New Orleans City Hall

Friday, May 8, 2015

NOPD officers to receive 10 percent raises by 2016

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 4:45 PM

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

With a projected revenue forecast to bring in an addition $14.6 million to the city, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced this afternoon two police pay raises to kick in this summer.

Landrieu proposed raises for officers of all rank within the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), the first of which begins with a 5 percent raise July 1, followed by another 5 percent raise on Jan. 1, 2016. These raises follow a 5 percent raise in the 2015 city budget, creating a 15 percent overall pay raise for 2015 and into 2016. The announcement follows the NOPD's aggressive hiring campaign and wavering morale and retention issues within the department. According to the city, the raises are intended to address officer retention and recruitment.

How did the city land an additional $15 million? According to the city, the revenue projection comes from "continued cuts and reorganization in City government and a very strong third and fourth quarter sales tax growth that showed the impact of the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, the two additional Walmarts and numerous other new and expanded retailers."

Late last year, as the New Orleans City Council approved the city budget with a 5 percent pay raise, the Police Association of New Orleans and the Fraternal Order of Police pressed for a bigger raise, as it wasn't significant enough to address attrition in the ranks.

The FOP's Donovan Livaccari told Gambit that today's announcement is a "step in the right direction."

"It sends a clear message to officers to continue service, and it sends a message to potential police offers that you should come work for the police department," he said. "It's a more tangible raise for officers and something they'll actually be able to see after the taxes and so forth, something that will make a real impact in the lives of these officers."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Orleans literacy programs could hang in the balance with May 2 vote on library funding

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 5:45 PM


New Orleans aims to be one of the most literate cities in the U.S. by its tricentennial celebrations in 2018. But more than 40 percent of the city's adults struggle with basic literacy, and the New Orleans Community Data Center estimates that more than a quarter of the city's workforce struggles with basic reading, writing and computer comprehension.

The New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) is leading the effort to improve literacy in the city. The library's foundation supports its literacy programs Turn The Page and Every Child Ready To Read, a pre-literacy program that works with daycares, parents and other caregivers to instill the importance of reading and prepare children to learn how to read. The library also offers space free-of-charge to literacy programs from the YMCA. Last year, as NOPL presented its budget to the New Orleans City Council, the YMCA Educational Services program director said losing that space would be disastrous.

Now NOPL stares down a vote on Saturday, May 2 when New Orleanians will decide whether to support a 2.5-mill property tax to fund the libraries, their programs and services. If that fails, will the city and the library have to adjust its 2018 timeline?

"We would," said library director Charles Brown. "It certainly would have an impact on it."

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Michelle Obama congratulates New Orleans on ending veteran homelessness

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 2:44 PM


First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama commended New Orleans' efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness, which officials say is the first in the country to do so. Obama was the guest of honor at a conference this morning at Gallier Hall, attended by a host of city officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, police superintendent Michael Harrison and members of the New Orleans City Council.

Obama and Jill Biden launched an initiative among U.S. mayors to reduce veteran homelessness in their cities by the end of 2015, with President Barack Obama also aiming to end veteran homelessness nationwide. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the city — with a partnership involving federal, state and local nonprofit agencies — was able to house more than 200 veterans by the end of 2014 by using a "housing first" system. The Landrieu administration says another 42 veterans have been housed since January.

"We seem to resign ourselves to a reluctant acceptance of this reality," Obama said. "We feel badly about it, we know it is not right, but we've almost come to believe this problem is too big, too entrenched, to ever solve. I want to be very clear. The vasty majority of veterans who return whom, they come home in good health, in good spirits, they go on to build strong families and good jobs, and they keep serving. ... But even one homeless veteran is an outrage. And when we have tens of thousands of veterans who don't have somewhere to go when in rains, that is a stain on our nation. ... When they come home kissing the ground, none of them should ever have to sleep on it."

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Harrah's and French Quarter bars sue the City of New Orleans in smoking ban dispute

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Harrah's Casino and many French Quarter bars and clubs have filed a suit against the City of New Orleans to halt the impending smoking ban set to take effect April 22. The suit was filed in Civil District Court, which has set a hearing date for the case on May 21. The court, however, denied Harrah's request for a restraining order that aimed to stop the ordinance before it was to take effect.

