October 17, 2019 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - At today's regular meeting, the City Council received an executive address from Mayor LaToya Cantrell and City staff on the proposed Capital and Operating Budgets for 2020, established requirements for hiring standards and the issuing of City contracts, approved the creation of a Nonprofit Parcel Fees Task Force, received a report from the Children and Youth Planning Board (CYPB) on childhood trauma, and approved measures to mitigate the accumulation of criminal justice debt from traffic fines and minor violations.
Additionally, the Council voted in favor of several recommendations contained in the "Small Box Retail Diversity Study," passed a series of ordinances to facilitate the construction of citywide parks and playground improvements, approved the proposed HANO residential development in Bywater and appointed Dr. Michael McKnight as its new Assistant Fiscal Officer. The Council also held moments of silence for all those who lost their lives in the tragic Hard Rock Hotel collapse and esteemed Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, who passed away earlier this morning.
Mayor Cantrell and City staff presenting their proposed 2020 budgets at the start of today's meeting
Mayor Cantrell and City officials attended today's meeting to present their proposed 2020 Capital and Operating Budgets for the City of New Orleans. The Mayor presented her strategic framework - Forward Together - which was developed in an effort to prioritize the issues that matter most to New Orleanians. That framework includes public safety as public health, investing in infrastructure, quality of life, economic development, and the notion that good governance is inclusive governance.
The presentation touched on several budget propositions, including the following partial roll forward:
The presentation also noted key increases and potential General Fund Expenditures currently under review for 2020, including:
- NOPD: Additional 27 personnel, additional funding for recruiting, 5K hiring bonus = $2.0M
- NOFD: Reach full complement of 48 superintendent and executive office staff members; award education benefits = $1.9M
- NOEMS: and Health Department Additional 8 personnel; funding to cover positions paid for by expired grants = $1.3M
- New Orleans Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness: City Hall security contract; Motorola contract; $500K set aside to be immediately available during emergencies $1.2M
- Juvenile Justice Intervention Center: Additional 8 personnel; moving facility security in-house; increased medical costs = $841K
- NORDC: Provides funding for summer programming = $800K
- Sheriff: Operations and medical services = $3M to $6M
- Juvenile Justice Intervention Center: Phase II of the planned expansion = $3M to $3.5M
- Hard Rock Hotel Collapse: Personnel, over-time, and equipment costs accrued during the emergency = Unknown
"This year's tax assessment process has been extremely burdensome and complicated, and we recognize that," said District "D" Councilmember and Budget Chair Jared Brossett. "I want the public to know that this is at the forefront of my mind as we go through this budget process. It is my hope that both they and this Council will receive a thorough financial plan going forward that takes these burdens and others our city is facing, such as infrastructure and affordable housing, into account. I Iook forward to working closely alongside the Mayor, my colleagues and the residents of this city as we embark on this process."
The Council will now hold a series of Budget Hearings to receive presentations from departments and organizations currently receiving City funding prior to its regular meeting to adopt the 2020 Budgets on Thursday, Nov. 21. The first Budget Hearing is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 28, at 9 a.m.
To view today's full budget presentation, click here.
Council Authorizes New Requirements and Hiring Standards for City Contracts
The Council passed three ordinances establishing several new requirements regarding hiring standards and the issuing of City contracts. Ordinance 32,724 expands the application of the Hire NOLA program to any project that is funded through the Infrastructure Maintenance Fund. Under the current law, Hire NOLA applies to any public works project valued at greater than $150,000 or to any Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) valued at greater than $150,000. For these projects funded with public dollars, contractors have to use the best efforts to employ local workers. The new law will require any project funding through the Infrastructure Maintenance Fund to comply with the Hire NOLA rules.
Ordinance 32,725 requires that any third party who is awarded a City contract and fails to fulfill its contractual obligations, reimburse those funds to the City. This change will maximize the City's ability to recover economic benefits and hold those who receive taxpayer dollars accountable. Ordinance 32,745 prohibits the City from inquiring into the salary history of any person applying for a classified or unclassified position with the City of New Orleans; prohibits the City from relying upon the salary histories of applicants for City positions to determine starting salaries (with limited exceptions), and provides enforcement measures of these prohibitions. This ordinance is an important step toward addressing one of the factors that perpetuate gender pay inequality in New Orleans.
Nonprofit Parcel Fees Task Force Created to Advise the Council on Taxation Matters
The Council approved Motion M-19-386 establishing a Nonprofit Parcel Fees Task Force to advise and provide recommendations to the Council on the feasibility of a parcel fee for properties exempt from ad valorem taxation. The advisory committee will consist of nine members appointed as follows:
- One member will serve as an appointee of the Mayor
- One member will serve as an appointee of the Chief Administrative Office
- Seven members will be appointed by the Council
Each appointee to the Task Force shall represent nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations from universities, churches and religious affiliates, schools, hospitals, labor organizations, Mardi Gras and Social Aid and Pleasure clubs, museums, and any other tax-exempt philanthropic entities. All appointees will be confirmed by Council motion.
