September 04, 2014
City Council Chamber
City Council Regular Meeting News Summary September 4, 2014
Thursday, September 4, 2014 - New Orleans, LA
- At today's regular City Council meeting, the Council adopted Ordinances amending the City Code pertaining to for-hire vehicles, the mooring of boats along Bayou St. John, and the obstruction of public rights-of-way and other public spaces. The Council also passed a Resolution supporting the approval of funding for construction of a new floodwall near the Violet Canal.
In other business, the Council recognized the community and neighborhood outreach efforts of New Orleans East community leader Cyndi Nguyen and youth program coordinator Jerome Smith. Additionally, the Council celebrated the Preservation Resource Center's 40th anniversary.
Supported Approval of Funding for New Floodwall
The Council passed Resolution R-14-379, authored by Councilmember Gray, supporting the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's request that the Interim Emergency Board approve $4 million in funding for the construction of a floodwall on the north side of the Violet Canal.
FEMA is in the process of updating its Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), which are used to calculate the National Flood Insurance Program rates. The construction of the floodwall is required to assure FEMA certification of the Forty Arpent Levee located in the Lower Ninth Ward to avoid a revision by FEMA, which would significantly increase National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premiums paid by residents living in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
Celebrated Preservation Resource Center's 40th Anniversary
Representatives from the Preservation Resource Center (PRC) appeared before the Council for a presentation giving an overview of the PRC's mission, goals, and accomplishments over the last four decades as the organization celebrates its 40th Anniversary.
Created in 1974, the PRC's outreach and advocacy efforts focus on the restoration and revitalization of properties and neighborhoods as part of its greater mission of preserving New Orleans history and cultural heritage. Originally organized by the Junior League of New Orleans as an historic preservation community group, the PRC has successfully restored over 1,400 properties.
The PRC representatives provided the Council with an update on upcoming projects and events, as well as statistics on the organization's impact around the City, specifically focusing on the various benefits associated with historic properties and districts.
Council President Head said, "Historic preservation and sustainable development fuel job creation and economic development. The PRC, along with preservation-minded developers like Neal Morris and Tara Hernandez, has been a critical advocate for the revitalization of our City's unique neighborhoods and growing business corridors, and we appreciate the organization's commitment to our City."
Recognized Local Civil Rights Activist and Community Leader
The Council received a presentation from Jerome Smith, a well known civil rights activist and community organizer, on the Tambourine and Fan Special Commemorative Event. The event, which took place on July 10th, provided students of Tambourine and Fan Summer Camp with a commemoration of the historic 1960 sit-in at the former Woolworth and McCrory's department stores. The event was an extension of the Tambourine and Fan historic linkage project.
Founded in 1969, Tambourine and Fan is a youth organization that teaches young New Orleanians about civil rights and political engagement in addition to staging its annual Super Sunday parade of Mardi Gras Indians.
The Council presented Smith with a Proclamation honoring him for his activities as a Freedom Rider during the civil rights movement and his ongoing dedication to advocating for and mentoring the City's youth.
District "C" Councilmember Ramsey said, "We want to thank you for your commitment to the youth of our City. New Orleans youth are fortunate to have you as their advocate, and we look forward to working with you to improve the City's youth programs."
Established New Regulations Pertaining to For-Hire Vehicles
The Council passed Ordinance Calendar Nos. 30,217 and 30,294, co-authored by Councilmembers Brossett and Williams, pertaining to new regulations for for-hire vehicles.
In a unanimous vote, the Council passed Ordinance Calendar No. 30,294, relative to the operation of credit/debit card acceptance systems within taxicabs. Specifically, the Ordinance allows licensed Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC) holders to petition for approval of alternative credit/debit card systems and provides for a process for the approval or denial of these proposed alternative systems.
In a vote of 4-3, the Council passed Ordinance Calendar No. 30,217 relative to the applicable definitions, operating parameters, CPNC, and establishment of travel rates for limousines. Councilmembers Brossett, Williams, Head and Cantrell voted in support of the Ordinance. Councilmembers Guidry, Ramsey and Gray expressed concerns with the legislation and voted against the Ordinance.
