PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell outsider her transition team office at Xavier University.
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell formally kicked off her 190-member transition team tasked with taking deep dives into more than two dozen issues Cantrell hopes to attack as soon as she enters office in May.
In an auditorium at Xavier University Jan. 29, Cantrell addressed members making up the sprawling network of committees and subcommittee, chairs and advisory boards encompassing her transition into City Hall. She thanked them “for stepping up to the plate alongside me to ensure our city truly reaches its full potential,” she said. “You’ve demonstrated your commitment to inclusiveness and to truly build a city that is equitable. That is what our work and focus will be on over the next couple of months.”
Her kickoff follows last week’s reports that those transition team members asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, ostensibly to give outside parties peace of mind that what they discuss with committees and subcommittees remains in the room. Those reports come amid criticism of her transition strategy, one that’s been light on specifics and powered by a politically powerful board structure. Cantrell defended the nondisclosure agreements to ensure protection of a flow of information that “will be very sensitive.”
“When you’re trying to organize citizens on creating a plan you want to implement you really have to create safe spaces for that dialogue and that level of engagement for people to truly lean in,” Cantrell told reporters.
Cantrell said there will be plenty of “opportunities for the larger engagement of the public,” including public meetings.
"This isn’t a show,” she told her transition members. “It’s about doing what it takes to deliver a strategic plan … with real actionable steps and realistic ideas and approaches to get things done. That’s what I’m calling on you to get done.”
Cantrell also told reporters that that the Louisiana Supreme Court’s appointment of a retired Baton Rouge judge to enter a case looking into Cantrell’s financial records and city credit card spending is a positive step forward. "Things are moving in the right direction," she said.
“I’m all for fairness and impartiality, and I believe the judge will do just that,” she said. “My focus is on the job I’ve been elected to do.”
Cantrell told the transition team that she welcomes the scrutiny. “I know I’m under a microscope, I don’t know how big that sucker is,” she said. “But that’s OK. … We’re going to stay focused.”
“Not everyone is perfect,” she added. “We’ve all made mistakes … But if we’re going to create an environment where people can own up to their mistakes, pay their debt to society, and give the best they can give, that’s what we’re about.”
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Earlier this month, Cantrell revealed her transition team membership, who sit on six committees and various subcommittees examining economic development, public safety, neighborhood stabilization, healthy families, and government operations. Each committee has two co-chairs, and each subcommittee is made up of several people.
Troy Henry and Bruce Thompson co-chair an infrastructure committee made up of four subcommittees: a subsurface committee looking at Sewerage & Water Board systems, a surface committee looking at roads and bridges, and committees looking at transportation and the implementation of a citywide water management plan.
A committee on economic development is chaired by Vaughn Fauria and Matt Schwartz. Its subcommittees cover creative industries (the “cultural economy”), job growth and retention, city incentives, workforce development, and “entrepreneurship and small business expansion.”
Norris Henderson and Nathalie Simon chair a public safety committee with subcommittees looking at the New Orleans Police Department, public safety coordination, violence reduction strategies, and criminal justice funding.
Alexander Miller and Ming Ngyuen chair the neighborhood stabilizations committee looking at housing, blight elimination and neighborhood empowerment
A “healthy families” committee is chaired by Amanda Aiken and Syrita Steib-Martin and looks at health and wellness, education, and inclusive communities.
Lee Isaacson and Wendi Cooper chair the government operations committee with subcommittees on technology, procurement and contracts, and municipal finances
Cantrell’s former District B Chief of Staff John Pourciau leads the team, overseen by an advisory board and its honorary chairs, including Gayle Benson, Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson.
The groups will meet over the next several weeks in advance of a forum on April 24 and a report release on May 3.