Council Overrides Mayoral Veto, Allowing for Vote on Confirmation Issue

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On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council voted 5 to 2 to override Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s veto of an ordinance passed by the council calling for a November election on a proposal that would give them the power to confirm mayoral appointees. Only council members Oliver Thomas (District E) and Eugene Green (District D) voted against it.

Cantrell argued that the council didn’t have the authority to change the city’s Home Rule Charter. Several political pundits have noted that it weakens the mayor’s authority.

The proposal came after several scandals regarding Cantrell appointees:

  • In 2020, Cantrell created the Office of Business and External Services to regulate short-term rentals in New Orleans and then hired Peter Bowen, a former short-term rental executive as its Chief Administrative Officer.
  • Cantrell placed Jonathan Rhodes – the city’s director of utilities – in charge of the city’s “smart cities” initiative. Rhodes owns a “smart city” consulting company, and the city council is currently investigating whether he gave preferential treatment in handing out “smart cities” contracts to clients of his consulting firm.
  • Most recently Juvenile Justice Intervention Center Director Kyshun Webster was found to be running an outside business on city time while exacerbating staffing issues and high employee turnover at the JJIC.

In spite of all of this, Cantrell doesn’t believe the Council should have the authority to confirm mayoral appointees, given that the city charter already allows them to remove employees with cause.

“This ordinance is a power grab for control and a bad-faith attempt to hobble the authority of the duly-elected executive,” Cantrell wrote in her veto.

Instead, she has proposed creating a New Orleans Home Rule Charter Review Commission to review and amend the city’s charter. The Commission, should the city council move to create it, would be comprised of eight designees from local colleges and universities, four Mayoral designees, and three designees chosen by the city council.

Cantrell has argued that she wants the process to be collaborative with the City Council, however, Council Member Lesli Harris (District B) doesn’t believe that to be true.

“When this [motion] was filed, the first communication was an open letter demanding we withdraw it,” Harris said. “That is not collaborative.”

Several City Council members have argued that it’s the voters who should decide who gets the authority.

“I keep hearing that this is going to take power from our mayor,” Harris said. “That’s not true. What this is doing is allowing the voters to decide on a charter amendment.”

“The people in this city deserve to have the final say,” said Council Member Freddie King III (District C). “If they decide to not have an amendment change, the people have spoken.”

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