The Ordinance defines "for-hire" vehicles as "any vehicle designed or used for the transportation of passengers for hire, the charges for the use of which are determined by agreement by the length of time the vehicle is engaged, or by distance traveled, or a permissible combination thereof" as provided by the Ordinance.
The Ordinance also establishes:
Additionally, limousine service is defined, pursuant to the Ordinance, as vehicles operating for prearranged hire pursuant to a limousine CPNC. The arrangement can be made directly with the delivery service provider or through a third party (i.e. internet-based software application, guest service desk or concierge desk), prior to pick up and evidenced by a properly completed trip sheet. Limousine drivers are prohibited from picking up passengers who attempt to hail their services from public rights-of-way, and a fine of $500 will be imposed for non-compliance.
- Criteria for classifying luxury for-hire vehicles (including but not limited to stretch limousines, luxury sedans, luxury SUVs, luxury Sprinter Passenger Vans, and luxury mini-buses);
- Removal of the requirement that any limousine must be reserved for a minimum of three hours;
- The provision of certain title and leasing requirements for applicants seeking to obtain CPNCs for limousines; and
- Other regulations pertaining to the booking, reservation and documenting of trips via receipts.
The Ordinance also establishes parameters for rate calculation. Rates charged for for-hire limousine service to or from the New Orleans International Airport shall be no less than $75 per trip for a luxury sedan or $90 for luxury SUV and all other limousines defined by City Code. Fares to others locations can be determined on a flat fee, time usage, distance or mileage basis. In no event shall the total charge be less than $15 for luxury sedans, $25 for luxury SUVs and $45 for all other limousines defined by City Code.
Chair of the Council's Transportation and Airport Committee and District "D" Councilmember Brossett said, "Today was a good step forward for New Orleans. We embraced technology and new ways of doing things. We said in the transportation realm and beyond, we're a forward looking city. But it is important to know that this is just a step. We will continue to look at ways to make our for-hire vehicle code better reflect the 21st century. As the Council Transportation Committee Chairman, I will consistently push our transportation system towards the future. In doing so, I will continue to work with stakeholders and the administration. I thank my colleagues for devoting their time and attention to this very important transportation issue."
Council Vice President Williams said, "This was a good step today. We spent months listening to all sides on this issue. What we passed reflects this. We did two things simultaneously today. We passed the ordinance which will allow companies like Uber Black to operate in New Orleans, and we also took a step to level the playing field for the taxicabs. I heard concerns from cab drivers about the costly fees of the previously mandated credit card systems, and I authored an amendment to the existing taxicab legislation to provide cab drivers and cab companies with an avenue to get approval for cheaper systems."
Council President Head said, "I am pleased that the Council acted on this matter today and that the citizens of New Orleans will now have access to more transportation options. The Administration has committed to strictly enforcing the laws and regulations put in place to regulate transportation app companies such as Uber, and the Council remains committed to taking any necessary steps to support them in those efforts and revisit the regulations as needed."
District "A" Councilmember Guidry said, "For some time, this has not been a discussion of whether or not app-based transportation services will enter our market, but of how we will move forward in a responsible way with technologies that are here to stay. It is clear that this is an issue that we must deal with - and my goal is to ensure that we adopt clear and common-sense policies. Today's ordinance did not adequately address my concerns about public safety and consumer protection."
District "C" Councilmember Ramsey said, "I support advanced technology and its multi-faceted uses in our daily lives, but not at the expense of public safety or local enterprise. The measure passed today fails to regulate the Uber application in a way that will protect passengers and drivers, and puts luxury sedans in the same position as taxicabs, without the same safeguards. The City Council previously implemented regulations that make owning and operating taxicabs very expensive and, at times, unaffordable. I believe these factors will systemically run taxicab drivers out of business, which would be a disservice to the many taxicab drivers working to support their families. My duty and oath is to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public, and I believe that a more comprehensive approach is most appropriate with regard to this matter."
