Regular Meeting

July 01, 2021 10:00 AM

City Council Chamber

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NEW ORLEANS - During its regular meeting today, the New Orleans City Council voted in favor of increasing the required living wage for City contractors, approved a new “Protect Tremé Interim Zoning District” and a corresponding resolution to create an inclusive and accessible process to authorize any relocation of City Hall.


Additionally, the Council passed a series of ordinances renaming public parks and roadways across the city and adopted a resolution urging the Louisiana Governor's Office and United States Environmental Protection Agency to support the suspension of BWC Harvey's air permit and institute a permitting review process.

Councilmembers with Mark Raymond Jr and Quanteria Porsche-Williams of the Split Second Foundation following a pre-meeting presentation on their efforts to break physical and societal barriers for the disabled

Living Wage for City Contractors Increased to $15/hr

The Council approved two items (Ordinance 33,352 & Motion M-21-238) regarding an amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance introduced last month by Councilmembers Brossett, Palmer, Glapion, Banks, and Nguyen, effectively increasing the starting wage to $15 per hour. The increase will be phased in over two years, requiring $13.25 on January 1, 2022, and the full $15 starting January 1, 2023. 


The requirements outlined in the Living Wage Ordinance apply to contractors with $25,000 or more in annual City contracts, recipients of City financial assistance of $100,000 or more, and employee time that is spent on City contracts or projects involving City aid. This update to the City Code will ensure that taxpayer dollars extended by the City to private contractors are used in a manner that creates jobs and keeps contracted and subcontracted workers and their families out of poverty, in addition to supporting local businesses. These higher wages have been shown to increase levels of business investment and employee training, and result in higher worker productivity and lower employee absenteeism and turnover.


The original Living Wage Ordinance, passed in 2015, fixed pay at $10.55 per hour, adjusted upwards annually with inflation. Today’s vote provides a significant increase to the current living wage, which is set at $11.19 per hour, and added benefits such as requiring employers to provide seven days of sick leave for covered employees.


“The current living wage for city contractors amounts to only $448 a week, and that’s before taxes, health insurance, etc.,” said District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett. “When you look at the average rent in our city, this means that workers are spending at least three weeks out of the month working to cover only their rent, with very little left for other essentials like food, utilities, and childcare. I worked hard to pass the first living wage ordinance in 2015 and was proud to revisit it last year to improve it further. This legislation presented today is just another example of continuing to fight for our workers and put our people first.”


Starting this year, the Council will receive an annual presentation as part of the budget presentation disclosing all contracts and City financial assistance agreements involving a covered employer. For each contract and agreement, the list must identify the hourly wage earned by the lowest paid covered employee and the number of compensated leave days provided to employees earning less than 130% of the prevailing living wage. Additionally, the amendment adds a provision stipulating that any contract or City financial assistance agreement longer than one year includes annual inflation adjustments to the mandated living wage requirement, ensuring that employees receive a living wage for the duration of a contract.


“In order to end poverty and inequality, we need living wage jobs for all. Thank you to the city waste union, DPW, and fast-food workers who went on strike and have led this fight. Today’s passage of $15 for the living wage ordinance is a major step in the right direction," said Ben Zucker, Director of Step Up Louisiana.

Council Advocates for Increased Community Access and Involvement in City Hall Relocation 


After receiving several public comments from Tremé residents this morning, the Council passed Motion M-21-228 and Resolution R-21-237 relative to increased public input in all discussions and planning pertaining to the potential relocation of City Hall. 


Motion M-21-228 establishes a new Interim Zoning District (IZD) to safeguard the Tremé neighborhood from uses that negatively impact its historic structures and culture. The legislation temporarily stops the Cantrell Administration from moving City Hall into the Municipal Auditorium located inside Louis Armstrong Park by prohibiting any 1.) Government Offices or 2.) Public Works and Safety Facilities.


In addition to the use restrictions provided by the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), the Protect Tremé IZD also prohibits “Parking Lots” and “Parking Structures” within the boundaries of Louis Armstrong Park.


“As the current representative of Tremé, I couldn't just quietly standby and let it be trampled by a top-down City Hall development again,” said Councilmember Palmer. "Today, this Council made it very clear that we are standing with Tremé residents and protecting our City's Black history and culture. This motion takes immediate action and goes into effect today to stop the move of City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium and intruding on the sacred space of Congo Square. Even considering putting a parking garage near Congo Square is offensive.” 


On the broader, citywide level, Resolution R-21-237 states the Council's intent to formalize a requirement that creates a new, inclusive and accessible process to authorize any relocation of City Hall. While the current location of New Orleans City Hall is centrally located, the fifty-year-old building has innumerable accessibility, safety, health, and operational deficiencies. 


Not only do New Orleans citizens deserve better, but all City employees who work tirelessly in service to the public. Members of City staff have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of their fellow New Orleanians, and deserve a modernized, safe and healthy place to work. 


"We are a government of and for the people, and if we are going to have a healthy and inclusive ecosystem in which we all coexist, we have to constantly work together to make sure the decisions we make and the needs of the people are not at cross purposes," said Councilmember-At-Large Donna Glapion. "Today's actions will institutionalize significant community engagement and ensure no such consequential matters are acted upon without the input of the people."


