February 11, 2021 10:00 AM
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City Council Regular Meeting News Summary February 11, 2021
NEW ORLEANS - At today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance to provide additional funding for COVID-19 services and response efforts, recognized the Krewe of House Floats, adopted a resolution announcing its intent to call a special election to renew an expiring millage that helps support the New Orleans Public Library, approved a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement relative to the Bayou St. John Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project, and called on the Orleans Parish District Attorney and judges to hold Gwen’s Law hearings for cases involving domestic abuse battery strangulation.
Additionally, the Council adopted a resolution recognizing the local impacts of the Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project, asked the City Planning Commission (CPC) to hold a public hearing to consider revoking the Hard Rock’s conditional use, and confirmed the appointment of newly-inaugurated Councilmember Donna M. Glapion as a member of the Economic Development and Special Development Projects, Criminal Justice, Public Works and Utility Committees.
Councilmembers recognizing the Krewe of Muses, which would have paraded today, on the Thursday preceding Mardi Gras
Council Commends Krewe of House Floats for Keeping Mardi Gras Spirit Alive Through New and Safe Ways to Celebrate
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-62 recognizing and commending the Krewe of House Floats and its founder Megan Boudreaux for creating a new Mardi Gras tradition that allows New Orleanians to continue celebrating Carnival during COVID-19 and for years to come.
While continuing to maintain a full-time career, Ms. Boudreaux (now Admiral of the Krewe of House Floats) has worked collaboratively with the City of New Orleans, more than 50 volunteer officers and captains leading 39 subkrewes, and facilitated commerce between residents, artists and local business owners across the area. This extraordinary group of volunteers has encouraged the registration and participation of more than 2,600 House Floats in New Orleans and as far away as Europe, Asia and Australia.
Along with these remarkable accomplishments, Krewe of House Floats volunteers have gone to great lengths to organize community art pantries, neighborhood food drives, and a $100,000 giving campaign to support local hospitality and service industry workers and New Orleans culture bearers.
With its approval of this resolution, the Council strongly supports the continuation of the Krewe of House Floats through 2022 and moving forward as the City’s newest Mardi Gras tradition, reminding all New Orleanians of our collective ability to keep the good times rolling, even through a global pandemic.
View the official 2021 Krewe of House Floats map with the locations of all participating residences at www.kreweofhousefloats.org.
2021 City Budget Amended to Provide Additional Funding for COVID-Related Services and Response Efforts
The Council passed Ordinance 33,229, which amends the City’s 2021 Operating Budget of Expenditures to appropriate grant funds to improve services for individuals with disabilities during COVID-19, general response to this future pandemics, and outcomes for moms and babies by addressing the persistent health disparities among women of color.
COVID-19 has impacted all New Orleans residents but has and continues to be particularly devastating for minority groups and residents with special needs. According to recent studies reported from The Data Center last week, of the 686 people who have died of COVID-19 in New Orleans, 77% of them were African Americans, further spotlighting the links between systemic inequities and racial disparities in health outcomes.
This additional funding will help ensure our most vulnerable citizens receive the support they need to make it through this pandemic and contribute to New Orleans’ overall recovery in the months and years that lie ahead.
CPC to Consider Revoking Hard Rock Permits Following Ongoing Violations and Negative Impacts to Surrounding Businesses
The Council approved a formal request to the CPC authored by District “C” Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, asking it to consider revoking the Conditional Use ordinance for the collapsed Hard Rock Hotel development in downtown New Orleans. Motion M-21-69 directs the CPC to conduct a public hearing to look into the matter of revoking the conditional use for 1031 Canal Street, where the Hard Rock construction site collapsed in 2019, killing Anthony Magrette, Jose Ponce Arreola, and Quinnyon Wimberly.
In 2011, the Council approved a conditional use ordinance with five waivers and 18 provisos for a proposed multi-use development at 1031 Canal Street. However, the terms of this development later changed, leading to the Hard Rock Hotel construction site tragedy. Now, it appears that the development has violated the terms of the conditional use approval along with the City's governing land use law, the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). If the CPC agrees, finding the terms to be violated, the Council will be authorized to revoke the conditional use approval. This would require future developments at 1031 Canal Street to be built in compliance with applicable use and design standards for the site, without the additional height and density allowed by the current conditional use.
"I strongly believe the owners of 1301 Canal Street have violated provisions of their conditional use and the CZO, which is why I am requesting that CPC formally evaluate whether any of these violations exist," said Councilmember Palmer. "If so, this will allow the Council to revoke the conditional use. Given the history of this site and the grave harm it has posed to our residents, neighborhood, and economy, I am eager to move forward in this process."