Strengthened City Code Relative to Obstruction of Public Rights-of-Way
The Council adopted Ordinance Calendar No. 30,273, authored by Councilmember Cantrell, to amend and reordain Section 146-493 of the City Code relative to obstruction of public rights-of-way and public places generally, and including specifically Magazine Street, Jackson Square, and the Central Business District.
This section of the City Code is intended to ensure accessibility, safety, and proper maintenance of public streets, sidewalks, and other areas in the City. Specifically, Section 146-493 classifies as an obstruction any tent, household furniture not intended for outdoor use, or semi-permanent structure, which is placed on any public place or rights-of-way, unless lawfully permitted.
Public spaces covered by this portion of the City Code include streets, gutters, sidewalks, and public spaces parallel to sidewalks and building entrances or windows. The use of small-scale, portable outdoor equipment at permitted events shall not be prohibited or prevented by this section of the City Code.
District "B" Councilmember Cantrell said, "This Ordinance is not intended to solve the homeless problem in New Orleans. As we work towards the development of both short and long-term solutions to address homelessness in our City, we must also attend to public safety. We want to make sure that the Code clearly delineates what is permitted and what is not permitted when it comes to the use of public spaces in our City."
Prohibited Long-Term Boat Mooring Along Bayou St. JohnThe Council adopted Ordinance Calendar No. 30,288, authored by Councilmember Guidry, to amend the City Code relative to the mooring and abandonment of boats along Bayou St. John and the bridges that cross it.
Abandoned vessels pose public health and safety risks and can act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes after prolonged rainfall. Boats may also harbor snakes and vermin, and can become dangerous projectiles during severe weather.
The Ordinance suggests amendments to the City Code to:
- Prohibit the mooring or abandoning of boats for longer than 24 hours along Bayou St. John and along the bridges that cross it;
- Establish procedures for the impoundment of boats in violation of the City Code after 48 hours of notice;
- Delineate an impoundment fee of $150.00 and, after the first 24 hours, a storage fee of $10.00 per day of impoundment (total fees, excluding impoundment fee, shall not exceed $250.00 per boat).
District "A" Councilmember Guidry said, "Our Bayou is a beloved public space, enjoyed by so many of our citizens, and it is our collective responsibility to be good stewards. It is my hope that this ordinance will contribute to improved quality of life for all citizens who regularly enjoy the beauty of Bayou St. John."
Recognized New Orleans East Community Activist
The Council recognized Cyndi Nguyen, founder and executive director of VIET (Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training) and fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network, as a neighborhood leader and successful woman in small business. The Council presented Nguyen with a Proclamation in recognition of her numerous accomplishments and citywide initiatives.
Nguyen, a community activist and change agent in New Orleans East, founded VIET in 2001 out of a desire to serve others. The organization is the first statewide nonprofit established to target Vietnamese communities and works "to help mainstream the Vietnamese community into the American society and to bridge the gap as it relates to cultural and language barriers." VIET also develops educational and economic training programs for minority residents of Louisiana.
Under Nguyen's leadership, VIET's core initiatives include the operation of one of the largest summer camps in the City of New Orleans, which serves more than 400 youth ages 3 to 16. VIET also facilitates an after school program for non-English speaking youth and a weekly program for senior citizens. The organization is also working to open an Early Head Start center in Michoud, which would serve as the first center of this sort to open in the area since Hurricane Katrina.
Nguyen is one of 24 community leaders from New Orleans who was recently awarded a three-year fellowship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network, which targets and develops transformative leaders who are dedicated to social change in their communities to help children and families obtain optimal health and well-being, academic achievement and financial security.
Council President Head said, "Cyndi is a dynamic leader in many areas in the City. She pays attention to the needs of the communities she serves and is providing outstanding leadership in areas such as education, youth and personal enrichment, business, and advocacy for Vietnamese communities and non-English speaking individuals. We are honored to have her working in New Orleans East."