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Mardi Gras '23 will go on but what will it look like?

“Everything is on the table, addressing the route asking for assistance from other agencies, all of that's on the table,: said NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson.

NEW ORLEANS — A comment by Mayor LaToya Cantrell Thursday night raised fear that Mardi Gras 2023 could be in peril but less than 24 hours later she wanted to assure people that was not the case. 

"We ARE NOT canceling Mardi Gras," were the first words of a statement sent out by Cantrell Friday afternoon in an effort to quell concerns.   

It was an off the cuff comment by Mayor LaToya Cantrell that had social media buzzing. Thursday night at the Lakeview budget town hall meeting she said: 

"If we don't have adequate police, it could mean that there will be no Mardi Gras — and that's a fact. If our officers cannot be safe, then there's no way that our city will be safe."

The last time Mardi Gras was cancelled because of police issues was 1979 due to the strike, but the pandemic cancellation is what’s  most fresh on people's minds, and they were not excited about the chances of another cancelation.  

Earlier on  Friday morning, the forecast for the approaching heart of hurricane season was not on people's minds. It was the celebratory forecast for next February. 

“We have over 3,600 members signed up, registered, ready to go. Our floats are done. Our throws are purchased. We could put on our show probably in a month,” said the Captain of Iris, Kristin Danflous.

The topic was not only on the mind of the captain of Iris, it was the first question asked by the president of the city council of the city's police chief.

“Did you hear the comments that the mayor made last night about Mardi Gras?,” Council President Helena Moreno asked NOPD Superintendent Sean Ferguson.

Ferguson answered that he was there and heard it first hand. He said NOPD was in the middle of assessing what is needed to staff Mardi Gras given the dwindling numbers of officers on the force.

“Everything is on the table, addressing the route asking for assistance from other agencies, all of that's on the table,: said Ferguson.

There are no decisions now, but if routes have to be shortened, Iris will accept the changes.

“Well of course it's disappointing, but obviously we want everyone to be safe. We want we don't want any incidences,” said Danflous.

“Let’s all get together. Let's plan. Let’s figure out a path. Let’s not make irresponsible comments, and create panic, you know that could that could potentially impact, you know, just overall, you know how people feel about our city, or potentially, you know, just fear about business impact,” said Moreno. 

“New Orleans can not afford not to have a Mardi Gras. We all love it. The world loves it,” said Danflous.

“I don't think now is the time to panic. Now is the time to plan, and that is exactly what we're doing.” Said Ferguson. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell's Full Statement 

"We ARE NOT canceling Mardi Gras.

New Orleans, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a shortage of public safety personnel that includes police, fire, EMS – across the board – you name it. The United States Army even says recruitment for our Armed Services has reached historic lows. I hear from my brother and sister Mayors all the time about how these global economic challenges – the big three: inflation, supply chain, and labor shortage – have created unforeseen difficulties that hamper our ability to attract candidates to these noble professions. New York, Chicago, and even our own Louisiana State Police all are facing unprecedented personnel shortages. However, we have taken aggressive steps to increase recruitment and retention initiatives, have enhanced technology, and built more efficient facilities as we have discussed over the last few weeks. 

We have invested nearly $1 million into promotional marketing and introduced enhanced equipment and facilities, including the $3.7 million firing range that my administration unveiled yesterday, which is the first of its kind in our city and signifies our commitment to 21st century policing. In addition, starting early next year, we will begin paying cash bonuses of $5,000 to police officers according to their years on the force. We understand the challenges are real, but the City of New Orleans remains committed to delivering critical resources needed for our public safety agencies, while also continuing to safely host large-scale events that allow us to celebrate our beloved culture."

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