July 16, 2020 10:00 AM
REGULAR MEETING OF NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL
[Physically posted on July 13, 2020 at 2:20 p.m.]
The New Orleans City Council will conduct its next regular meeting via teleconference only on July 16, 2020 at 10:00 AM.
The meeting may be accessed using the following methods:
Live Stream of Meeting: https://council.nola.gov/home/
Live Television Broadcast: Cox Cable Channel 6 in Orleans Parish
Copies of the agenda are available at https://council.nola.gov
Because of the unprecedented logistical and public health challenges presented by COVID-19, public comment will proceed as follows:
- Only written public comment will be allowed. Live comment will not be permitted.
- At the beginning of the meeting, the moderator will read aloud the entire agenda. If the agenda includes a matter on which a vote is to be taken, the meeting will recess for 30 minutes so that members of the public may provide written public comment on any agenda item. If no vote is to be taken, public comment criteria may be modified by the presiding officer.
- Public comments should be submitted electronically using the E-public comment form available at https://council.nola.gov. Only fully completed online forms will be considered.
- No member of the public may submit more than one written comment per agenda item.
- Before the Council votes on an agenda item, a moderator will read into the record all comments pertaining to that item that have been submitted in accordance with these rules.
- Comments will be read aloud in a normal speaking voice. The moderator will discontinue reading a comment once it exceeds two minutes.
Any person seeking accommodation as a result of a disability or other circumstance should contact Council Chief of Staff Paul Harang at email@example.com.
This meeting is being conducted remotely pursuant to the authority conferred by Gubernatorial Proclamation 84 JBE 2020. In accordance with 84 JBE 2020, Sec. 2(C), this notice shall constitute a certification by the City Council that meeting by teleconference is necessary because of the social distancing mandates imposed by the Governor and the Mayor of the City of New Orleans and that the Council will be otherwise be unable to operate due to the quorum requirements of La. R.S. 42:19 – insofar as they mandate the physical presence of Councilmembers in one location.
In accordance with Act No. 302 of the 2020 Regular Session, the presiding officer hereby certifies that the meeting agenda is limited to one or more of the matters set forth in La. R.S. 42:17.1(A)(2)(a)-(c).
This notice and the accompanying agenda are being provided in accordance with La. R.S. 42:19(A)(1)(b)(iv).
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NEW ORLEANS - During today's regular meeting, the Council passed two ordinances appropriating funds for early childhood education, amended the City Code relative to for-hire vehicle coverage, approved Entergy New Orleans' request to implement a 2020/2021 winter heating season gas hedging program, passed a redevelopment plan for the former Holiday Inn on Chef Menteur Highway, adopted a resolution to streamline reporting requirements for Entergy and approved a measure to clean up blighted and abandoned payphones.
Funding Measures Approved for Early Childhood Education
The Council approved two ordinances allocating funds from Intergovernmental transfers to help support early childhood education initiatives across the city. Early childhood education is an essential building block for a child's cognitive and social development. Studies repeatedly show that birth to eight years marks the fastest period for brain development. As a result, the Council has quadrupled the City's investment in early childhood education from $750,000 in 2017 to $1.5 million in 2018, to an unprecedented $3 million for early childhood education in 2020.
Fulfilling the commitment made last year, Budget Committee Chair and District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett authored the two ordinances approved today appropriating an additional $1.5 million to the Office of Youth and Families for early childhood education, following the initial appropriation of $1.5 million in late 2019, and resulting in a total investment of $3 million for the fiscal year 2020.
The funding will be used to support a new pilot program, City Seats, which provides free childcare to families at or near the poverty line. The program not only provides at least 150 spots; it also includes access to support services that further facilitate early education success.
"As Budget Chair, I recognize that the current need for affordable childcare far exceeds the available funding," said Councilmember Brossett. "I am committed to continuing to push my colleagues and the Administration to maintain and expand early childhood education. Until quality, affordable education is accessible to every single child in New Orleans, it must remain a top priority."
Children and staff at the Hoffman Early Education Center in New Orleans via NOLA.com
Entergy to Implement Gas Hedging Program to Reduce Price Volatility in Winter Months
The Council adopted Resolution R-20-224 approving ENO's request to implement a 2020/2021 winter heating season gas hedging program. In response to extreme price volatility in the natural gas market during the 2000/2001 winter heating season, the Council sought to provide ENO's local gas distribution system ratepayers protection against similar unpredictable gas prices in the future. Based on a recommendation from ENO, the Council authorized the utility to implement a hedging program designed to protect its local gas distribution system by entering into financial contracts that lock in the price of natural gas for agreed-upon quantities during the winter months. While hedging does not guarantee lower prices, it does reduce price volatility.
