November 19, 2020 10:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - During today’s regular City Council meeting, the Council adopted 2021 City Budgets, approved the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund’s economic development plan, and passed a comprehensive set of standards and requirements to guide the City’s Inclusionary Zoning Policy.
Council Adopts 2021 City Budgets
After several weeks of budget hearings, the Council adopted 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets for the City of New Orleans, concluding the annual budget review process and establishing spending levels for the coming year. The following budget matters were approved at today's meeting:
Despite facing significant headwinds due to revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council approved critical equity and economic justice priorities in the 2021 City Budget. These include an initial investment of $3M in the build-out of public internet access, funding a public-facing New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officer accountability dashboard, and a resolution protecting City workers making under $35K from wage loss due to furloughs.
“We are facing extraordinary budget pressures this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prioritize investments that will build a more equitable and just future for New Orleanians,” said Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno. “From NOPD officer accountability to the initial steps to fundamentally address the digital divide, to protecting our most vulnerable workers from unsustainable wage loss - we must make investments in our future, even in the toughest of times.”
The Council also authorized a budget amendment relative to funding parity between the District Attorney (DA) and Public Defender’s Office. In August, the Council passed Ordinance 33,093, which provided that the Public Defender’s Office should be allocated 85% of what the DA’s Office is allotted. The amendment will bring the parity amount to 65%, representing a middle ground between the amount initially recommended by the Council and that of the Administration in its proposed 2021 budget. This measure is not intended to rescind or replace Ordinance 33,093, but rather, it reflects the need to do right by the Public Defender’s Office while also recognizing the dire fiscal situation the City is currently facing.
"I cannot say thank you enough to my colleagues on the Council and all of the staff for the long days and nights that went into the development of this budget. This has been, by far, one of our most challenging budget seasons, and the final product is one of shared sacrifice," said District "D" Councilmember and Budget Committee Chair Jared Brossett. "Across the board, we've all had to face some kind of cut during this pandemic; no one has been left untouched or immune. While this budget will help to place New Orleans on the road to economic recovery, it certainly won’t happen overnight. We will continue to stay the course and persevere as we always have, taking each new day and each new challenge as it comes."
Standards, Guidelines & Penalties Established for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning
With its approval of Ordinance 33,128 and a corresponding amendment, the Council established a complete framework for New Orleans' Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning Policy.
The comprehensive set of standards outlined in the ordinance, which include application requirements, compliance measures, enforcement procedures, and penalties, will govern the City's Inclusionary Zoning Program, helping to address the current affordability crisis.
Citywide affordable housing developments will be subject to comply with all of the requirements of this ordinance, as well as the City’s Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, and will be responsible for maintaining a valid Inclusionary Zoning Permit at all times. As stated in the approved legislation, any developments found in violation of these requirements will be subject to a minimum $500 fine per offense.
In the coming months, Councilmembers will lead a public effort to bring everyone to the table to ensure equitable access to affordable units. Input from all stakeholders will be critical throughout this process to identify clear legislative directives moving forward.
“What we need is a real mechanism to get more affordable housing in our city. I accept that this may not do enough in getting us there, but we’re going to continue to work on what we pass today and do all the tweaking necessary to get it right," said District "B" Councilmember Jay H. Banks. "The win today is not passing this or any specific piece of legislation; but creating opportunities to increase access to quality, affordable housing citywide. We cannot succumb to paralysis by analysis and end up with nothing to show for it two years from now. The people that make the magic of New Orleans have to be able to live here, or they’ll leave and take that magic with them."
Economic Development Plan Approved for Tourism and Cultural Fund
The Council passed Ordinance 33,081, approving the economic development plan of the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund. The plan will guide the activities of the newly-formed Fund, serving as the foundation for its programming, resources and partnerships in the coming years.
The plan was developed in partnership with the Administration using current data and trends, relative to New Orleans’ culture bearers and hospitality workers, and a series of focus groups with local cultural organizations and stakeholders. While all residents continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, local hospitality personnel, gig workers and culture bearers have been hit the hardest.
The ultimate goal of the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund is to realize a more supported, diversified and resilient cultural economy that meets the needs of those who make it work, especially now during these difficult months. The approved plan addresses the following key priorities:
- Economic opportunities such as business training and direct financial support;
- Digital cultural infrastructure through the creation of online directories and data platforms;
- Increased access to healthcare through 504HealthNet;
- Workforce development training to increase economic opportunities and income for gig workers and culture bearers, including local musicians and artists; and
- Affordable housing initiatives to enhance housing security and increase access to the Direct Homebuyer Assistance Program.