Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the Human Relations Commission are identifying “low-hanging fruit” to expand access at City Hall, including creating some gender-neutral bathrooms and better accommodating non-English speakers and people with disabilities.
At the inaugural meeting of the commission’s recently appointed advisory committee on Sept. 11, the commission’s executive director Vincenzo Pasquantonio outlined a list of priorities and ideas the commission plans to tackle, from better language access to supporting people seeking citizenship.
Pasquantonio said the administration is working to identify bathrooms and other facilities at City Hall to earmark for renovations to support all genders and people with disabilities.
The commission also is reviewing documents at the Department of Safety & Permits that could also be made available in Spanish and Vietnamese and assessing a larger language access report to track those kinds of improvements at City Hall.
“The way to eat a big elephant is one bite at a time,” Pasquantonio told the committee. “We want to do the real serious stuff in addition to the low-hanging fruit.”
Pasquantonio said he hopes to be able to move the Equity New Orleans initiative — which former Mayor Mitch Landrieu revealed in 2017 and is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Foundation for Louisiana — under the commission’s wing, effectively building an office for more equitable systems in city government and elsewhere.
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In June, Cantrell announced that the commission would enlist a LGBT Task Force to generate policy recommendations from the city’s LGBT community, but that specific task force has not yet been formed. Members of the advisory committee, representing a broad spectrum of local social justice and civil rights groups, were appointed later that month.
Cantrell aims to rely on the committee to help draft a range of inclusive and equity-driven policies at City Hall, expanding the commission’s role at City Hall compared to its function under the Landrieu administration.
Among the advisory committee’s 17 members are former ACLU of Louisiana director Marjorie Esman, Nathalie Faulk with BreakOUT!, and Deon Haywood with Women with a Vision.
“The Human Relations Commission will have a meaningful role in my administration, and the Advisory Committee will be a vital part of that work,” Cantrell said in an August statement announcing the committee’s lineup. “The Committee includes people who have actively served the Commission in the past and new voices who have been in the trenches getting results for our people.”