Article and photos by Charlie London
Mayor Landrieu invited the public to attend the first bi-weekly meeting where all of the departments that have anything to do with blight get together to discuss their progress and ways to improve.
One of the noteworthy quotes from Mayor Landrieu concerns the number of continuances that are allowed when a blighted property owner is brought to the administration hearing. Mayor Landrieu stated, “Continuances should be the exception rather than the rule.”
The Departments concerning health code violations (overgrown lots) and code enforcement are being merged. The 20 inspectors in the new department will be trained to be certified to do all inspections concerning blighted properties and lots.
The goal of the new department is 12 inspections per day per inspector. The overall goal is 1600 inspections per month for buildings and 400 inspections per month for lots.
Targeting blighted schools, parks and the properties surrounding them is a major priority. Fixing schools and parks will encourage development in those areas.
Mayor Landrieu spoke of the importance of measuring progress and stressed the economic development potential of removing blight and rebuilding our city.
Rental and commericial properties will also be a priority for code enforcement. The city intends to pursue an aggressive, relentless enforcement strategy. It is time for owners of blighted property to take personal responsibility.
The Mayor also stated that all FEMA trailers will be gone by January 1st, 2011.
He encouraged city departments and the public to have constructive engagement not destructive interaction.
The city intends to focus on code enforcement as the key tool for fighting blight.
Check out the video above and view several city properties contributing to the blight problem in New Orleans.
New Orleans Mayor Landrieu strives for better communication in blight discussions
by Ben Myers
Dolan Media Newswires
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Citizens caught a glimpse of policymaking in action Nov. 4 at the city’s first BlightStat meeting, a biweekly public gathering where city officials dissect new performance metrics that track blight eradication efforts.
They were also presented with a mayor who, while admitting that he felt “argumentative,” frequently pushed members of his administration and citizens to speak each other’s language.
“I want people to test the information that comes out of your mouth,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “Don’t just say something and not have a basis for it.”
The statement came after Landrieu took exception to Charlie London’s characterization that city-owned historic properties are “being demolished by neglect.” London, part of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, further urged the administration to use citizen volunteers as property inspectors.
“Excellent point,” replied Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, before Landrieu cut him off.
“Excellent, but not necessarily accurate,” Landrieu said. “Let’s clarify what we’re talking about.”
Landrieu told those in attendance that city-owned properties are his administration’s first priority in addressing blight, adding that historic structures must be rehabbed or taken down according to preservation protocols. He then turned to his staff, seated around tables in front of the room. London indeed made an excellent point about private volunteers, Landrieu said, “So the question is, with our inspections, can we use Charlie and other people to help us?”
Jeff Hebert, Landrieu’s new blight policy chief, replied that the city could take certain information about blighted properties from private citizens.
“That’s not what he asked,” Landrieu said, before Hebert could finish his sentence. “He asked whether our citizens can be inspectors. That’s the question he asked. So let’s answer that question.”
Brenda Breaux, chief deputy City attorney, followed with an explanation that city law excludes citizens from being inspectors because the city relies on inspection information in court hearings. Landrieu then beseeched his staff to distill the essence of London’s suggestion. There may be constitutional limits on citizen inspections, but “it’s possible for private citizens to assist government,” Landrieu said, noting the New Orleans Police Department’s citizen reserves.
“It ought not just be limited to just, ‘Send us information,’” the mayor added, instructing administration members to investigate the legal boundaries.
Landrieu also played interpreter in a discussion about handling citizen complaints via computer so that the appropriate city department addresses them. One hurdle is the way former Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration installed Accella, the city’s central software system, Chief Information Officer Allen Square said.
The installation “was probably not the most optimal configuration for these departments to work in,” Square said, which was met with a brusque interjection by Landrieu. “Nobody knows what that means,” he said. “Say what you mean directly.”
Square attempted to rephrase, with step-by-step coaching from Landrieu, who eventually took over for his IT director. Accella is not the problem, Landrieu said, but it has been used in a way where “nobody could talk to anybody” within various departments. City employees are now “transitioning from misusing the piece of equipment to using it appropriately,” he added.
Square, sounding relieved, replied with a genuine punch line that earned laughter on both ends of the room.
Restoring City-owned historic properties would create anchors of positive development throughout New Orleans and give a big boost to our restoration efforts.
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