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City Council Regular Meeting News Summary March 9, 2017

March 9, 2017

NEW ORLEANS - Today, the Council honored Sgt. Eric Berger of the NOPD 7th District, heard a presentation from St. Mary's Academy recognizing its 150th Anniversary, and approved additional funding to the Office of Homeland Security for disaster-related relief efforts in lieu of the recent tornados.

Additionally, the Council approved additional funding for the Bayou St. John Drainage Project, passed an ordinance to incorporate additional recommendations provided in the Affordable Housing Impact Statement Study, approved a transfer of funds to the Sheriff for prisoner-related operating expenses, and confirmed eight appointments to the Environmental Advisory Committee as well as seven of the Mayor's appointments to the New Orleans Building Corporation.

The Council deferred an ordinance to create the Parkview Local Historic District as well as action on agenda items relating to the Master Plan.



Honored Sergeant Eric Berger of the NOPD 7th District

Today, the Council received a presentation from the NOPD 7th District honoring Sergeant Eric Berger for his heroic actions in saving a senior resident after the ground collapsed beneath him on Downman Road on January 11, 2017.

Sgt. Berger rescued a groundskeeper after New Orleans East residents had said he fell into a large sinkhole that emerged beneath him on a sidewalk. Police later described the hole as a "sewerage hole" rather than a sinkhole. When police arrived that morning, the entire front of the John Deere tractor he was riding was submerged below ground.

Members of the Council expressed their gratitude and admiration for Sgt. Berger and the rest of his unit for their efforts as the first order of business today.

 

St. Mary's Academy Celebrates 150th Anniversary

The Council received a presentation from St. Mary's Academy in honor of its 150th Anniversary. Presenters included Sr. Greta Jupiter, SSF, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Sr. Leona Bruner, SSF, Leadership Team; Sr. Clare of Assisi Pierre, SSF, President of St. Mary's Academy; and Sr. Jennie Jones, SSF, Principal of St. Mary's Academy.

St. Mary's was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family in December 1867. This year, St. Mary's Academy is celebrating its sesquicentennial by hosting a number of events that commemorate the school's rich legacy. 

"My mother and her four sisters all attended St. Mary's as did my chief of staff," said District "D" Councilmember Brossett. "I want to thank you all for being a leader in this community and for instilling such discipline and academia into the young women you serve. You have touched so many lives throughout your existence, and New Orleans wouldn't be what it is today without you."

 

Funding for Disaster-Related Operating Expenses Incorporated

The Council unanimously approved two ordinances to amend the Operating Budgets of Revenues and Expenditures for the City for 2017 to appropriate funds to the Office of Homeland Security for disaster-related operating expenses. These ordinances passed today in response to FEMA's denial of Gov. John Bel Edwards' requests to send more federal relief money to residents, businesses, and parish governments hit by the devastating tornadoes last month.

FEMA has said the agency would not send public assistance to Orleans, Jefferson, Ascension, St. James and Livingston parishes nor will it send individual assistance to Ascension and St. James. 

 

Environmental Advisory Committee and New Orleans Building Corporation Appointments Confirmed

District "C" Councilmember Ramsey introduced an ordinance to establish the Environmental Advisory Committee, at the meeting Dec. 15, which will advise and recommend to the Council guiding principles and policies relative to environmental, resiliency and sustainability issues. The creation of the committee was approved by the Council on January 12, 2017.

At today's meeting, the Council voted to confirm and approve eight members of said committee. Appointments are as follows:

  • Caitlyn Tacono, by Councilmember Ramsey
  • Essence Banks, by Councilmember Ramsey
  • Jeffrey Cantin, by Councilmember Guidry
  • Elizabeth Shepard, by Councilmember Ramsey
  • Marianne Cufone, by Councilmember Head
  • Nick Harris, by Councilmember Brossett
  • Aron Chang, by Councilmember Cantrell
  • Beverly Wright, by Councilmember Williams

"As you all know, the lack of female representation in our city and state boards and commissions is something I feel passionately about," said Councilmember-At-Large Stacy Head. "I'm so glad that Councilmember Ramsey's committee will be comprised of so many strong female voices."

"I'm extremely excited to get to work with the appointees to the new Environmental Advisory Committee today on the important environmental and sanitation issues facing our City," said District "C" Councilmember Ramsey. "This is a very distinguished group of experts.  I'd like to thank my colleagues on the Council and all the partner organizations that have worked alongside me throughout this process."

Additionally, the Council approved seven of the Mayor's appointments to the New Orleans Building Corporation, following the Council's approval of merging the entity with the Canal Street Development Corporation (CSDC) on December 15, 2016. The appointments are as follows:

  • David M. Rubenstein
  • Romualdo Gonzales, Sr.
  • Tracie Boutte
  • Joseph M. Bruno
  • Robert M. Becnel
  • William Detweiler
  • Evelyn Pugh

 

Bayou St. John Drainage Project Additional Funding Approved

The Council approved an ordinance relative to the Bayou St. John Drainage project to add an additional $76,050 in federal funds to the project.

