At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, council members passed an update to the city's mobile vending laws to allow for more food trucks and less strict regulations.
The current laws, first drafted in the 1950s, cap active vendor permits to 100, limit operating time to 45 minutes, and prevent trucks from operating within 600 feet of restaurants and schools. Stacy Head held a public meeting in October 2012 to kickstart discussions about what a food truck friendly ordinance would look like. The New Orleans Food Truck Coalition joined the discussion to help draft legislation to promote those businesses.
In January, Head wanted to increase permits from 100 to 200 and shrink the "no vendors" zone to 50 feet while a restaurant is open. She introduced her measure January 24, and a Food Truck Coalition petition to update mobile vending laws gathered hundreds of signatures — meanwhile, restaurant owner Reuben Laws gathered signatures for another online petition to halt any new mobile vending legislation.
In February, the measure went before council's economic development committee, where coalition attorney Andrew Legrand said its opponents in the Louisiana Restaurant Association are running a "fear-based campaign" about food truck health and safety while it's more afraid of possible competition from mobile vendors. City health commissioner Karen DeSalvo said she fears changing legislation outpaces health code updates. Head called the health concerns a red herring — she produced a letter from state Department of Heath and Hospitals that said, "Our office will continue to inspect all food establishments and enforce the state's sanitary code, regardless of business model."
Tim McConnell, who served as the New Orleans Fire Department's (NOFD) acting superintendent following the departure of Charles Parent, now takes the reins officially as the NOFD chief.
This morning, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced McConnell's selection from among dozens of applicants and contenders. McConnell, a nearly 30-year veteran who joined the department in 1984, is NOFD's 11th superintendent. Parent led NOFD from 1982 until last month, when he took medical leave. McConnell inherits an NOFD with a lean budget (at $85 million) and a "redeployment plan" that will close houses at Arabella and in Gentilly.
Under his post-Katrina leadership, McConnell helped the NOFD restore 20 engine houses and helped raise more than $1 million and an additional $250,000 in construction materials. McConnell also served as the incident commander for Super Bowl XLVII (you likely have seen him and his mustache during frequent Super Bowl safety press conferences.)
"I am both humbled and honored that Mayor Landrieu has chosen me to lead this proud and storied fire department," McConnell said in a statement. "I could not be more proud than to have helped guide the City through Katrina and I look forward to the opportunity to lead the New Orleans Fire Department in becoming the model first responder agency for the 21st Century."
McConnell received the 2008 New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent’s Award and the 2007 Order of St. Louis Medal from Archbishop Alfred Hughes.
Emerson once wrote of a political poseur, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” I thought of that quote when I noticed that the two biggest losers of the just-ended legislative session — Gov. Bobby Jindal and Mayor Mitch Landrieu — were the first to claim victory after adjournment sine die. Their self-congratulatory press releases hit my in-box literally minutes after the final House and Senate gavels fell.
The lads doth protest too much, methinks.
The 2013 session was unusual in many respects. It produced some of the oddest political bedfellows in memory. With few exceptions, this year’s session also lacked big ideas. The few bold initiatives that did get floated mostly got shot down in short order — starting with the governor “parking” his ill-conceived tax-swap plan. Truth be told, Jindal’s plan was never really in gear. And soon after he retreated on that front, he pretty much stayed on the sidelines for the duration of the session.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As is our custom after a legislative session, before we pick the bones of the losers we first must pay homage to …
1. The Fiscal Hawks — They began as an ideological band of GOP outliers. Formally organized as the Louisiana Budget Reform Campaign, the hawks initially focused on budget reform, challenging Jindal’s use of one-time money to balance the budget year after year. They gained traction when the annual Southern Media and Opinion Research poll showed the governor with lower voter approval ratings than President Obama, then broke into full gallop when Jindal pulled down his tax-swap plan on the session’s opening day. They reached out to Democrats and the Black Caucus to cobble together a House majority, and when the governor disengaged from the process after “parking” his tax-swap plan, they filled the power void by rewriting the administration’s proposed budget.
As the session wore on, the hawks showed their mettle. When the Senate, as expected, put the budget back into a form more to Jindal’s liking, they stood their ground (with their new allies) and, for the first time in memory, brought both the Upper Chamber and the governor to the bargaining table.
