New Orleans City Hall

Thursday, June 14, 2018

With investigation looming, Entergy power plant opponents want fresh vote

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 5:45 PM

A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.
  • A rendering of the proposed gas power plant in New Orleans East.

The New Orleans City Council is getting closer to selecting a firm to investigate the use of paid actors who supported Entergy’s construction of a gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East. A selection review committee will evaluate the proposals June 15, and the City Council could take it up June 21. A selected firm will likely have a contract by mid-July.

"I'd rather lean on the side of being thoroughou than fast to get it done, " said At-Large Councilmember and the City Council’s utilities committee chair Helena Moreno June 14. Moreno said the Council’s goal is to first ensure a thorough investigation, and “would then like it done in timely manner.”

But, as reported by The Lens this week, emails between Entergy and a PR firm already begin to reveal how the astroturfing campaign took shape. “I’m not going to be making any comments until the investigation is complete and the facts speak for themselves,” Moreno said.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New Orleans 'unlikely' to meet housing affordability goals, while housing remains 'out of reach' for minimum wage workers

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2018 at 10:40 AM

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New Orleans renters would need to earn an hourly wage of at least $19.15 to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to a recent housing report.

New Orleans’ spotlight in Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center also reports that minimum wage earners — relying on the state’s federal-set hourly rate of $7.25 — aren’t able to afford even a one-bedroom apartment, unless they’re working 88 hours per week, up from 84 hours per week in 2017.

The city even falls short of poorly ranked statewide averages, which would require an hourly wage of $16.63 for a modest two-bedroom rental.

The report's measure of "modest" housing is one in which a renter's income is not "rent-burdened" by spending 30 percent or more of that income on housing costs. More than half of New Orleans residents are renters — half of all renters put at least 30 percent of their income towards housing, and 80 percent of people earning less than $15,000 a year spend more than half their income on rent.

That analysis follows a progress report from HousingNOLA, which in 2015 revealed plans for a 10-year affordable housing strategy. HousingNOLA admits it’s “unlikely” the city will be able to meet a goal of 2,500 units by September — a goal of 750 units is more realistic, but “if, any only if” the city can find money to pay for a plan to house formerly incarcerated people in August. Only 190 new affordable units were brought online in the last eight months.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

'Hampton Inn Marigny' gets New Orleans City Planning Commission approval

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Design plans for a Hampton Inn on Elysian Fields Avenue in Faubourg Marigny.
  • Design plans for a Hampton Inn on Elysian Fields Avenue in Faubourg Marigny.

After more than two years of planning and meetings with neighborhood residents, "Hampton Inn Marigny" is a step closer to opening at Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street, among the first major hotel chains set to break ground in the neighborhood.

Final plans for the four-story hotel at 501 Elysian Fields Ave. have reeled for months as developers, architects and residents have tried to come to a compromise over design plans, not the construction of a hotel itself, which neighborhood groups hope will skim off the area’s proliferation of short-term rentals and remedy a property that’s remained untouched for several years.

But Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association president Allen Johnson says the “suburban” designs aren’t consistent with the area.

“We were told we would have ‘a building the neighborhood would be proud of,’” Johnson told the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) June 12. “We did not get that.”

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Orleans crime cameras get a name as groups plan surveillance expansion and residents speak out

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:00 PM

PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD

The New Orleans City Council has introduced a resolution to formally name the ubiquitous red-and-blue flashing crime cameras mounted across New Orleans streets "Quality and Neighborhood Safety Cameras."

The resolution follows former Mayor Mitch Landrieu's sweeping public safety plans that called for dozens of cameras in designated "hotspots" and dotting intersections throughout the city. The administration ultimately abandoned a potential network of hundreds of cameras outside bars and restaurants and feeding them into the city's centralized camera monitoring center.

But there remained a parallel surveillance network, one within nonprofit group ProjectNOLA's more than 2,200 cameras outside participating homes and businesses.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

New Orleans City Council introduces new public comment card system

Posted By on Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 3:36 PM

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Following an investigation into the use of paid actors for a campaign supporting Entergy's power plant construction in New Orleans East, the New Orleans City Council will introduce new public comment cards where speakers must check a box if they're being paid to be there.

Comment cards are available to anyone in attendance at a City Council meeting, where they're punched in and collected before councilmembers announce their contents. People wishing to speak address the City Council at a mic, which also is broadcast on the City Council's website (and archived) and on public access television.

The new comment cards include a signature line to affirm a speaker's statements are "true and correct." They also include a box the speaker must check to indicate whether they're receiving any kind of compensation for their comments or attendance, whether that's cash, a meal or a ride to City Hall.

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City Hall's 'office hours' for constituents start at libraries and coffee shops this week

Posted By on Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 12:22 PM

New Orleans City Hall. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • New Orleans City Hall.

A new event series kicking off June 4 offers the opportunity for community members to bring up issues and get face time with City Hall staff.

