May 06, 2021 10:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - At today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council endorsed a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) regarding the redevelopment of West End, heard presentations and adopted a corresponding resolution to address disparate health impacts among minority groups, and condemned legislation discriminating against transgender youth.
Additionally, the Council voted to permit the use of fentanyl testing strips, expressed its support for a new state cultural song, responded to recent comments and legislation by State Representative Raymond E. Garofalo, Jr., and approved a motion to resume in-person meetings.
Advancement of Multi-Parish Effort to Revitalize West End Area
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-149, endorsing the CEA between Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, and the State of Louisiana to engage in the redevelopment of West End. Once a major economic focal point and vibrant entertainment hub for both parishes, the area was devastated by high winds and storm surge from Hurricanes Georges and Katrina, forcing the permanent closure of most local businesses and establishments.
Councilmembers expressed their excitement and full support of the CEA, applauding its proactive approach and commitment to community input from all residents, business owners, developers, and other stakeholders as part of the process.
"Restoring West End has been one of my top economic development goals over the last several years, and I'm thrilled to see this project moving full steam ahead. Mayor Cantrell’s administration has been working tirelessly on this along with Jefferson Parish Councilmember Jennifer Van Vrancken and State Representative Stephanie Hilferty, as well as other officials, to redevelop this high-value property; this kind of teamwork shows how committed we all are to the re-establishments of this once-vibrant economic driver. Let me be clear: we will proactively seek public input from stakeholders on both sides of the parish line. Economic development should not occur in a vacuum. Thoughtful, community-driven development is essential for the future success of West End,” said District “A” Councilmember Joe Giarrusso.
Photo courtesy of Crescent City Living
Presentations Reveal Significant Health Disparities Tied to Systemic Racism
The Council welcomed Health and Equity Strategists for the New Orleans Health Department, Dr. Torrie T. Harris and Dr. Maurice G. Sholas, to discuss the link between historical policy and current health inequities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have deemed structural and interpersonal racism as fundamental causes of health disease disparities, finding a direct correlation between communities with greater risk of poor health outcomes and access to quality care and treatment options. Today’s presentations provided additional local context and historical analysis of predominantly black communities across New Orleans, highlighting centuries-long health and social inequities that continue to put many racial and ethnic minorities at increased risk of disease.
“The unequal distribution of resources that has persisted since New Orleans' founding significantly impacts the physical and mental health of our people. Everyone is impacted by racism; thus, it is everyone's responsibility to participate in the undoing of racism in our city. Our lives and the future lives of our children depend on our truth and healing,” said Dr. Torrie Harris.
While New Orleans’ national health ranking has improved over the last decade, the city’s black population and other minority groups continue to lag behind national averages in life expectancy, including higher rates of infant mortality, chronic and preventable illnesses, etc. The life expectancy of New Orleans residents in historically underserved neighborhoods differs as much as 26 years from their counterparts in more affluent areas of the city. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these disparities, shedding light on the enduring effects of systemic racism that continue to plague these once vibrant communities.
Following the presentation, the Council adopted resolution R-21-166, asking the Louisiana Department of Health and New Orleans Health Department to study and address the disparate health impacts among black and minority residents, and seek opportunities to use emergency funding to invest in these disproportionately affected communities.
“COVID pulled back the lid on these inequities, but prior to the pandemic, people of color were already suffering critical gaps in many of those areas we see as fundamental needs,” said Council Vice President Donna Glapion. “We’re blessed to have some of the brightest minds on our side, working to engage and educate our communities and begin to mitigate negative effects and address root causes. Together, we will continue to work toward creating routes to prosperity for all New Orleanians and addressing these health barriers on a parallel path with other issues related to systemic racism.”
View Dr. Harris’ presentation here View Dr. Sholas’ presentation here.
Council Speaks Out Against Efforts to Hinder Rights of Transgender Youth
With its adoption of Resolution R-21-167, the Council condemned state legislation (SB156, HB542, SB104, and HB575) for prohibiting transgender women from participating in K-12 and university level sports and restricting healthcare access for transgender youth.
