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
  • 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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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Orleans Inspector General and Police Monitor break up

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 4:46 PM

New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. - CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson.
The rift between the New Orleans Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Independent Police Monitor (IPM) — which has played out in contentious courtroom meetings and in statements to the press and the city’s Ethics Review Board (ERB) — has likely come to an end. The offices agreed to separate on Wednesday, Oct. 14 in the interest of providing “a stronger, more effective, and more responsive” OIG and IPM.

Susan Hutson has served as the IPM since 2010 to head the independent investigative body overseeing the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). The offices have frequently butted heads as Hutson has sought more independence despite pushback from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who budgets the IPM and sees the office as a branch of his own. Tensions between the offices reached a high following Quatrevaux’s September letter to the ERB calling for Hutson’s firing. In the letter, Quatrevaux alleged Hutson engaged in “ethical misconduct” and “unprofessional conduct” and “failed to relate effectively with law enforcement.”

In their agreement, announced Oct. 14, Hutson will receive an office budget of .16 percent of the city’s general fund budget while the ERB and OIG will share .59 percent of the city’s general fund budget. The OIG also rescinded his request to terminate Hutson, and they agree to “respect one another's mandate and refrain from publicly criticizing or commenting on one another except as it pertains to the respective missions and official duties of each entity regarding NOPD.”

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Landrieu promotes NOPD's "Operation Relentless Pursuit"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 7:15 PM

"Operation Relentless Pursuit" is the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) crime-reduction strategy, which encompasses several familiar efforts under an umbrella that Mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling a "tougher, smarter" plan to fight crime.

In an email promoting the plan today, Landrieu says "we must be a city of peace, a place of safety for all our citizens and visitors" adding that New Orleans "must be united, relentless and fierce in our response" when crime "threatens our neighborhoods."

Landrieu and NOPD chief Michael Harrison spoke with businesses and neighborhood groups about the plan in meetings today. The plan, Landrieu says in the email, will work alongside Landrieu's NOLA for Life initiative, not as its replacement. "We'll protect our neighborhoods by strengthening our communities, not tearing them down," he continues. "Well do it by partnering with community leaders, local businesses, community centers, and religious institutions across our city. We'll do it by partnering with you and your neighborhood because we're all in this together."

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free self-defense class offered in wake of reported sexual assaults in St. Roch and Upper 9th Ward

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 4:03 PM

NOPD provided surveillance footage of a suspect using a victim's card at an ATM. - NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • NOPD provided surveillance footage of a suspect using a victim's card at an ATM.

The Shaolin-Do martial arts studio on St. Claude Avenue is offering a free self-defense class Sat. Oct. 10, following a series of sexual assaults and armed robberies in the St. Roch and Upper 9th Ward neighborhoods that has been widely discussed on social media.

Shaolin-Do owner and instructor Joseph Meissner says students whose friends were victims of recent assaults requested the class.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Y@ Speak: crime stoppers

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 12:36 PM

Do you have a plan to fix the state budget, or a question for candidates "running" for "governor" (that's not related to weed or gay marriage)? Are you willing to massage some feet to stop this "crime wave"? New Orleans needs you in this week's Y@ Speak.

Also: the New Orleans Saints finally won a game and the weather is kind of "nice" — nobody's impressed but we'll take it. I'm wearing three layers.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell: 'There is not a single time or place that is safe' in New Orleans right now

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 6:24 PM

After a summer-long string of high-profile crimes in New Orleans — including increasingly brazen assaults, shootings and robberies during daylight hours, as well as the second armed robbery of customers at an Uptown restaurant during dinner service — District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell seems to have had enough. Cantrell issued a statement late this afternoon notable for both its brevity and its exasperation:
After yet another week of armed robbery, rape, and assault, I am at a loss. Our city stands on the verge of a tipping point of violence, much like what occurred after the notorious Louisiana Kitchen murders in December 1996. The people of this city came together as one, stood tall, rallied for change and we got it.

The truth is, right now, there is not a single time or place that is safe, and we cannot remember the last violence-free day in our communities. We are failing as a city to defend and protect our citizens. To turn back this tide of terror, we must demand better.
What that demand is, and to whom it should be made, was not specified.

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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
  • 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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Friday, September 11, 2015

What $1 million in federal funding means for NOPD's rape kit backlog

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 3:50 PM

NOPD chief Michael Harrison. - CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD chief Michael Harrison.

As of Aug. 11, NOPD has 180 sexual assault DNA collection kits that require testing. Yesterday, the New Orleans Police Department received more than $1 million from the Department of Justice as part of a nationwide effort to reduce backlogs of rape kits sitting in criminal justice agencies' custody.

That $1,058,214 million grant (a chunk of the $41 million granted nationwide) will help pay for more staff and technology, according to NOPD chief Michael Harrison, in the departments ongoing efforts to improve its sexual assault response "and ensure that we never develop a backlog again.”

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Atlantic announces full schedule for its "New Orleans: Ten Years Later" symposium

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM

Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later." - THE ATLANTIC
  • Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later."

The Atlantic has announced the complete schedule for "New Orleans: Ten Years Later," a daylong symposium to be held Aug. 24 at the Sheraton New Orleans.

It's an ambitious program, with 15 separate panels and several dozens speakers in less than 8 hours. Among those scheduled to address the group: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, former City Councilman Oliver Thomas, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, Rising Tide author John Barry, Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. and Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indians Hall of Fame.

The panels are free and open to the public, and some tickets still are available as of Aug. 19. Register here. Full schedule under the jump.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Y@ Speak: mentally competent

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 12:38 PM

While Sports Overlord Tom Benson celebrates with wine and ice cream, New Orleans demands change in the wake of the Charleston shooting. Plus: more from Gov. Bobby Jindal and the poetry of Fletcher Mackel.

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