NEW ORLEANS — Mayor Cantrell is defending using city dollars on first class flights and expensive hotel rooms.
Her travel has cost the city more than $60,000 in 2022, according to records. She often flies first and business class while her staff, including security, fly economy. Her ticket to Switzerland to sign a sister cities agreement cost $9,800. She was asked why during a news conference Wednesday.
"That was the cost and that's what we spent," Cantrell said. "Business class in terms of travel is what I do. Particularly in this environment to ensure my safety."
We reached out to the City asking for clarification on why the mayor didn't feel safe flying economy. A spokesperson said, "We do not comment on mayor's safety protocols or procedures."
City Council President Helena Moreno tweeted: "I definitely want the mayor to be safe. So, if she felt she needed security, she should have flown economy class with him. PLUS…these are tax payer dollars and travel agencies I've reached out to say these tick prices are also not norm and egregious."
Cantrell was asked about a number of controversial topics at the news conference.
Moreno said in a statement: "The mayor's comments are out of touch with what the people of New Orleans are experiencing and feeling about the state of our city. The Council will continue to urgently do the work to improve the operations of the City along with demanding transparency and accountability."
City Councilmember Joe Giarrusso spoke with Tommy Tucker on WWL Radio Thursday morning sharing his thoughts on the mayor's travel while the city struggles with many other issues.
"We're getting trash complaints and crime complaints and all the normal quality of life issues," Giarrusso said. "While it's important to promote the city and make sure things are going well elsewhere, also being here being on the ground being a cheerleader at home and looking at those issues that need to be fixed."
Cantrell calls the travel part of her job to grow the economy.
"I would advise you to speak to the cultural community directly," she said Wednesday.
We reached out to Chief Shaka Zulu of the Golden Feather Hunters who believes the travel does help support culture bearers.
"As a culture bearer, I work so much outside of New Orleans. I work a lot in New Orleans, but I work so much outside of New Orleans and outside of America so for her to be able to make connections in other parts of the world, it gives the artists opportunities," Zulu said. "There's no such thing as cultural sustainability without an economic impact so in order for us to survive culturally we have to travel.
A statement from New Orleans & Company, the city's tourism company said: "Tourism is New Orleans' most important industry, creating nearly 75,000 local jobs and a stronger economy for the entire region. Although the industry is experiencing recovery from COVID, there is still work to do to reach pre-pandemic levels of visitation, including from international travelers. That visitation does not just happen …. it takes work with international tour operators, journalists and travel agents; promotion and raising awareness of New Orleans around the world, which is the mission of New Orleans & Company and all of our partners."