New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is under fire after flying first-class under the taxpayers’ dime. The embattled mayor says she will not pay back the city despite policies requiring government employees to pay the difference for upgraded fare. Her reasons for flying first class stem from safety concerns about being a Black woman and COVID-19.
“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in,” Cantrell said in a statement. “My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury. As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded, and we are left to navigate alone.”
Controversy surrounding the mayor began several weeks ago when news surfaced that her travel costs estimated to nearly $30,000. She has insisted that the expenses were on behalf of the city and she has been critiqued for inadequate explanations about what her race and gender had anything to do with her travel safety. She did, however, explain how COVID-19 has affected how she chooses to travel.
“There were some things that changed due to COVID. One, me flying with security, and my seat assignment — absolutely tied to my health and my well-being. No doubt about that,” she told local New Orleans TV station, WDSU. “In addition to that, many may not know, some of the levels of anxiety that I do have, however, COVID, I had to pivot, and I’ve had to pivot with making sure I’m traveling with security, and I have to be at my best doing it.”
WDSU secured documents revealing that Cantrell’s flight to France to promote New Orleans in July cost the city $17,854.57. Her security guard and staffers flew economy. The entire trip totaled $43,000. Additionally, an investigation showed her trip to Switzerland to promote a New Orleans Jazz-Fest totaled $16,600 – the airfare alone was nearly $10,000.
“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” she said. “One thing is clear; I do my job and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way.”