New Orleans City Council

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Editorial: A not-so-dry run exposes Sewerage & Water Board ineptitude

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM

Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5.

When Joe Becker, general superintendent of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, began answering questions from the New Orleans City Council Tuesday (Aug. 8), it was clear the S&WB’s original story about its performance during the Aug. 5 storm was taking on more water than a Lamborghini stranded in Lakeview. Just before the council’s special meeting, S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant announced he would be retiring by the end of the year. “Some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public,” Grant said. That was an understatement.

The information referenced by Grant — that all the drainage pumps were in working order during the storm — was contradicted by statistics that councilmembers tweezed out of Becker during the special meeting. Becker floated the equivocal meme that “all the pump stations were working at the capacity they had available to them.” As it turned out, 14 of the system’s 121 pumps were out of commission. A Lakeview pumping station operating at 100 percent of its “available capacity” was actually working at 57 percent of capacity. Other stations reported similar problems.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

14 pumps down during New Orleans floods, according to Sewerage & Water Board officials; Landrieu calls for resignations

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 5:45 PM

A parked Mercedes-Benz floods out in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A parked Mercedes-Benz floods out in Mid-City Aug. 5.

As streets across New Orleans began to flood after an afternoon deluge Aug. 5, the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) assured residents that "all pumps were operational."

But at a meeting called by the New Orleans City Council Aug. 8, the S&WB clarified "pump stations were working at the capacity available to them," making the distinction between a drainage system that's working completely and one that is working with what it has, with several pumps offline and waiting for maintenance.

Moments before the meeting began, S&WB director Cedric Grant sent a press release announcing his retirement from the agency and apologizing for the disinformation. "The information I have learned over the last 24 hours indicate that some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public," he said. "Our staff was not forthright, which is unacceptable."

At a press conference held as the City Council meeting was still in progress, a frustrated Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced he's also calling for the resignation of S&WB's Joseph Becker and communications director Lisa Martin, as well as Department of Public Works Director Mark Jernigan, who has been under scrutiny twice over the last week in the City Council chambers for the poor conditions of catch basins — and what the agency has done with $3 million set aside for their repairs.

Landrieu said "it was inaccurate" to suggest the city's drainage system was operating at its maximum abilities. He said the S&WB's "obfuscation" with questions from the City Council was "an insult to the public."

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Sewerage & Water Board head Cedric Grant announces retirement, walks back statement that all pumps were working during Aug. 5 flood

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 1:25 PM

A flooded street in Mid-City during the Aug. 5 rainstorm that inundated the city. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A flooded street in Mid-City during the Aug. 5 rainstorm that inundated the city.

Cedric Grant, head of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB), issued a statement today walking back initial claims that "all pumps" were operational during the Aug. 5 rainstorm and flood that inundated parts of New Orleans. He added that he will be retiring in the next few months "rather than be a distraction to the hard work of fixing the system."

the information I have learned over the last 24 hours indicate that some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public," Grant said in a statement announcing his retirement. "Our staff was not forthright, which is unacceptable."

Yesterday S&WB General Superintendent Joe Becker confirmed to WWL-TV that though all 24 pumping stations were operational, eight of 121 individual pumps were not operating during a storm that dumped more than 9 inches of rain in some parts of town within a few hours. One of those pumps served Mid-City, the hardest-hit neighborhood during the storm.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Edwards, Landrieu, other officials inspect flood damage in Treme

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu toured a flooding spot in Treme this afternoon.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu toured a flooding spot in Treme this afternoon.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, various state senators and representatives, along with a few City Councilmembers, stopped at Willie Mae's Scotch House in Treme this afternoon to discuss the weekend's flood.

Landrieu, who arrived in town this morning from Aspen, Colorado, where he was attending a security conference, toured the restaurant with owner Kerry Seaton Stewart and did a walk-through of a flooded apartment across the street, where a drum kit and a keyboard were among the things that seemed to have taken on water.

"You never know what Mother Nature is gonna throw at you," Edwards said, adding that the state was still assessing the situation to determine whether formal emergency aid would be requested. "We're not bashful about asking for assistance when it's needed," he added.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

City and state officials announce meetings to address issues from Aug. 5 flood

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 6:54 PM

A van drives through Mid-City floodwaters Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A van drives through Mid-City floodwaters Aug. 5.

One day after a drenching flood that seemed to catch people, politicians, pumps and all of New Orleans by surprise, city and state officials announced investigations into municipal response, while Sewerage & Water Board president Cedric Grant insisted, "We are dealing with 8 to 10 inches of rain in three hours. It is not going to be able to pump that in an hour.”

Six members of the New Orleans City Council held a press conference this afternoon to announce a special council meeting for 1 p.m. Tuesday to "express their concerns and pose questions to the Sewerage and Water Board and appropriate City officials," according to a statement from the council.

