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City Council Regular Meeting News Summary June 22, 2017

June 22, 2017

NEW ORLEANS - At today's meeting, the Council received presentations from representatives of the YMCA Educational Services (YES!) program, the Southern Rep Theatre and the Finance Authority of New Orleans. Additionally, the Council adopted several resolutions honoring the 2017 Essence Festival, authorizing the Mayor to negotiate the transfer of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission to the Port of New Orleans, approving City Council/Cox Communications Louisiana's Community Grant Program funds, and supporting grant funding for Phase II of the Hollygrove Greenline project.



YMCA Educational Services (YES!) Presentation on Adult Literacy

The Council received a presentation from representatives of the YMCA Educational Services (YES!) program detailing their work promoting adult literacy in New Orleans. Approximately 39 percent of adults in Greater New Orleans function below a sixth-grade reading level. YES! is the only program in the City tailored to providing adults with the necessary reading capabilities to succeed in the 21st-century workplace.
The program provides free classes in reading and language comprehension, writing, math, computer literacy, resume building and workplace literacy. Through adult education, the YMCA empowers individuals to teach their children, participate in civic activities and pursue better jobs. Studies show that for every $1 invested in adult education, a community receives $11 back through income, property taxes, and savings on welfare and legal system expenses.
"Our city is doing better than average when it comes to high school graduates," said District "E" Councilmember James Gray. "While we're not where we want to be, we're better than we think we are. The national average for states is 86.7 percent. Louisiana's average is 83.4 percent and New Orleans' average is 85.2 percent. These stats ought to encourage us to work harder and do more. Thank you for showing our adult community that the sky's the limit with the proper training."

 

Presentation from Southern Rep Theatre

The Council heard a presentation from Southern Rep Theatre celebrating its 31st season. Lauren E. Turner, Producer of Artistic and Community Engagement, and Managing Director Jenny Windstrup spoke to the Council on the theatre's Community Table Engagement Initiative. Southern Rep is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed regional theatre company that produces bold world premieres, the best of Broadway and off-Broadway, and classic plays. Founded in 1986, Southern Rep's mission is to develop and produce new plays that reflect the diversity of the City, to provide its people with professional theatre of the highest artistic quality and achievement, and to establish a creative working environment that nurtures theatre enthusiasts. As New Orleans' only year-round professional theatre, they strive to enlighten, educate, and entertain audiences and further extend that service through educational and outreach programs. Southern Rep's School to Stage Pipeline gives students between the ages of 4-18 the chance to explore and engage with live, professional theatre, participate in their own productions and pursue their dreams. More than 18,000 children and counting have experienced the joy and magic of theatre through Southern Rep Arts Education Programs.


 

Finance Authority of New Orleans Executive Director Addresses the Council

As the final special order of business, the Council received a presentation from Damon Burns, Executive Director of the Finance Authority of New Orleans, on the agency's low-interest mortgage loan program.
 
The Finance Authority of New Orleans is a quasi-governmental agency created to help residents get low-interest mortgage loans to purchase homes in Orleans Parish. Its low-interest mortgage loan program serves both first-time homebuyers and non-first time homebuyers of all family income levels.
 
Burns, an alumni of St. Augustine High School, is a public finance professional with more than 10 years of experience in investment and corporate banking, economic development and financial technology. 

"You are doing truly amazing work using a mix of traditional and innovative financial products to increase homeownership here in New Orleans," said Councilmember-At-Large Williams. "This pooling of private and public resources and interests will allow inter-sectoral leverage of limited resources for a common goal. Thank you for demonstrating that people who may not traditionally receive loans are still a good investment." 

The Council pledged to assist the Finance Authority in any way possible to continue its work creating affordable housing for low-to-moderate income families and improving the overall quality of life in the City.

