New Orleans Mayoral Candidate LaToya Cantrell Delivers Vision for New Orleans: read the full speech

Thank you to the many friends, supporters and family that attended last night’s event at the Jazz Market. What an incredible evening with the Wild Magnolias, the Royal Boys Choir, testimonies from New Orleans residents, Jason Cantrell and LaToya’s thoughtful, insightful and moving speech.

 

Below is the full copy.

PLATFORM VISION SPEECH

Thank you for being here and thank you so much for caring about where our city is going over the next four years.

I began meeting with residents throughout the city in November 2016, in their most personal spaces, their living rooms, along with neighbors, family and friends.

I started the meetings with introductions of course, but with a very easy question: What do you love about New Orleans? Everyone would smile and then share their thoughts of…. it’s our people, our masking and indigenous culture, architecture, music, how we celebrate life, the funk and soul of the city, we are world class.

The next question was, what do you not like about our city?

Let me just say that our people, as New Orleanians, we like to tell it like it is… and there was a gentleman, who was raised in the East and lives in Gentilly and he commented, “LaToya, I love my city, I do! But sometimes I feel like my city doesn’t love me back.”

His statement summarized the feelings and thoughts of many residents regardless of race, gender, age and socio-economic status.

There was another comment that stayed with me, “we are a world class city, but it feels like we live in a third world country.”

For our citizens who came back and lead the recovery of our city: those who rolled up their sleeves and worked side by side with their neighbors, family, friends and volunteers; for those who managed through the burdens of failed policies and programs that were intended to help, yet severely harmed; those who work hard on a daily basis and continue to do all they can to find and make a way to live a quality life and thrive in our city.

It is time that, at our 300-year mark, the real strength and worth of New Orleans’ people have its day! It is time that we live up to who we know we are….World Class.

However, we cannot be world class, when babies are murdered while in the arms of their mothers, neighbors are being car jacked, robbed and beaten at gunpoint, and visitors are preyed upon, while the perpetrator has a 70% chance of not being apprehended or victims of violent crime are being treated like criminals.

We cannot be world class when nearly half of our households, which are headed by women are living at or below the poverty line, with a disparity gap larger than pre-Katrina and growing wider by the day. We cannot be world class when too many of our African American males are underemployed. We cannot be world class when our people are allowed to live in substandard housing, neighborhoods filled with blight, vacant lots that have been turned into dumping grounds, impassable streets, crumbling sidewalks and inadequate transit access.

And most importantly, we cannot be world class when too many of our people are not connected to opportunities that promote personal growth, training, career options and competitive wages in our city. Now is the time, and make no mistake, we have already begun. Neighborhood leaders started us off twelve years ago. In the past eight years, the administration has worked hard to get projects moving and the economy turning.

The future is up to us. We have more data and plans than we have ever had on housing, equity resilience, health, prosperity, climate and more. We are poised for action to get things done, and that’s why I’m running to be your next mayor!

PUBLIC SAFETY

Let’s face it, our criminal justice system is broken. As your Mayor, the first thing I will do is focus on stopping the bleeding on our streets! We have too many mothers burying their babies. How can we make New Orleans safer?

Let me propose the following strategies:

1. People who have committed serious crimes, especially violent crimes, must be immediately identified, apprehended and incarcerated.

2. Those who have not crossed that line, but show signs of doing so, must be immediately identified and given the services, opportunities and where necessary the disincentives they need to make the choice to thrive.

3. The New Orleans Police Department must be replenished, revamped and redirected to be, simultaneously, an effective crime fighting force and catalyst for neighborhood crime prevention.

As your Mayor, I will work with the community to identify and appoint a police chief who has proven success in community policing. He or she will be given the autonomy, authority, and funding to run the department and we will hold our police chief accountable for reducing violent crime and building trust and confidence in our neighborhoods. Our police chief will be charged with developing crime fighting and prevention strategies, which lead to rapid, dramatic reductions in crime, especially violent crime.

He or she must also implement accountability practices which assure effectiveness against crime and the safe and fair treatment of all New Orleanians. I will be responsible for providing the resources to our officers to get the job done. I will insist that we adequately fund our officers and provide them with the tools they need to be effective.