The hawks also won key concessions on future budgets. Their tactics galled “mainstream” Republicans, but the hawks believe they stood for genuine GOP values and rediscovered the party’s fiscal compass. Along the way, they gave the Legislature something it hasn’t seen in generations: real independence. They also imparted a valuable lesson to anyone who happened to be paying attention: compromise and coalition building get a lot more done than name-calling and ideological gridlock. They also imparted a valuable lesson to anyone who happened to be paying attention: compromise and coalition building get a lot more done than name-calling and ideological gridlock.
5 p.m. Thursday, June 6 update: The New Orleans Inspector General's office issued a report saying the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) is "adequately funded" and recommends that the city "not appropriate funds for the jail unless OPSO provides it with a detailed, functional budget that identifies the specific jail expenditures the revenues support." Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said in a statement, "The root cause is a dysfunctional structure that gives OPSO a blank check that the City must sign, and ensures that neither the City nor OPSO can be held wholly accountable for conditions in the Jail. The Jail will remain as it is until that structure is changed.”
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk approved a federal consent decree this afternoon between the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to address the controversial conditions at Orleans Parish Prison.
The consent decree, to be assessed and overseen by an independent monitor, is welcomed by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, though he has repeatedly stressed that his office and the jail are run constitutionally. Gusman instead has claimed that the jail's conditions are due to a lack of funding and leadership from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city. Landrieu's office has objected to the consent decree, which his office argues will cost the city $110 million over five years.
Returning to the intersection of Frenchmen and North Villere streets, city officials and law enforcement announced the capture of second line shooting suspect Akein Scott as well as his brother, 24-year-old Shawn Scott, and four others.
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas confirmed Shawn Scott as the second shooting suspect. In 2007, Scott pleaded guilty in possession of cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to five years probation. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin and was to serve an eight year sentence. He was out on parole until December 2015. Like his brother Akein, Scott was charged this morning with 20 counts of second degree attempted murder. (A person was trampled by the crowd following the shooting and has been identified among the victims, hence the 20 counts of attempted second degree murder.)
"Shawn has a lengthy record and has demonstrated his contempt for New Orleans," Serpas said.
Serpas also announced Justin Alexander, 19, Brandy George, 28, Bionca Hickerson, 22, and Nekia Youngblood, 32, allegedly helped hide Akein Scott. They all have been charged with accessory after the fact to attempted second degree murder and obstruction of justice for harboring a fugitive.
Original Big 7 Social Aid & Pleasure Club organizers announced it will "re-do" its second line parade, interrupted by the shooting at its Mother's Day procession, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 1. It will follow the same route.
At Monday night's community rally on Frenchmen Street, Big 7 manager Dismas Johnson said the group had been in talks with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the New Orleans Police Department to find an appropriate day to schedule the parade. "It's something that's got to go on," Johnson said.
The group announced it also is accepting donations at this fundraising website or by mail to 1823 Elysian Fields Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117.
The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club community is deeply saddened by the foolish violence that took place during our annual Mother’s Day’s Parade. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the victims of this tragedy and their families. We are with them in the struggle for health, wellness, and justice.
We are proud to announce that we will be doing a Re-Do Mother’s Day Parade On Saturday June 1, 2013 at 1pm on the same exact route. ... We are starting a donation fund for the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club to Re-Parade; the donations are to pay for the brass bands and for the victims affected by the violence that accorded on Mother’s Day.
As sun set at the intersection of Frenchmen and North Villere streets, 200 people gathered at the site of yesterday's Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club's annual Mother's Day second line, which ended prematurely as 19 people were injured in a shooting. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, members of New Orleans City Council, community leaders and others spoke into a microphone at the center of the intersection.
"Everybody on this street knows that what happened yesterday has nothing to do with the cultural beauty of New Orleans," Landrieu said. "It happened during a sacred event. ... We all came out here to reclaim this spot, and to say what happened yesterday does not reflect who the people of New Orleans are or what we're about."
Members of the Big 7 pledged that the second line will return, possibly next month. The organization's business manager Dismas Johnson told Gambit that organizers have met with the mayor's office and NOPD about picking a new time and location. "It's something that's got to go on," he said.
Speaking to the crowd, Big 7 member Edward Buckner echoed that pledge as he introduced Jason, an 11-year-old boy who attended yesterday's parade and ran from the shooting. "It sounded like a big ol' explosion," he said. "At least my family was safe. At least nobody got killed. I wanted to say, a solution is if you got a gun it means you're scared."
His mother Monique Foucher said Jason ran when he heard the shots. "He wasn't scared," she said. "We asked God to protect us and put a shield around us."
