The two Entergy subsidiaries that provide power to New Orleans — Entergy New Orleans on the east bank (ENO) and Entergy Louisiana (ELL) on the west bank — submitted to New Orleans City Council a report on their preparations for and restoration efforts following Hurricane Isaac, which left most of the city without power for days. Council requested the report in early September in response to complaints that full restoration took too long.
The report, however, offers high praise for the utility's response, characterizing its power restoration time — more than 90 percent of 160,000 affected customers were restored by Sept. 3, day five of active restoration — as "commendable." Restoration work cost about $45.8 million, through December 2012. Problems encountered, were mostly related to the size, slow speed and unpredictability of the storm, it says.
From the report:
"The Companies were able to restore power to approximately 95% of customers in Orleans Parish within five days after it was safe to begin restoration efforts. Significantly, the restoration was accomplished without a single fatality or major injury," it reads, with only 13 "OSHA-recordable injuries."
"The Companies’ preparation for and response to Hurricane Isaac, while not without its challenges, was reasonable, appropriate, and worthy of the commendations they have received."
(More after the jump)
While I was reporting our recent article "Ladder Control Problem," on the annual controversy surrounding safety violations along Mardi Gras parade routes, I reached out to District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's office with some questions about city enforcement of the law.
From the story:
Mason Harrison, communications director for newly elected District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who represents the district that includes most of the Uptown parade route, says Cantrell had not yet heard any concerns from constituents in advance of the parades.
"This is not actively on our radar, but of course it's a concern. Every year it's a concern," Harrison says of the ladder laws. "But we're not doing anything different this year than any other councilmember in the past."
That has apparently changed, judging by a letter from Cantrell to New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas that Harrison emailed to me last night.
"I have heard extensively from constituents who live along the Uptown parade routes who are exasperated by the lack of enforcement of municipal ordinances that ban the placement of certain household items on the neutral ground," it reads in part. "I am writing to request that the NOPD enforce compliance among paradegoers of the ordinances designed to ensure public safety and avoid the public confrontations over public space that have marred the parade season in the past."
According to Harrison, Cantrell has reached out to District B constituents she's heard from on the problem. She plans to host a roundtable meeting to "discuss ways to improve the existing ordinance or better enforce what’s already on the books."
In related news:
Read the letter: Cantrell_Letter.pdf
New Orleans City Council president Stacy Head presented her proposed food truck legislation to the council's Economic Development Committee this afternoon, but she will revise the measures to "to accommodate the loudest voices" in opposition before a vote in the full council.
New Orleans Food Truck Coalition attorney Andrew Legrand, who presented alongside coalition president Rachel Billow of the food truck La Cocinita, said one of its main opponents is the Louisiana Restaurant Association, which Legrand said is running a "fear-based campaign" about health and safety while it's more afraid of possible competition from mobile vendors. "Food trucks are safe," Legrand said, adding that according to state law, "Mobile food vendors have to follow the same exact regulations as restaurants do. There's no difference."
City health commissioner Karen DeSalvo said she fears the entrepreneurial aspect of trucks and a changing legislation outpaces health code updates. Head echoed food truck supporters, saying those health concerns were a red herring to change the outdated legislation.
J.T. Lane, assistant secretary of the state Department of Heath and Hospitals, wrote councilmembers about the department's "future enhancements" to retail food regulation — including mobile vending. "Our office will continue to inspect all food establishments and enforce the state's sanitary code, regardless of business model," Lane wrote.
At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, council president Stacy Head introduced several changes to city ordinances governing mobile vending and food trucks. First introduced in 1956, the laws have changed little — Head's proposals ease some of those decades-old restrictions. Head proposed to increase the number of available permits for vendors from 100 to 200, and remove banning vendors from within 600-feet of restaurants (changes to 50 feet while the restaurant is open).
An online petition from the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition (NOFTC) supports the legislation and makes recommendations of its own — it has gathered nearly 600 signatures.
Last week, restaurateur Reuben Laws gathered signatures for another online petition, one asking to halt the legislation, fearing restaurants will have their "sales invaded on by the food truck industry." That petition has 250 signatures.
Rachel Billow, who runs the food truck La Cocinita and serves as NOTFC president, says she "understands some of the fears," but, "the truth is, from what we've seen in other cities, food truck and restaurants thrive side-by-side." The NOFTC has gathered support from dozens of restaurants, community groups and City Hall. "We're glad to see the ball rolling and hopefully we’ll see those changes soon," she says.
Head's proposals will serve as a food truck "pilot program" with potentially stronger, more comprehensive ordinances in he future. City Council will likely vote on the measures next month.
