Editorial: Our Views: Vote yes on New Orleans City Charter amendment
By Staff Editorial
October 25, 2022
It’s difficult to separate the proposed New Orleans City Charter amendment from recent headlines over the City Council’s ongoing battles with Mayor LaToya Cantrell — including over the proposal itself, which Cantrell vetoed and the council overrode to put it on the ballot. A permanent change in the structure of city government should never be the response to one leader’s perceived shortcomings.
Still, we believe the amendment, which would give the council oversight over major mayoral appointments, stands on its merits.
If a majority of the city’s voters support it, the council will have to approve 11 administration department heads identified in the charter, including the police superintendent, starting in 2023. The amendment would also allow the council, by ordinance, to claim such oversight over other mayoral appointees with major executive authority.
New Orleans mayors are invested with tremendous authority; requiring council approval of top staffers — which it already has for appointees to a long list of boards and commissions — would add a check to that power. A major benefit would be the public airing of credentials and potential conflicts of interest; indeed, such concerns have arisen with several of Cantrell’s appointees who were already on the job.
One potential downside is that the proposal could cause gridlock, but we don’t think that’s much of a concern. The amendment would allow mayors to put interim appointees on the job for 120 days, and we don’t foresee the sort of political warfare that sometimes upends U.S. Senate approval of presidential appointees. A report by the Bureau of Governmental Research found that 80% of similar cities it studied have council approval of mayoral appointees, and most manage to get department heads on the job without major hold-ups.
BGR endorses the proposal, arguing that it would increase government transparency, set clear expectations for appointees and give them the chance to explain their qualifications to the council and the public. We believe these are worthy goals and encourage voters to approve the amendment.
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