Cantrell highlights successes, challenges in State of the District address

Her district covers a wide swath of the city, from the Central Business District to parts of Mid-City, Gert Town and Uptown, but New Orleans Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said that District B is united behind a shared set of values and that there’s work to do to make sure people in those neighborhoods have the best possible quality of life.

Cantrell made that statement during her inaugural State of the District address Tuesday night before a near-capacity audience in the Council Chambers.

Among the areas in which she sees room for improvement are economic development, safety and health and youth engagement.

Much of that can be done by creating stronger neighborhoods, Cantrell said.

She noted that Freret Street, between Jefferson and Napoleon avenues, has seen improvements during recent years, and city leaders are hopeful O.C. Haley Boulevard in Central City will be the next major artery to undergo a renaissance.

But blight remains an issue in many neighborhoods and is often a roadblock to progress, the freshman councilwoman noted.

In an effort to resolve many of the issues related to dilapidated properties, Cantrell said she will soon begin work to update city ordinances that govern how those properties are handled on a legal level. She recently announced an initiative to begin attacking commercial blight in the CBD.

“This is vital,” Cantrell said. “We have to do this.”

In regard to private property, Cantrell said dozens of blighted properties in her district remain that way because of homeowners’ issues with the Road Home program.

“We have a large population of people who were screwed by the Road Home,” she said. “It’s a fact.”

Cantrell said a goal is to work with the Road Home program to ensure property owners get their fair shares before that program ends its disbursements in July.

Cantrell also said she will work with neighborhoods in her district that are often forgotten to make sure residents have a voice in the future of their areas.

Those who live in Gert Town, Zion City and Hoffman Triangle should expect more outreach from her office, Cantrell said. Cantrell also said she will make it a priority to ensure that jobs are available for residents who are looking for work.

In an effort to make that happen, Cantrell said, she will work with Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell to create a stronger ordinance that deals with disadvantaged business enterprises. “It’s coming, I’m promise,” Cantrell said.

Larger obstacles District B faces include health and crime, Cantrell said.

“In some cases, a lack of mental health services can be a contributing factor in the occurrence of avoidable criminal behavior and allow undiagnosed residents to fall through the cracks,” Cantrell said.

There needs to be greater access in District B to annual wellness exams, pregnancy testing and other vital screenings, she said, something a new community health clinic in Broadmoor will provide, as will a new Planned Parenthood on South Claiborne Avenue.

Meanwhile, Cantrell will use $5,000 in city grant funds to have crime cameras installed at South Broad Street and Washington Avenue, which has seen a number of murders in recent years. A similar initiative will be undertaken in the Irish Channel, Cantrell said.

“Along with the men and women of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 8th police districts, we will continue to work for a safer and stronger city,” Cantrell said.