Blight Busting

Article and photos by Charlie London

BlightStat meeting number 4 was held on the 9th floor of the Amoco Building and began at 8 a.m. on December 16, 2010.

You can read about previous meetings and events in the links below:
Click here to see info about the 9th Ward blight sweep on Nov 2nd, 2010.

Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 1 held on November 4th, 2010

Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 2 held on November 18th, 2010

Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 3 held on December 2nd, 2010

Click here to see photos of the Fight the Blight Day held on December 11, 2010.

The December 16, 2010 meeting began with a review of the Mayor’s first Fight the Blight Day on December 11th. You can see photos by Charlie London of the event which took place in all council districts in the link below:

Jeff Hebert announced that the “Fight the Blight” days are planned to occur quarterly giving participants more time to plan. Mr. Hebert also noted that would give more time for setting up demolitions, for police to tag cars for towing, and identify more partners… especially corporate partnerships. Brook Smith and Westley Bayas will be coordinating with neighborhoods.

While there were fewer people in the audience for this meeting, the room was still mostly full. There were also 3 video cameras, two of which filmed the entire meeting.

Winston Reid noted 1006 inspections for the period from Nov. 29 through Dec. 11. He attributed the large increase to sweeps around schools and work done at the Fight the Blight Day.

Mr. Reid stated that his department is becoming more strategic in their attack on blight noting that he insists on precise and thorough inspections while sustaining a high number of inspections.

Charlie London followed up on last session’s question about the possibility of using the National Guard to help in the fight against blight. It was said last time that the National Guard would be contacted.

Andy Kopplin stated that the National Guard has not yet been contacted but he would be meeting with Colonel Paul Rainwater in a few days and would discuss it with him. Mr. Kopplin stated he was thankful for the follow-up on the issue.

Anne Duplessis stated that the City is still focusing on training City employees to fight blight. It was announced also that consolidated hearings (code & health) began this week.

Kristen Philips announced that the hearings will be moved to the 21st floor of the Amoco Building at 1340 Poydras. There will be 3 days of hearings each week. The goal is to have 225 hearings each week. Currently they have about 175 hearings each week.

Many officials expressed deep gratitude to Maria Goretti Church in New Orleans East for allowing the code enforcement hearings to be held there free-of-charge for years.

Oliver Wise noted the huge increase in conditional guilty judgements. Kristin Philips stated that was due to hearing guidelines being emphasized in training sessions and that Jeff Hebert worked in partnership with Code Enforcement.

Ms. Philips also noted that the hearing officers will change in the next two weeks. The hearing officers lay out specific requirements in conditional judgements which require the property owner to take action or face consequences.

At a hearing, the $575 court costs and initial fine are not refundable but the daily fines are often waived if the owner makes significant effort to bring the property in compliance.

Cynthia Sylvain Lear was pleased to announce that the Sanitation Department removed 1,434 tires. This was done with the help of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality who worked with the City of New Orleans in an effort known as Operation Jabez.

40-50 D.E.Q. agents partered with the Sheriff’s office, M.I.S., the Law Department, N.O.P.D, the Fire Department, and the licensing department to make this happen.

There were two arrests of people operating an illegal landfill on property they did not own. It was noted that they will likely pay stiff fines and spend a considerable amount of time in jail.

Jennifer Pilote of the Louisiana D.E.Q. was a big help during Operation Jabez. Ms. Sylvain-Lear read from Chapter 105 of the state regulations. These were among the laws enforced during Operation Jabez.

Ms. Sylvain-Lear also announced a Household Hazardous Waste Day coming up on January 29th. The event will be held at 2829 Elysian Fields. Residents can bring batteries, propane tanks, TVs, computers and other hazardous waste to 2829 Elysian Fields on January 29th.

She also reiterated as she has in previous meetings that citizens can put up to 4 tires out on the curb for pickup on the 2nd pickup day. The service is part of the garbage contract.

Ms. Sylvain-Lear stated that information about proper disposal of household hazardous waste and tires should go out with water bills in January. Information will also be sent out to neighborhood leaders to relay to their constituents.

Winston Reid (Code Enforcement) noted that Entergy continues to be a sticking point. Getting utilities turned off for demolitions continues to be a challenge. Mr. Buggage at Entergy is working with Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement holds demolition information until all historic reviews are done before releasing info to Entergy.

Andy Kopplin noted that all 224 FEMA trailer residents have been paired with a solution for permanent housing. Enforcement letters have been sent saying FEMA trailers will no longer be allowed as of January 1, 2011.

Rita LeGrand of Lakeview expressed frustration at the slow progress of removal of FEMA trailers in Lakeview stating that this process should have been completed a year and a half ago.

It was announced that the mortgage conveyance computer meltdown should be resolved by January 2, 2011.

Sheriff Sales are scheduled for February, 2011.

The City has a goal of 1,000 Sheriff Sales for 2011.

The next Blight Stat meeting will take place on January 13, 2011.
There will be no BlightStat meeting on December 30th.

The City of New Orleans BlightStat meetings are held bi-weekly on the 9th floor of the Amoco Building at 1340 Poydras. The meeting begins at 8 am.

About the author
Charlie London
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