On May 1, Mayor Mitch Landrieu vetoed New Orleans City Council's passing of council vice president Stacy Head's food truck ordinance, a pilot plan package at that would've updated the city's decades-old mobile vendor laws. Head responded with a compromise plan — to at least open 75 mobile vendor permits in the interim while drafting a Landrieu-approved plan.
Before Landrieu's annual State of the City address this afternoon, Head told Gambit's Kevin Allman that the legislation now is "largely in the administration’s court."
"It’s horribly disappointing," she said. "With the issues the city has before us, the violent crime that is strangling our city, the quality of life issues left unresolved on a daily basis, the crumbling infrastructure — for this to have taken such of my energy and time, it’s disappointing."
Head asks that Landrieu "stay true to his word and support food trucks and increase the number by 75 in this interim while he drafts this legislation."
"We just need to know what he wants. For 10 months we hadn’t heard that," she said. "So I wrote a letter, I told them verbally, I told them in a statement and I told them on the dais, that if they can present some kind of package to us, maybe we can get the ball rolling."
On May 16, City Council will address Landrieu's veto, though Head said she doesn't know whether she'll have the votes to override it.
"I’m very pragmatic, and I know there are practical challenges to that," she said, "which is why I've given the council and the mayor two options: We can keep the status quo, which is clearly what the mayor wants, over the reforms I passed."
New Orleans City Council did not take action on Mayor Mitch Landrieu's veto of the re-drafted food truck ordinance, originally passed in council last month. City Council will address the issue at its May 16 meeting, where it could overturn the veto.
Meanwhile, Stacy Head introduced a new, stripped-down measure which would would increase available permits of all mobile food vendors. "While the intention is to rewrite the entirety," the ordinance reads," the new measure — just one part of the larger ordinance — will provide "short-term relief." The ordinance originally only applied to food truck vendors, but Landrieu's veto letter said he wanted the bill to include "itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit," as well as food trucks. Council will hear the measure May 16, should Landrieu's veto stand.
Read Head's full letter below:
I am disappointed that the mayor has vetoed the food truck ordinance, but I await his suggested improvements as he promised he would provide in his veto statement. I wish to thank those in the administration, my colleagues, neighborhood groups, restaurateurs, the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, and the Louisiana Restaurant Association for their hard work over the past 10 months to draft legislation upon which we could all agree. I believe the end result was a thoughtful compromise position that supported the regulated growth of the food truck industry and I do not agree with the rationale for the veto. Nevertheless, considering the practical difficulties of a veto override, I have today introduced an ordinance that concedes to the mayor's desire to maintain the status quo while a complete re-write of the law is accomplished, but allows for an additional 75 itinerant vendors (with no distinction between food trucks, seafood vendors, fruit vendors or the like). While I believe the series of amendments that the council passed was preferable, in a pragmatic effort to move forward, I have submitted this alternative.
Following last month's passage of a long-brewing ordinance redrafting the city's decades-old mobile vending laws, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vetoed it, citing fears that it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. "It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court," Landrieu wrote in his formal letter to clerk of council Peggy Lewis.
Landrieu wrote that the ordinance's supporters even have expressed its unconstitutionality including its author, City Council president Stacy Head, who voted in its favor yet also spoke against several last-minute amendments at last month's council meeting. As written, the ordinance would open 75 additional food truck permits, increase the amount of time food trucks can operate (from a previous 45 minute rule), require trucks to operate within 300 feet of a restroom, and allow trucks to operate 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants — that distance was disputed from its originally proposed 50 feet, to 100 feet, then Jackie Clarkson's proposed 300 feet, to a compromise of 200 feet.
The ordinance can be reintroduced in City Council, where five votes could overturn Landrieu's veto. Here is Landrieu's veto letter:
Dear Madam Clerk:
I hereby return Ordinance M.C.S. 025291 (Calendar Number 29,497) disapproved for the following reasons:
Both the author of the ordinance and its principal proponent have publicly stated their belief that elements of the adopted ordinance as amended may be unconstitutional.
Further, the City Attorney has raised Equal Protection concerns and opined that this ordinance would not withstand a legal challenge. It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court.
My veto notwithstanding, I strongly support Councilmember At-Large Head and the City Council’s efforts to update the City Code regulations pertaining to itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit, and food trucks.
Accordingly, I have directed my staff to work with the Council to immediately address this issue and develop changes which will result in mobile food vending laws which are legal, fair, enforceable and best serve the industry and the people of New Orleans.
Yours very truly,
Mitchell J. Landrieu
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