Mayors would pay rent for use of Pontalba under new council proposal
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans City Council President J.P. Morrell on Thursday (April 6) proposed a new regulation that would require Mayor LaToya Cantrell and future mayors to pay rent for use of the Upper Pontalba apartment, which is owned by the city.
Under the proposal, Mayor Cantrell would have the first right of refusal with respect to the lease. The motion follows a recommendation by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General that the city relinquish the mayor’s apartment for commercial purposes.
“At the end of the day, the city has made a commitment to ensure that all properties receive fair-market value so that money can go back into the city’s pockets,” said New Orleans Inspector General Ed Michel. “In this case, about $2900 a month the city’s losing out on because the apartment has remained vacant for the use of the mayor.”
A series of investigations by Lee Zurik revealed that Mayor Cantrell spent long hours at the French Quarter apartment during both work hours and outside of work.
The French Market Corporation manages the Upper Pontalba Apartments for the city, and Morrell suggests that by offering the apartment at fair market rent, the corporation would collect $36,000 in annual rental income and avoid spending thousands on utilities and maintenance costs.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
- City Council to outline uses for Upper Pontalba Apartment unit
- Mayor Cantrell again defends use of Pontalba, opposes possible rule changes
- Former Cantrell protectors describe holding mayor’s purse, doing her shopping, chauffeuring daughter
- Inspector General recommends renting Pontalba apartment to the public
- Mayor Cantrell allowed family members to use city-owned Upper Pontalba apartment, emails show
The Inspector General has said that Mayor Cantrell’s personal use of the apartment likely violated city ordinance and state law. The Pontalba building’s use has never been regulated by an actual city ordinance, which Dillard University Political Analyst Dr. Robert Collins says makes it a mysterious outlier with no clear rules about who can use it and for what purposes.
“We are probably overdue having a specific set of rules and regulations as to what this particular piece of public property can be used for.,” said Collins. “If you look everywhere else in the city, just about every other piece of public property has a whole list of rules and regulations as to who controls it.”
Collins believes that regulating the use of the building is necessary to avoid confusion and political fights in the future.
If the motion is approved, Mayor Cantrell would have two weeks from the time of the decision to either pay rent or move out.
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