread in the dining room, it might have felt at first glance like a party. But as people began asking LaToya pointed questions, party pretensions were quickly dropped.
“What kind of accountability can we get from the Sewerage & Water Board,” one man asked, clearing frustrated with his rising S&WB bills and damage coming from the SELA project (Southeast Louisiana Drainage Project), which is administered through a joint cooperation agreement between S&WB and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
LaToya responded that it was important to distinguish between S&WB’s work and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work although it can be difficult. She told how Broadmoor had brought a class action suit against the Corps because of previous damages and that it was critical to “document, document, document.” It can take time to get results, she added.
“But it’s working with the Corps and making sure we’re not resting until people get their just due,” LaToya said.
LaToya will be visiting 12 neighborhoods during the tour, giving her an opportunity to hear what residents are most concerned with and to begin sharing her vision for a better New Orleans. It made sense to hold the first event in Broadmoor, where she led the citizens-based recovery following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to still be standing in the Broadmoor neighborhood,” LaToya said in her opening remarks to an audience of more than 60 people.
The crowd quickly began firing questions at LaToya once the listening and response session began. Many spoke about the public housing issues while others talked about rising violent crime.
One resident and a professional counselor, Dr. Tammy Wilborn, said that many of the problems that the city is experiencing could be traced to a lack of mental health services. A New Orleans native, she explained how she had left the city in 2003, but had returned in 2015.
“I want to know where do you prioritize mental health and wellness?” she asked.
LaToya explained how under her leadership as the president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association, the neighborhood had launched Broadmoor Community Care, a community-based mental health program that currently offers sliding-scale counseling services. As the New Orleans District B Councilmember, LaToya led the effort to establish a low-barrier homeless shelter. The shelter will provide mental health assistance, addiction treatment and other co-located services, getting at the root causes of homelessness.
“As your mayor, I will make it a priority,” LaToya emphasized.
The event lasted about an hour and half, but many people stayed afterwards to grab a bite and talk with neighbors. Many thanks to all the volunteers and staff members, who made this possible, and especially to Lee Isaacson and Cynthia Knight for graciously hosting the kickoff.
Next Stop: Lower Ninth Ward!