By David Soublet, Sr.
Let me begin by making this disclosure: I signed the petition. I thought registered voters in Orleans parish deserved the opportunity to vote on recalling New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell. I did so after a trusted friend outlined out a litany of blunders made by the mayor over several months. All of them in her second term after her well acknowledged successful management of the COVID 19 pandemic crisis. Several of those poor decisions are vague memories. But when freshly compiled, seemed to at least warrant a recall vote.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states allow recall elections for local officials. One of the risks of recall efforts cited by the Council is what we saw. Recalls “can be abused by well-financed special interest groups and give them undue influence over the political process”. We saw evidence of that in the effort to recall Cantrell. According to reports, businessman Rick Farrell donated over $ 900,000. Recall organizers collected $1.2 million.
Teedy Keeps Her Crown
Farrell reportedly is tied to Donald Trump. Ironically Trump faced his own recall. However for US presidents the term is impeachment. And Trump was nearly tossed out of the presidency via impeachment. Farrel also adorned his St. Charles Avenue mansion with huge banners boldly encouraging people to “Sign Mayor Recall”. Supposedly he and Cantrell butted heads in a 2020 meeting. Farrell wanted to resolve the ever-growing homeless encampment problem in New Orleans. Reportedly he offered to make a large donation to alleviate the problem.
Alas, on March 21, the recall effort crashed and burned. Sandra Wilson, Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters only certified 27,000 signatures. This after a “deal” struck by the recall organizers and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin reduced the required number to 45,000 valid signatures. Organizers say they collected and turned in over 100,000 signatures. They failed to mention that Walt Disney cartoon characters signed dozens of the petitions.
Rick Farrell’s blunder in funding this recall effort cost him close to a million dollars. But there are at least two other huge blunders that the mayor, on behalf of future mayors and the voting public, should see through in the legal system. Cantrell filed a lawsuit against Ardoin and recall organizers for making a deal that resulted in a much lower number of signatures required to force a recall election. Recall organizers’ rationale was the Orleans parish voter rolls contain dead people and former residents who no longer live in the parish. Civil District Judge Jennifer Medley approved the agreement. But she did not disclose the fact that she had herself signed the recall petition! So is this a good precedent for the city’s voting rolls?
Teedy Keeps Her Crown
It’s critical that when a mayor or other elected official faces a possible recall petition, established laws and procedures are followed regarding the collection of voter signatures, the metric that determines the number of signatures required, as well as the validation of those signatures. Many feel that the agreement struck between Ardoin and recall organizers, and endorsed by Medley, is arbitrary and perhaps illegal.
We’ve all heard the phrase “naturally New Orleans”. In a city with chronically low voter turnout for all types of elections, it should come as no surprise that the recall effort was a colossal failure. Meanwhile, Mr. Farrell, your financial assistance in resolving the homeless encampment issue is still sorely needed. But keep in mind, Teedy keeps her crown.