With a disastrous election for national Democrats barely a week in the rear-view mirror and speculation about the upcoming New Orleans mayoral race already intensifying, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and other top local Democrats rallied Thursday night in support of state Sen. J.P. Morrell.Morrell played coy about whether or not he's definitely getting into the mayor's race, although it's difficult to imagine why he's holding this kind of a fundraiser if he isn't seriously considering it. He did have some pointed things to say about the responsiveness of local government, though.
Edwards’ first 10 months in office have not been short on challenges, he noted — from the budget crisis left by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, the controversial police shooting of Alton Sterling and subsequent killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, and the unexpected rainwater flooding that inundated the state in August. Edwards, however, said he remains optimistic about the state’s future — particularly because of leadership like Morrell’s.
Locally, Morrell said, the short-term rental debate before the City Council showed a similar tendency. Residents across the city feared the effect of allowing whole-home rentals on neighborhood cohesion and housing prices, but city government largely barreled forward regardless without listening — exacerbating the sense that the recovery in New Orleans benefits only the wealthiest, at the expense of the long-term residents.That's quite a ding at our current city councilpersons some of whom may be thinking about running for mayor themselves. As a matter of fact, perhaps prompted by this event, one of them fired off a sort of pre-announcement announcement in an email over the weekend.
“In the short-term rental piece, for example, you had a room full of people with concerns, and rather than address them, they just ignored them,” Morrell said. “The city is kind of breaking down. We all identify with our neighborhoods and our individual smaller communities, but they’re becoming increasingly isolated. … Part of being a leader is, you’ve got to engage everybody. You got to make people who don’t want to talk to each other, talk to each other.”
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell is formally dipping her toe into the 2017 New Orleans mayor’s race.One could argue a lot of that "grassroots" talk appears kind of hollow in light of Morrell's description of what went on during the STR meetings. He suggests that even though LaToya hears a "call to serve" maybe she doesn't listen so well to renters being squeezed out of their neighborhoods by tourism profiteers.
In an email to supporters Friday, Cantrell announced she is “considering” getting into the race. She said she hears “the call to serve and lead this wonderful city that is our home.”
The announcement came as little surprise. Cantrell has long been mentioned when speculation about the next mayor comes up.
In her email, Cantrell specifically tied the message to Donald Trump’s election as president this month, first mentioning that “we all feel burned out by the long and divisive presidential campaign."
“But for me, Tuesday’s results confirm that we need to build together from the grassroots without delay,” she wrote. “We need leadership — here and across the country — committed to the inclusive values on which our nation was founded.”
Cantrell, who was a community activist in Broadmoor before being elected to the council, stressed that she’s working on a grassroots campaign and asked her supporters to host meetings to aid her in a goal of meeting with people in every neighborhood.
She does have another chance to change that perception. City Council meets on December 1 to consider final passage of the STR regulations. One thing they could do at that meeting would be to reintroduce Susan Guidry's amendment limiting short term rental permits to one per homestead exemption. This would have effectively prevented large companies from buying up several houses and operating them all as hotels. Last time, the amendment failed 3-4. Cantrell, to her credit, voted for it. But it's hard to understand why any councilmember voted to approve the regulations as they were after that. Jared Brossett was the only no vote at that point.
In any case, they have one more shot at adding something like this if they choose to do so. They should know, other cities are starting to see some success when they take a harder line on this stuff. Now might be a good time to try.. depending of course on whether that "call to serve" is coming from developers or from residents.