 

Council Adopts Resolution in Support of New Orleans Public Belt Transfer

The Council unanimously adopted Resolution No. R- 17-315 authorizing the Mayor to execute the Term Sheet in regards to the transfer of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. The resolution allows the Mayor to negotiate the initial terms of the transaction, seek any and all approvals from other public or private bodies, and take any and all other actions to facilitate the transaction, subject to final approval of the terms and conditions by the Council. Currently, the City of New Orleans owns the Public Belt Railroad Commission. The transfer of ownership to the Port of New Orleans will facilitate a critical element of the port's competitive advantage and ensure future growth in trade and commerce. The transfer will allow the Public Belt greater access to capital, the potential for greater financial investments and greater opportunity to be a regional service and asset. The Council heard from Brandy D. Christian, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, Brandy Christian and Michael W. Kearney, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, advocating on behalf of the transfer. The Board of Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the deal on June 9, 2017. The transfer of the Governor Nicholls Street and Esplanade Avenue Wharves will provide public access to the riverfront along the three-mile stretch from Crescent Park to Spanish Plaza. Officials at the port are currently working with hospitality partners to secure the $15 million needed to convert the wharves into public park space. "I want to commend you all for the collaborative spirit," said District "B" Councilmember Cantrell. "Our ability to listen to all sides and parties is monumental for the growth and survival of our city. This is truly a win win WIN in my opinion. At the end of the day, we got the best deal for all of our people." The Council referred to the current situation pertaining to the railroad as having a $100 million asset that provides no real return or benefit to the City. With this deal, New Orleans will have a $100 million asset with economic opportunity and tangible value. "There's not enough time or words to explain just how excited we are about this," said District "A" Councilmember Guidry. "New Orleans was built to be a port city. The port is vital to our existence and continued growth. The Public Belt Railroad is a crucial part of the port, and was created to serve it. This swap will give our port a competitive edge over other ports while giving our public greater access to the Mississippi River. Everyone wins. Thank you all so much for the tireless work it required to pull this off."


 

Resolution Adopted in Honor of the 2017 Essence Festival

The Council adopted a resolution honoring the 2017 Essence Festival and Mrs. Michelle Ebanks, President of Essence Communications Inc. In her role as president, Ebanks leads the number one media and communications company dedicated to African-American women. The internationally renowned Essence Festival, one of the largest annual live events in the world, attracts more than 540,000 attendees to New Orleans during July Fourth weekend. Each year, the festival brings in the best performers and entertainers from around the country, as well as a series of seminars created to empower African American men and women. Tourism leaders said Essence Festival and all that surrounds it brings about an economic impact of about $200 million to Orleans Parish. "Essence Festival is so much more than the incredible musical talent it brings to our city," said District "C" Councilmember Ramsey. "It's an experience that brings us together as a family. The fact that you've been able to keep it here in New Orleans and keep it steadily growing every year is a huge testament to you all."

 

Council Approves City Council/Cox Communications Community Grant Program Funds

The Council adopted a resolution approving City Council/Cox Communications Louisiana's Community Grant Program funds. The Cox Cable franchise provides an annual amount of $140,000, at the direction and discretion of the City Council, to community nonprofit organizations that focus on benefiting New Orleans youth.

Those groups selected as recipients of the funds have demonstrated their commitment to improving the civic life of the community. To see a complete list of those organizations by Council district, click here. 

 

Resolution Passed in Support of Funding for Phase II of Hollygrove Greenline Project

The Council adopted a resolution by District "A" Councilmember Guidry in support of an application to the State of Louisiana for a Recreational Trails Grant to fund Phase II of the Hollygrove Greenline.

A five-year project, the Greenline officially opened in March 2017. Located in a low-lying district of New Orleans between Carrollton Avenue and the Jefferson Parish line, the former rail bed now conveys stormwater to nearby outfall canals.

This program will provide the opportunity to generate innovative solutions for issues facing motorized and non-motorized trail users and will encourage projects that work in partnership with trail-user groups, volunteer groups, the business community, and local, state, and federal agencies.

"My resolution to support a grant application to fund phase two of the Hollygrove Greenline trail was unanimously approved by the Council today," said Councilmember Guidry. "If successful, I look forward to working with partners in the Hollygrove neighborhood, the administration, and the Sewage and Water Board to leverage our initial investment in phase one, to complete phase two and eventually to extend the trail through the entire neighborhood to the Parish line." 



 

 
  
 

YMCA Educational Services (YES!) Presentation on Adult Literacy

Presentation from Southern Rep Theatre

Finance Authority of New Orleans Executive Director Addresses the Council

Council Adopts Resolution in Support of New Orleans Public Belt Transfer

Resolution Adopted in Honor of the 2017 Essence Festival

Council Approves City Council/Cox Communications Community Grant Program Funds

Resolution Passed in Support of Funding for Phase II of Hollygrove Greenline Project

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