Mayor Cantrell Condemns Proposed Public Confirmation Hearings of Mayoral Appointees

Photo Credit: Jenn Bentley, Big Easy Magazine

On Tuesday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell sent a letter to the City Council attempting to discourage them from passing a measure that would require the Council to confirm or reject certain mayoral appointees.

“The proposed mandate could slow the people’s business down by months at the beginning of new terms for each new Administration and could prevent the City of New Orleans from being able to quickly respond to emergencies in the event of an employee resignation, termination, or retirement during a crisis,” Cantrell said in a letter to the Council.

That’s simply not true, says JP Morrell, one of the two co-sponsors of the measure (City Council at-large member Helena Moreno is the second). Even if passed, the ordinance itself does not mandate that the Council immediately begin confirmation of mayoral appointees. Instead, if passed, the ordinance would result in an item on the November ballot where the people of New Orleans would decide whether it is appropriate for the City Council to hold public confirmation of mayoral appointments.

“The fact that Mayor Cantrell is in opposition to having a debate and allowing the people of this city to weigh in on this proposal is disappointing, but not surprising,” Morrell said in his response letter. “This Council has been working to solve the problems of our city. Whether it is crime, infrastructure, or budgetary concerns, the Cantrell administration has stonewalled the Council at every turn. In particular, we have submitted hundreds of questions for non-proprietary information about how money is being spent, what accountability measures are in place, and hiring practices. To date, the responses are anemic, if any responses are received at all.”

Many residents lost confidence in mayoral appointees after Cantrell appointed Peter Bowen as the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Office of Business and External Services – the office responsible for overseeing short-term rentals across the city. Bowen was responsible for the eviction of working-class New Orleanians in his previous position as general manager of Sonder, a short-term rental giant that boasted the most AirBnB properties across the city. He continued to own stock in Sonder while working for the administration. In January of 2022, Bowen was fired after taunting police officers who arrested him for drunk driving.

“Peter Bowen is a great example recently of what happens when there is no public input, and suddenly the public and the council become aware of a tremendous amount of conflicts,” Morrell said. Big Easy Magazine reported on Bowen and his conflicts of interest shortly after his appointment in July of 2020.

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