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 has officially named May 5, 2013 as *‘George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic Day’, proclaimed so Sunday night by Councilwoman Susan Guidry at the House of Blues at the behest of the fabulous DJ Soul Sister who organized the whole shebang. And naturally your girl Big Red was on hand to capture the illustrious moment via video for all you poor lambs too tuckered from Jazz Festing to be there.
Clinton has been a staunchly loyal friend and supporter of New Orleans for decades, giving credit to local artists who influenced him including Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, and The Meters. One of the original architects of the funk music genre, Clinton debuted his iconic ‘Mothership Connection’ tour in New Orleans at the Municipal Auditorium in October 1976 and has visited here almost every year since then.
(more below the jump!)
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
A flyer labeled "Bywater Rising" asks "Are you tired of the following?" followed by a list of complaints musicians, venue owners and others have made in the wake of the City of New Orleans' enforcement of noise complaints and alcohol and entertainment permits.
The flyer lists "business closures and harassment from city government"; "taking of public spaces from the people who need it most"; "artists, musicians and buskers being forced off the street and into starvation"; and "the je ne sais quoi of New Orleans being packaged and incorporated," adjacent to a fleur de lis with Mickey Mouse ears crossed out in red.
"Then off of your ass and into the streets," the flyer reads. Groups of musicians, bar owners and others organized to march against the city's "crackdown" (from last year's permiting issues to the recent issues at St. Roch Tavern and the suspension of music at Mimi's in the Marigny) to be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow beginning at Mickey Markey Park in Bywater.
The Facebook event, which counts more than 300 attendees, says the protest is to show "New Orleans citizens will not stand by and watch attempts to quiet New Orleans' vibrant music scene." Event organizers encourage "costumes, marching bands, instruments, flags and signs."
In 1982, the New Orleans City Council allowed the local utility, then known as NOPSI, to pay the cost of a low-turnout referendum to transfer utility regulation from the council to the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC). The proposition passed, and soon thereafter utility bills in New Orleans skyrocketed.
The council should have seen that one coming. When a utility offers to underwrite a referendum in which it has a huge stake, somebody should throw a big red flag. That didn’t happen until it was too late.
Three years later, after a grass roots push by the nascent Alliance for Affordable Energy, New Orleanians voted overwhelmingly to return utility regulation to the City Council. Ever since, the local utility — now known as Entergy New Orleans — has had to toe the line on rates and costs.
The Alliance remains a key player in utility regulation, and the council is far more responsive to local ratepayers than the LPSC. As a result, base rates in New Orleans are the lowest in the Entergy system. Those rates reflect the efforts of the Alliance and the council’s utility consultants, some of whom have advised the council for three decades. The consultants don’t come cheap, but they know their stuff — and they have saved New Orleans ratepayers billions of dollars over the years.
Every so often, some well-intentioned (or not) soul takes a look at the council’s utility regulation costs and gags because the consultants’ fees are paid by Entergy and passed on to ratepayers. Somehow, the billions in savings get overlooked or downplayed.
Apparently the city’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has decided to weigh in on that long-settled debate — with a faintly familiar twist. The OIG in February issued a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a consultant to examine not only the costs of the council’s regulatory functions, but also the efficacy of the council’s decisions as regulator. The OIG’s costs have been covered by a third party — the Rosa Mary Foundation.
I covered the council’s ill-fated decision to let NOPSI pay for the 1982 referendum. I should have thrown a red flag then, but I didn’t. I’m not going to make that mistake again.
After months of debate and redrafting, New Orleans City Council passed a revised food truck ordinance that would increase the availability of permits and allow more trucks in New Orleans.
Following a months-long drive led by council president Stacy Head, council voted 6-1 to approve the drafted-in-progress ordinance. (District D council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell was the sole nay vote.)
Council members argued over several last-minute amendments to the proposed ordinance, including two concerning bathrooms.
