May 04, 2017
City Council Chamber
City Council Regular Meeting News Summary May 4, 2017
NEW ORLEANS - At today's meeting, the Council received a presentation from Dr. Tammy Lewis Milborn in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, honored the Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) track team, recognized the University of New Orleans (UNO) men's basketball team, and passed an ordinance approving the redevelopment of Duncan Plaza
Additionally, the Council passed a resolution condemning the incarceration of crime victims and instated Councilmember-at-Large Jason Williams as City Council president.
Presentation in Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month
Today, Dr. Tammy Lewis Milborn gave a presentation to the Council on trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT) in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. TF-CBT is a conjoint child and parent psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events.
"As a community and as a City we must do all we can to help our neighbors who are suffering," said District "C" Councilmember Ramsey. "In New Orleans, we see mental health issues every single day. We have suffered so many tragedies, from natural disasters to violence, which adversely affect the mental health of so many of our citizens. I'm so grateful to welcome Dr. Milborn today to shed light on this important issue so that we can continue to work together as a community in overcoming mental illness."
The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month, which began May 1, is to highlight and reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic distress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders among others.
Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) Track Team Honored by the Council
As the second order of business today, the Council received a presentation recognizing the success of the SUNO track team at the 2017 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Johnson City, TN. Since its founding in 1956, the SUNO track team has been awarded seven national championships.
Each of the young men and women who came before the Council maintained no less than a 3.0 GPA, and collectively, the team averaged a 3.5 GPA.
Jahnoy Thompson placed first in his field in the 200 meters and 400 meters and was named the Most Valuable Player at this year's National Championships. A sophomore majoring in business, Thompson is the first SUNO athlete to earn this title in university history.
"This team has proven itself to be equally formidable in the classroom as it is on the track," said District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett. "We're honored to have each one of you here with us today as exceptional examples of what the young people in our community can accomplish with commitment and hard work."
University of New Orleans (UNO) Men's Basketball Team Recognized for 2016-2017 Season Achievements
The Council also heard from the UNO men's basketball team in recognition of their phenomenal 2016-2017 Championship season and appearance in the 2017 NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 years.
Having overcome the effects of Hurricane Katrina along with the unpopular move and later reversal of the entire athletic program to Division II, the Privateers recorded one of their best seasons to date becoming Southland Conference men's basketball regular-season and tournament champions.
Council Approves Redesign of Duncan Plaza
An ordinance was approved authorizing the Mayor to enter into a 20-year Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between the City and the Downtown Development District (DDD) in order to redesign, redevelop and operate the public space located across from City Hall.
Having gone largely unused for 60 years, Duncan Plaza will receive an estimated $5 million redesign in an effort to make the park a more vibrant and modern downtown green space.
Following this redevelopment, the park will be utilized for events such as concerts, outdoor movie screenings, and community fairs while continuing to serve as a space for public demonstrations, given its proximity to City Hall.
Resolution Passed Condemning Incarceration of Crime Victims
The Council voted to pass a resolution, introduced by Councilmember Williams, urging the Orleans Parish District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, to end the incarceration of domestic violence and sex crime victims on material witness warrants.
On April 27, Court Watch NOLA presented its annual report to the Criminal Justice Committee. The report provides an analysis of aggregate trends in the Orleans Parish criminal justice system through an examination of the various actors and procedures involved in subject cases. One section of the report included data on the number of victims of sexual and domestic violence that the District Attorney jails to try and force to testify.
"Material witnesses are not automatically by law given a lawyer, and there are cases where these individuals, having never committed a crime, are sitting in jail without representation," said Councilmember-at-Large Jason Williams. "Not only does this discourage people from calling the police but it's deeply inhumane."
The resolution states that there is a significant precedent for making this change, as district attorneys in other jurisdictions have discontinued issuing material witness warrants for all victims.
"Prison isn't always the answer. We need to look at the research and closely examine the data on every issue related to the criminal justice system," said District "E" Councilmember James Gray. "We can't just say that we're tough on crime if our behavior consistently shows otherwise. We need to change the habits of our community and pay attention to our research, which shows jailing is not always the solution."
Councilmember Jason Williams Elected Council President
Two motions were passed by the Council to elect Councilmember-at-Large Jason Williams as President and Councilmember-at-Large Stacy Head as Vice President for the term beginning May 5, 2017, and ending May 7, 2018.