New Orleans City Hall

Monday, December 14, 2015

Y@ Speak: statuesque

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 1:21 PM

The future of four Confederate monuments will likely be determined this week. Last week, their supporters and opponents squared off at City Hall — and in this week's Y@ Speak. Also: Drake is Pierre the Pelican and Brandon Browner is Oscar the Grouch.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Final public meeting on Confederate monuments ignites explosive debate

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 9:55 PM

Police escort a speaker from the podium at another contentious meeting on the fate of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
  • Police escort a speaker from the podium at another contentious meeting on the fate of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

A final public hearing over a controversial ordinance to remove four Confederate monuments erupted in fiery debate and passionate reflection over the future of New Orleans and its relationship to the symbols those statues represent. 

Over nearly four hours, dozens of people approached the podium in a packed New Orleans City Council Chambers on Dec. 10 in support of the ordinance — which goes to a vote before the City Council on Dec. 17 — and against it, with many people wearing "All History Matters" stickers. Rev. Shawn Anglin of First United Methodist Church (which sits on Jefferson Davis Parkway) seemed to take the temperature of the room: "If there's one thing we learned today, it's that symbols have power."

Two people were removed by police — one, gallery owner George Schmidt, waved a middle finger to a crowd who were vocally upset with Schmidt comparing the monuments' removal to the actions of Muslims. Another man was removed after he shouted "We have to fight them" during another speaker supporting the monuments. He also blasted City Council President Jason WIlliams for pulling his turn to speak when the majority of monument supporters had left.

Williams — who had asked the crowd to respect one another's statements, despite disagreements — grew weary as the crowd remained unruly throughout nearly the entire meeting. Williams banged his gavel: "We are better than this!"

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

As New Orleans City Council prepares to tackle Confederate monument issue, opponents suggest alternatives

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 6:30 PM

The Monumental Task Committee opposes plans to remove four Confederate landmarks in New Orleans. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • The Monumental Task Committee opposes plans to remove four Confederate landmarks in New Orleans.

More than 30,000 people have signed petitions opposing the removal of four monuments to Confederate leaders and events. The Monumental Task Committee (MTC) — a volunteer group that has led efforts to prevent the City of New Orleans from removing the statues —  has sent the signatures to City Hall as the New Orleans City Council prepares its final meetings on an ordinance that considers the monuments' removal under a "nuisance" law, which says a public statue can be removed if it "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another."

The four monuments include statues honoring Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Liberty Place, an uprising from the Crescent City White League against Reconstruction efforts after the Civil War. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a private donor is willing to pay for the cost of their removal. MTC President Pierre McGraw said Landrieu "has chosen to railroad" a decision on the monuments during a busy holiday season, and he questions the legality of their removal.

McGraw said despite public meetings held by the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Human Relations Commission, the Vieux Carre Commission and other parties, there has not been significant public discussion about the monuments' future. (Those city agencies support their removal.) MTC's invitations to Landrieu and City Council members to attend MTC forums were not returned, McGraw said.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Orleans City Council members oppose parking meter hikes

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 1:40 PM

New Orleans City Council members largely oppose the city's plan to increase downtown parking meter fares. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • KEVIN ALLMAN
  • New Orleans City Council members largely oppose the city's plan to increase downtown parking meter fares.

New Orleans service workers have criticized the city's plans to increase parking meter rates — doubling them downtown — and expanding times as a slight to the service industry. In this week's Gambit cover story, the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) called it "an attack on the service industry workers who serve us."

Those complaints (which included a petition that gathered more than 1,300 signatures) made their way to the New Orleans City Council, which asked city officials and the Department of Public Works (DPW) why the rate hike is necessary. "Look at the uniqueness of areas you’re talking about," said Councilmember Nadine Ramsey, whose District C covers the French Quarter. "A lot of our workers use that for parking ... It’s not people who are coming down with extra income to shop or go to restaurants."

Downtown meter rates were raised in 2010 from $1.25 per hour to $1.50. In 2016, the city plans to raise rates and extend hours in spots from Mississippi River to Claiborne Avenue and from the Pontchartrain Expressway to Elysian Fields Avenue. Rates will double from $1.50 an hour to $3 an hour, and meter times will extend from ending at 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The change is expected to bring in several million dollars to the city's general fund.

