Much has been made about Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her use of the Pontalba. In fact, the city council voted to end Cantrell’s access to the high-end apartment. Calling it an unnecessary perk, Council President J.P. Morrell led the charge to wrestle control from the Cantrell. The mayor vows to veto this legislation. Should she?
Let’s take a big picture look at what is really happening. The high-end apartment has been a mayoral perk for nearly a century. The primary purpose of the city council is to create rules and regulations that make the city a great place to live and raise a family. Does this legislation do that or is something else going on?
The first test is whether the mayor even needs a high-end apartment in the Pontalba. Is that something that makes the city a great place to live? Part of the mayor’s job is to sell the city. Attract businesses. The mayor might be showing a prospective dignitary around town. Being in Jackson Square talking tourism and looking out at the throngs of tourists from the Pontalba apartment is probably a good thing. And the mayor should be able to just open the door and agree in principle for some new restaurant chain to move into the French Quarter. So, the Pontalba apartment is probably a very good thing for any mayor to have.
Cantrell Should Keep the Pontalba
But despite the obvious benefits and a century of tradition, Council President Morrell still passed legislation to take the apartment from mayors. Now Council President Morell is an extremely intelligent person. So why would he offer this legislation?
We all saw the videos of the mayor going in and out of the apartment with her security. Sometimes they spent hours in the apartment. People love juicy gossipy stuff. The mayor and her security guard were doing who knows what in that apartment. That is not a good look. But each denies anything improper took place. And only they know for sure. Yes this is 2023 New Orleans summer steamy and hot. But is gossip a good enough reason to take a reliable tool from the mayor? Innocent until proven guilty is appropriate. You can’t create rules to stop something you just don’t know is actually happening. That would be like creating a law to stop Zion Williamson from having sex with strippers and eating too many shrimp po’boys.
But let’s say that they did hold hands and giggle. Is that even a good reason to stop this and all future mayors from using an important business recruiting tool? That would be like stopping all Presidents of the United States from using the White House because Bill Clinton had extramarital sex in the Oval Office. No more visiting heads of state(eerrr pun intended). No more photo ops. Just rent the White House. Probably get much more than $40,000 a year.
There must be something about that Pontalba. This is not the first time it allegedly hosted extramarital activities by an elected official. Then Governor Earl Long and actress Blaze Starr supposedly rendezvoused in the building. Yet the governor still has an apartment in Pontalba.
Throwing the baby out with the bath water is just bad government. This mayor possibly still needs the Pontalba apartment. Future mayors will likely need the Pontalba apartment. While this is politically expedient in the short term, this makes no sense and doesn’t make the city a better place.