Today our police crime lab has only two fulltime workers while our violent crime skyrockets. We will get the best officers into the homicide division and make sure each case is thoroughly investigated. We will NOT continue being a city in which 70% of the violent crimes go unsolved.

As your Mayor, I will work with the community to create an equitable criminal justice system, which invests in diversion and alternative sentencing programs; reforms our criminal justice fine and fee structure; and provides real opportunities for re-entry for our ex-offenders.

We must also help victims of crime. And I will work with state and federal entities to implement an effective witness protection system. We must empower and provide resources for communities and local organizations to reduce crime from the ground up. I will improve citizen interaction with the NOPD using technology and data, such as Next-Door communications technology to provide citizens with instance access to report criminal activities; and smart phone app technology as is currently being utilized in the French Quarter to improve response times.

One of the most important components of the reduction in crime we saw in the mid-1990’s was the active and consistent involvement of the community in fighting crime, and the Neighborhood Watch was created. Our police department shared crime statistics with community groups through regular Comstat briefings. We must reinstitute the concept of full community participation in fighting crime.

We must get the killers off the street, and we must identify the potential criminal and change their heart.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Nothing stops a bullet like a job.

If we can connect our citizens to the economic engines that make us world class, we can make criminal activity less attractive. We must provide career paths for our people in the economic sectors where we flourish: the tourism industry, healthcare and medicine, the Port, and the numerous new technology based enterprises taking root in our city.

We must support and provide incentives to diversify our base economy and support new business development such as advanced manufacturing, digital media platforms, renewable energy, water management and coastal erosion control.

We must also show our small business community an equal amount of love. Small neighborhood based businesses are the ones that take the least of us and provide that first chance for us to work and grow. To thrive as a community, the barbershops, beauty salons, and nail parlors need our support. The restaurants, cleaners, hardware stores and the corner groceries need to be nurtured and grown. Every neighborhood needs avenues of commercial and retail activity.

As I began tonight, I talked about New Orleans being a world class city and we are. But we haven’t connected our economic engines to the people who live here, are educated here or who go to our colleges and universities. Let me say that again – Eight colleges and universities.

There is no concentration of institutions of higher learning anywhere in the South like New Orleans. This is an untapped partnership which will benefit the schools and the city.

We should leverage these resources, market them to the world and capitalize on their research by helping them create new business opportunities. And, we need to give their graduates priority when we hire.

As your Mayor, I will work with the business community, our school systems, and our job training partners to develop a comprehensive plan to make sure local citizens and the students in our colleges and universities have access to the jobs we create.

I will support the creation of the Career and Technical Education Center, which is being proposed by our public school system where growth sector employers will have a role in developing the training curriculum. We must train our young people for the jobs that are here and that will be here in the future.

We must improve public transportation options for our people, and encourage collaboration on regional economic development. Many of the jobs in our region are outside of our parish borders. We need to erase the borders and find the work for our people!

I will develop incentives and provide support to our small business community making sure they have access to capital. I will insist on 35% DBE involvement in City contracts to make sure disadvantaged businesses get opportunities to build capacity.

INFRASTRUCTURE

As your mayor, I want to propose a dual infrastructure strategy which includes improving our physical infrastructure and enhancing our human infrastructure. Our crumbling streets and car sucking potholes were hot topics during the Listening Tour.

We will address infrastructure needs, but we aren’t going to do it by nickeling and diming our people. We don’t know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer. But we do know those cameras are costing our residents money that could be spent on their families.
As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended.

I will produce sustainable methods to invest in our city’s infrastructure without coming to the people first for a tax increase. I know how to adjust department budgets from my experience on the city council.

As your Mayor, I will institute oversight procedures to ensure real time coordination of
utility services and our Department of Public Works. We will not tolerate having your streets repaired by DPW one day and broken up the next week by S&WB to fix the underground pipes.

I will dedicate new revenue from large development projects to maintain our streets and water system with a new infrastructure fund. Once the streets are fixed, we must maintain them.

For our city employees who feel invisible, I see you. I will also see to it that you get a fair and long overdue pay increase based on merit as you deliver quality services to our people!

EMPOWERING NEIGHBORHOODS

Just as the heart pushes blood through the body, neighborhoods provide residents with the social and institutional networks that make this city great. As your Mayor, I will ensure that all neighborhoods receive the respect and resources they need to sustain themselves. I will prove to you that city government can effectively serve— all the people— and deliver results.

