NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – New Orleans Major LaToya Cantrell refused to answer questions about her upcoming overseas trip Thursday, barring reporters from a photo opportunity at City Hall.
A member of her staff answered some questions about her World Cities Summit trip to Singapore.
“There was already an issue about the major antagonizing the City Council, who’s about to cut her travel budget, now we wanted we’re running into an issue of transparency,” Dillard University Political Analyst, Robert Collins said.
Mayor Cantrell answered off-topic questions Wednesday at a press conference, but after the news broke that she would be taking her third overseas trip in just a little over a month, none of our questions have been answered by the Mayor herself.
“She’s an ambassador to the city not just for the cultural economy, but the entire economy from all over the city,” The Mayor’s Communication Director Gregory Joseph said. “So, when she travels and she takes the city with her. She’s going, city taxpayer-funded and it’s very important for her to be doing these jobs. It’s very important for us to be at the table when climate change conversations are happening.”
This weekend she will be the only US major to attend the summit, which focuses on challenges like climate change.
“If it’s really an important international climate change conference, why aren’t other coastal mayors there?” Collins asked.
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Public records show over $38,000 in travel expenses last year. This year, more than $82,000 of taxpayer money, not including her recent trips to Switzerland and France.
It’s spending the Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President JP Morrell are trying to limit with an ordinance that provides for $1,000 per “non-essential” trip.
“It does not appear that the major is really interested in working with the City Council to repair relationships. Now, sooner or later, she’s going to have to because you know, she’s in the first year of her second four-year term,” Collins said.
Councilmembers Eugene Green and Oliver Thomas are preparing to travel to Africa with the International Arts Foundation. While Green did not comment on the trip, Thomas says he’s taking a leave of absence.
“Make sure the city is reimbursed I’m not paid for that time, as well, because of the battle between Moreno and Morell and the Cantrell administration,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to get caught in the middle of it, so I’m actually going to pay for my own per diems all my own stuff.”
We asked the Mayor’s office how this trip will be paid for and if they plan on further barring reporters from media availabilities. We have not received a response.
Both Moreno and Morrell did not have a comment.
The ordinance they authored limiting travel spending will be discussed Tuesday.
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