June 17, 2021 10:00 AM
City Council Chamber
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NEW ORLEANS - During today’s regular meeting, the New Orleans City Council established Juneteenth as an official City holiday, approved a revised fare structure for Regional Transit Authority (RTA) riders, passed a motion relative to the implementation of a new Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force, authorized funding for Neighborhood Safety Cameras, and facilitated the development of two new affordable housing complexes.
At the start of the meeting, the Council also received a special performance of the Black National Anthem from Angela Sarker of the Clerk’s office in recognition of Juneteenth this Saturday.
Juneteenth Declared Official City Holiday in New Orleans
Following recent announcements at the State and Federal levels this week, the Council unanimously voted to establish Juneteenth as an official holiday in the City of New Orleans. The holiday, which will be celebrated annually on June 19, marks the 12th legal public holiday and the first new one created in decades since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans were finally granted their freedom when General Gordon Granger and Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver General Order No. 3, officially putting an end to slavery in the state. It is a common misconception across the U.S. that slavery ended when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation several years prior, leaving out a key component of American history.
The declaration of Juneteenth as a nationwide and now citywide holiday will help shed light on this crucial part of history while celebrating the incredible achievements and contributions of the African American community.
Revised RTA Fare Structure Increases Access & Services for Youth
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-215 approving the Regional Transit Authority (RTA)'s proposed revised fare structure, which will significantly improve its service offerings, accessibility, and impact for all New Orleans residents.
The onset of COVID-19 resulted in a steep decline in RTA ridership, with transit services reduced by 50%. The organization has done an admirable job in the months that followed, continuing to put themselves on the front lines for residents and using that time to closely review, assess, innovate and improve its existing operations. Services have gradually come back online, with all modes currently operating at 80% pre-COVID levels.
The RTA developed this new fare structure using peer analysis of 15 agencies across the country with three main goals:
- Introduction of senior and youth passes
- Reduction of monthly costs
“This fare reduction simplifies the overall pricing structure and emphasizes senior and youth passes - something I’ve been advocating for a while,” said District “C” Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “This will help everyone in New Orleans, but particularly those on the Westbank, by providing much-needed access to jobs and key services in the city. There are far too many barriers for our children and young adults when it comes to education, resources, summer jobs, etc., and this is a great first step toward alleviating some of these barriers.”
Council Approves Affordable Housing Development Initiatives
The Council passed a series of items to combat the current affordable housing crisis and provide residents with increased access to opportunities for residents and families across the city.
Zoning Docket ZD 32/21 and Motion M-21-205 approve a requested Affordable Housing Planned Development in Hollygrove. The proposed development (“The Grove”) is located on a 1.8-acre site at the intersection of Earhart Boulevard and Monroe Street. The project includes the renovation of 11 existing two- and three-family residences, the construction of a multi-family structure containing 20 units, and the construction of a community building. In addition, the existing site would be significantly improved with a community green space in the center of the property, as well as the addition of 43 communal off-street parking spaces.
The Grove will provide a total of 43 affordable residential units in close proximity to public transit stops, neighborhood-serving amenities, and jobs through the revitalization of an area that is currently severely underdeveloped.
“At my request, New Orleans Restoration Properties (NORP) changed their plans to accommodate a Planned Development to allow for more oversight by the Council to facilitate community engagement,” said District “A” Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. “These things don’t happen overnight. We’ve all spent many hours working on a community-driven, neighborhood-appropriate, affordable housing development. This expansion of housing opportunities - plus the increased public input at my encouragement- has my full support.”
The Council also adopted Resolution R-21-201 to transform the former Pierre A. Capdau School building at 3821 Franklin Avenue into an affordable housing development for low-income seniors.
“I want to thank the development team, community partners, and my colleagues for months of hard work on this project, which will turn a vacant school building into a much-needed affordable housing development for the surrounding neighborhood,” said District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett. “I am excited to hear that the former McDonogh No. 7 is being considered for a similar transformation because this proves that it can be done. Affordable housing continues to be a dire need in our city, and the current crisis cannot and will not correct itself. This is an exciting step forward for the people of New Orleans.”
Architect’s rendering of the planned multi-family building in Hollygrove courtesy of CPC
Formation of New Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force
With its approval of Motion M-21-203, the Council established an advisory committee to provide recommendations on the implementation of a crisis response program for Orleans Parish known as the Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force. At its last regular meeting earlier this month, the Council initiated the process of creating this non-police crisis response team to better serve New Orleanians in times of mental health crises.
Each year, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) handles thousands of mental health calls across the city. Given that the majority of these instances are non-criminal and typically require medical as opposed to police attention, this practice has resulted in ineffective use of City resources.
It has become increasingly critical to ensure NOPD can prioritize their time on reducing and preventing violent crime, and the implementation of the new Crisis Intervention Strategy Task Force will allow them to do so. This professional, community-based crisis response structure will ensure more residents suffering from mental illnesses are connected to resources and slow down the revolving door of the criminal justice system on which so many sick New Orleanians find themselves.
Other U.S. cities have already transitioned to utilizing mental health professionals to respond to these cases instead of police with overwhelmingly successful results. These similar programs have been proven to alleviate the burden on current public safety resources and have led to millions of dollars in annual savings to law enforcement.
This initiative will bring New Orleans in line with other major cities and municipalities across the country and ensure a safer, healthier, and more prosperous future for all those who call it home.
$1M Investment in Crime Cameras to Address Recent Spikes in Violent Incidents
The Council stood with victims of violent crime today in announcing a $1M investment to enhance public safety through the City’s Crime Camera Program. Resolution R-21-189 and Ordinances 33,336 & 33,337 authorize the appropriation of $500,000 from the Entergy Settlement fund to purchase, install, and maintain 70 new crime cameras across the city.
The crime cameras, monitored 24 hours a day by the City's Office of Homeland Security Real-Time Crime Center, will be installed city-wide. The majority of the cameras will be placed in New Orleans East, where an increase in carjackings and other violent crimes has led to families living in fear.
The New Orleans City Council's crime dashboard shows a 51% increase in shootings since last year and a 45% increase in aggravated assault, which usually involves a weapon. Data from the Office of Homeland Security shows that the Crime Camera Program deters unlawful activity and has helped to solve crimes in high crime areas of New Orleans.
In 2020, the Council approved funding to install additional crime cameras in New Orleans East. The Crime Camera Program will be expanded by 22 new cameras in New Orleans East and 12 in each of Council Districts "A" through "D." The funding includes connectivity and staffing at the Real-Time Crime Center operated by the City's Office of Homeland Security. The Office of Homeland Security will work to have all of the new cameras installed by this Fall.
"New Orleans East is experiencing unacceptable increases in violence, and District 'E' residents deserve to feel safe," said District "E" Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen. "This financial investment to expand technology and resources will help keep our residents safe and bring criminals to justice. I am committed to working with New Orleans police to ensure the additional crime cameras will go to high volume crime areas across the East."
Photo of an active crime camera in New Orleans courtesy of The Advocate
Chief of Staff
New Orleans City Council