The mayor and other high-ranking New Orleans officials may still be able to use taxpayer money to travel out of state under a new City Council ordinance. But now they will have to cough up the bills.
On Thursday, the council unanimously approved new rules that will require quarterly City Hall travel reports and set deadlines for how quickly officials produce detailed information on each cost.
The ordinance, which was originally filed in response to a series of out-of-state trips taken by Mayor LaToya Cantrell in recent months, rejected an earlier proposal by Council Vice President JP Morrell to limit “non-essential” trips to $1,000, of which would probably have stopped. trip abroad altogether. Morrell said the change came in response to community feedback.
“The primary concern that I’ve gotten from talking to individuals, especially from the community, our constituency, was transparency,” Morrell said.
A well-stamped passport
In June and July, Cantrell and other city officials made trips to France and Switzerland to sign symbolic “sister city” agreements. Even before those trips, the mayor had spent nearly $80,000 this year on travel for himself and top aides.
The European visits came amid a tumultuous debate over how to deal with the city’s violent rise in crime and other ills such as spotty littering and slow road repairs. Critics charged that the mayor was abandoning her post at the city’s expense.
The howls grew louder when Cantrell announced — and then quickly canceled — a trip to Singapore for a climate change conference.
Cantrell has championed her tours as a tool for economic development and spreading the word about the city’s culture.
“When I go, I’m reinvesting in the people that are traded, and I’m not apologetic about that at all,” Cantrell said at a town hall Tuesday.
Even before the trip to Singapore became public, Morrell and Council President Helena Moreno introduced an ordinance that would have limited “non-essential” travel for elected city officials to $1,000 a pop.
Under the final ordinance, there is no specific dollar limit. Instead, the city’s chief administrative officer and the City Council’s chief of staff should develop travel policies for elected and non-elected officials. The ordinance also applies to council members.
Airline and hotel receipts must be disclosed in response to public records requests within three days and all receipts within 14 business days. After Cantrell’s trip to the French Riviera, the city was slow to release details on the spending.
The city must also prepare a quarterly travel report.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said the new ordinance won’t change much.
“Today’s vote replicates many of the policies and practices already in place regarding elected official travel,” said John Lawson. “As this city’s ambassador-in-chief, the mayor will continue to promote New Orleans, our history and culture, and create the connections needed not only to attract more visitors, but also to drive more economic investment in our city. “
Ordinance withdraws ‘occupation’
Moreno thanked Morrell for bringing the tackle into the end zone — passing a defense that remained unnamed.
“I know it hasn’t been easy, that you’ve certainly gotten a significant reprieve,” she said. “I was glad to stand with you on it because I think it’s important and it’s something that’s actually long overdue.”
While the mayor’s travels drew some attention on social media, District E Councilman Oliver Thomas wished her “safe travels” in July, adding, “Just bring a sister agreement, an economic relationship and some ideas and things we can do better. here!!!”
Thomas was the only Council member absent when the travel ordinance passed 6-0. He said earlier that he had to leave to speak at a graduation event for young people.