While the need to relocate becomes increasingly pressing, the Council stresses the need for a more robust public engagement process from the start, one that provides significant opportunities for residents to weigh in throughout every stage of discussions and planning. In the months ahead, it will be imperative that the City explores alternative, culturally appropriate sites for the potential relocation of City Hall through a holistic and transparent approach that builds upon the needs and desires of the people.


“I thank you all for truly standing with us. I am a lifelong resident of New Orleans, and I choose to stay here because the spirit of my family and the future of my children are here. We constantly see our culture and community erased,” said Health & Wellness Specialist at Ashé Cultural Arts Center Jamilah Peters-Muhammad during today’s public comment period. 


As stated in the resolution, the Council intends to begin this work by requesting a text amendment to the CZO to codify a required conditional use process to move City Hall and further ordain the zoning classifications eligible for such use application.

Members of the Tremé providing public comment in favor of the Council's efforts to prevent the move of City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium

Street Renaming Process Moves Forward with New Namesakes for Four Local Landmarks 

The Council took several significant steps in the citywide street renaming process today, with its first set of approvals based on the final recommendations of the City Council Street Renaming Commission (CCSRC). The four ordinances passed today authorize name changes for one roadway and three public parks honoring confederate leaders and white supremacists across New Orleans:


  • Ordinance 33,372 renames Washington Artillery Park after Louisiana’s first Black Lt. Governor, Oscar Dunn;
  • Ordinance 33,374 renames Behrman Park after Morris F.X. Jeff, a Black New Orleans educator who facilitated recreational activities for disadvantaged students and who later created the New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD);
  • Ordinance 33,356 renames Palmer Park to Marsalis Harmony Park in honor of local jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis; and
  • Ordinance 33,344 renames the entirety of Caffin Avenue to Fats Domino Avenue.


The approved name changes are the result of a robust and citywide engagement process led by the CCSRC last year to support the development of its final set of recommendations to the Council, which included 37 streets, parks, and public places. While other U.S. cities have made similar efforts to re-examine these historical symbols, especially in the wake of the police brutality and racial protests, the recommendations outlined by the CCSRC represent the most comprehensive set of changes proposed by any other municipality in the country at this time.


"Ellis Marsalis and his family deserve this recognition. While my office helped spearhead this name change with the full support of my Council colleagues, it is the most affected neighbors who deserve the credit,” said District “A” Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. “They collaborated on this, deciding to honor the Marsalis family and 'harmonize' the ideas of celebrating the Marsalis family, their impact on music, and the importance of working together. That is how everyone arrived at the new name: Marsalis Harmony Park."


With the renaming of Jefferson Davis Parkway as Norman C. Francis Parkway in August, and the ordinances passed today, the Council hopes to lead by example and inspire other cities and states nationwide to acknowledge America’s racist past to create a space for healing and reconciliation for future generations.

A segment of the map showing streets, parks, and places recommended for renaming by the CCSRC via its final report to the Council

Councilmembers Call on State and Federal Agencies to Prevent Further Toxic Emission Threats

The Council adopted Resolution R-21-239, urging the Louisiana Governor's Office and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to immediately exercise its authority to compel the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to suspend BWC Harvey's air permit. The resolution also calls upon the organization to institute a permit review process that encourages public input and monitors the concentration of toxic emissions in these communities.


Located in Jefferson Parish, BWC Harvey (formerly named Blackwater) is a 48-acre storage and transfer facility for hot liquid asphalt and other toxic petrochemicals that the LDEQ has identified as the 'primary source’ of toxic odors that resulted in over 850 citizen complaints from Orleans and Jefferson Parish residents since August 2018. In Orleans Parish alone, nearly 900 residents signed a petition last year condemning the toxic odor problem. Even after these complaints, the LDEQ permitted the facility to increase operations by nearly 40%. 


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control maintains that there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen. And with no monitoring system currently in place, the LEDQ is unable to determine whether concentrations of PAHs (the primary pollutants of concern in asphalt fumes) are within legal limits in the neighborhoods surrounding BWC Harvey. 


In the eyes of the Council, the persistent threat to the more than 7,000 Orleans Parish residents that live near the area - particularly those in the Irish Channel and East Riverside neighborhoods who frequently report health symptoms from toxic odors - is unacceptable. As stated in the resolution, every person in every place of New Orleans has the right to breathe clean air.


Jefferson Parish officials have demonstrated strong leadership by evaluating its industrial zoning parameters and requiring BWC Harvey to implement a community warning system plan for emergency preparedness. As part of a collaborative, multi-parish effort, the Council is committed to improving the region's air quality and putting an efficient system of rapid emergency notification in place in New Orleans. Moving forward, the Council urges the LDEQ to grant hearing requests to consider resident concerns and begin prioritizing their health and well-being above the needs of environmentally damaging corporate entities such as BWC Harvey.

A map of the BWC Harvey plant facility in Jefferson Parish via Google Maps

Media Contact:

Paul Harang

Chief of Staff

(504) 658-1101

New Orleans City Council

Created on: 12/9/2020 11:56:52 AM | Last updated: 7/13/2021 9:52:50 AM


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