"This task force represents yet another important step toward greater review and oversight regarding tax exemptions to ensure the City receives revenue that is legally-owed and that the tax burden is equitably shared across New Orleans," said Council President Helena Moreno. "We must use every tool to make New Orleans a more affordable place to live and work."
Council Takes Steps to Alleviate Criminal Justice Debt from Traffic Violations
The Council passed an ordinance and corresponding resolution amending the City Code relative to the imposition and collection of fines and urging municipal and traffic court judges to forgive criminal justice debt for those without the financial means to provide payment.
Ordinance 32,776 amends the way the City imposes and collects fines, explicitly mandates the ability to pay determinations, and rescinds Section 50-108 relative to release from imprisonment upon payment. Only municipal court judges will have the authority to impose a fine or penalty upon conviction in municipal court, and no fine will be imposed without the judge conducting a thorough assessment of whether or not the defendant can afford to pay. If a defendant is found unable to pay the designated fine, the judge will consider alternative, non-financial sanctions.
Resolution R-19-370 urges municipal and traffic court judges to forgive unconstitutionally-assessed criminal justice debt and nullify outstanding warrants. Per the approved resolution, at least 45,557 individuals are at risk for possible arrest and unable to pass background checks to secure employment due to outstanding warrants from New Orleans' Municipal and Traffic Courts. The resolution calls upon the Administration to provide these entities and their staff with the necessary tools to facilitate a comprehensive warrant, fine and fee forgiveness program, preferably within the next three months.
These measures represent the Council's ongoing commitment to promoting the welfare of all New Orleanians, particularly those who have historically been denied equal access to economic prosperity, to address destructive cycles of poverty and incarceration in the city.
Proposed Bywater HANO Development to Move Forward
The Council approved Motion M-19-213 supporting the planned development and construction of a new mixed-income housing development located at 4100 Royal Street. The planned development for the site, which is newly available under the City's inclusionary zoning laws, will provide 82 affordable units in a high opportunity neighborhood.
"Since May, future residents of the site, housing advocates, the developer, and neighbors met four times and presented a final report to City Planning Commission with their recommendations," said Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. "I want to thank all parties for their thoughtful work, making provisions and creating a project that is better poised for long-term success in the Bywater."
The site of the proposed HANO housing complex in Bywater courtesy of NOLA.com
Council Approves Initiatives to Limit Proliferation of Small Box Retail Stores
The Council approved Zoning Docket 78/19, which amends the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) to limit Small Box Retail proliferation throughout New Orleans.
The "Small Box Retail Diversity Study" was commissioned in June 2018 to address discount stores in close proximity that fail to offer fresh fruits and vegetables and negatively impact the plans of conventional grocery stores. The study identified 36 small box stores in New Orleans and 12 in District "E" with only three grocery stores in the district.
"Residents across my district have expressed their wants and needs for greater diversity of retail shopping choices and balanced development," said Councilmember Nguyen. "We are proud to announce the approval of this zoning docket, which addresses residents' concerns by establishing density and litter abatement requirements for small box retail stores throughout the city."
In summary, this zoning change will accomplish the following:
- Prohibits a small box store from opening within 2 miles of another in New Orleans East and the Westbank, and prohibits opening within 1 mile of another store in all other areas of the city;
- Gives incentives for grocery stores to move into District "E" by allowing 5,000 extra square feet of floor area for any store located on Chef Menteur Highway, Hayne Boulevard, Downman Road, or Morrison Road;
- Requires one trash can per 30 feet of store frontage and daily litter cleanup on the public right of way; and
Prohibits outside storage except for ice and propane tanks.
CYPB Task Force Presents Findings on Childhood Trauma
The Council received a report from members of the CYPB Task Force, including CYPB Executive Director Karen Evans, Founder & CEO of the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies Dr. Denese Shervington, and Assistant Professor at Southern University Dr. Torin Sanders, with their strategy regarding childhood trauma in New Orleans. In August 2018, the Council adopted Resolution R-18-344, calling for the creation of a one-year task force to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce the occurrence and impact of trauma on children and families within the City of New Orleans.
The final report presented today includes the task force's recommendations on reducing the effects of trauma on New Orleans youth and providing them the tools and opportunities needed to find lifelong success. Titled "Called to Care," the report includes a comprehensive plan and strategies for the prevention of trauma, proper assessment of childhood trauma, and effective intervention to help children and families heal. To view the report in its entirety, click here.
"This work is so important for our city. If we do this right and invest more into our children and intervention services, we'll have fewer people in jail, and pay far less as taxpayers. This report is a tremendous step in the right direction for our youth, but to ensure it becomes more than just another report, we need an actionable plan for its implementation. We must continue to fund this work - and grow it - because we're only just getting started. This government is finally seeing New Orleans children as its responsibility, and we will remain committed to them throughout this budget process," said Council Vice President Jason Williams.