In July, New Orleans set out to embark on a $115 million, three-year project aimed at upgrading drainage in eight neighborhoods. This reflected the largest effort to date to enact new strategies focused on retaining, as opposed to immediately pumping out rainwater.

The federally funded projects are spread throughout the City and collectively represent the largest effort in recent history to improve New Orleans' drainage system outside of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. 

These projects represent a pivotal transition by the City from using federal hazard mitigation funds to more generalized efforts aimed at improving drainage for large areas.

 

Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS)

The Council approved Zoning Docket No. 7/17, which requested a text amendment to incorporate recommendations provided in the Commission's Affordable Housing Impact Statement Study. 

Specifically, the amendment requires Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS) for all applications seeking density bonuses and to require the CPC staff to provide a density review of the AHIS relative to said density bonuses. The proposed text change affects all properties seeking a density bonus city-wide 

In 2016, the City Council passed Motion M-16-167 directing the City Planning Commission to conduct a Public Hearing and study on how affordable housing impact can be assessed as part of land-use and building applications.

Prior to the passing of the Motion, Councilmembers Brossett and Cantrell introduced an ordinance on December 10, 2015, to amend and re-ordain the Code of the City of New Orleans, to add a new Article, titled "Affordable Housing Impact Statements."

The Study's key findings were as follows:
  • 70 percent of New Orleans residents pay more than 30 percent toward housing costs. 
  • Data collection can be used in tracking real-time housing supply information. 
  • AHIS can serve as an accountability tool for programs and policies implemented to address affordable housing.
  • AHIS can be included as part of a building permit application and does not require additional fees. The information requested is typically available at the time of submission. 
  • Data collection can assist non-profits and private developers with making decisions based on accurate data. 
  • A quantitative analysis, where the data comes from the property owner or the applicant, is more appropriate for project or development based affordable housing impact statements. 
  • A qualitative analysis is more appropriate for policy or regulatory-based affordable housing impact statements. This analysis is typically conducted by City staff. 
  • A quantitative analysis is useful for projects that are seeking incentives or are required to provide affordable housing units.

"It's no secret that New Orleans is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis," said Councilmember Brossett. "Now is the time to act. Our residents are living paycheck to paycheck just to pay rent and other housing expenses. By implementing the changes in the study and the use of affordable housing impact statements, I hope to bring equity to the housing stock in New Orleans."

The amendment approved by the Council today reflects the City's ongoing efforts to increase affordable housing.

 

Prisoner-Related Operating Expenses for Sheriff's Office Approved

Following a presentation from representatives of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, including Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Orleans Parish Jail Compliance Director Gary Maynard, the Council unanimously voted to approve two ordinances to amend the Operating Budgets of Revenues and Expenditures for the City for 2017 to appropriate funds from the City's fund balance to the Sheriff's Office for prisoner-related operating expenses.

In Louisiana, there are seven state-operated prisons and two privately run prisons. Six of those nine facilities are more than 100 miles from the city. The presentation advocated for increased savings through a collaborative relationship between OPSO, the City, and the New Orleans' criminal justice system to continue to accelerate the reduction of the inmate population.

Maynard and Gusman filed their most recent progress report March 1, 2017, with U.S. District Judge Africk detailing a variety of changes that are being implemented within the jail, which included ways to cut costs. The Council expressed the need for future deliberation on how to generally reduce prisoner-related costs and how to better accommodate/treat mentally ill inmates prior to approving the amendments voted on today.

 

Office of the Independent Police Monitor and Inspector General Ordinances Passed

The Council voted to approve two ordinances pertaining to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor. Ordinance No. 31, 706 passed 5-2 by the Council. The ordinance amends the Code of the City of New Orleans to remove all oversight authority and references relative to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor from the Office of Inspector General.

Councilmembers Head and Guidry voted against the ordinance following a spirited debate regarding the process by which the ordinance came to vote at today's meeting. The ordinance passed 5-2, with Councilmembers Head and Guidry expressing strong sentiment that it first be passed through committee. 

A similar debate ensued when Ordinance No. 31, 705 came up for vote. This ordinance, which amends the Code of the City of New Orleans to establish a separate Article relative to the Office of the Independent Police Monitor from the Office of Inspector General, also passed with a 5-2 vote. 

 

 
  
 

Honored Sergeant Eric Berger of the NOPD 7th District

St. Mary's Academy Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Funding for Disaster-Related Operating Expenses Incorporated

Environmental Advisory Committee and New Orleans Building Corporation Appointments Confirmed

Bayou St. John Drainage Project Additional Funding Approved

Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS)

Prisoner-Related Operating Expenses for Sheriff's Office Approved

Office of the Independent Police Monitor and Inspector General Ordinances Passed

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Information presented by the New Orleans City CouncilDavid S. Gavlinski, Interim Chief of StaffCouncil Information (504) 658-1000Clerk of Council (504) 658-1085
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