Wednesday, November 7, 2012

City budget hearings day 1: They talked about a snowball stand for a half hour

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 5:09 PM

The Afternoon Session of the first day of New Orleans' Epic Poem 2013 is still going on, but today's important one was the Department of Safety and Permits, which is looking at a 7 percent cut, or about $300,000, in 2013.

S&P director Pura Bascos and Deputy Mayor Michelle Thomas presented the S&P budget. We heard about progress on the elusive One Stop Shop, which is coming along. And S&P is in the midst of implementing a new permitting software system, called LAMA, a word city officials kept having to repeat all afternoon.

But some Councilmembers, particularly Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, were not satisfied.

"What I'm hearing today is you bought some software," she said, even as pervasive complaints about city code enforcement persist. Hedge-Morrell asked if the department needed more staff or funding (S&P, budget director Cary Grant said, generates about $10 million per year in revenue, double the amount it spends). The department is budgeted for 77 full-time positions, though it actually has 82. This discrepancy led to the following comment from Councilwoman Kristin Palmer:

"But for 2012 it says 77."

Palmer might note that in the 2012 budget that was adopted in late 2011, it says 93.48 full-time employees. No explanation was provided about those disappeared 16.48 people at today's hearing, primarily because no Councilmember asked.

But the really important thing today was Plum Street Snoballs, a heretofore unknown city agency that nevertheless warranted nearly 30 minutes of discussion after a public speaker complained about it in the middle of today's budget hearings.

Tomorrow: Law Department, Civil Service, Juvenile Court

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