New Orleans City Council unanimously approved a moratorium on new alcoholic beverage ordinance for the Carrollton area, requiring any new applicants to appear before the City Planning Commission and obtain a waiver from council.
The moratorium, which will be in effect for one year, covers a wide swath of the neighborhood. It is, however, slightly smaller than a recently expired moratorium, as Robert Morris reports in Uptown Messenger.
District A Coucilwoman Susan Guidry, who represents the neighborhood, said the restrictions were put in place generally as a result of neighborhood groups' complaints about the large number of bars in the area, but one bar, the now-shuttered Frat House, was a point of particular concern. The building at 8200 Willow St., was formerly home to Jimmy's Music Club.
New Orleans City Council president Stacy Head plans to introduce sweeping changes to city ordinances concerning food trucks — including expanding the number of permits allowed and the areas where trucks can go, including into the CBD.
But CBD businesses are wary of competing, and mobile, food vendors setting up shop close to their doors — a petition charge, led by restaurateur Rebuen Laws, is gathering signatures to voice opposition to Head's changes. The petition reads:
Restaurant owners in the CBD are about to have their sales invaded on by the food truck industry should new legislation get passed in February. Restauranteurs have made great investments in their product and have worked hard to build a following of customers in their area. To think that a food truck can soon park 50 feet from our doors and sell food during peek hours of business for 4 hours is truly concerning!!!!! This legislation should be stopped immediately!!!!!!!
As of this writing, the petition has 175 signatures.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, city officials, and officials from Jefferson and St. Charles parishes, as well as the staff at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, unveiled the results of the airport's $300 million renovations at an announcement and ribbon cutting today. A crowd gathered at the foot of a stage in the airport's renovated lobby, while travelers dodged the crowds and cameras snapping at the dramatic makeover inside MSY.
Floating art pieces hung above welcome banners announcing Super Bowl XLVII, and new seats, restaurants, carpeting, and coats of paint shed the airport's notoriously drab past. (Read about the city's Super Bowl transportation and readiness in this week's Gambit.)
"This is going to be the largest Super Bowl platform in history," Landrieu said. "It's going to be very different in scope and intensity than the one we did post-Sept. 11."
Landrieu said the city, both in the public and private sectors, spent $1.2 billion on the region's Super Bowl prep, including $77.5 million on street and highway projects, $336 million at the Superdome, $93 million at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and an estimated $500 million among new restaurants, retailers and other private businesses. Landrieu also promised the readiness of the city's taxi fleet. "I have the scars to prove it," he said.
"The naysayers said it couldn't be done in time," Landrieu said. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're ready. We're Super Bowl ready."
New Orleans City Council is likely to grant a month-long extension on a report by Entergy New Orleans and Entergy Louisiana on the companies' restoration efforts after Hurricane Isaac, which left most of the city without power for a week or more. The report was due last week, but the companies have filed a motion with council requesting the deadline be extended to Feb. 6.
The motion, which is unopposed by the city, appears on the consent agenda — uncontroversial bills lumped together for a single vote — in tomorrow's City Council meeting.
On Sept. 6, council passed a resolution calling for a full report on the utilities' post-Isaac work and pre-Isaac preparations. From our earlier report:
Under the council resolution, Entergy is required to provide answers about post-Isaac efforts, as well as details on how it spent post-Katrina federal grants intended to pay for system restoration and infrastructure strengthening.
New Orleans City Council voted unanimously for a zoning change that will allow the Backyard Ballroom on St. Claude Avenue to reopen. The theater, which opened in 2006, has not been operating since last year because its previous zoning didn't allow for entertainment venues.
Backyard Ballroom originally requested a change to a C-1 commercial district, which the City Planning Commission rejected, arguing the designation would be too commercially intensive for the area. The Commission later recommended C-1A, a toned down commercial zoning district that was approved by council in today's meeting.
See our previous coverage of the theater's zoning problems by Alex Woodward: Siberia gets zoning approval; Backyard Ballroom's future still unclear
New Orleans City Council passed sewer and water increases of 10 percent per year for the next eight years, doubling New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) bills for customers by 2020. The rate hike passed 5-2, with City Council President Stacy Head and District E Councilman Ernest Charbonnet as the dissenters.
Council members amended the original bill, tying it to S&WB governance reform initiative that will include the elimination of three City Council slots and one mayoral appointee on the governing board and reduce terms from nine years to four years.
The rate increase was supported by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), the hotel and lodging industry and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
Head and Charbonnet said they weren't opposed to the rate hikes themselves, acknowledging that the city's sewer and water infrastructure is in need of more than $3.3 billion in repairs. Both, however, questioned how the money will be used, the public's trust in the S&WB and what they characterized as a negotiations-to-approval process that didn't give the public enough time or information.
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