We all agree that we must improve streets and drainage in our city, but our residents are our biggest asset. You can have new buildings, winning sports teams, but if the residents lack access to a quality education, living wage jobs or affordable housing, the human infrastructure of a community loses hope.

We need to invest in our people and our neighborhoods! We need to give them some love.

I’m talking to you – New Orleans East, Lower Nine, Algiers – we can do it.

We will work with residents in New Orleans East, the Lower Ninth Ward, parts of Gentilly and the West Bank to implement redevelopment strategies and incentives that will be aligned to get results. I will not stop until every neighborhood has fully recovered.

To increase economic activity in those communities, we will prioritize moving some city government offices into neighborhoods. This will create consumer markets in neglected neighborhoods. Providing daytime customers in the East or Lower Nine will begin to spur private dollars to capitalize on a new consumer base. One of the most immediate things we can do is make sure our neighborhoods are clean and inviting. As your mayor, I will prioritize public and private clean-up efforts and increase penalties for littering and illegal dumping!

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

One of the recurring themes during the Listening Tour was the need for affordable housing. I have led this effort since I became part of the city council but as Mayor, I will be able to do much more.

Here are some ways I will work to stabilize neighborhoods:
1. I will create a Blight Reversal program, where qualified residents can buy blighted homes at a tax auction and secure funding to restore the property by a specific deadline.
2. I will work to encourage public and private employers to provide down payment assistance and, where feasible, adopt an employer assisted home ownership program.
3. This will create neighborhood stability, increase property values and become a financial asset to families. Home ownership creates wealth for individuals and families. Owning a home is an asset.
4. I will preserve and protect quality affordable housing. We will utilize our Neighborhood Housing Investment Fund to provide gap financing, to ensure that our people can stay in their neighborhoods that they have lived in for generations.
5. I will propose realistic policies to develop incentives for landlords to moderate rents.
6. I will provide property tax relief to struggling families, and work to pass legislation that encourages the production of new housing in keeping with the character of our neighborhoods to reduce housing costs.

YOUTH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION

During the Tour, we talked a lot about our children and our public education system. I believe neighborhood schools are vital to sustain communities. Our education system has improved, but, we need teachers that understand New Orleans culture and our kids, and our neighborhoods need schools that can anchor them.

As you know, school control will revert to local control by 2018, although the Orleans Public School Board will oversee them and not City Government.

There are some things that we can do:

1. I will create an office of Youth and Family Services that will have the responsibility of coordinating City agencies such as NORD C, the New Orleans Public Library, and other public assets, to work with schools and our families.
2. I will work closely with the Orleans Parish School Board to insure equity and consistent policies for all students and parents as we move toward a Unified Public School System.

WELCOMING CITY

I want you to know as your Mayor, I will continue fighting for our inclusive values. As Councilwoman, I authored and pushed for the creation of the “Welcoming City” resolution, helping those of us who are often marginalized.

I have lived my entire adult life in New Orleans and I am more than ever dedicated to the future of our city. What some people think of me? – It’s always interesting to hear people describe my personality. Some say, I’m too passionate. Others say I have brass elbows… they look pretty soft to me. I’ve even been described like a dog on a bone.

Believe me, I’m going to continue hunting for that bone. Yes, I am passionate, this city faces tough challenges that requires strong, independent, visionary, tested experienced leadership.

The next mayor must NOT be intimidated by the challenges, but motivated by the potential to move New Orleans forward. Yes, this job requires focused intensity, otherwise known as passion. As your mayor, I will always listen, build consensus and take real action that will deliver results that benefit New Orleans neighborhoods and our city. As I come to a close, there are three things I want to make very clear:

• First, we’ve made progress, but it’s not enough. I pledge to you to bring results and spark the flames of hope throughout the City!

• Secondly, I recognize that New Orleans is at a watershed moment in history. As we move to celebrate 300 years, we must make critical choices just to survive as a coastal city at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

• And, finally please know that I am not running to be the first anything. I am running to help New Orleans and New Orleanians be the BEST we can be. A World Class city.

We share a vision and destiny. With your assistance, encouragement and prayers, together, we can make a difference. Thank You and God Bless You!