New Orleans City Hall

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Under City Council plan, citywide surveillance could expand to places that sell alcohol

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 4:15 PM


Bars, breweries, music venues, restaurants, corner stores and any of the hundreds of businesses selling booze in New Orleans would be required to install street-facing cameras outside their doors and submit that footage to the city’s new crime camera nerve center, shared with the New Orleans Police Department and state and federal law enforcement, under the current language of a proposed ordinance that could face the New Orleans City Council as early as Dec. 14.

That proposed requirement falls under a section titled “Participation in Community Security Systems” inside a 22-page ordinance that aims to reconfigure how the city handles permits and violations for businesses selling alcohol.

The requirement — introduced by At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration — would supplement the more than 200 city-owned crime cameras, piped into a recently opened Real Time Crime Monitoring Center on the edge of the French Quarter. Under Head’s ordinance, the city’s cloud-based platform would archive the footage for no less than two weeks.

That one paragraph in a measure ostensibly tied to streamlining permitting for alcohol vendors has sounded an alarm for police watchdogs, community groups, bars and restaurants — and the ACLU of Louisiana, which announced Dec. 13 that it has “condemned” the measure, which “would threaten privacy rights without effectively reducing crime.”

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Geaux Talk campaign promotes comprehensive sex ed in Louisiana schools

Posted By on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 6:25 PM

New Orleans City Councilmember At-Large Stacy Head and members of the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies announced the launch of Geaux Talk to promote comprehensive sex ed.
  • New Orleans City Councilmember At-Large Stacy Head and members of the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies announced the launch of Geaux Talk to promote comprehensive sex ed.

Louisiana has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in the U.S. The state has the highest rate of syphilis among adolescents, the second highest rate of gonorrhea and chlamydia among adolescents, and the third highest rate of HIV diagnoses among adolescents. The state also has the sixth highest teen birth rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most parents believe their children deserve comprehensive sex education in schools, and most parents think their children already are getting it — but that’s not necessarily the case. Louisiana doesn’t guarantee students receive comprehensive sex ed, and state law doesn’t require schools monitor whether they’re getting it.

Geaux Talk — a new public health campaign from the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) — aims to give parents, as well as students, teachers and legislators, all the resources they need to begin conversations about getting comprehensive sex ed into schools and at home.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Orleans launches Blue Bikes bike rental program

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the launch of Blue Bikes, a citywide bike rental program, Dec. 5. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the launch of Blue Bikes, a citywide bike rental program, Dec. 5.

New Orleans officials celebrated the official launch of a citywide bike rental program Dec. 5, opening 15 kiosks that dispense bright blue cruisers for hourly or annual use available 24 hours a day.

The city has selected 70 locations for the bike stations, totaling 700 bikes, expected to roll out over the next several months. Depending on rider demand, the city could expand to 90 stations with 900 bikes.

Dubbed Blue Bikes, the program operates with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield with bikes from bike rental company Social Bikes, which has launched bike rental programs across the U.S. and Canada. According to City Hall, the program is funded entirely through sponsorships, ads and rental fees.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Orleans crime camera plan at risk of abuse, security issues and other concerns, according to police monitor

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 6:00 PM

The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network.

Following the city's unveiling of a crime camera monitoring station on the edge of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (IPM) has warned the New Orleans City Council of the city's sweeping surveillance program's "potential for mismanagement, poor information security, public records law compliance challenges and user abuse."

This month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials debuted the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center on Rampart Street, serving as the nerve center for a planned network of dozens of city-owned crime cameras, with plans to add street-facing crime camera feeds from nearly every bar and restaurant and many private homes — all part of a multi-million dollar crime prevention program announced in January.

Though the plan greatly expands the city's surveillance footprint, which the city says will reduce crime and the time it takes to find suspects, acting police monitor Ursula Price writes in a Nov. 28 letter that the plan presents a number of "high-level risks" and seemingly "does not earmark resources or personnel to monitor the implementation of the plan."

The IPM recommends the City Council consider public meetings on the cameras' use and discuss how the city plans to monitor surveillance efforts and data collection. "A failure to build in monitoring and oversight may expose the City of New Orleans to a civil liability risk," the letter says. "In the event that evidence in these systems is used for prosecution, these systems could also present a risk unconstitutional criminal justice practices as well."

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

As Mayor-elect Cantrell begins City Hall transition, Landrieu plans to "finish strong" and glimpses life after term

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 7:25 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell with Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell with Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

New Orleans District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell celebrated her victory in the mayoral election over the weekend, but City Hall has been working on the transition from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to the next mayor-elect for several months.

When Landrieu entered office in 2010, inheriting a City Hall in “dysfunction” and “nearly bankrupt” under Mayor Ray Nagin, “We spent an inordinate amount of time just trying to understand how government was organized, what existed, and where things even were,” he said. “So much of our work in the early days was just trying to organize … I vowed to never leave the city in that shape for folks coming after us.”

In a joint press conference and display of harmony between the two politicians who often were at odds with the other through their terms in office, mayor-elect Cantrell ensured that after an abnormally long transition period, they’ll “not only come out on top but shine for the citizens of New Orleanians, because the people will definitely come first,” she said.

