Starting tonight at 7 p.m. in the New Orleans City Council Chambers, Councilwomen Shelley Midura and Stacy Head are asking for the publics participation in the upcoming city budget hearings. The councilmembers are holding the joint town hall meeting not just for residents from their respective districts, but for anyone who is interested in the budget process. Mayor Nagin has been reporting that there will be an expected $68 million deficit in this years budget.
Midura held a meeting with reporters in which she explained how she and Head have been reaching out to neighborhood associations, church and community leaders in their districts in order to make their voices heard in council budget hearings, which will begin on November 6.Midura stressed that the city budget is the biggest problem facing New Orleans, and that the budget should reflect the publics wants and needs, but that will only happen with greater public participation in the budget hearings.
Thats how you can wield influence, by the more people you have, Midura said.
Head did not attend yesterdays meeting, but aides say they have contacted and invited 20 neighborhood associations along with other local leaders. Midura has held two meetings with neighborhood association presidents in her district, and is hoping that these associations will send representatives to monitor the budget hearings, ask relevant questions and make their wishes known to the council. Midura and Head also plan on holding weekly budget review meetings, where residents will be encouraged to discuss various sections of the budget and what spending priorities should be.
Meanwhile, Mayor Nagin has been holding meetings of his own with hundreds of city employees to provide information on the 2010 budget. Nagin, along with his budget and finance offices, told city department heads and staffers about possible changes to healthcare coverage, a citywide 10 percent cut, a hiring freeze, a reduction of non-essential services and other reductions.