"This has been the concern not just of (the Louisiana Restaurant Association). This came from my public health people — not from the city, but from my access to a whole arena of public health people," said Clarkson, adding that she has received public health guidance from “people who have been engaged in public health my whole life."
Alex del Castillo, who runs Taceaux Loceaux, said he has "managed not to soil myself" in the time he has spent prepping and serving from his truck. "Why is it suddenly important now?" he asked. "What are you fixing? Has there been a spate of illnesses from truck owners?"
For the last year, New Orleans City Council president Stacy Head has been pushing a revised ordinance that would allow more food trucks in the city — current legislation caps mobile vendors at 100, and prevents them from operating within 600 feet of a restaurant, among other restrictions.
Today, Head responded to Jackie Clarkson's request (which followed a heated debate, on her part, in March) for a written Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) thumbs up that it will continue random on-site inspections of food trucks in the city. In a statement today, Head wrote:
Many have wondered if food truck operators are required to have sinks, store food properly, or follow any of the same health regulations as standard restaurants. Here are some facts: 1) food trucks are subject to all of the same health regulations as standard restaurants; 2) food trucks are required to have three sinks, one for hand washing and two for food preparation; 3) food trucks are subject to initial inspections with the same level of scrutiny as standard restaurants. Also, I am pleased to share that as of Friday, April 5, [the DHH] has given the Council its written commitment to increase unannounced spot inspections.
Head also said new legislation will include requirements for food trucks to coordinate restroom availability and operate at least 100 feet away from a brick-and-mortar restaurant. "I have worked with (the Louisiana Restaurant Association), DHH, and a very small group of vocal opponents on compromises that should address some of their objections," Head wrote.
The New Orleans Food Truck Alliance also wrote a statement today, which argued that the ordinance has become "the victim of the political process" and "larded up with additional restrictions that would effectively maintain the status quo," including making the CBD, Warehouse District and French Quarter off limits, and a bathroom requirement that would make trucks seek permission for their customers to use a restroom within within 300 feet of their truck. The current proposal also prohibits trucks from residentially zoned neighborhoods, "which would ban trucks from serving in front of some neighborhood bars and near the Loyola and Tulane campuses," the statement reads.
The food truck alliance also warned of an amendment to the proposed ordinance that would require trucks to carry GPS devices.
City Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance at its regular meeting tomorrow.
A New Orleans City Council hearing on two ordinances that will provide a funding mechanism for the new Office of Police Secondary Employment, originally set for Tuesday, April 9 and rescheduled for Wednesday, April 17, has been rescheduled again. A before the City Council's Budget/Audit/Board of Review Committee is now set for Thursday, April 25.
In the meantime, you can read more about the ordinances and opposition to the city's proposed New Orleans Police Department paid detail overhaul in this week's Gambit.
Yesterday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for a special New Orleans City Council meeting to discuss the proposed federal consent decree for Orleans Parish Prison — namely how the millions of dollars to pay for it would cripple the city’s budget.
Today, Landrieu said a consent decree with Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) — on top of the consent agreement to reform NOPD — “cannot be paid for in this fiscal year without raising taxes or substantially gutting city services.”
“During this fiscal year, the sheriff, DOJ, federal judges are all riding up to tell us and the taxpayers of the city to write a blank check and hand it over,” Landrieu said. “We will not voluntarily write an ambiguous, unjustified sum of money to the Orleans Parish sheriff’s office.”
Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin laid out four possible budget scenarios if the city accommodates the $22 million (and growing) cost of the prison consent decree: all city employees would be furloughed 30 days this year; the city would lay off 779 employees; all city departments would take a 45 percent cut; or, in what the city expects to be the most realistic scenario, a combination of 305 layoffs, 15 furlough days for all city employees, and 6.3 percent cuts in other departments and services.
Landrieu’s chief concern is the potential cost to public safety. “If we are forced to make these cuts, they will be real … and throw our entire criminal justice system in disarray,” he said. Kopplin outlined dire cuts to city services, from police and fire to NORD camps and Parks and Parkways.
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