Deputy mayors Cedric Grant and Andy Kopplin, as well as DPW Director Mark Jernigan, said it's a matter of supply and demand. Speaking at the DPW's budget hearing Nov. 11, Kopplin said those spaces are "a finite and valuable resource" that are meant in part to create turnover for businesses. Grant said the city has lost 1,000 parking spots over the last five years with the construction of every apartment, restaurant and hotel. "We’re at this tension point of use of curb space and use of public right of way," he said. "We’re at capacity ... It’s not as much revenue as it is a public safety measure to keep traffic moving."

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Orleans CVB, downtown workers concerned about City Hall plan to double parking meter fees and extend hours

Posted By and on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 8:16 PM

A parking meter on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. The city plans to increase parking rates in the Quarter and CBD to $3 per hour, and extend hours of meter operation until 10 p.m. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A parking meter on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. The city plans to increase parking rates in the Quarter and CBD to $3 per hour, and extend hours of meter operation until 10 p.m.

Would you pay $3 per hour to park in the French Quarter, CBD and Warehouse District?

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration is banking on it.

Early in the New Year, the city plans to hike parking meter rates across the city, particularly downtown. Rates would double in the tourism and nightlife district, and meter hours there would be extended from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. — a plan which Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), calls “an attack on the service industry workers who serve us.”

Konrad Kantor is one of those not happy with the plan. He’s the co-owner of El Libre, a Cuban cafe that opened in the Quarter in mid-September. “Over the last five or six years,” Kantor says, “I’ve paid about $4,000 in parking tickets, fines and towing.”

The owner of a corner bar in the Upper Quarter, who didn’t want to give his name, told Gambit he was concerned about the extra cost to his staff. “My customers, they take cabs or Uber, or they factor in the cost of parking,” he said. “But it’s really going to hit my employees.”

“My concern is not just the service industry — that’s just an inconvenience,” Kantor says, adding he’s worried about the effect on tourism, as well as people who drive into the Quarter from elsewhere in the city and from neighboring parishes. “The thing that’s a little disturbing is that it’s not a vote," he adds.

Indeed it's not. Sarah McLaughlin, communications director for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, clarified to Gambit that the rate hike will not require New Orleans City Council approval.

“Where is the money going to go?” Kantor asks.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Landrieu unveils New Orleans' $593 million budget for 2016

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 3:36 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's top priority is making New Orleans safe, he said as he unveiled his proposed $592.7 million budget this morning. NOPD is set to be funded at $140 million, an 8 percent ($10.5 million) budget increase from 2015, and $31 million more than it received just six years earlier. "Fighting crime and making the city safe is always our No. 1 priority," Landrieu said.

New Orleans isn't cash-strapped — the city's proposed 2016 budget is $50 million higher than the 2015 budget, and it's nearly $100 million stronger than its 2010 budget. 

But the city also is on the hook for millions of dollars to pay New Orleans firefighters in an ongoing battle over pensions — and then there's funding the new jail, two consent decrees, and committing to a well-funded criminal justice system, including new infrastructure, pay raises and new hires within the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to combat the city's ongoing crime issues.

Landrieu said "the big takeaway" from citywide public budget hearings this summer was "that people of New Orleans want solutions, real plans" to make this city safe and to create jobs, fix streets and offer more affordable housing. Those solutions in Landrieu's 2016 budget are among other "laser focus" priorities that the mayor has targeted, from fighting blight to ambitious capital projects and transportation infrastructure.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anonymous donor could fund Confederate monument removals; Chief Harrison calls Liberty Place statue "shameful"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 11:55 AM

Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Removing New Orleans' Confederate landmarks could cost the city $126,000 to remove and relocate — and an anonymous donor already is committed to pay up. According to Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, after estimating the cost, a donor is lined up to pay for the removal of four controversial monuments — Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway , P.G.T. Beauregard at City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument.