On May 18, 2020, ENO filed an updated report to the Council, stating that in the absence of some level of protection, unforeseeable price spikes could lead to increased customer bills in the coming year. Upon thorough review of the data provided in ENO's report and guidance from the Council's Technical Advisors, the Council has approved the continuation of the hedging program allowing ENO to hedge no more than 25 percent of its actual winter heating volumes for the 2019/2020 season.
Council Addresses Blight with Passage of Redevelopment Plan for Holiday Inn on Chef Menteur Highway
The Council passed Zoning Docket 51/20, approving a conditional use to permit the redevelopment of the "Caveman" Hotel located at 6324-6400 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East. This zoning change will facilitate the transformation of the former Holiday Inn, bringing the blighted property back into commerce after fifteen years of vacancy.
The structure, which was built in the 1960s and opened as a Holiday Inn in 1969, is one of the first buildings seen from the Interstate when crossing the Industrial Canal into New Orleans East. Situated in plain view of the Interstate, it has become a canvas for large-scale graffiti that now characterizes the derelict hotel more commonly known as the "Caveman" in reference to the large sprawling graffiti letters covering the entire facade.
The building will be renovated using Historic Tax Credits with commercial space on the first floor and 144 one-bedroom apartments on the remaining eight floors. The applicant will remodel the entire structure while maintaining the original "Holiday Inn" style and facade and plans to install new green and open space and modify the parking area to incorporate stormwater management and landscape features.
The approval of this zoning docket represents a huge win for New Orleans East and specifically, Chef Menteur Highway, which is in great need of additional commercial and residential uses throughout the area.
Exterior photo of the blighted property along Chef Menteur Highway
Updates to For-Hire Vehicle Coverage Policies
The Council approved Ordinance 33,036 amending the City Code relative to for-hire vehicle coverage amounts to reduce minimum insurance policy requirements for non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) and non-taxicabs.
The ordinance updates the following under Section 162-287:
Non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) - $25,000 to satisfy all claims for damages from any one accident
Non-taxicabs licensed to carry 9 to 15 passengers - $1.5 million combined single limit from any one accident
Non-taxicabs licensed to carry over 15 passengers - $5 million combined single limit from any one accident
Council Takes Step to Address Abandoned Payphones
The Council approved Motion M-20-222 by Utilities Committee Chair Helena Moreno to finally clean up blighted and abandoned payphones in New Orleans neighborhoods. A major payphone franchise holder allowed their franchise - or "right" to place their equipment on City property - to expire last September. Today, the Council took a large step moving to direct the City to clean up this blight.
"Payphones may have gone extinct, but their infrastructure still mars the public right-of-way throughout the city. Their presence communicates a deficit of concern for the neighborhoods within which they exist. Forgotten and abandoned public infrastructure only serves to degrade the quality of life for our communities," said Councilmember Moreno. "But we can do something about it."
To make the process as cost-effective as possible, the motion directs the City to remove the payphone kiosks when consistent with ongoing maintenance through programs such as "Clean-up NOLA" and other initiatives. Additionally, it directs the City to coordinate a plan amongst City agencies to remove this blight in a systematic way.
The legislation was inspired by the work of citizen activists, including Mr. Michael Burnside, a Central City resident responsible for cataloging many of these abandoned kiosks.
Examples of blighted payphones via Councilmember Moreno's office
Docket Established to Streamline Entergy Reporting Requirements
The Council adopted Resolution R-20-223, which establishes a docket to streamline reporting requirements and an accompanying procedural schedule for ENO. Upon evaluating the existing reporting requirements, the Council identified several inefficiencies in the structure that has hindered the Council's ability to receive the information it needs to fulfill its regulatory duties.
Therefore, the Council will seek input from ENO, the Advisors, and interested parties as to which reports remain relevant to its regulatory responsibilities and whether ENO's reporting requirements can be more effectively streamlined. The newly-created "Streamline Docket" is not intended to establish additional reporting, but to reduce ENO's current reporting requirements in order to mitigate regulatory costs and increase efficiency moving forward.