I’m for LaToya Cantrell to be our next mayor. I have watched her since her days leading Broadmore neighborhood back after Katrina. Since those days, her leadership has been bold, thoughtful and inclusive.
Since joining the council, she took the lead on the anti-smoking ordinance which meant she was the target of small-minded corporations who wanted to continue to ignore the public health crisis that resulted from second-hand smoke. She kept her promise even with that opposition and our service workers and musician neighbors are healthier and those companies are still here and still taking in millions of dollars.
Some oppose her because she took a contribution from the pro-STR lobby, yet she has publicly stated her belief in controlling the number and type of STRs and her record as a neighborhood leader dedicated to affordable housing is longer than many of her other silent Council colleagues. Her plan is detailed and includes incentives for landlords to increase affordable rentals and to increase the ability for neighbors to take over blighted lots. STRs exist, have existed for generations and will continue to exist; City Hall cannot legislate them out of existence and so a balanced attitude on this issue is necessary to punish those who use them to decimate our neighborhoods and to reward those responsible on-site operators who want to be great hosts to our visitors. The hard truth on this issue is that necessary oversight over residents use of short-term rental sites is largely new to city governments and untested since the days of boarding houses. Requiring a homestead exemption to be the first level of certification is legally challenging it seems (and yet one I certainly supported throughout the public hearing process, as did CM Cantrell) and even if enacted, will not solve all of the current problems in terms of STRs.
I think it is well past time that we had a neighborhood leader as mayor and LaToya is well suited to the job at hand. One of the most important qualities for any elected official is their willingness to learn and adapt their policies to what they hear from their constituents; as someone who writes regularly to the city’s officials, I know that her (and her staff’s) responsiveness is first-rate.
Her experience in leading her community after the disaster of 2005 cannot be overstated, as the city will likely have to become more adept at navigating rescue, recovery, and rebuilding from future infrastructure failures that will result from the lack of good stewardship during the last 100 years of municipal leadership and the increased danger that climate change and the destruction of our coast have brought to our doorstep. The word resilience is fast becoming an overworked term but it still has some legs in terms of a city government that responds and rebounds from the issues it faces. Those issues also include the equitable distribution of resources to ensure that disaster capitalism doesn’t divide our lively, lovely little city any more than it already has done and LaToya is best suited to that role.
Like any other voter, there are areas of her leadership that I wish were better defined, but I feel that they can and will be defined based on real-time issues and citizen participation in the process.
I hope she wins office easily this term and is joined by Helena Moreno (at-large) and Kristin Gisleson Palmer in Council (District C) who have both exhibited intelligent leadership and the willingness to face the tough questions that our region must handle. They would be a formidable and caring combination with LaToya.
Responses to the cultural questionnaire from two of my candidates (Helena- where are you?) I think the detailed responses from Cantrell and Palmer show the good sense in voting for these candidates.