Opponents of the statues' removal have argued the cost would fall on taxpayers, and the city would be better off using the money for police and other essential services. In a "fiscal impact" letter sent to the New Orleans City Council, Kopplin wrote, "it is true that these landmarks have served for decades as geographic compass points on the city's grid, but how can this geographic compass compare to a great city's moral compass?"

"These four statues stand in direct contradiction to the ideal of freedom enshrined in our Constitution and their presence in our city was meant to perpetuate a false history that literally puts the Confederacy on a pedestal," he said. "True remembrance is required, not blind reverence."

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bush, Clinton visits added to Hurricane Katrina 10th anniversary events

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 1:09 PM

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Yesterday it was announced President Barack Obama would be coming to New Orleans Aug. 27 to tour the city on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Now former President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton will be coming to New Orleans next week as well to participate in some of the commemoration ceremonies.

Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush will visit Warren Easton Charter School Aug. 28 for an education round table discussion, at which the former president also will offer remarks. Clinton will come to the "Power of Community" event Aug. 29 at Smoothie King Center, the city's main event in the weeklong Katrina commemoration. Faith leaders and many New Orleans musicians will perform, and journalist Soledad O'Brien will host. The event is open to the public and free, and organizers say tickets are available at city libraries, or can be reserved via the city's website.

These are only two of many events — official and unofficial — going on next week as part of the Katrina commemoration. Our list of community events is here, and under the jump is the city's list of official events, and how you can attend.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Confederate statues receive recommendation for removal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 6:32 PM

Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Update: A second city committee, the Human Relations Commission, also recommended the statues' removal at its meeting following the Historic District Landmarks Commission. Its recommendation will be sent to the full New Orleans City Council. 

The New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) recommended today that four Confederate monuments "may be removed" following a push from Mayor Mitch Landrieu as well as the New Orleans City Council to consider the statues' futures. The HDLC voted 11-1.

The monuments include P.G.T. Beauregard outside City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway, and a monument commemorating the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place.

The City Council passed a resolution considering the statues a "nuisance" based on a 1993 ordinance that calls for the removal of property that "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another." Judy Reese Morse and Scott Hutcheson from the mayor's office said the monuments represent the Lost Cause following the Civil War, in that they were erected during racially divisive Reconstruction efforts to nobilize the cause and have become symbols of white supremacy and ideologies that continue to oppress minorities. Morse said the discussion isn't so much about the men represented by the monuments but "the ideology that caused their monuments to be erected in the first place."

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

City of New Orleans to host public meetings on Confederate landmarks

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 4:45 PM

click image Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Following last week's invite-only daylong discussion on the future of the city's Confederate landmarks, the City of New Orleans hosts two meetings next week that are open to the public.

The Historic District Landmarks Commission hosts a meeting in City Council chambers at City Hall (1300 Perdido St.) from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, followed by a Human Relations Commission meeting at 6 p.m. 

Up for discussion are the possible relocations of several monuments to the confederacy, including a statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, a Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, a P.G.T. Beauregard statue in front of City Park, and the Liberty Place Monument on Iberville Street.

Public discussion began in City Council chambers last month as Mayor Mitch Landrieu made his pitch to relocate the monuments, asking how New Orleans — amid its efforts "to inspire a nation" — can do so while several highly visible landmarks include symbols and echoes of white supremacy. The City Council agreed. Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities also hosted a packed-house panel on the history and legacies of those landmarks — a full transcript and audio of the discussion is available online. Though the historians on the panel held that their perspective of the monuments allows them to see them more as archeological artifacts, they largely agreed the monuments' symbolism should be reinterpreted to reflect their place in today's (and the future's) worldview. "This is an opportunity to take the mythology of the Lost Cause head on," said Loyola University professor Justin Nystrom. "I don’t think anybody wants our kids feeling oppressed by a monument. These are teaching moments. We didn’t learn this in school. Well, maybe we can learn something in the public space."

According to a release, comment cards at the Human Relations Commission meeting must be submitted no later than 7 p.m. in order for participants to speak. The city also is accepting public comments online at www.nola.gov/hdlc or www.nola.gov/hrc. Those comments must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 to be entered into the record.

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