On the Ballot

Gambit Commentary: Our views on this year’s charter and constitutional amendments

By Gambit Commentary

Source: Gambit

October 20, 2022

The Nov. 8 ballot contains a proposed change to the New Orleans City Charter and eight proposed state constitutional amendments. Early voting starts Tuesday, Oct. 25, and continues through Nov. 1. Below are our recommendations on those propositions.

City Charter Change: YES

The only citywide proposition on the New Orleans ballot asks voters to decide whether to amend the City Charter to require City Council confirmation of mayor-appointed department heads. The proposed amendment also would allow the council to require, by future ordinance, confirmation of certain other administrators. The charter currently allows mayors to appoint department heads — including the police and fire chiefs — without any public input, vetting or approval. If passed, the amendment would take effect Jan. 1. It would not apply to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s current appointees.

Proponents, particularly Council Vice President JP Morrell and the nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research, say the change would give the public an additional layer of scrutiny and transparency — and help ensure top administrators are qualified for their jobs. Opponents, including Cantrell, say the proposal would dilute the mayor’s power and could lead to gridlock and dealmaking.

We believe the proposed amendment is an overdue step in the right direction. It is not a swipe at Cantrell — in fact, it will have more effect on future mayors than on her. Dozens of U.S. cities with similar “strong mayor” charters require their city councils to approve top mayoral appointees. So do Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.

Our city’s history is full of examples of appointees who turned out to be unfit to hold their jobs, including any number of cases in which the mayor who appointed them may not have been aware of a conflict of interest, credibility issues or other potential problems. A confirmation process will significantly reduce the chances of bad apples slipping through before they can cause damage.

Giving citizens a higher level of confidence in the integrity and qualifications of top appointees is far more important than protecting mayors’ unchecked power to appoint people, including friends and supporters — qualified or not — to high-level city jobs.

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