Regular Meeting

June 21, 2018 

City Council Chamber

10 a.m., Council Chamber

At today's regular City Council meeting, the Council approved a resolution declaring its opposition to the national "zero tolerance" immigration policy, a motion directing the City Planning Commission (CPC) to conduct a study of small box discount stores, a resolution requesting all Civil Service Commission meetings be held in the Council Chamber, and a resolution expressing support for an outside vendor to monitor fraudulent homestead exemption claims.

Additionally, the Council passed an ordinance to improve the City's blight hearing process, received a presentation on domestic violence prevention, honored the late Judge Joan Bernard Armstrong, and took a moment of silence to remember Felicia Kahn, who passed away earlier this morning.

Tribute to Judge Joan Bernard Armstrong

As today's first special order of business, the Council welcomed Ms. Florence Bernard James to honor the life and legacy of her late sister, Judge Joan Bernard Armstrong, who served as Louisiana's first female judge. Judge Armstrong became the first African-American to serve as chief judge of the state's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal and later served as chief judge of the state's Fourth Circuit appellate court.

Judge Armstrong retired from her position on the bench in 2011 after 37 years, making her the longest-serving judge in the state at the time. In addition to her sister Florence, she is survived by her two children and two grandchildren. Those wishing to pay their respects may attend the funeral service being held this Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Mark Fourth Baptist Church.

The Council with Ms. Florence Bernard James

Council Declares Opposition of Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy

The Council adopted resolution R-18-253 declaring its opposition to the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. As part of this detrimental policy, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their families and placed in detention centers.

Councilmembers-At-Large Jason Williams and Helena Moreno authored the resolution following the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement of the policy earlier this month, which called for the "immediate" prosecution of "all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children."

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to solve the issue of family separation at the border, leaving key components of the zero tolerance policy in place. Shifting from the original plan announced by the DHS, families will now be held together during the process of prosecution and deportation at the border. While this represents part of the Council's request in the resolution adopted today, the Council is still calling upon the Administration for the immediate reunification for those children separated.

"Over the past couple of days, I have faced criticism as I'm sure the Council President has as well, as to why we as New Orleans City Councilmembers are speaking out about this issue," said Council Vice President Moreno. "And my response is, why would we not? The Trump Administration is perpetrating a heartless violation of human rights right here in America. These innocent children are being terrorized in our name, and I simply won't stand for it. This evil must stop immediately, and these children must be reunited with their parents without delay."

Civil Service Commission Meetings to Move to Council Chamber

The Council adopted a resolution requesting that all Civil Service Commission meetings be held in the Council Chamber at City Hall, effective no later than Aug. 1, 2018, to allow greater engagement with the community and address pressing hiring challenges. Meetings of the Commission are currently held on the 9th floor of the Orleans Tower building located at 1340 Poydras Street.

The recent updates to the Council Chamber from the much-needed renovations during the beginning of 2018 have greatly enhanced the space as a public forum for the community. Therefore, it should be utilized by the Commission to more efficiently and transparently perform its vital functions of recruiting and retaining the highest-quality workforce and addressing workforce-related issues within City departments and agencies.

Photo of the newly-renovated Council Chamber courtesy of Gambit

CPC to Study Small Box Discount Stores

The Council passed a motion directing the CPC to conduct a study to appropriately classify, define and regulate "small box discount stores" to ensure greater diversity of food choices within New Orleans communities. This study must take place within 150 days of the passage of this motion, and a public hearing within 90 days.

The number of currently existing small box discount stores exceed twenty in the New Orleans area, many of which are in close proximity. This concentration has been proven to negatively impact the plans of conventional grocery stores that offer fuller and more nutritional choices.

This measure will ensure greater diversity of food choices, increase health benefits, and encourage balanced development in neighborhoods. The CPC will provide recommended use standards as part of the study, including requirements to provide fresh food and limitations on alcohol sales, proper restrictions (spacing and blockface), and recommendations as to the appropriate zoning districts where use is permitted and prohibited.

Council Supports Action Against Fraudulent Homestead Exemptions

The Council adopted a resolution expressing its strong support of the Administration's effort to employ an outside vendor to detect fraudulent, improper, or incorrect homestead exemption claims. Estimates show that the thousands of fraudulent homestead exemptions in New Orleans are resulting in the loss of millions of dollars a year in revenue.

The City of New Orleans issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in November 2017 to acquire an outside vendor to detect fraudulent homestead exemption claims by people who are renting their homes, who claim exemptions on multiple homes, who are not residing in the home on which they are claiming, and/or are otherwise not eligible to claim an exemption.

A Selection Committee convened on Feb. 8, 2018, to review the responses to the RFP and select the most qualified candidate, initiating the process of determining fraudulent homestead exemptions and recoupment of lost tax revenue.

Ordinance to Improve Blight Hearing Process

The Council passed an ordinance, which was initially introduced by District "A" Councilmember Giarrusso on June 7, to improve the blight hearing process. The ultimate goal of the ordinance is to reduce the time it takes to get blighted properties through the adjudication process. The new streamlined process will allow the City to schedule cost hearings and to record liens quicker. The changes do not affect due process or notification requirements, they simply remove the unnecessary delay.

"I introduced this ordinance with the goal of improving our city's blight hearing process," said Councilmember Giarrusso. "I am grateful to have the support of my colleagues today and am confident that New Orleans neighborhoods will see a positive change as a result."

Created on: 6/27/2018 2:48:04 PM | Last updated: 12/27/2018 1:09:53 PM


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