‘Brace yourself’: Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell warns of the city’s finances

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell says that until she is sworn in and is able to look closely at the latest budget situations for the city's departments, she won't know for sure if the city is in a cash crunch.  But moving forward, she thinks that the city could face budget issues based on one-time money that is being used to fund annual expenses.

"We're going to have to brace ourselves, and that's a fact," Cantrell told a crowd at Xavier University on Thursday.  "As we look to 2019 and as we look to 2020, we will have -- and it could be -- a deficit."

Cantrell was at Xavier to receive a report from her transition team, Forward Together New Orleans.  The transition plan includes input from more than 250 people and outlines some of the Cantrell administration's top concerns once taking over the reins of the city.

"This transition report will be a road map for the Cantrell administration.  It will be," Cantrell said, stressing her dedication to the transition plan's recommendations.

 

Cantrell's transition plan covered a wide swath of issues and concerns for the city.

For starters, Cantrell says instead of relying on turbines to produce the power for its pump stations, the city should primarily purchase the power to run the pumps and have backup redundancy.  She says it costs too much money to generate electricity for the pumps, and purchasing the electricity would save the city millions of dollars.

To prevent the downtown area from having boil water advisories when there is a drop in water pressure, Cantrell says the city should install a system of pipes that takes water from Algiers under the Mississippi river and into the CBD.  She says that even though the city is building water towers to help maintain the water pressure, the towers may not be able to help the restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that cater to conventions as well as locals.

Cantrell's report also includes ideas for attracting more officers to the NOPD, using money from short-term rentals to procure bonds to create more affordable housing, and creating multi-lingual formats to help people who are less proficient in English to access the city's services and programs.

To see the entire transition report, click here.

"I'm not on the inside yet," Cantrell told the crowd at Xavier.  She'll be sworn in on Monday.

Tyronne Walker, Mayor Landrieu's communications director, had the following response to Cantrell's claims that she hasn't been able to access the city's budget:

When we entered office in May 2010, there was very little transition information available about the state of the City from the outgoing administration. With eyes wide open, we faced a nearly $100 million mid-year budget hole. To close the gap, we cut smart, reorganized City services and eliminated wasteful spending by reducing take-home cars, reigning in overtime and unnecessary credit card spending.

Consistent with our commitment to transparency and accountability, Mayor Landrieu assembled a Transition Working Group of senior administration officials and financial consultants in mid-2017 to support the Mayor-Elect during the six month transition period to ensure a seamless transition that began in late November.

In December 2017, the Landrieu Administration delivered 52 transition reports detailing the state of City departments including finances, operations, contracts, personnel and future considerations. In addition, the Landrieu Administration facilitated meetings with City department heads, Mayor’s Office staff and any other staff as requested by the transition. The same courtesy was provided to incoming City Council Members.

We took the additional step of creating a 139-page report detailing the City’s current 2018 cash position, budget position and structural financial position. This real-time report was delivered along with a detailed two-hour briefing to the incoming CAO last Thursday, April 26.

As Mayor Landrieu has continuously cautioned for the past eight years, there are always competing priorities but now the choices are between good and better and not bad and worse as we inherited. That is why we fought hard on pension and jail reforms, and in partnership with the City Council, we have resolved many of the City’s long-term liabilities and historical unpaid judgements.

We are confident we have provided the Mayor-Elect the resources and information available to hit the ground running on day one.