December 05, 2019 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - At yesterday's regular meeting, the City Council held its annual Military Day celebration, adopted a resolution in support of tax exemptions for feminine hygiene and baby products, allowed for the construction of temporary facilities at the Orleans Parish Justice Center for special inmate populations while imposing a hard cap on the total number of inmates, approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of an applicant's salary history in determining starting salaries for City contract positions, authorized a new Interim Zoning District (IZD) to establish height standards in Vieux Carré, and passed an ordinance to facilitate construction of a new Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) substation at the Carrollton Campus.
Additionally, the Council heard a presentation from the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) regarding ongoing issues with the Algiers Ferry, recognized Judge Monique Morial for her accomplishments as the first female president of the Sugar Bowl with a proclamation by Councilmember Jared Brossett, and honored Ashé Cultural Arts Center Co-Founder and Executive Director Carol Bebelle on her years of service and community involvement.
RTA spokespersons and Algiers business owners presenting to the Council (left) and Ashé Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Carol Bebelle with the Council (right) during yesterday's meeting
Annual Military Appreciation Day Recognizes Local Heroes
As the first special order of business yesterday, the Council hosted nearly 200 servicemen and women in celebration of Military Day. The Mayor's Military Advisory Committee (MMAC) Chairman Major General David Mize provided an overview of the organization's 2019 Annual Report.
Following Major General Mize's presentation, the Council heard operations updates from local senior military officials including General William Souza (Marine Forces Reserve), General Greg Parker (Louisiana National Guard), General Bowman Bowles (U.S. Army Reserve), Captain Kristi Luttrell (U.S. Coast Guard and first female Captain of the Port of New Orleans), Captain Anthony F. Scarpino (Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base), Colonel Stephen Murphy (Army Corps of Engineers), Colonel Matt Rippen (Louisiana Air National Guard), Commander Larry Jones, and more.
The presentations highlighted various support programs offered to local service members and veterans, the economic and social benefits associated with local military organizations, and the retention and growth of military bases throughout the New Orleans area. To conclude the celebration, the Council received a performance from the Marine Forces Reserve Band Quintet.
Major General Mize presenting an overview of the MMAC 2019 Annual Report (left) and senior military officials with the Council (right)
Council Urges State Legislature to Support Tax Exemptions for Feminine Products
Following last month's "Tampon Tax Protest," the Council adopted Resolution R-19-497 by President Helena Moreno, urging the Louisiana State Legislature to champion legislation that would end local taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers. As one of her first official orders of business, State Representative-elect Aimee Adatto Freeman will introduce a bill to allow local governments to pass tax exemptions on the products. Freeman's legislation will mirror a bill championed by State Senator JP Morrell during the 2019 legislative session, which advanced through the Senate but ultimately failed to become law.
"Many women in our city and across our state have to make tough choices in order to make ends meet, and we should do everything we can to make these basic necessities accessible to everyone," said City Council President Helena Moreno. "No mother should have to choose between buying food or diapers for their babies, and none of our girls should have to miss school because they don't have tampons or sanitary pads."
"How we treat this issue reflects how we think about women and families in our state," said State Senator JP Morrell, who introduced similar bills several times that failed pass before he was term-limited out of his seat in the Legislature. "We've established in our state Constitution that we do not tax items that people need; and tampons, pads, and diapers are clearly items that people need."
"As a mother and a woman, I am proud to announce that one of the first bills I author will be to empower local governments to end local taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers. It is unfair that state and local governments tax these products as "luxury items" rather than necessities that are not taxed, like prescriptions," said Freeman, who was recently elected State Representative for District 98 in New Orleans.
The resolution unanimously adopted yesterday affirms the Council's support of Freeman's bill to protect those individuals and families already experiencing financial instability from further risk due to access and affordability issues surrounding these products.
