Something in New Orleans stinks – and it’s not just Bourbon Street after a night of partying!
Following an investigative report by WWL-TV, Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s top deputy has announced a complete overhaul of the city’s Safety and Permits Department. Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano admitted to making changes as a result of “unconscionable” abuses on the part of city inspectors and “pervasive” problems with inspectors that did not even show up to inspect.
The investigative report by WWL-TV and the shake-up in the City’s Safety and Permits Department come in the aftermath of the collapse of the construction of the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown New Orleans. The construction site collapsed on October 12, 2019 – killing three workers. Two bodies remain in the rubble, which is scheduled to be imploded in April after further delays.
Since the tragic collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site, there have been serious questions about the way Mayor Cantrell has handled the situation. Because of the history of corruption and abuse by elected and appointed officials with the City of New Orleans, strong skepticism has surrounded the handling of the collapse, which remains an embarrassing monument in the downtown area.
The citizens of New Orleans have every right to question why the Hard Rock Hotel collapse remains nearly five months later. The revelations of corruption and abuse within the city’s Safety & Permits Department only confirm the general lack of trust in city government.
Chief Administration Officer Gilbert Montano announced definitive changes in the department, including the demotion of Safety & Permits Director Zach Smith, even though there was no evidence linking Smith to wrongdoing. Montano said that the city was dealing with “bad actors” in the department. This is good news.
Mayor Cantrell inherited problems that have been allowed to be acceptable within city government, and she has a chance to make a name for herself by exposing what has been the acceptance of incompetence. It seems obvious that the tolerance for mediocrity and abuse in New Orleans has been the norm, and citizens should be outraged.
It is the investigative new media in New Orleans that is responsible for uncovering corruption and abuse – whether the Sewage & Water Board or now the Safety & Permits Department. And we are left to assume that if not for tough investigative reports – the corruption and abuse would continue.
New Orleans is an amazing city in many ways – but incompetence, corruption and abuse have been historically part of this city’s government and we – the people – deserve better.
I applaud the Cantrell administration for dealing with this latest issue – but I warn that the administration should be proactive is getting rid of the slackers who feel entitled to abuse their positions and not wait to act after an investigative report uncovers wrongdoing.
Let’s watch what happens and, through outlets like talk radio, let’s continue to let the mayor and elected officials know that we demand more. We also need to be courageous enough to vote out of office anyone who is not transparent and anyone that shows tolerance of mediocrity.