"Community Office Hours," billed as a collaborative project between the New Orleans City Council and Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration, sends city staffers to libraries and coffee shops in different districts to collect feedback from residents and discuss quality-of-life issues and neighborhood problems. Representatives from both the mayor's office and City Council will be on hand.

There are two events in each district each week. (If you're not sure which district you live in, here's a map.) The schedule follows:

District A
Robert E. Smith Library (6301 Canal Blvd.)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

District B
Keller Community Center (1814 Magnolia St.)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

District C
Backatown Coffee Parlour (301 Basin St., Suite 1)
Mondays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Algiers Regional (Library 3014 Holiday Drive, Algiers)
Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

District D
Pontilly Coffee (4000 Chef Menteur Highway)
Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

District E
Martin Luther King Library (1611 Caffin Ave.)
Mondays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
East New Orleans Regional Library (5641 Read Blvd.)
Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Editorial: The first day of hurricane season brings fresh worries for New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 2:52 PM

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials discussed the city's hurricane preparation at a press conference this morning at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials discussed the city's hurricane preparation at a press conference this morning at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Every year at this time we urge our readers to get a hurricane game plan, and we offer suggestions on preparing for storm season. This year it’s more urgent than ever.

The floods on August 5, 2017 exposed just how vulnerable New Orleans is to storms. The city’s pumps weren’t working, for the most part, and many storm drains were clogged with debris. Hundreds of jobs at the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) remained unfilled, and supervision of the S&WB under then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council had been lax. As residents swept water out of their homes and businesses, they had to wonder what would have happened in the face of a hurricane — or even a slow-moving tropical storm that could have dumped 20 inches of water on the city. Since then, improvements have been made — but a May 18 storm inundated much of New Orleans and caused Mayor LaToya Cantrell to state the obvious: “We are a city that floods.” Yes, but we do so far more often than in the past, and we have weaker defenses.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

'The suffering has to stop': New Orleans City Council and Moms Demand Action stand against gun violence

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 11:45 AM

New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and members of the City Council with members of Moms Demand Action, a national group promoting an end to gun violence.
  • New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and members of the City Council with members of Moms Demand Action, a national group promoting an end to gun violence.

Following a Louisiana legislative session that considered expanding gun presence in schools, while school shootings persisted and more than 100 mass shootings spread across the U.S. this year, gun control advocates — clad in orange — plan a weekend of demonstrations around National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2.

The New Orleans chapter of Moms Demand Action will march from the French Quarter to Armstrong Park, beginning at 5 p.m. May 31. The Superdome also will be bathed in orange light June 1.

Members of the New Orleans City Council joined Moms Demand Action members outside City Hall May 31, renewing calls for “common sense” gun control measures to combat gun violence.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Entergy has June 8 deadline to respond to New Orleans City Council investigation request

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2018 at 6:35 PM

Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Member of the New Orleans City Council at a May 18 press conference announcing its Entergy investigation into the "astroturfing" campaign for the New Orleans East power plant construction.

Entergy has until June 8 to produce a host of documents and information relative to the New Orleans City Council's investigation into the use of paid actors promoting Entergy's gas-fired power plant planned for New Orleans East.

The practice of "astroturfing," revealed by investigative news outlet The Lens, spurred the City Council to hire a third-party investigator to look into the utility — Entergy has placed the blame with a public relations firm it hired to build a "grassroots" campaign that, Entergy says, hired a subcontractor that paid people to show up at City Council hearings on the plant.

At-Large City Councilmember Helena Moreno — who also is chair of the council's utilities committee — sent a letter to the company May 29 following last week's approval of a motion detailing the information that Entergy now is required to send over. Among that info: a list of personnel involved, all related contracts, all communication related to the matter, as well as anyone interviewed in Entergy's own internal investigation, along with the people who conducted it.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Orleans City Council hits 'pause' on whole-home short-term rentals

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 6:30 PM

A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.
  • A map of STRs and STR applications in New Orleans.

The New Orleans City Council has agreed to temporarily ban new whole-home short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods until new rules are drawn up at City Hall.

The motions “press pause” on one of the most prolific types of rentals — the 90-day-limit temporary STRs, which encompass half of all 4,500 STRs on platforms like Airbnb — “until we tailor regulations to meet the needs of the city of New Orleans," said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who authored the motions. Once those temporary permits expire, they can’t be renewed. Those restrictions are effective immediately for up to nine months.

Lengthy debate broke out at the first full meeting of the new City Council May 24, echoing previous debates over the rules governing STRs, which formally went into effect last year.

"This legislation is a first step towards revising and improving the STR regulations to restore and preserve the residential fabric in historic areas of the city," Palmer said in a statement.

The City Council unanimously approved three motions — one to create an interim zoning district prohibiting new STRs and license renewals for some types of rentals, another to prohibit some new commercial STRs, and another to redirect the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) to issue a broader study of the city’s STR laws within the next few months, which it already was doing with a limited scope.

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