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."
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.
Regardless of the fact that I (am grateful to) have won practically every local major music award and public opinion poll for my work over the years, performed worldwide, opened for internationally-renowned award winning artists, played at major festivals like Jazz Fest, have volunteered on WWOZ FM for nearly two decades, etc. etc., I am not deemed acceptable to perform live in the Mimi’s in the Marigny neighborhood by someone making this decision. I could win a Grammy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize, and the decision makers (whether this is a neighborhood association, the city, neighbors, etc.) would still banish me to the “DJ” ghetto. And that's OK with me because, as an underground DJ artist who has chosen the craft and art of mixing, beat-matching and musicality to share the soulful music I love, I am proud to represent for DJ culture and will continue to do so in the neighborhoods and venues, large and small, that have accepted me and my followers since I began performing live in clubs when I was 21 years old – quite a long time ago!
Drinking on the streets of New Orleans is not going extinct.
A flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts this week have some up in arms about the City of New Orleans’ alleged “war on go-cups” — all of which seemed to stem from a few articles promoting the New Orleans Daiquiri Festival Aug. 17. A petition on Neighborland.com asked go-cups to “remain legal."
But none of the articles pointed to any existing or planned ordinances to remove the city’s open container laws, and there is nothing of that sort in the works, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration. “The City is not pursuing a universal restriction on go-cups,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press secretary Tyler Gamble wrote in a statement to Gambit.
New businesses applying for a conditional use permit to open a bar, restaurant or venue, however, may be asked by the City Planning Commission (CPC) or the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to restrict or ban go-cups — a policy that has been in place since at least 2007, under the most recent zoning ordinances. That conditional use permit allows a bar, restaurant or venue to open within an area typically not zoned for such uses, like a primarily residential area. It also applies to the arts and cultural overlay district on Freret, where the zoning ordinance for conditional use permits reads, “To-go-cups shall be prohibited for those premises with alcoholic beverage permits.”
[edited for clarification to include the following] The upcoming St. Claude Avenue arts and cultural overlay, however, allows bars to have go-cups, provided they have the bar's logo.
In addition, a bar or venue may also sign a “good neighbor agreement” with the board, CPC and neighborhood organizations that prevents the bar from issuing go-cups. The agreements typically also include a litter abatement program, like adding trash cans.
Those restrictions do not apply to existing businesses, including bars and daiquiri shops, unless they are brought before New Orleans City Council or the alcohol board for violations, such as noise, litter, delinquent taxes or other issues. (Most recently at St. Roch Tavern.)
What about drinker’s rights? The city’s open-container law doesn’t prevent drinking outside a bar unless it’s in a glass or “metal” container: According to the city, “It shall be unlawful for owners of establishments which sell beverages in glass or metal containers in the city to knowingly allow any person to leave the premises of such establishment carrying an opened glass or opened metal container.” And the open-container law means there’s no reason you can’t bring your own go-cup to any establishment, either.
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."
Tim McConnell, who served as the New Orleans Fire Department's (NOFD) acting superintendent following the departure of Charles Parent, now takes the reins officially as the NOFD chief.
This morning, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced McConnell's selection from among dozens of applicants and contenders. McConnell, a nearly 30-year veteran who joined the department in 1984, is NOFD's 11th superintendent. Parent led NOFD from 1982 until last month, when he took medical leave. McConnell inherits an NOFD with a lean budget (at $85 million) and a "redeployment plan" that will close houses at Arabella and in Gentilly.
Under his post-Katrina leadership, McConnell helped the NOFD restore 20 engine houses and helped raise more than $1 million and an additional $250,000 in construction materials. McConnell also served as the incident commander for Super Bowl XLVII (you likely have seen him and his mustache during frequent Super Bowl safety press conferences.)
"I am both humbled and honored that Mayor Landrieu has chosen me to lead this proud and storied fire department," McConnell said in a statement. "I could not be more proud than to have helped guide the City through Katrina and I look forward to the opportunity to lead the New Orleans Fire Department in becoming the model first responder agency for the 21st Century."
McConnell received the 2008 New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent’s Award and the 2007 Order of St. Louis Medal from Archbishop Alfred Hughes.
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