August 10, 2017
City Council Chamber
City Council Regular Meeting News Summary August 10, 2017
NEW ORLEANS - At today's meeting, the Council heard presentations from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Jeff Hebert and Jared Munster with the City of New Orleans on the recent flood event. The Council also heard presentations from the Bethel Colony Transformation Ministry and the New Orleans Vet Center.
Additionally, the Council passed an ordinance to establish a "rainy day" savings fund, approved a resolution on Entergy reliability, authorized the removal of prohibition against taxicab vehicles operating as Transportation Network Company (TNC) vehicles, and approved a zoning change to create a new Cultural Arts District.
Council Receives Updates on Flood Response from Mayor Landrieu and Other City Officials
Following an emergency press conference today and meeting at the Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB), the Council asked Mayor Mitch Landrieu to attend the meeting and speak on last night's power station outages and turbine failures as well as the Administration's current efforts to address the threat of future flooding.
The Mayor said that as long as Entergy's power holds, the City will currently have enough to handle a typical rain event. However, in the nature of caution, given the current forecast and the immediacy of how quickly the last rain event came up, he wanted to report to the Council and to the City that this potential problem exists. Mayor Landrieu noted that he did not want the City to panic, but to give them as much notice and transparency as possible. He urged residents in all of the potentially affected areas to move their vehicles to elevated areas and exercise necessary caution. At this time, nothing will impact the sewer services or water for the City and crews remain on-site and are working to restore power to the broken turbine.
The Mayor told the Council that the City currently has 14 2-megawatt turbines en route to New Orleans, which is what he has been advised are needed to endure hurricane season. Those will stay throughout hurricane season or until the remainder of the turbines turn back on. Landrieu has urged the S&WB to take serious steps and serious action to authorize emergency procurement to fix these broken pumps, which they have done per his request at this morning's meeting. He also asked them to conduct an independent analysis both short-term and long-term so that all may have the necessary information to make sure a system is created capable of protecting us with the resources that we have.
"I am not happy, as you are not happy, and rightly so about the misinformation that we received in an untimely fashion," said Mayor Landrieu. "It overshadowed all that was done, which from a first responders perspective, was pretty incredible. It is maddening to try to have to peel out of individuals what the truth is. As a consequence, I took some very bold action in terms of leadership changes. This is not our City's finest moment, but it will not define who we are. We all have a lot to do in this area to restore public trust but the most important thing right now is to secure the City."
The Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, August 8, to receive updates on the flooding that seriously impacted much of the City throughout the weekend. The final presentation of that special meeting from Jeff Hebert and Jared Munster of the City of New Orleans was postponed to today's regularly scheduled meeting to allow time for public comment. Following the Mayor's address, Hebert and Munster gave their presentation to the Council on the City's response to last weekend's flood event.
Ordinance Passed to Establish "Rainy Day" Savings Fund
The Council heard a presentation and passed Ordinance Cal. No. 31,958 to call an election that would amend the Home Rule Charter of New Orleans in order to establish a Savings Fund that could only be used under certain conditions such as a declared emergency, or a severe economic downturn.
The ordinance states that the savings fund will serve as an operating fund of the City, and requires that five percent of the five-year average of actual general fund expenditures be appropriated by the City Council and deposited into said savings fund to be used only upon two-thirds vote of its membership when one or more of the following conditions have been met:
A City Council declaration of emergency due to act of God, riot, war, or a grave emergency which threatens widespread loss of life or grievous injury to health or property;
A City Council determination that a significant loss in City revenues due to an economic downturn of serious proportions has occurred or is occurring; and/or
A mandate by the United States Government that has been determined by the City Attorney to be in accordance with law.
Jeff Hebert, Chief Administrative and Resilience Officer for the City of New Orleans, presented to the Council and answered additional questions regarding the fund. Per his presentation, the money would not be taken from any existing sources of revenue given the approximately $60 million fund balance that exists already.
"We have a woefully inadequate source of funding for drainage, which is why we can only afford to fix and not redesign and replace our current system," said Councilmember-At-Large Stacy Head. "While spending money on increased tourism efforts through the CVB or NOTMC are great and important, none of that really matters if our City is underwater. This money will help us ensure that doesn't happen."
For example, Hebert said that having this fund would have allowed the City to help with immediate and ongoing disaster recovery assistance following the tornado that damaged thousands of homes and businesses this past February.
New Orleans Vet Center Presentation
Today, James Jones and Gwyn Meredith of the New Orleans Vet Center presented to the Council detailing their work offering mental health services to combat veterans as well as bereavement counseling, family counseling and counseling for victims of sexual assault.
"We know first-hand the challenges that veterans face on a daily basis as far as receiving assistance with homelessness, mental health, and more," said James. "I'm a combat veteran myself, having served as a member of the army in the Persian Gulf, so I know how much red tape exists and how complicated and discouraging it can be to receive the help. With that, who else can provide a better service to a veteran other than a veteran?"
Zoning Change Approved to Establish a CBD-3 Cultural Arts District
The Council approved Zoning Docket No. 46/17 requesting a zoning change from a CBD-5 Urban Core Neighborhood Lower Intensity Mixed-Use District to a CBD-3 Cultural Arts District bounded by Calliope Street, Dryades Street, Howard Avenue, and Camp Street. This will promote commercial development of the neighborhood and increased safety.
Currently inactive, this zoning change will help generate projects like Art Walk and other new business endeavors in the area and give this space purpose. Additionally, it will help support nearby adjacent cultural facilities like the WWII museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center.
The Art Walks that take place throughout the City each month represent one of the best ways to enjoy the visual arts in New Orleans. The proposed Art Walk in this area will bring people together here and provide opportunities to see the latest art exhibits and installations by local and national artists.
"This will deliberately and definitely bridge cultures, create an open dialogue, and mutual respect between the communities," said one resident who gave public comment.
Council Approves Entergy Reliability Resolution
The Council unanimously approved Resolution R-17-427, authored by District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett, which establishes a docket for the Council's investigation of Entergy New Orleans' (ENO) outages and reliability performance, distribution O&M staffing and scheduling, and the establishment of minimum reliability standards for ENO going forward.
"This resolution is the result of ongoing and tireless efforts by myself and my fellow Councilmembers to improve the reliability of service in District "D" and throughout the entire City," said Councilmember Brossett. "This represents an important step in addressing customer concerns and ultimately creating a more efficient and advantageous system."
Taxicab Measures Approved
In another matter, the Council amended the Municipal Code to remove the prohibition against taxicab vehicles operating as Transportation Network Company (TNC) vehicles.
Since allowing TNC's to operate, such as Uber and Lyft, taxicab drivers have been concerned with losses in income. By removing the prohibition on taxis operating as TNC vehicles, taxicab drivers will be able to supplement their income. Both taxi drivers and the taxicab industry representatives were supportive of the changes.