December 13, 2021 6:00am

Here's where New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell should focus resources

Leading influencers rank top priorities for her second term

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell faces many challenges when she starts her second term in 2022. Far and away, however, her top priority should be crime and public safety, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll.

That imperative overwhelmingly led the list of nine options offered to Power Poll members this week, followed by drainage-related issues in second place and other infrastructure, such as streets, in third.

"Citizen safety [and drainage] are first and foremost the two most important issues to address going forward. Violent crime has increased, and the need for safety from flooding of our streets, homes and businesses means that the Sewerage and Water Board needs updated, functional equipment," said Ruthie Frierson, founder of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans. "Our streets are in dire need of repairs, and this also effects our safety."

Crime - and crime-fighting by New Orleans' beleaguered Police Department - has long been a top concern of residents. This year, it's taken on new urgency with a sharp rise in carjackings, among other offenses.

"Mayor Cantrell has a mammoth task ahead of her," said Keith Esparros, WWL television news director. "Over the past four years, violent crime has gotten worse, the streets have gotten worse, garbage pickup has essentially failed and streetcar service has not returned to Rampart Street or parts of Canal Street now two years after the Hard Rock [Hotel] collapse. All of these have direct effects on virtually every citizen. Hurricanes and the pandemic have conspired against her, making her second term to-do list formidable to say the least."

Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Times-Picayune Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, nonprofits and community affairs, it does afford fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 377 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 97 voted, for a participation rate of 26%.

On a separate question, almost three quarters of the respondents said the Louisiana Public Service Commission should require electricity utilities to generate more power from renewable sources.

"In light of worsening extreme weather events due to climate change ..., the Louisiana Public Service Commission must do everything it can to support a movement to efficient and renewable energy in order to mitigate emissions, but also to make our state more prepared for inevitable storms," said Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. "What's more, while other states have created renewable targets that are driving economic gains and new industries, Louisiana is leaving opportunities on the table by staying entrenched in fossil focused policy. Not only does this mean our electricity costs are subject to the whims of international energy markets, we are seeing other states attract our skilled workforce for offshore wind and rooftop solar."

New Orleans, which gets power from Entergy New Orleans, has already ordered the company to source at least 90% of its power from renewables by 2040. A leading wind energy developer was impressed but suggested that a larger guaranteed market - such as the entire state - would be more enticing. Regulation of utilities in New Orleans' suburbs and the rest of the state falls to the Public Service Commission, which has no similar mandate.

On Saturday, suburban voters in St. Tammany Parish will decide whether to allow a $325 million casino resort to be built along Lake Pontchartrian near Slidell. The campaign for and against it has become one of the most expensive local campaigns in Louisiana history. Here's how Power Poll members come down on the question:

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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