City Councilwoman At-Large Stacy Head, who has been openly critical of catch basin and utility maintenance in recent weeks, was not at today's meeting and was said to be out of town. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is in Aspen, Colorado, for a security conference, according to Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni, and will be returning to the city Monday.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Youth who commit misdemeanors could receive warnings or summonses under proposed ordinance

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 5:45 PM

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New Orleans youth who commit misdemeanor offenses could receive warnings or summonses to appear in court with a guardian, under a proposed ordinance aimed at preventing young people from entering, and often re-entering, the criminal justice system after an arrest.

The ordinance was supported by the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee July 24, and it also has the support of Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judges and, for the most part, Mayor Mitch Landrieu. It now heads to the full City Council for approval.

Committee chair and District A Councilmember Susan Guidry said "police have no alternative but to handcuff the child [who commits minor offenses]. I mean that is a serious, traumatic event.”

Under the ordinance, youth who have committed a status offense (truancy, running away, displaying "ungovernable behavior") would receive a juvenile warning notice (JWN). Police also would write JWNs or issue summonses for 11 types of misdemeanor crimes — including simple assault and simple possession of marijuana, misdemeanor theft, criminal mischief and criminal trespassing — at the officers' discretion.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

LaToya Cantrell would ban traffic cameras if elected mayor, she clarifies after some conflicting messages

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 8:14 PM

LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.
  • LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.

At her formal mayoral campaign announcement last night, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell drew some of the biggest cheers of her speech when she announced, "We don’t know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer. But we do know those cameras are costing our residents money that could be spent on their families. As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended." (In a departure from prepared remarks that had been provided to reporters, Cantrell speculated that the traffic cameras could be redeployed as crime cameras in drug-plagued neighborhoods.)

Later, though, in a short scrum with reporters, Cantrell seemed to walk back that statement at least in part, saying, "Based on the feedback from the community, it would only be those cameras that have been recently installed" — indicating that she supported the removal only of the cameras that were put in place in early 2017, leaving in place those that had been installed earlier.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Wide field of candidates qualifies for mayoral, City Council races

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 5:22 PM

city_hall_alex_woodward.jpg

Eighteen people filed to run for New Orleans mayor, and another 34 qualified for the seven seats on the New Orleans City Council as qualifying at the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court's office wound down this afternoon.

Among the expected mayoral candidates were a few surprises, including a visual artist who made his announcement via a rap video; a longtime French Quarter sommelier who founded the "Krewe of Cork"; and perennial mayoral candidate Manny Chevrolet Bruno, whose never-out-of-date slogan is "A Troubled Man for Troubled Times."

Several of the council seats have no incumbent running due to term limits, though no seat went uncontested. The race with the fewest entrants is in District C, where incumbent Nadine Ramsey will face off against former District C councilwoman Kristen Gisleson Palmer, who represented C from 2010 to 2014.

The primary election is three months from today — Oct. 14 — while a runoff, if necessary, will be held Nov. 18. Also on the ballot will be state treasurer (seven people qualified), along with several judgeships, Orleans Parish coroner, Orleans Parish assessor, clerk of Criminal District Court and Orleans Parish Sheriff. The only race that attracted no challengers was that of Clerk of Civil District Court, held by Dale Atkins.

As of 4:30 p.m., here were the candidates who had qualified for mayor and City Council and were officially registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State:

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Landrieu adopts plan to combat effects of climate change in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 1:30 PM

A March for Science in New Orleans on April 22 brought attention to climate change and other environmental and health issues. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • A March for Science in New Orleans on April 22 brought attention to climate change and other environmental and health issues.

New Orleans will aim to reduce emissions by 50 percent in 2030, as Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials commit to the international agreement on climate change from which President Donald Trump has withdrawn the U.S.

After declaring the dramatic effects of climate change on south Louisiana an "existential threat" facing New Orleans, Landrieu unveiled an ambitious "Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans," which proposes 11 strategies and 25 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide. He also signed an executive order committing to the goals as guided by the action plan.

"Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our coastal communities, nation and world,” Landrieu said in a statement. “In New Orleans, we face a triple threat: subsidence, coastal erosion and sea level rise. If unchecked, New Orleans, like many coastal cities, will be forced to retreat. This strategy will help us transition to a low-carbon economy that not only helps manage our climate risk, but also creates new businesses, jobs, and wealth.”

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mayoral candidate Cantrell launches 'LaToya Listens' campaign tonight

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 1:31 PM

LaToya Cantrell.
  • LaToya Cantrell.
LaToya Cantrell, the District B City Councilwoman who was one of the earliest entrants in the mayoral race, tonight will begin a 12-night, 12-stop "LaToya Listens" tour in 12 city neighborhoods. The first stop is in her home of Broadmoor.

In a statement, Cantrell said, “If we are to move past a tale of two cities, we need to meet the people where they are. Every New Orleans neighborhood has engaged and concerned residents, and we have to listen to them. As mayor, I will always be out listening to the people and connecting citizens to their government.”

Cantrell is one of four announced candidates in a race that was expected to be much more heaty by this time; qualifying is just a month away. Besides Cantrell, the other announced candidates former Civil District Judge Michael Bagneris, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, and businessman Frank Scurlock.

Below the jump: Cantrell's schedule:

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