Name Change Approved for McDonough Playground
The Council unanimously passed Ordinance 33,373, effectively renaming McDonough Playground to Harold DeVore Playground. Located at 1500 Teche Street in Algiers, McDonough Playground was named for wealthy slaveholder John McDonogh and historically served as a whites-only playground for the surrounding community.
In 1953, the City of New Orleans established a new, separate playground in Algiers for African-American families on Nunez Street. This playground was named for Harold Gene DeVore, a graduate of L.B. Landry High School and former member of the U.S. Air Force.
Despite McDonough Playground’s legacy of segregation and ties of its namesake to slavery, it continues to operate in Algiers under its original name. As part of ongoing efforts by the Council to address symbols of white supremacy across the city’s streets, parks, and public places, it fully supports and approves the decision of the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) Commission to rename the playground in honor of Harold DeVore.
An entrance to McDonough Playground courtesy of Basketball Courts of the World
Council Calls on Federal Leaders to Mitigate Student Loan Crisis
In light of the historic public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19 and the financial impacts on almost every American family, the Council is urging the federal government to address the increasingly urgent student loan crisis. Resolution R-21-317 calls on U.S. government leaders to cancel all or at least $50,000 in Federal student loan debt per borrower by the end of President Biden’s first year in office.
Forgiving student loan debt and eliminating debt in higher education represents an enormous economic opportunity for the City of New Orleans and the entire nation to increase spending in local communities, support individuals’ upward mobility, and provide a much-needed stimulus during the pandemic. The average New Orleans resident’s average student loan balance is around $39,000, about $5,000 higher than the rest of the state. College has become more and more essential, with many finding it difficult to earn a living wage without an advanced degree. However, the cost of attendance is higher than ever before, having more than doubled over the past generation.
The student loan crisis is also an indicator of inequity. Studies show that, on average, Black students are more likely to borrow student loans and pay down their debt slower than their White counterparts. Black students who earned a bachelor’s degree also had a default rate nearly four times higher than similarly situated White peers due to complex facets of wealth and wage disparities associated with structural racism. Not only has this crisis exacerbated racial inequity, but gender inequity, with women holding roughly two-thirds of the nation’s total student loan debt.
If left unchecked, the student loan dilemma will continue to have devastating effects on the country’s current recession, racial wealth gap, and economic recovery. Therefore, the Council encourages the United States Government to exercise its authority in canceling student loan debt and begin the transition of higher education as a public good.
Councilmembers Join Local Advocates in Fight for Continued Federal Unemployment Benefits
The Council adopted Resolution R-21-316, expressing its support of Step Up Louisiana’s call for the continuation of federal unemployment benefit assistance. With the emergence of the Delta variant, Louisiana is currently experiencing its highest caseloads of the pandemic, the direst hospitalization rate in the country, along with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. While the U.S. government currently provides states with the ability to opt-in to additional unemployment payment benefits for residents unemployed due to COVID-19, Governor Edwards agreed to opt Louisiana out of these as part of a compromise with state legislators who agreed to raise unemployment benefits by an additional $28 per week.
Louisiana has the second-lowest employment benefit amount in the country at $247 per week, making an increase of $28 merely a modest step towards protecting vulnerable residents who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Ending federal unemployment benefits for Louisiana workers means more individuals will have to rely on food pantries to feed their families, and more households will face eviction or foreclosure.
“The State of Louisiana has cut people off from benefits they desperately need just as the pandemic reaches new heights. Louisiana taxpayers are paying their fair share of the enhanced federal unemployment benefits, but they have been stopped from seeing the returns,” said District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett. “We have to do everything we can to fight COVID-19, and that means making sure people who cannot work amid this crisis have money to pay rent and to put food on the table. It’s time to give our people the benefits they deserve.”
The Council stands with its partners at Step Up Louisiana, who recently recognized Governor Edwards’ strong and effective leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and called on him to find a way to maintain both the federal unemployment support and the weekly increase in the State’s unemployment benefit amount.
Tax Bonds Authorized for Downtown Improvements
With its adoption of Resolution R-21-303, the Council authorized up to $6,500,000 of City of New Orleans Downtown Development District (DDD) Limited Tax Bonds to be issued by the Board of Liquidation, City Debt. The bonds will be used to construct and enhance capital improvements, such as stormwater management and other infrastructure projects.
Photo courtesy of New Orleans Living Magazine
Chief of Staff
New Orleans City Council