Council Advances Full Renewal of Library Millage with Announcement of Special Election
The Council approved Motion M-21-49, announcing its intention to consider a resolution during the April 8 meeting calling a fall election to authorize ad valorem taxes relative to funding for the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL). Last week, Councilmembers Moreno and Giarrusso announced the filing of a full renewal of the expiring 3.14 millage that supports the NOPL, which extends the current millage first authorized in 1986 for nineteen additional years. This represents one of two millages that directly support library operations and programming citywide.
The proposed ballot language continues to direct all proceeds from the millage to "constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating public libraries and library-related programs in the city."
"With the renewal we are placing on the ballot today, New Orleans Public Libraries will continue to receive the same level of direct funding to support their mission of advancing community enrichment and safe civic spaces for years to come," said Council President Helena Moreno.
"The public spoke loud and clear about the importance of libraries. And, with New Orleanians wanting safety and opportunities, this proposed renewal allows New Orleans Public Libraries to continue doing its vital work," said Councilmember Joe Giarrusso.
Resolution Urges District Attorney’s Office and Judges to Apply Gwen’s Law for Cases Involving Domestic Strangulation
With its adoption of Resolution R-21-70, the Council is calling upon on the Orleans Parish District Attorney (DA) and Magistrate Court judges in Orleans Parish to hold Gwen’s Law hearings for cases involving domestic abuse battery strangulation upon a family member, household member, or dating partner. Domestic violence is a pervasive and life-threatening crime that has plagued the New Orleans community and society as a whole for far too long. By working to end violence among members of a household, we provide an opportunity for young children to avoid this cycle of abuse and trauma, dramatically improving their chances of future success.
Between November 1, 2019, and October 31, 2020, the New Orleans Health Department’s Blueprint for Safety team analyzed bond amounts and the amount of time individuals charged with strangulation spent in jail, including either domestic abuse battery involving strangulation or battery of a dating partner involving strangulation. During that period, 255 individuals were charged with strangulation and released from jail, and numerous studies identified non-fatal strangulation as a significant red flag for future violence and potentially even murder.
Gwen’s Law refers to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 313, which took effect in 2017 to allow a hearing before bail is set if the accused has been arrested for domestic abuse battery, violation of a protective order, stalking, or any other felony offense involving the use of force or a deadly weapon. The legislative intent for this contradictory hearing is two-fold: First, it can provide a cooling-off period and allows the victim to secure a safe place to stay, and second, it provides additional information – including past history of abuse and victim statements – to make a better-informed determination regarding the potential risk to the victim if bail is granted. However, since 2015, the previous DA's Office did not request or hold Gwen’s Law hearings, further exacerbating these issues and instances involving domestic homicide.
The implementation of these hearings moving forward will be critical in supporting citywide domestic violence prevention efforts and helping to ensure that victims who need additional time to plan for their safety are able to do so by temporarily holding defendants, including those charged with strangulation who are deemed to be especially risky for public safety, in custody regardless of the bond amount.
Council Highlights Importance of Federal Funding in Local Stormwater Management Efforts
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-61, recognizing the importance of the tri-parish SELA Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project to the local drainage system and encouraging the Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) to make appropriate budget and planning provisions to support its implementation. In light of severe flooding throughout the neighboring Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes, local leaders called upon the Federal Government for assistance in developing and executing solutions to address this ongoing issue.
The SELA Urban Flood Damage Reduction Project is funded through a combination of sources: 75% federal and 25% local. This means the citizens of New Orleans are receiving a three to one return on their construction dollar for these critical and expensive drainage projects, or nine dollars of flood protection for every local dollar spent.
As of today, the expansion of the General De Gaulle Canal on the West Bank is the first of the SELA projects to reach construction, with additional work planned along the Donner Canal at Drainage Pumping Station 13, and potential projects being considered in the Lakeview in Gentilly areas. Councilmembers stressed the importance of this continued federal funding to support ongoing initiatives and future projects to reduce flood risk and create more jobs for local workers. Via this resolution, the Council encourages the S&WB and Army Corps of Engineers to fully fund the local match for the SELA program and prioritize the planning and construction of future projects that will help solidify New Orleans as a strong candidate for additional federal funding as it becomes available.
To learn more about SELA Drainage Projects, click here.
Chief of Staff
New Orleans City Council