March 17, 2016
City Council Chamber
City Council March 17, 2016 Regular Meeting News Summary
Thursday, March 17, 2016 - New Orleans, LA - At today's Regular Council Meeting, the Council established penalties and provided for the issuance of summons relative to simple possession of marijuana. The Council also discussed a resolution asking the Orleans Parish District Attorney to review youth transfer processes, created contract evaluation report protocols, and recognized the importance of digital literacy skills and access to affordable high speed internet.
In other business, the Council recognized McDonough #35 Choir Director and award winning teacher Veronica Downs-Dorsey, Criminal District Court Judges Arthur Hunter Jr. and Laurie White, New Orleans high school academic standouts Keiana Cavé and Blaine Derbigny, and Hyatt Regency General Manager and philanthropist Michael Smith.
Established Penalties and Provided for the Issuance of Summons Relative to Simple Possession of Marijuana
The Council adopted Ordinance Calendar No. 31,148, authored by Councilmember Guidry, establishing penalties and providing for the issuance of summons in lieu of custodial arrest for simple possession of marijuana and/or synthetic cannabinoids.
Under the ordinance, it is unlawful to possess marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or any derivatives of THC. Penalties for violation are as follows:
- First Conviction: Offender will be fined no more than $40.00.
- Second Conviction: Offender will be fined no more than $60.00.
- Third Conviction: Offender will be fined no more than $80.00.
- Fourth and Subsequent Convictions: Offender will be fined no more $100.00.
The ordinance also establishes penalties for the possession of synthetic cannabinoids:
- First Conviction: The offender will be fined no more than $500.00, confined in parish jail for no more than six months, or both.
- Second Conviction: The offender will be fined no more than $750.00, confined in parish jail for no more than six months, or both.
- Subsequent Conviction: The offender will be fined no more than $1,000.00, confined in parish jail for no more than six months, or both.
Offenses for both marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids will be enforced though court summons as opposed to custodial arrest. Prior violations for marijuana possession that occurred more than two years before the violation shall not be considered a predicate violation.
District "A" Councilmember Guidry said, "Today's Council action represents a step forward towards common sense marijuana law reform. This ordinance allows our police officers to investigate dangerous and egregious crimes rather than spending countless hours booking non- violent offenders. I would like to thank the NOPD, New Orleans citizens and neighborhood groups, and my colleagues on the City Council for their input and support in crafting and passing this ordinance."
Discussed Resolution Asking the Orleans Parish District Attorney to Review Youth Transfer Practices
The Council discussed and received public comment on Resolution No. R-16-91, authored by Councilmember Guidry, asking the Orleans Parish District Attorney to reduce the number of children prosecuted in adult criminal court, re-evaluate current juvenile transfer practices, and use a rigorous and comprehensive screening process before a child is transferred to adult criminal court. After discussion, including a presentation by the Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and public comment, the Council deferred the resolution 60 days. During the discussion, the Council and District Attorney Cannizzaro agreed to convene as a working group to address issues surrounding the youth transfer process.
|DA Cannizzaro speaking before the Council|
District "A" Councilmember Guidry said, "Today the public sent a clear message in support of this resolution. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council and the District Attorney to find common ground while finding a way to reduce the number of children transferred to adult criminal court."
Created Contract Evaluation Report Protocols
The Council adopted Ordinance Calendar No. 30,950, authored by Councilmember Brossett, requiring all Executive Branch offices, departments, boards and agencies that administer contracts for construction or professional services to complete and file at least one evaluation report on work performed by contractors. All evaluation reports must be developed by the Chief Administrative Officer and maintained with the contract award and other compliance documents. The evaluation reports will be provided to selection committees to assist in related future procurements.
District "D" Councilmember Brossett said, "Requiring evaluation reports will assist the City of New Orleans in implementing an effective contract monitoring process that occurs on an on-going basis. The report will be developed by the Chief Administrative Office, and the purpose is to ensure that work performed is measured against the specifications in the contract. A contractor's efficiency and effectiveness as well as their ability to meet performance standards are important data points that the City should monitor."
Honored McDonough #35 Choir Director and Award Winning Teacher Veronica Downs-Dorsey
In recognition of Women's History Month and International Women's Day, the Council honored Veronica Downs-Dorsey, Choir Director at McDonogh High School #35 and an award winning teacher. Ms. Downs-Dorsey has taught choir for the last 35 years. She leads the Voices of St. Peter Claver Church and is a member of Tyrone Foster and the Arc Singers, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Gospel Choir and the Davell Crawford Singers. She received 2015 Trailblazer Award at the NOLA Gospel Awards and is preparing to lead the McDonough #35 Choir at this year's Jazz and Heritage Festival.
|McDonough #35 Choir Dir. Veronica Downs-Dorsey and her daughter, Pinettes Brass Band trumpet player, Veronique Dorsey |
Councilmember-At-Large Stacy Head said, "Ms. Downs-Dorsey's dedication to her students at McDonough #35 is inspirational. She teaches and performs with a passion that is hard to recreate. Her energy can be seen in full force each year at Jazz Fest when she is leading the McDonough #35 Choir or is performing with one of the many other groups she leads. On behalf of the Council, I would like to thank you all of the work you do with the young people of New Orleans."
