LaToya Listens: Gentilly Community

It was hot and humid Thursday night, but more than 50 people came out to hear New Orleans mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell on the  third stop on the “LaToya Listens” tour. The event was held at Gentilly’s JuJu Bag Cafe, where those in attendance were able to find comfortable seating on the patio or at tables arranged nearby. The discussion focused on issues that have emerged as constant themes along this listening tour: crime, education, economic development and the need for affordable housing.

Katrina Peters, an advocate for mothers who have lost their children to gun violence, spoke about the high crime and murder rates in the city, and of how this has made her fearful for her grandchildren’s future.

“Crime is at the top of people’s minds and hearts, and that’s an understatement,” said LaToya.

She spoke about the need for a better relationship between police and the communities they serve. Part of the problem is the city’s failure to respond to violence and that has damaged that relationship.

Another attendee, Jessie Morgan Owens explained that she works with teenagers and that many of them lack reliable transportation.

LaToya stressed the importance of reliable public transportation in the effort to foster equal opportunity, and of the relationship between the lack of reliable transportation and unemployment and poverty. She also criticized the fact that employees in parts of the city, such as the French Quarter, often have to pay a parking fee every day they go to work. She explained that providing a parking lot or improving public transportation would put this money back into the pockets of these employees.

Despite the Gentilly event’s relaxed and cordial atmosphere, those who spoke about the issues that mattered most to them spoke with intense passion and intense need. Without question, the next mayor of New Orleans will have their work cut out for them, and once again LaToya Cantrell proved herself to be ready for the challenge.