Remember towards the end of Dirty Dancing when Patrick Swayze had been outcast and cancelled and told to stay away from the Dr.’s daughter for allegedly stealing somebody’s wallet? But remember how he was proved innocent and in full defiance busted into a party, walked up to Jennifer Grey, the daughter, and said the epic line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”? Well, Mayor Cantrell needs a Patrick Swayze at the moment. Because the City Council is steadily backing her into a corner. And the City Council makes power moves.
It started with members of the Council kindly suggesting that the mayor get Council approval for future appointees. The mayor politely refused. Then the Council froze some public works funds due to lack of transparency from the mayor’s office. Then they subpoenaed records from a broadband contract they deemed shady. Now, they’re attacking what the mayor holds most dear, her authority.
Related: SWB Needs Public Oversight
Under HB652, a bill passed this legislative session, the S&WB would effectively have to answer to the City Council instead of the mayor. The bill gives the Council power to subpoena records and audit the S&WB, similar to the oversight they have over Entergy. But what makes this different is that the mayor is the president of the S&WB. So that means the mayor has to answer to the Council in this scenario.
In the power struggle that’s been going on between the two, this marks a major power move. If this was a game of chess, then getting this bill passed would be as close to check as one could get.
Mayor Cantrell invested a lot of political capital into stopping the bill. She even went up to Baton Rouge during the session and personally lobbied against it. Clearly to no avail. At the moment she finds herself in the position she tried to avoid during the whole appointee approval dustup.
Now that this bill has passed, one has to wonder if it’s really necessary or if we’re being caught up in a beef between the mayor and Council.
Clearly, the S&WB has been a hot mess, functionally and structurally. On the functional level, if turbines aren’t exploding and sending people to the hospital, they’re raining oil all over Hollygrove. At one point, people in the neighborhood were saying they couldn’t even sit on their porches without being pelted in the forehead with drops of oil. And that was after they suffered through generators blasting noise at decibel levels that rivaled a jet taking off. Citywide, we’ve been treated to over-billing and not being able to leave our houses because the streets are randomly flooded.
The City Council Makes Power Moves
Structurally, the Board’s composition has been flipping and flopping for a decade. At one point there were three Council members on the Board. Then there were none. But that didn’t turn out well. So, one Council member was reinstated. Under the bill, the Board would remain the same structurally. But again, effectively, it would be answering to the Council instead of the mayor.
If the Council’s track record with Entergy is any indication of how they’ll deal with the S&WB, then we are in for a letdown. Whenever Entergy does something incompetent or shady, which is often, there’s much huffing and puffing from the Council. An emergency meeting is then called. And we’re told that the people will get the answers they deserve. Then the meeting happens. And poof, nothing. Entergy representatives usually show up unprepared to answer the questions they were brought in for. And the Council rarely does anything about it.
But who knows, maybe this Council is finding its footing. Council member J.P. Morrell said we would see what a strong and united Council looks like. And apparently for better or worse that is starting to take place. The mayor can definitely attest to it. With the S&WB all we can do is wait and see what that means.