Exactly what will happen in the Cantrell camp within that long transition period (more than 160 days) and who will be a part of it — have not been announced, but some details emerged Nov. 21.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cantrell to become New Orleans' first woman mayor; Nguyen upsets Gray in District E; Banks beats Bloom by 131 votes in District B

Posted By , and on Sat, Nov 18, 2017 at 11:29 PM

New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell greets supporters before her victory speech. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell greets supporters before her victory speech.

LaToya Cantrell will be New Orleans’ first-ever woman to become mayor in the city’s nearly 300-year history. New Orleans voters elected the District B City Council member in the runoff against former municipal court judge Desiree Charbonnet, capping off a contentious election cycle marked by scandals over public credit card spending, attack ads and debate over the future of the city’s post-Katrina infrastructure, short-term rentals, crime, and the troubled Sewerage & Water Board.

“Almost 300 years, and we’re still making history,” Cantrell said at her campaign party at the New Orleans Jazz Market Nov. 18.

Cantrell spoke to Charbonnet over the phone earlier in the evening as early polling returns put Cantrell in the lead. “I said to her, ‘congratulations on standing with me on making history, because our history was two women in the runoff.’ And we both deserve to be proud of that,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell received roughly 60 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, with Charbonnet earning 40 percent. An estimated 32 percent of New Orleans voters showed up at the polls.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cantrell used city credit card for personal purchases, partially reimbursing the city around the time mayoral campaign began

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 11:35 PM

LaToya Cantrell.
  • LaToya Cantrell.

New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who led the 18-candidate field in the Oct. 14 mayoral primary, charged nearly $9,000 in personal or political expenses to her city-issued, taxpayer-financed credit card since taking office in 2012, according to public records given to Gambit and other news organizations by the campaign of Cantrell’s runoff opponent Desiree Charbonnet.

According to those public records, Cantrell reimbursed the city for at least $8,950 in such charges. The Charbonnet campaign alleges in radio ads and in public statements that Cantrell has a lot more explaining to do — allegedly because she charged a total of more than $40,000 in questionable expenses to the city-issued credit card over the years.

Moreover, almost half of Cantrell’s reimbursements — $4,433.22 — came via a single check received by the City Council Fiscal Office on July 17, 2017, five days after Cantrell qualified for mayor. The date on the check reads “7/1/2017,” but a memo from Cantrell’s office noting the “attached” check is dated July 14. She qualified for mayor on July 12.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facing ACLU lawsuit and court ruling, Cannizzaro pressured to turn over info on subpoenas

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 4:45 PM

DA Leon Cannizzaro at Holy Angels Convent in 2014. - PHOTO BY JEANIE RIESS
  • DA Leon Cannizzaro at Holy Angels Convent in 2014.

New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro is facing pressure from the New Orleans City Council and a Civil District Court judge to hand over details about the office's case work as well as copies of so-called "fake subpoenas" at the center of a news investigation and lawsuit.

Following a contentious budget hearing in September, members of the New Orleans City Council issued a formal call to Cannizzaro's office for specific data sets on the number of cases accepted by the office, as well as conviction rates, juvenile offenders transferred into the city's Criminal Court, and details about material witness warrants and subpoenas.

City Council President Jason Williams and District A Councilmember Susan Guidry — who chairs the Council's Criminal Justice Committee — sent a letter Oct. 23 telling Cannizzaro "increased data collection and sharing will represent a good faith effort toward more efficient and effective administration of the law as well as fiscally sound budget allocations."

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

NOPD to carry opioid overdose antidote as part of citywide plan to combat 'epidemic'

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 4:30 PM

A naloxone kit of the kind carried by first responders. - PHOTO BY DORA SISON
  • A naloxone kit of the kind carried by first responders.

New Orleans Police Department officers will begin carrying a potentially life-saving drug to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, following more than 160 opioid-related deaths in the city in 2016.

As part of a sweeping plan to address the “opioid epidemic,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials revealed Oct. 18 that NOPD will carry naloxone, the life-saving overdose-reversal drug. A 2016 Gambit cover story found that no Louisiana law enforcement agency carried naloxone — locally it was only previously carried by EMS and New Orleans Fire Department first responders, despite a 2014 statewide law encouraging law enforcement to carry it.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Editorial: Why every vote really does count in the New Orleans runoff

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 2:52 PM

Campaign signs on a neutral ground on Election Day, Oct. 14. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Campaign signs on a neutral ground on Election Day, Oct. 14.

As Election Day dawned Oct. 14, many worried — and Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicted — that turnout would be abysmally low. Schedler even offered to eat crow, literally, if statewide turnout hit just 15 percent. It didn’t, though it did reach nearly 32 percent in New Orleans, where the ballot included hotly contested races for mayor, all seven City Council seats and two judgeships. Statewide, the main attraction was a low-key contest for state treasurer. As Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics put it, the low turnout “basically means that 400,000 voters collectively called the shots for Louisiana’s entire electorate, which numbers around 2.9 million voters.”

While the rest of the state may not have been fired up about the treasurer’s race, New Orleanians had no excuse for not voting in larger numbers. The mayoral and council races had forums galore, offering voters many opportunities to see and hear the candidates. Locally, voters have a chance to do better on Nov. 18, when they will choose a new mayor and settle two still-undecided City Council elections. There’s also a statewide runoff for treasurer.

Much has been said about voters’ lack of enthusiasm about the 2017 crop of candidates, but the simple truth is that either District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell or former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet will become New Orleans’ next mayor on May 7, 2018. The winner will lead New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration and face some of the most daunting challenges in our city’s history.

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