Article and photos by Charlie London
What gets measured gets managed could be the mantra of the bi-weekly Blight Stat meetings where any department that could have an impact on reducing blight in New Orleans meets to discuss their progress.
The meeting began with an announcement of the City’s “Fight Blight Day”. Click here to read about Fight Blight Day to be held on December 11th.
Also, in an effort to limit the meeting to two hours, an index card system was instituted at this meeting. As is the custom at the City Council meetings, citizens will now write their questions on index cards (provided at the meeting) which are then collected and distributed to the department head that can best answer the question.
The usual graphs and charts were presented as one would expect in any business meeting. Winston Reid (Code Enforcement) stated that blight sweeps are being done around schools. Six different areas were “swept” but exact locations were not presented.
Inspections increased significantly to 717. The bi-weekly inspection goal is 800.
Jeff Hebert (Blight & Neighborhood Revitalization) suggested sweeps in N.O.P.D. “hot spots” as blighted homes are often havens for nefarious characters. Mr. Allen Square, Jr. (Chief Information Officer) said he could map N.O.P.D. hot spots making it easier for inspectors to target those areas.
Ms. Lear (Sanitation) asked that the Code Enforcement inspectors notify the Sanitation Department of dumping on blighted properties.
Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin did a little grilling of Mr. Reid about the number of properties inspected then apologized for his aggressive stance to which Mr. Reid replied, “That’s what we’re here for”.
Ms. Duplessis (Deputy Chief Administrative Officer) stated that the Code Enforcement division is stil in transition due to training and that the numbers should improve when training is complete in mid-January, 2011. Ms. Duplessis also stated that recent computer issues have prevented information from being transferred from the code enforcement inspectors laptops to the main Accela system.
Jeff Hebert read my question about the possibility of using National Guard troops to help with the code enforcement process. Andy Kopplin said the request will be made. Winston Reid responded that troops would be most useful for remediating properties.
Kristin Philips (Code Enforcement) mentioned that they will be working on getting an ordinance passed where 3 resets would be the maximum for any blight adjudication hearing. After that the property owner would be found guilty and fines would be assessed. She emphasized that stronger enforcement and better case management are works in progress. Ms. Philips further noted that the arduous and painfully slow Road Home process is continuing to cripple the progress of some home renovations.
Ms. Lear noted that her department continues to focus on health hazards and illegal dumping. Her department generally gets involved with large scale problems where dump trucks and front end loaders are needed. The Sanitation Department is continuing to focus on checking manifests of proper tire disposal at tire shops throughout the city.
The graphs and charts presented throught the meeting show that incremental progress is evident.
What is measured is managed.
Blight abatement took place in New Orleans East along I-10, in the 9th Ward, one on Harrison, and in the A.P. Tureaud and Claiborne areas. Blight abatement consists of strategic demolitions and removal of buildings in imminent danger of collapse as well as grass cutting, tire removal, and clearing blighted properties where dumping is occurring.
Sheriff sales have been stymied by the computer meltdown of mortgage conveyance records. NORA properties suffer from the same fate. To say that this is a problem of epic proportions that will certainly affect progress in New Orleans for years would be to understate the significance.
You can read more about this computer information debacle in the links below:
There are still over 200 FEMA trailers sitting on property throughout New Orleans. Ms. Duplessis indicated that the City is sending out letters that the January 1, 2011 deadline will be enforced. FEMA will be sending out letters advising FEMA trailer residents on housing options.
It was announced that N.O.P.D. Quality of Life officers will be attending the bi-weekly BlightStat meetings.
To learn more about how you can help fight blight, read about this and previous BlightStat meetings, and find out when the next meeting will be, please visit FSJNA dot ORG’s “STOMP OUT BLIGHT” page in the link below:
BLIGHTSTAT MEETING (every 2 weeks)
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
WHEN: Thursday, December 16, 2010
8:00-9:30 AM CST
WHERE: 1340 Poydras Street
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117