Recognized Importance of Digital Literacy Skills and Access to Affordable High Speed Internet
The Council passed Resolution No. R-16-89, authored by Councilmembers Ramsey and Williams, recognizing the importance of access to affordable broadband high-speed internet service at home, digital literacy and skills, and the necessary infrastructure in the City of New Orleans. The resolution also calls on a broad coalition of non-profit organizations, businesses, utilities, and government offices to work together to close the widening gap separating those with access to high-speed internet and the skills to use it, from New Orleans' citizens who lack such access and training.
District "C" Councilmember Ramsey said, "The internet continues to revolutionize our ways of communicating, learning, and doing business. It even helps fight crime through linked security cameras and crime apps. Many of us with smartphones in our pockets and laptops at our desks, can too easily forget that over 60% of the households in New Orleans have no access to the internet. This is the digital divide, and it is increasingly hard to imagine a prosperous future for anyone who doesn't have easy access to the internet. They will fall farther and farther behind educationally and economically, and we will see inequality get worse and worse."
Council President and Utilities and Telecommunications Committee Chair Jason Williams said, "It is extremely important that New Orleans invests in creating a reliable and affordable high-speed broadband infrastructure. Access to the internet for all citizens is an important step in ensuring New Orleans' future economic growth and competitiveness. We can expect to see increases in productivity and innovation associated with expanding access to the internet."
Recognized Judge Arthur Hunter Jr. and Judge Laurie White for Efforts to Reduce Recidivism
The Council passed Resolution No. R-16-93 and Resolution No. R-16-94, authored by Councilmember Ramsey, recognizing Criminal District Court Judges Arthur Hunter Jr. and Laurie White, co-founders of the Orleans Re-entry Court Workforce Development Program, for creating innovative approaches to reduce recidivism and being named American Bar Association 2015 Legal Rebels. The Re-Entry Court Workforce Development Program is designed for non-violent repeat offenders who have pleaded guilty to their crimes. Program participants agree to spend a minimum of two years at Angola State Prison, where they are given the opportunity to receive training and certification in heating and air condition systems, auto-mechanics, horticulture, culinary arts and plumbing.
|Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White|
District "C" Councilmember Ramsey said, "Judges Hunter and White are leaders in criminal justice reform. The Re-entry Court Workforce Development Program is just one example of their ability to think outside of the box and create better ways to rehabilitate and reintegrate non-violent offenders."
Recognized New Orleans Academic Standouts Keiana Cavé and Blaine Derbigny
The Council recognized Keiana Cavé, a Lusher High School senior and 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair finalist. Recently, Cavé was able to identify previously unkown toxins that form as sunlight breaks down oil. This finding has led to a greater understanding of the impacts caused by the 2010 BP Oil Spill and is shedding new light on methods to disperse oil after disasters occur. Cavé was awarded $1,500 for her findings at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was also honored by NASA, who renamed asteroid "2000 GD136" to "Keianacave." The asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter and takes 4.5 years to orbit around the sun.
|STEM Nola Founder Dr. Calvin Mackie, Lusher High School senior Keiana Cavé, and St. Augustine High School senior Blaine Derbigny present before the Council|
The Council also recognized Blaine Derbigny, a St. Augustine High School senior, and inventor of the Braille Exploration System (BEST). Developed to assist Derbigny's visualy impaired uncle, BEST is a portable braille labeling device that assists the visually impaired to avoid eating spoiled food and taking expired medication. Both Derbigny and Cavé are finalists in Drew Brees' Trust Your Crazy Ideas and are competing for a grand prize of $10,000 to go towards continuing education. STEM Nola Founder, Dr. Calvin Mackie, joined the students before the Council and outlined how the program brings STEM education opportunities to New Orleans schools and inspires students like Keiana and Blaine.
District "E" Councilmember Gray said, "Keiana and Blaine show they have what it takes to be true academic superstars. Their accomplishments inspire students not only at Lusher High School and St. Augustine High School, but all across New Orleans. They have bright futures and I look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish. I would also like to thank Dr. Calvin Mackie for speaking today and his efforts bringing STEM education to New Orleans students."
Recognized Hyatt Regency General Manager and Philanthropist Michael Smith
District "B" Councilmember Cantrell recognized Michael Smith, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and pioneering New Orleans philanthropist. Michael Smith chairs the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Mayor's Masked Ball Event, which took place on Saturday, March 12. The 2016 Ball brought more than 800 business, civic and education leaders together in support of UNCF's efforts, and raised approximately $856,000 to provide New Orleans students with the resources to earn a college education. Smith also serves on many local boards including, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Audubon Institute, NOLA Business Alliance, Board of Commerce, and the city's Hotel & Lodging Association.
|Councilmembers with New Orleans Hyatt Regency |
General Manager Michael Smith
District "B" Councilmember Cantrell said, "From his generosity during Hurricane Katrina to leading the UNCF Mayor's Masked Ball, raising millions to send deserving students to college, Michael Smith is one of New Orleans' visionary leaders and a true pioneer of philanthropy. On behalf of the entire Council, I would like to thank him for all he has done for the City of New Orleans."