Council Approves Zoning Change for Orleans Justice Center
The Council provided modified approval for Zoning Docket No. 105/19 which moves towards permanently housing inmates of the Orleans Justice Center who are classified with acute and sub-acute mental health conditions. It represents an important compromise that permits the Sheriff to provide the space required to house certain populations of inmates, but does not allow for the number of inmates to increase. By reducing the permitted prison population from 1438 beds to 1250 inmates, this brings the city closer to the goal of the MacArthur grant: 998 inmates by the end of 2020.The Council approved Zoning Docket No. 105/19, which moves towards permanently housing inmates of the Orleans Justice Center who are classified with acute and sub-acute mental health conditions.
This Council's compromise also ensures that the Orleans Justice Center's Temporary Detention Center can dedicate space and provide a safe environment for the men and women who cannot be placed within the jails' regular population. While this doesn't require a retrofit, it doesn't preclude it. This allows the City to continue planning for the humane, constitutionally-appropriate permanent housing of inmates with acute and sub-acute mental health conditions.
Orleans Justice Center
Photo courtesy opcso.org
Council Prohibits Use of Salary History in Determining Starting Incomes for City Contract Positions
The Council approved Ordinance 32,792 prohibiting City contractors and subcontractors from relying upon salary histories of applicants to determine starting salaries for City-contracted employment positions. According to a 2015 report, women in Louisiana are paid only sixty-one cents for each dollar paid to men, which represents the largest gender earnings disparity of any state in the country. Oftentimes, when employers make salary decisions during the hiring process based on prospective candidates' current or past salaries, women applicants end up at a significant disadvantage.
This ordinance will help mitigate these historical patterns of gender bias and discrimination, which have caused women to earn less than their male counterparts. This initiative represents ongoing efforts by the Council to ensure all members of the City's workforce are fairly and appropriately compensated based upon their performance and merit, rather than their gender, race, ethnicity, or prior earnings. This new requirement will allow the local government of New Orleans to set a positive example for other job providers in the city by encouraging them to acknowledge and help eliminate the gender wage gap.
New Height Standards Established with Creation of Vieux Carré IZD
The Council approved Motion M-19-498 creating the Vieux Carré Height IZD to establish temporary maximum building height standards within the designated boundaries of the district in order to study and determine the appropriate allowance moving forward. Per the motion, the existing height allowance of 50 ft. is not keeping with the historic development pattern of the Vieux Carré neighborhood, particularly in the low-scale, predominantly residential areas. These temporary zoning regulations will modify maximum building heights to remedy this issue and preserve patterns of development while further study is underway. The requirements outlined as part of the approved IZD will be in effect for one year, subject to extension as provided by the City Charter.
Applications to appeal this new IZD may be submitted to the Executive Director of the Vieux Carré Commission, whose staff will then review and make recommendations within 60 days of receipt.
Vieux Carré (French Quarter District) Neighborhood
Photo courtesy TripAdvisor.com
Council Approves Construction of New S&WB Power Station at Carrollton
The Council approved Ordinance 32,860 to facilitate the construction of a new S&WB Electric Substation or "Power Plant" at its Carrollton Campus. The Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) between the Mayor, City of New Orleans, and S&WB allows for the administration and execution of the State Capital Outlay grant for the new power plant, outlining the City as the responsible grantee of the funding while S&WB handles the actual building and final use of the facility.
Sewage & Water Board Carrollton Campus
Photo courtesy New Orleans Advocate
Food Policy Advisory Committee Re-Authorized for Additional Year
The Council adopted Resolution R-19-501 re-establishing the Food Policy Advisory Committee for an additional year to provide recommendations and advise the Council on food and farming initiatives. The committee was created in 2007 to address various community needs involving food security and food access and was re-instated by the Council in August 2018 in light of growing concerns.
According to the resolution, research continues to indicate that lower-income New Orleans communities are disproportionately affected by health-related diseases due to the lack of access to affordable, healthy food options. Poor nutrition, particularly among children, can lead to a host of physical, behavioral and developmental risks that can lead to serious, long-term issues relative to health, cognitive ability, mental growth, and academic performance.
The Food Policy Advisory Committee will allow the Council to continue its work to address this critical need, increase access to nutritional foods for low-income families in the city and support the food and farming industries to create jobs, opportunities and increased personal wealth. The committee will consist of a diverse group of representatives from the agricultural, public health, retail, and food distribution industries.
Photo cortest nolafoodpolicy.org