SB156 and HB542 would require schools to designate athletic teams according to the biological sex of team members, preventing transgender athletes from competing according to their true gender identity. SB104 would force transgender and gender non-conforming people under 18 to get parental permission before receiving gender-based medical or mental healthcare. HB575 would prohibit a nurse, counselor, teacher, or school staff from encouraging or enabling a minor to withhold from their parent any information that suggests they may be transgender. It also states that anyone in violation of these restrictions could be imprisoned for up to two years and fined up to $10,000.
Sports and sports teams provide a tremendous opportunity for children to learn essential leadership and life skills amongst their peers - and transgender youth deserve that same opportunity. These young people, many of whom are already suffering emotionally, mentally and physically, should be treated with the utmost dignity, respect, and care.
The Council is grateful to Governor Edwards for publicly denouncing these bills and protecting the rights of all Louisiana’s transgender residents. New Orleans stands alongside him in opposing this and any future legislation seeking to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.
Authorization of Fentanyl Testing Strips to Prevent Future Overdoses
After receiving unanimous support from the Community Development Committee earlier this week, the Council passed Ordinance 33,305 to amend the City Code to allow the sale and possession of fentanyl test strips, a widely used harm reduction measure to save lives.
Fentanyl-laced drugs are one of the leading causes of overdoses in New Orleans and throughout the country. However, testing strips to determine the presence of fentanyl are currently banned by the City Code. This legislation paves the way for the Health Department and other advocates to purchase and distribute testing strips to the city's most vulnerable communities.
"Saving lives has got to come first. The opioid epidemic rages on, but fentanyl is a uniquely dangerous and often invisible accelerate to the damage wrought. This simple harm reduction measure helps give our health department and nonprofit advocates an essential tool in preventing overdoses in our community," said Council President Helena Moreno.
Widespread Support for “Southern Nights” as State Cultural Song
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-165, applauding proposed HB351 by State Representatives Vincent Pierre and Matthew Willard calling for Allen Toussaint's “Southern Nights” to be an official state cultural song of Louisiana. In addition to his many professional accolades, including a Grammy nomination and Grammy Trustees Award, Toussaint was a premier ambassador for New Orleans who helped showcase its unique music and culture on a global scale.
Notably, “Southern Nights'' would become the first official state song in Louisiana’s history written by an African-American artist. This initiative represents ongoing efforts both locally and at the state level to make New Orleans and all of Louisiana more inclusive and representative of its inhabitants.
A mural depicting iconic New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint by Brendon Palmer-Angell located at 1441 N. Claiborne Ave. courtesy of NOLA.com
City Council to Resume In-Person Meetings
The City of New Orleans continues to make tremendous strides toward reopening safely. While hurdles remain to a full return to normalcy, the Council has decided to resume in-person meetings citing the critical importance of in-person interactions with citizens to the successful operation of local government.
The public health dangers posed by COVID-19 have dramatically affected the manner in which the Council transacts business, forcing the Council to meet remotely throughout the pandemic. For the first time since the pandemic began over a year ago, the Council will hold its next regular meeting on May 20 in person at City Hall.
For additional information, please visit council.nola.gov/meetings.
Councilmembers Respond to Comments & Legislation by State Representative Garofalo
Last month, the Council sent a letter to Representative Raymond E. Garofalo, Jr. on behalf of all seven members responding to his statements during this 2021 Regular Session alluding to the “good” of slavery. As stated in the letter, the Council spoke out against Representative Garofalo's comments, saying, "suggesting there was some 'good' within the immoral evil of slavery as practiced in this country is reprehensible. There is no equivocation or relativism possible within the dark history of this institution. Any attempts to excuse these realities is not only wrong but unforgivable."
Furthermore, following its review of Garofalo’s HB 564 to prohibit schools or universities from “race or sex scapegoating,” the Council noted both the content and objective of the bill to be racist and sexist. If passed, this legislation would intentionally stunt the educational growth of generations of Louisiana’s elementary and secondary school students, as well as university scholars, using Orwellian means to ban trainings or instruction on the existence and prevalence of systemic racism throughout our nation’s history. As stated by the Council in the resolution adopted today, “to be clear: this amounts to a state-sanctioned muzzle on the freedom to teach the realities of white supremacy, racism, and sexism.”
Chief of Staff
New Orleans City Council