September 17, 2020 10:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - At today's regular meeting, the City Council adopted a resolution recognizing Hispanic Heritage and Health Month 2020, called on local law enforcement agencies to create guidelines to prevent the use of no-knock search warrants, passed an ordinance to prevent officers from deploying tear gas unless warranted by specific extreme circumstances, approved Harrah's and Cox Communications Community Support Grants recipients, and established its regular meeting schedule for the coming year.
New Orleans to Recognize Hispanic Heritage & Health Month
In light of COVID-19, the Council adopted Resolution R-20-305 to observe Hispanic Heritage Month as Hispanic Heritage and Health Month in New Orleans, highlighting key health resources, first-person accounts, and essential support to address the disparate impact of the pandemic on the local Hispanic community.
According to CDC reports, the Hispanic community nationwide is 4.6x more likely to require hospitalization and 2.8x more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white counterparts. In reality, these numbers may be much higher and likely underrepresent the true threat faced by this population as rates within certain small Hispanic communities can be significantly more catastrophic.
"The Hispanic community faces many challenges, including access to health care, disproportionate representation in frontline and essential work settings, jobs that do not provide sick or paid leave, and multi-generational housing," said Councilmember Helena Moreno. "This Hispanic Heritage Month, I thought it was critical to include 'Health' as a key component of our messaging to empower and encourage individuals and communities to protect themselves, care for those who become sick, keep our kids healthy, and better cope with anxieties stemming from this illness."
The newly-launched campaign underscores appropriate COVID-19 safety guidelines, emphasize the importance of getting annual flu shots, highlight Hispanic businesses incorporating COVID-19 practices, show residents where and how resources can be accessed, and feature advocates who are helping the Hispanic community through the pandemic. As part of the campaign's kick-off, the City recently debuted a social media video featuring an important message from one of the winners of the #MaskUpNOLA student poster contest (watch here).
Follow Councilmember Moreno on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, NOLA City Council on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the Mayor's Office for additional updates and information over the next several weeks.
Poster contest winner Mauro encouraging residents to remain vigilant in wearing their masks as part of Hispanic Heritage and Health Month
Council Takes Steps to Prevent NOPD Use of Tear Gas and No-Knock Warrants
Following last week's Criminal Justice Committee meeting, the Council approved two significant initiatives to restrict New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officers from using harmful tactics such as tear gas and "no-knock" search warrants.
Ordinance 33,106 amends the City Code to prohibit the deployment of tear gas into crowds except under specific, limited circumstances involving a threat of harm to persons. The legislation was developed in direct response to the NOPD's use of tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesters on the Crescent City Connection on June 3. Councilmembers have actively engaged in ongoing discussions with members of the community and the NOPD to review the incident and develop safety measures and precautions moving forward.
"Tear gas is banned through an international treaty for use in war. It should never be used domestically except in the direst situations," said District "B" Councilmember Jay H. Banks. "Crowd control or crowd dispersal does not rise to the level to justify the use. Only when human life is in danger are these weapons permitted to be used. Working with local and national advocacy groups and our own NOPD, we were able to craft an ordinance that not only keeps our residents safe but does not take away law enforcement's ability to use it in order to save lives."
The proposed ban aligns with similar laws and policies across the globe. Tear gas was defined as a chemical weapon and banned in international law for use in warfare following the 1993 UN General Assembly's Chemical Weapons Convention. In light of the violence and racial injustice that occurred across the country this past year, the Council fully supported local residents in holding peaceful protests to show solidarity with impacted communities and demand change from local and national leaders. Councilmembers also expressed tremendous respect for the sacrifice and service provided by NOPD officers to keep our communities safe.
In order to prevent these types of situations from occurring in the future, the approved ordinance provides very limited emergency circumstances in which officers would be permitted to utilize such harmful methods. It also mandates a clear and audible warning prior to the deployment of tear gas to provide members of the public with ample time to disperse.
The Council also adopted Resolution R-20-286, calling on the City's law enforcement agencies to create stricter guidelines to prevent the use of no-knock search warrants in the interest of public safety and police accountability following the death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department earlier this year during the execution of a no-knock warrant. She was shot eight times while in her bed during a shootout precipitated by an unannounced entry into her apartment. She was unarmed.
Currently, the NOPD has no formal policy around its use of "no-knock" warrants in New Orleans.
"The tragic murder of Breonna Taylor was a belated wake-up call: police executing unannounced or no-knock warrants can have deadly consequences. We never want a tragedy like this to befall our city, so we're working proactively to prohibit the use of this controversial and dangerous tactic that has cost far too many innocent lives," said Councilmember Moreno.
"This is important and necessary. We don't need a tragedy like Breonna's to occur in our jurisdiction before we take action. Governments require seatbelts to save lives. This is no different and should not be looked at as any different," said Councilmember Jason Williams. "No-knock warrants create a dangerous situation for everyone involved. I'm glad to join this effort to curb that danger and lessen the likelihood of tragically losing more innocent lives."
Local Organizations Approved for Grant Funding Through Harrah's & Cox Community Support Programs
The Council adopted two resolutions approving funding recipients through City Council/Harrah's Community Support Grants and City Council/Cox Communications Community Grant Programs.
Resolution R-20-285 confirms Harrah's support grants per office each Council office. The program was established in 2006 to provide financial support to local organizations and projects that contribute substantially to the well-being, development, and growth of the New Orleans community. In light of COVID-19, the Council authorized changes to the program, which made available "one" annual award totaling $225,000 to grant recipients of their choosing. Each Councilmember is allocated $32,142 annually, with any funds not awarded rolled forward into the subsequent year. Learn more about the program and application requirements here.
Resolution R-20-306 confirms Cox Communications support grants per each Council office. This program was set up in 2015 to provide financial support to local organizations and projects that contribute specifically to education, technology training, communications, and similar programs benefiting the youth of the City of New Orleans. The Council receives $140,000 annually from Cox Communications Louisiana to fund the program, with each individual Councilmember allocated $20,000 annually. Learn more about the program and application requirements here.
Council Establishes Regular Meeting Schedule for 2021
The Council passed Motion M-20-288 approving its Regular Council Meeting Schedule for the coming year with its first meeting of 2021 scheduled for Thursday, January 14. All meetings and corresponding agendas will be posted and made available on the Council's website. To view the full regular and committee meeting schedules, visit council.nola.gov/meetings or click here to subscribe to future meeting notices.