February 25, 2010 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
City Council February 25, 2010 Regular Meeting Summary
New Orleans, LA - February 25, 2010 - Today, the New Orleans City Council passed Ordinances to amend the selection process for the Independent Police Monitor and appropriate funds for Six Flags site security and the lease for the 5th District Police Station.
The Council also addressed reports on the Expedited Screening and Disposition Initiative, efforts to re-open Circle Food Store and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Louisiana.
Additionally, the Council passed a Resolution honoring the late Dione Ragan Harmon, a local neighborhood activist.
Amended Selection Process for Independent Police Monitor
The Council passed Ordinance Calendar No. 27,844, authored by Councilmember Carter, to amend the selection process for the Independent Police Monitor and to add a provision relative to dismissal of the Independent Police Monitor.
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and representatives from Safe Streets/Strong Communities were present to show their support for the Ordinance.
Specifically, the Ordinance clarifies the process by which the Independent Police Monitor is selected, requiring that three finalists for the position be selected by a selection committee, the finalists attend two community meetings for the purpose of addressing and answering questions from the public, and the Inspector General make the final selection of the Independent Police Monitor from the three finalists.
Additionally, the Ordinance provides that the Independent Police Monitor shall only be removed for cause and based on the recommendation of the Inspector General and approved by a majority vote of the Ethics Review Board.
Criminal Justice Committee Chair James Carter said, "This Council and its Criminal Justice Committee have made it a priority to ensure that steps are taken to restore public trust in the police department. The new selection process for the Independent Police Monitor encourages competitiveness, public engagement and a fair and transparent method."
Allocated Funding for Six Flags Site Security and 5th District Police Station Lease
The Council passed Ordinance Calendar Nos. 27,855 and 27,856 to appropriate funds for Six Flags site security and the lease for the 5th District Police Station.
Councilmembers noted that once the City assumes responsibility for the Six Flags property it must provide security for the property and the equipment on site. The Ordinance mandates that a competitive bid process will take place relative to the awarding of the contract for security services at the Six Flags site.
Additionally, the Council reinforced that the lease for the 5th District Police Station contains a condition providing that the 5th District Police will remain at their temporary headquarters until the construction of the permanent station is complete.
Budget Committee Chair Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, "It is important that we take into account both the short-term and long-term effects of the funds allocations to these two vital projects. We must ensure that the City's assets at the Six Flags site are protected, as well as guarantee that the 5th District Police will have a permanent home."
Addressed Report on Expedited Screening and Disposition Initiative
Jon Wool, Director of the Vera Institute of Justice's project in New Orleans, representatives from the Criminal Justice Leadership Alliance (CJLA) and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro appeared before the Council today to give an update on the Expedited Screening and Disposition Initiative. The initiative aims to expedite all practices from arrest to arraignment for simple possession drug cases, which account for roughly one-third of all arrests on state charges.
In an effort to further expedite court processes and to conserve public safety resources, CJLA representatives and the District Attorney requested the Council's support for changing Criminal District Court rules in order to allow for immediate allotment of criminal cases based upon the date the alleged crime occurred.
Since the inception of the initiative, the time it takes to arrest a suspect and determine whether he or she will be charged with a crime has been reduced from approximately 61 days to 7 days.
Criminal Justice Committee Chair District "C" Councilmember James Carter said, "As I have expressed in the past, the successful launch of this initiative is a testament to CJLA's unwavering commitment to advancing meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system, and I feel it is essential that the incoming Council continue to support these important efforts."
Received Presentation from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Louisiana
M. Dolores Medina-Whitfield, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Louisiana, appeared before the Council, at the request of Councilmember Fielkow, to give a presentation on the organization's impact in the community and its current financial status.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a community-based youth mentoring organization that matches children, ages 6 through 18, in professionally supported one-on-one relationships with mentors. National research has shown that youth involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Louisiana served over 700 children in 2008, and approximately 600 of those children live in Orleans Parish. As a result of a nearly 65 percent decrease in revenues, the organization gave up its office space and New Orleans-based employees now work from their homes, in an effort to reduce expenditures and continue the organization's valuable programs.
Council President Arnie Fielkow said, "Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the great mentoring organizations in New Orleans and is deserving of our support. Not only does the organization recognize the value of our youth, it helps to bring out the best in all children who take part in their programs."
Councilmember-at-Large Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, "We applaud the positive impact that Big Brothers Big Sisters has on our City's youth and the relationships it fosters among children and their mentors. Children are one of our City's greatest assets, and we will continue to fully support programs that positively enrich their lives."
Honored Local Neighborhood Activist
The Council passed Resolution R-10-82, authored by Councilmember Clarkson, stating that the Council's fond memories of the late Dione Ragan Harmon will always be that of an elegant and wonderful hostess, whose leadership and influence will be felt in the lives of the individuals and communities she touched for generations to come.
Mrs. Harmon was committed to restoration and preservation in the City of New Orleans, and did revitalization work in Algiers Point and the Irish Channel. She also served on the Mayor's Advisory Council and was recently employed as a nurse liaison at the LSU Interim Public Hospital in the Emergency Room.
Council Vice President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, "Dione will be sadly missed as one of New Orleans' finest neighborhood leaders and activists, not only for her work in historic preservation, but also as a champion of residential integrity."
Supported Effort to Re-Open Circle Food Store
Circle Food Store owner Dwayne Boudreaux appeared before the Council to provide an update on the effort to re-open the store, located on N. Claiborne Ave. at St. Bernard Ave.
The store has been a cornerstone of the 7th Ward for many years and has been closed since it was destroyed due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. Currently, community leaders and residents are working together with the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center to re-open the store, and Boudreaux asked the Council for the same level of collaboration on the project within city government.
Boudreaux discussed the store's overall mission to provide increased access to fresh specialty grocery products, noting the decrease in access to grocery stores experienced by many residents as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Boudreaux continues to work to finalize the re-opening plans and solicit funding for the project.
District "C" Councilmember James Carter said, "Circle Food Store is a beloved and historical fixture in the Treme community. We owe it to the residents to do everything we can to support the reopening of this neighborhood resource, which has provided access to fresh and healthy foods for many years."