With no immediate barriers in its way, the smoke-free ordinance — which imposes smoke-free rules in all bars and casinos and public places — will go into effect this Wednesday. City officials — including ordinance author and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, Health Department Director Charlotte Parent, and health advocates within the Smoke-Free New Orleans Coalition — will host a press conference that morning to celebrate the new law.

Harrah's has pushed for a compromise measure to allow smoking in parts of its casino and has threatened to renegotiate the terms of its lease with the city if the ban persists. Harrah's also warned that fewer smokers in the casino could create a revenue shortfall that would trickle-down to police and fire protection, education, and loss of employees. As first reported by The New Orleans Advocate's Jeff Adelson, Harrah's joined more than 50 businesses, including Pat O'Briens, Tropical Isle, Court of Two Sisters, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Bombay Club, and many others, in filing a suit to throw out the ban.

French Quarter Business League president Alex Fine says despite the City Council's efforts to listen to their pleas, it did not fully "consider the ramifications of any ban that is passed," including an anticipated 20 percent drop in revenue among businesses, according to Fine. "They gave us the opportunity but did not take enough time to analyze the data and come to a conclusion that is fair to everybody," he said, adding that the council has not made plans to offset the loss. "They never vetted that completely, and that's why we're here," Fine said. 

Without a restraining order to hold back the smoke-free laws until the suit is resolved, Harrah's and New Orleans bars will have a month of experience under the law before they head to court.

"We've been preparing for any outcome, whether it goes into effect or we have to delay," Fine said.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ridesharing amendments passed on to full City Council without recommendation

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 4:15 PM

Cab driver Dolores Montgomery tells the Transportation and Airport Committee that she knows financial hardship. "I'm in my cab seven days a week," she said. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Cab driver Dolores Montgomery tells the Transportation and Airport Committee that she knows financial hardship. "I'm in my cab seven days a week," she said.

Following presentations from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, Uber, the ridesharing platform Lyft and dozens of public comments, the New Orleans City Council Transportation and Airport Committee voted today to pass amendments to a ridesharing ordinance on to the full council without recommendation. 

The ordinance, to be decided by the full City Council on April 9, would create a special class of vehicles-for-hire for newly named Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). These would include app-based transportation companies like Uber and Lyft, both of which had representatives and Uber T-shirt-clad supporters at the meeting. Uber organized a small rally outside of City Hall the hour before it began, serving coffee and donuts to supporters, as it has done before nearly every Council meeting in which ridesharing has been discussed since last February. 

At the meeting, Uber held up plastic bins with 10,000 blue and white ping pong balls, which the company said represented the 10,000 signatures on a petition demanding the service in New Orleans. 

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Orleans City Council to vote April 9 on ride-app services like Lyft and Uber

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 5:26 PM

A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers. - CREATIVE COMMONS/RAIDO
  • A Lyft car drives through San Francisco. The privately owned vehicles easily are recognizable due to the whimsical pink mustaches on the front bumpers.

New Orleans might have ride-app services like Uber and Lyft in time for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, if City Councilmembers Jared Brossett and Susan Guidry get their way. Brossett (who is the chair of the council's Transportation and Airport Committee) and Guidry have set April 9 as the date when legislation will be proposed "to legalize transportation network services in the City of New Orleans."

That date, Brossett said in a statement, was in response to more than 50 proposed amendments to the legislation, which was introduced in early March. Those amendments came from "stakeholders" in the legislation, Brossett said, including ride-app companies and, presumably, the local taxi industry, which has objected to the ride-app services. As Gambit's Jeanie Riess wrote at the time:
The ordinance would create a new class of for-hire vehicles called "Transportation Network Companies" (TNCs). It also proposes a formal registry of drivers, a fee of $15,000 a year per company, and a mileage fee of 50 cents per pickup paid to the city. It would require drivers to have a Louisiana driver's license and undergo the same background checks and drug tests as cab drivers. 
The Transportation and Airport Committee will first discuss the ordinance and possible amendments at an April 1 meeting, before passing it to the full council at the council's regular meeting April 9. It's unclear which of those provisions would be affected by any proposed amendments.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

New Orleans City Council prepares to tackle the noise ordinance — again

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 4:15 PM

Glen David Andrews, right, during a noise ordinance protest inside New Orleans City Council chambers at City Hall in January 2014. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Glen David Andrews, right, during a noise ordinance protest inside New Orleans City Council chambers at City Hall in January 2014.

