Mayor-elect Cantrell holds phone conference with reporters on legislative priorities

In a matter of weeks, Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell will be inaugurated as the city's first female mayor.

On Friday, Cantrell held an out-of-the-ordinary phone conference with local reporters to talk about her stance on legislation already proposed and being acted during the ongoing regular legislative session.

Cantrell is to take over the mayor's job before the regular session is scheduled to end.

There have been questions about whether she, as the incoming mayor, has a legislative agenda for the current session.

"Although the transition team does not have a full, you would say, compliment of bills that we, we've pushed to be introduced, make no mistake about it, our hands and our DNA have been all over bills that have been filed aligned with our delegation, our leadership there," Cantrell said during the phone conference.

"I don't think that's unreasonable at all, especially the session is going on right now, and people need to know what their mayor-elect is proposing per the members of the Legislature that represent the citizens of New Orleans," said Dr. Robert Collins, Ph.D., an Urban Politics Professor at Dillard University. Dr. Collins said he also worked for former U.S. Senators J-Bennett Johnston and John Breaux.

Sen. J.P. Morrell has a bill to put a member of the City Council back on the Sewerage and Water Board.

Cantrell said she will not oppose the bill.

"The existing conditions within the Sewerage and Water Board would be present regardless if a council member were on there or not, but if it makes the delegation feel like there could be better accountability measures, as well with the City Council, that's not something that I would push back on. I love accountability, and so I'll stand on that," said Cantrell.

However, she does oppose a bill by a Kenner state senator involving developers and affordable housing.

"The proposed law would prohibit municipalities from requiring developers to set aside for affordable housing. You know, across the board I remain of the stance that any legislation that ties the hands of the city of New Orleans is no good," said Cantrell.

Cantrell, who remains on the City Council until her inauguration, has enjoyed a longer-than-normal transition period due to when the mayoral election was held in 2017.

"I think she's really lost valuable time. In the past, when politicians during the transition period, since of course you're not as busy as you will be once you take the mayor's office because there is an incumbent mayor in place, in the past, mayors elect have used this opportunity to really have open-ended, sit-down discussions, informal discussions, and just let them clear their plate about their questions..

"So it's a little bit puzzling why she's not making herself more accessible to the media at this particular stage," said Collins.

The phone conference was abruptly ended by Cantrell's staff during follow-up questions by FOX 8 News about whether Cantrell had a position on whether the soon-to-expire 5th penny of the state sales tax should be extended.

"Well, I think if we're going to look at the, I know the caucus is looking at that closely about that penny. You know, we have to remain focused on how we can seal the gap of that piece and burdens on people, so I think right now it is still an open issue that we'll work through, and of course that's one of the things on my plate to discuss in detail in governor," said Cantrell before the additional questions on the issue.

"It's not unfair for the media to ask that question at all, and these are very simple questions. And she needs to have, the mayor-elect should have a clear and open position on the extension. She should have a clear and open position on any budget issues that are before the state Legislature right now, because that's going to have an immediate impact on the state budget, which means it's going to have an immediate impact on her constituents. So these are relatively simple questions, so I really don't think her staff is doing her any favors if they're limiting her access, or cutting off press conferences…And so I think everyone thought she was going to have a much more open and accessible process just since she had so much time to be prepared, so it's a little bit puzzling why she's not making herself more accessible to the media at this particular stage." said Collins.

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