Just before Christmas and New Year holidays, New Orleans City Council introduced on first reading its draft for a "new" noise ordinance, the product of more than two years of reports and discussion.
This month, it heads to the Housing and Human Needs Committee for further review before it heads to the full City Council for a vote.
Following its Dec. 19 introduction, the ordinance stirred the music community for resembling a controversial "seven-point plan" by the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA), and not including recommendations from a City Council-commissioned report on sound and its impacts to New Orleans. Later that day, District C City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer — who initiated the report and discussions about redrafting the ordinance — released a statement, saying, "A proposal was introduced today in an attempt to offer a starting point for public consideration and discussion. The ordinance that was introduced today did not originate from my office, but I signed on to it because I support its intention: to carry on an important dialog and get us closer to a sound ordinance that is fair and objective."
The City Council's Housing and Human Needs Committee meets at noon Friday, Jan. 17 in council chambers.
Food truck permit registration is now through the city's "one-stop shop" for business permits and licenses (but not available online). There are 100 mobile food vendor permits available, thanks to legislation that passed last July allowing for trucks and fewer operating restrictions.
New Orleans City Council vice president Stacy Head kicked off food truck legislation discussions last year. After a lengthy back-and-forth with food truck advocates, City Council members, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, and even the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, City Council reluctantly passed a heavily revised ordinance in April, only for it to be vetoed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu vetoed the measure for what he called potential "Equal Protection concerns," presumably because of the proximity requirements imposed on trucks near brick-and-mortar restaurants.
The new ordinance lifts the proximity requirements and extends the time food trucks can operate. (The former law capped it at 45 minutes and prevented trucks from operating within 600 feet of restaurants and schools.) The ordinance also opens 100 permits, which are issued annually and expire at the end of the year. Renewal applications are due January 31. The initial mobile vending application fee is $50 (non-refundable), an approved permit is $400, an occupational license is $150, and a sales tax deposit is $50.
The ordinance also introduced "franchise " permitting — not as in operating multiple trucks with multiple owners (like a food truck McDonald's), but as in requiring additional fees and approval to operate trucks in fixed locations where trucks are prohibited, like the Central Business District and Marigny. The franchise application fee is $175.
Head wrote in a statement, "I believe that food trucks are an excellent small business model, they can contribute to community development and commercial corridor revitalization (as evidenced by Freret Street and O.C. Haley Boulevard), they can provide healthy and delicious food options in areas of our city that are considered food deserts, and they can even deter crime by creating more walkable communities."
Before New Orleans City Council met at its regular meeting yesterday, several groups stirred that a "new" noise ordinance would be introduced — one that wasn't based on acoustician and sound expert David Woolworth's report commissioned by the City Council in 2011. Yesterday, City Council introduced its draft of a noise ordinance, sponsored by all council members. Of course, that ordinance has not yet been discussed in any public meeting or City Council committee, so the ordinance was read into the record on first reading.
Advocacy group the Music & Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) warned that the proposed ordinance is similar to the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates' (VCPORA) document "7 Essential Items to Make Our Noise Ordinance Work for the City of New Orleans," which was supposed to be released at a press conference that never happened in June 2013. City Council, MACCNO and VCPORA have grappled with redrafting the city's noise ordinance for more than a year.
New Orleans Health Department Commissioner Karen DeSalvo announced she will join the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) next month. DeSalvo has been appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, replacing acting head Jacob Reider, who himself replaced Farzad Mostashari in August.
DeSalvo joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration in 2011, and she led the Health Department grow Landrieu's public heath agenda — including expanding hospital and community clinic services through the innovative Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection program, in which Medicaid waivers help low-income patients connect with primary care physicians. DeSalvo implemented programs in the NOLA for Life program, from family and youth violence intervention and prevention and mental health counseling. She also has implemented a renewed domestic violence program, recently profiled by Gambit, and works in concert with criminal justice agencies to help victims and families. The department has secured several yearslong grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Before her gig with the Landrieu administration, DeSalvo served as a dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University's School of Medicine.
DeSalvo said in a statement, “It has been a tremendous honor and a life-changing experience to serve our community as Health Commissioner. ... Mayor Landrieu has been a true champion for health and I am grateful for his support and leadership throughout my appointment. Knowing firsthand the kind of focus this Administration has had on the public’s health, I remain optimistic that both now and in future generations, the health and lives of New Orleanians will continue to improve.”
Health department deputy director Charlotte Parent will step up to oversee the department.
District C New Orleans City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer will not seek reelection in the February race, according to a statement from her office this morning.
Palmer, who was elected to the District C seat in 2010, said in a statement, "As I look to the future, I'm eager to pursue other opportunities and spend a lot more time with my daughters."
"I'm proud of the success we've had in growing our economy, improving our infrastructure, reducing blight and providing law enforcement the tools they need to fight crime. While I will continue working to make New Orleans a better place to live, work and raise a family, I have decided to not seek re-election in the February election. ... Even though I won't be a candidate for re-election, the residents of District 'C' can be assured that I will work as hard during the last five months of my term as I have the first three and a half years. I truly love public service and will never quit fighting to help the City of New Orleans fulfill its full potential."
Palmer chairs the Disaster and Recovery, Housing and Human Needs, Sanitation and Environmental, and Transportation committees, and she's a member of the Governmental Affairs and Public Works committees.
Nadine Ramsey, the former civil district court judge who ran for mayor in 2010, announced in October that she will seek the District C seat. With Palmer out of the running, Ramsey remains the only announced contender.
More than 100 firefighters gathered outside City Hall Oct. 25 before the New Orleans City Council began its budget hearings for the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD). Wearing yellow shirts bearing the International Association of Fire Fighters union insignia and the phrase “Support New Orleans Firefighters,” the attendees rallied as speakers in the bed of a nearby truck blasted Bruce Springsteen’s cover of “Pay Me My Money Down,” and other firefighters and their supporters waved signs as cars drove past on Perdido Street.
At the crux of the union’s concerns with the NOFD’s $86.2 million budget is staffing, and whether NOFD Superintendent Timothy McConnell is properly budgeted to safely staff stations and engines throughout the city. City Council President Jackie Clarkson’s first question to McConnell was whether he has adequate staff. He answered “yes” — which was met with boos from the firefighters and their supporters in the audience.
(Before the hearing outside City Hall, firefighters chanted, “If you don’t have four, you need more,” referring to fewer than four firefighters operating trucks at first response scenes. NOFD institutes a “two in, two out” policy where two firefighters manage the scene while the others operate the truck.)
“Every department would love to have more staff,” McConnell told the council. “We can keep the city safe in this budget.”
With former neighbor Daiquiri Place Cafe shuttered after losing its liquor license last year, St. Charles Avenue's Santa Fe Tapas has absorbed the crowds Daiquiri Place once held, according to the New Orleans city attorney's office, which has had the restaurant in its sights — and on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board's agenda — for most of 2013.
At today's board hearing, the city attorney's office and Santa Fe Tapas owners were supposed to come to an agreement after the restaurant was faced with "creating a public nuisance" and "permitting any disturbance of the peace" charges with its liquor license in the crosshairs. While both sides seemed poised to come to the terms of the agreement, city attorney Dan McNamara said the bar's lingering issues with loiterers would go away if it agreed to ban go-cups. "My position is that loitering is allowed because they’re allowing people to get a go-cup," he said.
McNamara said the city's alleged attempt to rid bars of go-cups "couldn't be further from the truth."
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