Mayor Landrieu says City Council resolution 'ill advised'

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The New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee proposes City Hall consider city contractors' relationships to international human rights abuses. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • The New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee proposes City Hall consider city contractors' relationships to international human rights abuses.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the New Orleans City Council's resolution that encourages the city divest from companies involved with human rights abuses in the U.S. and abroad is "ill advised, gratuitous and does not reflect the policy of the City of New Orleans."

On Jan. 11, the City Council passed the resolution supported by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which introduced the measure to City Hall as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), a global pro-Palestine effort taking aim at companies and municipalities supporting Israeli occupation.

The resolution doesn't mention Israel or Palestine, nor does it have any legal teeth, but it acts as a guideline for the Council as it "commits itself to protect, respect, and fulfill the full range of inherent human rights for all, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other international human rights instruments" and encourages the "creation of a process to review direct investments and contracts for inclusion on, or removal from, the City's list of corporate securities and contractual partners."
In a Jan. 12 statement, Landrieu says the resolution "does not reflect the city’s history of inclusion and diversity."

"From day one, our administration has been and will remain committed to human rights both in New Orleans and across the globe," Landrieu said. "Since yesterday’s City Council meeting, we have heard a variety of concerns from a cross-section of constituents about the potential impact of this resolution on our community. "

In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans — which was honored by the City Council at the beginning of yesterday's meeting — expressed its "deep disappointment" with the resolution, accused the BDS movement of anti-Semitism, and criticized its passage after the Council had suspended the rules to introduced the resolution to the agenda for a vote. "These stealth tactics divide communities and do not provide for an equitable forum whereby all voices can be heard," the statement said.

"This is beyond absurd!" State Sen. Conrad Appel wrote on Twitter. "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and a true friend. So the City Council votes to support those who want to destroy Israel! I am am speechless."

In an interview with The Intercept, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy called the resolution "nuts."

City Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell, Jared Brossett, James Gray and Jason Williams said in a joint statement that the resolution is "in keeping with the City of New Orleans' declaration as a Welcoming City in 2015 and its commitment to create a more inclusive, receptive environment.

"The Resolution adopted takes no position as to which securities the City of New Orleans may choose to divest from its investments," Cantrell said. "The Council did not single out any particular companies, countries, nations, issues, conflicts or existing contractors. The Resolution simply seeks to keep City contracts and investments in line with our commitment to upholding universal human rights."

"My support of this measure was not, and is not, intended to in any way be reflective of either an anti-Israel or pro-BDS sentiment," Williams added. "Any process or examining committee will be locally rooted and made up of New Orleanians from every walk of life. This resolution is pro womankind and mankind. It is simply humanitarian."

Brossett added that the resolution "simply recognizes our support of human rights, labor rights, and New Orleans being an inclusive city."

"Our resolution was an affirmation of our belief in the basic principles of American Society," Gray said. "No more, no less."

Read full statements from Landrieu and the City Council below.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu:
"Resolution No. R-18-5 was introduced and voted on by the New Orleans City Council under suspension of the rules and without adequate review and debate. The City Attorney and my administration were not made aware of this resolution prior to the vote. This resolution was ill advised, gratuitous and does not reflect the policy of the City of New Orleans.

"New Orleans is a proud, diverse international city that shares our culture, business and history with many global partners. From day one, our administration has been and will remain committed to human rights both in New Orleans and across the globe. Since yesterday’s City Council meeting, we have heard a variety of concerns from a cross-section of constituents about the potential impact of this resolution on our community.

"My administration understands that words matter and that there are consequences to the actions of government. This resolution is concerning and does not reflect the city’s history of inclusion and diversity.

"While the City Council has no authority to change New Orleans contracting and procurement process by resolution and my administration has no plans to change the contracting or investment policy of the city, I have instructed the City Attorney to review this resolution in order to more fully understand any legal and operational ramifications to the city."
Councilmembers Brossett, Cantrell, Gray and Williams:
On January 11, 2018, the City Council passed a Resolution that encourages the creation of a process to review direct investments and contracts for inclusion on, or removal from, the City's list of corporate securities and contractual partners. The Resolution is in keeping with the City of New Orleans' declaration as a Welcoming City in 2015 and its commitment to create a more inclusive, receptive environment.

"The Resolution adopted takes no position as to which securities the City of New Orleans may choose to divest from its investments. The Council did not single out any particular companies, countries, nations, issues, conflicts or existing contractors. The Resolution simply seeks to keep City contracts and investments in line with our commitment to upholding universal human rights," says Councilmember LaToya Cantrell.

Resolution R-18-5 also does not specify the process by which current and future contracts and investments will be reviewed.
"If and when a Committee is formed, the members will consist of a cross-section of community members and stakeholders, including members of our faith communities," Cantrell says.

The Resolution simply recognizes the City's social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations — namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights or labor rights, or corporations whose practices egregiously contradict efforts to create a prosperous, educated, healthy and equitable society.

Council President Jason Williams says, "My support of this measure was not, and is not, intended to in any way be reflective of either an anti-Israel or pro-BDS sentiment. Any process or examining committee will be locally rooted and made up of New Orleanians from every walk of life. This resolution is pro womankind and mankind. It is simply humanitarian."

Councilmember Jared C. Brossett adds that "this resolution simply recognizes our support of human rights, labor rights, and New Orleans being an inclusive city. This is consistent with my support of these resolutions as New Orleans being a multinational/racial and welcoming place to visit, live, and work."

Councilmember James A. Gray says that "Our resolution was an affirmation of our belief in the basic principles of American Society. No more, no less."



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