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City council calls an election related to mayoral appointees; Mayor Cantrell opposes it

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:11 PM CDT
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New Orleans city hall.
New Orleans city hall.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans city council voted 4 to 1 to put a measure on the ballot to amend the city charter to require council approval of persons the mayor or the chief administrative officer appoints to leadership positions in city-run offices and city departments.

But before the vote, there was a spirited debate.

Councilmembers J.P. Morrell and Helena Moreno were listed as sponsors of the measure.

“I understand that there have been representations in a variety of mediums that the council is doing something to the mayor today and I think it’s important that words matter and the council is simply putting something on the ballot for the people to consider,” said Morrell.

And Moreno said, “I think for whoever is the next mayor I think that they should be incredibly eager to showcase who’s going to be part of their team and their expertise.”

But several African American religious leaders objected to the ordinance putting the idea on the ballot.

Pastor Torin Sanders who once served on the school board spoke against the ordinance.

“We all elected you all as members of the council and you chose your chiefs of staff, your legislative assistants. If they’re not doing their job we expect you all to take appropriate action on them just as we would expect the mayor to take appropriate action should one of the department heads or other high officials not do their jobs,” he said.

Interspersed among the public comment was support for the election.

“Yes the community deserves the right to vote and talk about because guess what the administration that we have gotten as of late we for quite some time, this community has suffered,” said a woman.

But some say getting the council involved could politicize the process.

“I’ve seen confirmation processes become circuses, clown shows, politicking, playing games. In this city, the priorities should not be with this ordinance, violence, poor health,” said Bishop Tom Watson.

His son also joined in the opposition.

“Here’s our first, this just me, just me talking, you can after I finish you can you can rebut and we can talk afterward but our first female mayor, black mayor now we’re going to change the rules for her,” said Pastor Corey Watson.

“We don’t have oversight to micro-manage everybody she picks. The only people that we have confirmation authority over are the 14 department heads that are listed in the charter,” said Morrell.

FOX 8 spoke to the mayor about the charter change measure ahead of the council meeting.

“I think it’s unfortunate considering what we’ve been through, what our priorities are: focusing on coming back stronger and better than we’ve ever been before since this pandemic, with the issues of infrastructure, with the issues of public safety,” said Cantrell.

And she favored more public engagement.

“What I would have hoped is that the community, the public would have been more engaged in the process. We’ve just gone through a major election in the city of New Orleans, meaning reelecting the mayor, reelecting, and electing a city council and none of this was ever mentioned by the people of this community,” said Cantrell.

Robert Collins, Ph.D., is a Dillard University political analyst.

“I think is sort of a classic case in a mayor’s second term trying to acquire more power for themselves,” said Collins. “The reality is every second term mayor has less power in their second term than they did in their first term because basically, the city council members know that they can wait them out.”

Some members of the council may have an interest in running for mayor.

“There’s a danger with that because of course if you’re a city councilman right now and you want to be mayor, you know, once you’re elected probably want these powers,” said Collins.

Councilman Oliver Thomas said he is out of town related to businesses that may want to locate to New Orleans East which he represents. Councilman Freddie King was also not present.

The measure will be on the November ballot.

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