Despite a grueling, contentious two-year effort to update the city's noise ordinance, the New Orleans City Council fell short last year when it failed even to pass a whittled-down version, focused only on Bourbon Street.

Now District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey — who replaced outgoing Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer in the district seat representing the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny — is introducing new legislation to tackle noise in the French Quarter. While Ramsey's ordinance largely picks up where the council had left off, there are some tweaks to the measure.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Parisite skate park officially opens in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Skateboarders at Parisite in 2013. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Skateboarders at Parisite in 2013.

If it all goes as planned, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will bite into a reuben sandwich as a skateboarder ollies over his head. It's an appropriate celebration — a "reuben" cutting — for a skate park, the city's first-ever public one. Parisite Skate Park has been a labor of love for a group of skateboarders who mixed concrete, built ramps, raised money and brought back into use what was essentially a garbage dump under the 6-10 overpass on Paris Avenue and Pleasure Street in Gentilly. The park officially opens at noon Saturday, Feb. 28.

"No one’s really done this before. It’s a city park, but it wasn’t paid for by the city," said artist Skylar Fein, one of the park's organizers and advocates. "We’re all in uncharted territory."

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Friday, January 30, 2015

New Orleans bars and casinos will go nonsmoking this April

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 1:30 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu signs a citywide smoke-free ordinance Jan. 30. Landrieu was joined by Dr. John Ochsner, members of New Orleans City Council, musician Deacon John Moore and members of a smoke-free campaign that backed the legislation. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu signs a citywide smoke-free ordinance Jan. 30. Landrieu was joined by Dr. John Ochsner, members of New Orleans City Council, musician Deacon John Moore and members of a smoke-free campaign that backed the legislation.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu signaled his support for a measure that would ban smoking in bars and casinos and other public areas last year. In 2002, while serving in the Louisiana legislature, Landrieu also helped create the Louisiana Cancer Consortium, which created a partnership with the LSU Health Sciences Center, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Xavier University and Ochsner Health System — as well as the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. That campaign also helped draft and promote the smoke-free ordinance from District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. That ordinance passed the New Orleans City Council earlier this month. Today, Landrieu ratified the measure. It goes into effect the first week of Jazz Fest in April.

"I'm really proud to sign this ordinance today," Landrieu said. "We tried to achieve the appropriate balance between public health, economic development and public security. We hope we've achieved that balance. ... We'll continue to make sure it operates as it was designed."

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Orleans City Council passes smoke-free ordinance banning smoking in bars and casinos

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 2:50 PM

click image The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos. - MICHAEL OCAMPO/FLICKR
  • The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos.

In three months, most of New Orleans will be smoke (and vape) free. At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, its members unanimously passed an ordinance from councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry that prohibits smoking and using electronic cigarettes in bars and casinos citywide.

"We have to change for the better to meet the needs of our people," Cantrell said.

Cantrell announced her intention to introduce a smoke-free ordinance in July 2014. It received the endorsements of Mayor Mitch Landrieu as well as health department director Charlotte Parent and several local and national health organizations. A first draft was introduced in November, and its final draft includes amendments from several other City Council members. In its final form, the smoking ordinance allows smoking only in the following places:

  • existing cigar and hookah bars
  • vape shops
  • outdoor areas (like patios and courtyards) at bars, restaurants and casinos
  • at smoking and vape conventions and Mardi Gras balls

Cigar bars are defined as a bar that has generated 10 percent or more of its annual gross income from cigar sales and humidor rentals. (It also excludes smoking cigarettes.)

Smoking will be prohibited in all bars and casinos (Harraha's and the Fair Grounds gaming area). An amendment was passed removing the 5 feet distance rule, and Bourbon Street also was singled out — smoking there from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue is allowed without any distance requirement on its street and sidewalks. The ordinance goes into effect 90 days after Landrieu signs it.

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