Clancy DuBos: Cantrell's early missteps_lowres


Disgraced former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd attended a meeting with Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and the city's legislative delegation, causing consternation among local lawmakers.

Is Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell ready to grasp the reins of power at City Hall? Granted, in some ways it's late to be asking that question, but it seems more than a tad strange that six weeks have passed since her Nov. 18 election and she still hasn't announced any members of her transition team.

  By contrast, Marc Morial announced his transition co-chairs two days after his election in 1994. Even the superbly incompetent Ray Nagin was able to identify transition leaders within a week of his 2002 victory.

  For all the angst in some quarters about Cantrell's nearly six-month transition period, it seems a blessing now. At the same time, six weeks seems an eternity without a peep about who will help guide the new mayor into office.

  If Cantrell were the newly elected mayor four years from now, she'd be taking office in a little more than a week, on Jan. 10. It makes one wonder just how prepared she is to assume her new role.

  In fairness, Cantrell's years on the City Council gave her a good grasp of the major campaign issues, and she clearly ran the best race for mayor. But having a grip on public policy is not the same as being ready to govern a city. Policy wonks are a dime a dozen. Leaders are much harder to come by.

  So far, we've heard more from Cantrell about who won't be on her team — disgraced former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, for one — than who will be working with her.

  Speaking of Shepherd, the mayor-elect recently had to distance herself from the cheeky ex-con after he turned up at her first meeting with the city's legislative delegation on Dec. 18. Shepherd served time in the federal pokey for money laundering, so local lawmakers were understandably aghast at seeing him in their meeting with Cantrell.

  Like finding a turd in the punch bowl, no one took responsibility for Shepherd being there — yet there he was. Days later, Cantrell issued a statement saying she didn't know how Shepherd came to be there. Coincidentally (or not), he did the same thing on Dec. 6, when he attended the Algiers Economic Development Foundation's annual luncheon, where Cantrell was the featured speaker. Witnesses say Shepherd held a wireless mic to let audience members lob questions at Cantrell, giving the obvious impression he was part of her team. Was he?

  I don't blame Shepherd for wanting to rehabilitate his image, but Cantrell can't afford to let him do it at her expense. She is, after all, still haunted by her freewheeling use of a city-issued (and taxpayer-funded) credit card during her council tenure. Luckily for her, the only lawman investigating her (so far) is bumbling state Attorney General Jeff Landry, who appears no more prepared for his office than Cantrell does for the mayoralty.

  The old meme, "It's better to be lucky than good," doesn't apply here. Cantrell needs seasoned advisors who can help her avoid more missteps, and she needs them now. Otherwise, her political honeymoon will be even shorter than what's left of her transition period.