Mayor LaToya Cantrell speaks during the State of the City Address at Gallier Hall in New Orleans, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo by Sophia Germer, The Times-Picayune)

State of the City addresses, like their state and national counterparts, typically call to mind political pep rallies. They feature lots of self-awarded high-fives, with an occasional smattering of vision statements.

That’s not to say they aren’t worthwhile. Citizens (and we in the media) often need to be reminded of civic progress and inspired by visions of a brighter future.

But oftentimes, it’s the things that go unmentioned that stand out.

For example, in her Dec. 13 State of the City address, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell touted a significant reduction in violent crime and increased private investment in the city, among other noteworthy accomplishments.

She failed to mention the high rate of property crimes, however, and rampant crimes against persons in the tourist-heavy French Quarter and Central Business District. It’s an open secret that many locals avoid the Quarter after dark, and too many visitors leave with stories of getting hassled and hustled — or worse — during their time here.

Cantrell also made no mention of the decade-old federal consent decree that continues to govern New Orleans Police Department policies, or the NOPD’s failure to attract more recruits amid an exodus of veteran cops.

On another front, Cantrell praised her administration’s programs for “learning to live with water” — such as the (just begun) Mirabeau Gardens drainage retention plan and the Bienvenu Wetlands project, plus eight more projects that she promises to complete in 2024. But she overlooked the 70,000 catch basins that still need cleaning.

Overall, Heronner said her team is making “quiet progress” across multiple fronts.

She can rightly point to areas of progress, such as completing half of a large backlog of federally funded street and drainage repairs, but there’s nothing quiet about citizens’ opinions of long-unfinished street projects. Her approval ratings have tanked, and surveys consistently show residents having a dim view of the city’s prospects and quality of life.

The mayor touted ongoing construction of a substation to supply reliable power to the city’s water and drainage systems by the end of 2025, but she did not say that the project actually got moving because the City Council funded it amid foot-dragging by her administration.?

Maybe that’s the “quiet” part of her team’s progress.

Looking ahead, Cantrell praised the private investors who are building the new River District neighborhood upriver from the Morial Convention Center — and she defended the use of tax breaks to finance the project.

“That River District is like a gift that will keep on giving to the city for generations to come,” Cantrell said. She added that the tax breaks are attached to public property that currently generates no taxes anyway.

The mayor also promised, without giving specifics, to bring back the Municipal Auditorium and to begin the process of building a new City Hall on a Duncan Plaza parcel she hopes to acquire from the state.

Again, it was the council that put the kibosh on Cantrell’s wildly unpopular plan to turn the auditorium into a new City Hall.

Oops. There I go again — disturbing the quiet part.

Clancy DuBos is Gambit's political editor. You can reach him at