October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Louisiana consistently leads the U.S. in domestic homicides. Louisiana ranked No. 1 for the rate of women killed by men in 2009 with a rate of 2.53 per 100,000, according to the Violence Policy Center. The state ranked at No. 4 in 2010, and No. 9 in 2011. According to the Louisiana Coalition on Domestic Violence, 81 percent of female homicides are committed by a partner or an ex-partner.
At New Orleans City Council's health, education and social services committee meeting this afternoon, members of local domestic violence prevention and aid organizations presented their efforts to curb the epidemic in the New Orleans area.
"Louisiana is one of the most dangerous, violent places to be a wife, a mother, a girlfriend," said Kati Bambrick Rodriguez, director of the New Orleans Health Department's Domestic Violence Program. According to Rodriguez, Orleans Parish has issued 3,420 personal protective orders (compared to Baton Rouge, which issued 2,088), though only 24 percent of people seeking protection actually get it, she said. Rodriguez added that no LGBT victims of domestic violence have received a protective order.
At this afternoon's New Orleans City Council's budget committee, assistant city CAOs Courtney Bagneris and Cary Grant said workers’ compensation costs are expected to rise to $24 million — well above their budgeted $16 million, along with another rise in claims. Costs in 2012 for workers comp were nearly $22 million. Grant said he can’t explain the massive hike and that an audit is in process.
Grant said before last year, workers’ compensation costs typically fell within budget. Bagneris called the leap “an alarming change” as the city faces another lean budget of $500 million (and must factor in the millions of dollars dedicated to the New Orleans Police Department consent decree).
The city budget funds for workers’ comp with a self-insured payment program, rather than buying insurance to pay workers’ comp. With the increase in claims made by city employees in 2012, even “low-risk” departments faced increased per-employee expenses — from $300 to $1,700. “High-risk” departments, like the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD), are trying to make expense cuts where possible to avoid budgeting issues for workers’ comp, such as NOFD employees filing claims immediately with NOFD-approved network doctors.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu will present his 2014 budget later this month.
The Saenger Theatre opened its doors today for the first time since Hurricane Katrina closed the Canal Street landmark in 2005. Under new twinkling fiber optic ceiling stars — part of a $52 million renovation — Mayor Mitch Landrieu proclaimed the project a symbol “of resurrection, redemption, resilience, of building the city not back the way she was but the way she should have always been.”
The Saenger was built in 1927 and the team of public-private entities responsible for its renovation, including the Canal Street Development Corporation, Ace Theatrical Group and the City of New Orleans, restored the building to reflect the original, with modern accoutrements like an expanded stage. The inside is complete with the dashing red carpet reminiscent of the original, and everything from the chandeliers to the paint scheme was researched for historical accuracy and constructed to reflect the building’s original interior. “All of the work that you see here is a reincarnation of the original designs and the original paintings,” Landrieu said.
The Saenger will host a slew of Broadway shows, musical, comedic and stage acts, including a grand opening performance by Kristin Chenoweth and the Louisiana Philharmonic Oct. 5. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld performs three shows during this weekend’s soft opening. New Orleans is the third largest producer of Hollywood films, behind New York and Los Angeles, thanks to film credits offered by the state and will have an originating tax credit for Broadway productions as well, Landrieu said, “because, in order for this thing to work, these seats have to be full, and the productions have to be great.”
Broadway Across America President Lauren Reid said “New Orleans will now be a destination for Broadway’s best and brightest.”
Though the opening is one of the most anticipated post-Katrina rebuilding efforts and a linchpin of the Canal Street corridor rehabilitation, Landrieu said “there’s other stuff going on. This is not the only thing that’s happening as you think about what is occurring just in this general space, in these two square miles. You have the VA and UMC hospitals, $2 million coming out of the ground as we speak.”
New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson was in the Saenger for her fifth birthday, before World War II. “Thanks for the memories,” she said. “Many a tale has been woven in this edifice.”
After dozens of stakeholders squeezed behind a gold ribbon for a photo-op, the curtains of the Saenger opened to display its historic SAENGER letters, lighted and floating on the newly revealed stage. “You have this before you today,” Landrieu said. “It’s a gift to the people of the city of New Orleans.”
Update, July 31: DOTD announced the ferry is back in service and was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation (DOTD) has announced that the ferry servicing Algiers from Canal Street is out of service "until further notice." The DOTD suspended service yesterday when the vessel servicing Chalmette experienced a mechanical failure and the Algiers ferry moved to Chalmette.
Service already has been slashed by DOTD when it took control of the ferry earlier this month. Service used to run until midnight — the new schedule halts the ferries at 6:15 p.m. on weekdays and 8 p.m. weekends. Now, the ferry is effectively shut down:
Currently, there are no other boats available for service and the estimated time of service resuming at Algiers Point is unknown. DOTD is working diligently to determine the required repair.
Algiers businesses and downtown workers who live across the Mississippi River voiced concern for their businesses staying afloat — and livelihoods out of danger — at the New Orleans City Council's transportation committee meeting last week. City Council will hold a special meeting 5 p.m. Monday, August 5 to discuss the Regional Transit Authority's pitch for a fare increase. Pedestrians could pay up to $2 per trip or a monthly pass of $75.
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."
Interrupted by requests by New Orleans City Council members for their favorite pie flavor, the council voted 7-0 to approve plans to rebuild the Hubig's Pie factory on Press Street.
Last month, the New Orleans City Planning Commission approved the plans, which move the factory from its 2417 Dauphine St. address — which opened in 1921 — to what's now a vacant lot owned by The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Institute.
Here's WWL-TV with video:
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."
God's speed, Rodrigue
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