This was one of the more exciting BlightStat meetings as it is clear the City of New Orleans is re-organizing and prioritizing its Fight Against Blight. Several departments are partnering with various arms of the Federal Government to “bring the hammer of justice” down on blight. The Federal Government levies even larger fines and has the means to collect and enforce citations. If you have blighted property, or are illegally dumping, it is strongly suggested you take action now to correct violations or risk action taken to protect the City’s interests.
All City of New Orleans departments that in any way could help in the Fight Against Blight were present at today’s meeting. Mr. Oliver Wise, Mr. Jeff Hebert, Mr. Andy Kopplin, Mr. Allen Square, Ms. C.S. Lear, Ms. Brenda Breaux, Mr. Channing Warner, Ms. Wilkerson, Mr. Hillary Carrere, Ms. Kristin Illarmo, and Mr. W.H. Reid. 41 people were in the audience. There were also some new faces at the main table with Code Inspectors, Legal Hammers, and consultants in the audience. Doug Lepel (sp?) joined the meeting via conference phone. He works in conjunction with Nicole Heyman. Jeff Hebert noted that their work on transformation is underwritten by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. It is clear the City of New Orleans is assembling a formidable team of Blight Busters.
Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin announced that Jeff Hebert will, in addition to his other duties, assume the position of Director of the new consolidated Code Enforcement Department. He also announced that Ms. Ann Duplessis will be leading the Customer Service initiative across all departments in City Hall. Look for some significant improvements in this area in the coming months.
The restructuring of the Code Enforcement Department was discussed along with some logistical issues with the move to the 11th floor of the Amoco Building. Position moves were made as well.
Mr. Jeff Hebert (Director of Blight Policy and Neighborhood Revitalization) announced the National Guard will be assisting Code Enforcement with its mission. As was announced previously in this article…BLIGHT VILLAINS BEWARE, THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS IS COMING AFTER YOU!
Previous FSJNA dot ORG articles about the BlightStat meetings have included many of the statistics presented at the meeting. Those interested in the statistics please click here to see the presentation from today’s meeting.
The backlog of inspections remains high but the restructuring of the Code Enforcement Department should yield positive results by May of this year.
Prioritization is being done on inspections. All the inspections are being promptly entered into the newly tailored Accela system. Mr. Allen Square noted that the Accela system is being transformed to better meet the needs of city employees using the system.
Ms. Kristin Illarmo (Code Enforcement Blight Buster) was enthusiastic when she stated that the Accela Reformation Team has been easy to work with and specifically appreciated the efforts of Norma Miller and Eric Tuller.
Mr. Square noted that Accela improvements to make the system more useful to each department should be completed by April of this year.
Ms. Illarmo also noted that “Jeremy” is doing some great work at the Code Enforcement hearings and is making significant progress.
Mr. Reid commented that the BlightStat meetings are helping. He noted the value of having all the departments meet together as well as having citizen input. He also noted that the media attention to the issue is helping to let code violators know the City is serious about fighting blight.
Ms. Illarmo introduced 7 case managers in the audience. The efforts of Pam Leggy, an unsung hero, who has worked diligently on information gathering. She also noted that intensive training on the newly improved Accela system will be mandatory for all new case managers. Training should be completed by April of this year and results should begin to show during May of this year.
As with any move… residential, commercial, or city department, issues have arisen. The I.T. Department has been working furiously on printer issues and will have them resolved soon so the Code Enforcement Department can distribute reports of results.
Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin announced that the City is hiring Hearing Officers for Blight Hearings. An RFP is on the City’s website at the Purchasing Portal. Interested persons would need to take action today as the opportunity closes tomorrow.
Mr. Doug Lepel (sp?) stated on the conference phone that resets of Code Enforcement Hearings is going to be rare. People who appear before the Blight Court will be given clear and concise directions on what is expected of them…. BLIGHT VILLAINS BEWARE, THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS IS COMING AFTER YOU! A discussion about Code Enforcement Hearings ensued among several people at the main table.
Mr. Jeff Hebert read questions from the audience:
Question: What to do about residential property being used for
Answer: Contact the Safety & Permits Department
Question: Can the public get a schedule of sweeps and where they
Answer: Mr. Reid said yes but with some reluctance because it requires legalities to be discussed. A discussion ensued… if the maps and schedules were put up on the website then the blight violators would just dress the properties up enough to keep from being cited. The City is serious about blight and wants to bring violators in to Blight Court to explain why, over 5 years after “the storm”, their property continues to remain blighted.
Mr. Lepel (sp?) on the conference phone will investigate ways to post information that does not allow blight villains to manipulate the system.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear noted that continued publicity of the city’s enforcement efforts will help with citizen compliance.
Mr. Carrere was asked by a citizen about the disparity in inspection statistics. He replied that 48 hours before a demolition an inspector goes out to inspect the property and also goes out after the demo to make sure the process went smoothly. This would be counted as two inspections but is only on one property.
A discussion about inspections and feedback to complainants began. Currently, the only feedback a citizen gets is when they call in to find out about a situation. Mr. Square noted that will change when the new and improved 311 reporting system is implemented. The new system will include a feedback loop so citizens will be kept abreast of progress on their complaint.
Mr. Carrere discussed demolitions and noted that once the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee approves a demolition that the City has 12 months to do it. He further noted that the City has missed this mark by as little as 2 days. Steps are being taken to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Mr. Reid stated that code enforcement is about abatement but also historic preservation. He suggested that HDLC & NCDC schedule their hearings back to back so the process can move along quicker. Everyone then discussed the demolition process, permits and NCDC.
An article by Brad Vogel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was mentioned as noteworthy. You can read it in the link below:
Ms. Lear continued the meeting noting that the Sanitation Department is still working in the Almonaster area as they have been for months with 471 tires removed this bi-weekly period but that is not all they are doing. The Sanitation Department is following volunteer groups in their efforts and is gearing up for the annual parade cleaning operation that is the envy of the country. If you’ve ever stayed late enough after a parade to see it then you know it is quite an operation. The news media generally touts the success of Mardi Gras by the tonnage of trash the Sanitation Department picks up. It is almost certainly going to be a huge amount of trash to be picked up this Mardi Gras what with college “Spring Breaks” coinciding with Mardi Gras this year.
As previously noted in this article, the City of New Orleans is partnering with larger, better financed, and more powerful Federal agencies to root out blight villains and bring them to justice… BLIGHT VILLAINS BEWARE, THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS IS COMING AFTER YOU!
The Sanitation Department is no exception and is working with the Department of Environmental Quality. 40 members of D.E.Q. were brought in and in a combined effort with the City of New Orleans Finance Department, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, the New Orleans Fire Department and Code Enforcement surveyed 59 businesses and found 4 without Occupational Licenses and issued 22 citations. The D.E.Q. made two arrests and make 8 motions for contempt.
Ms. Lear followed that news with an update about the Keep New Orleans Beautiful initiative which she chairs. This initiative aims to get New Orleans recognized as a “Keep America Beautiful” city and bring the “Great American Cleanup” to New Orleans in 2012.
A citizen brought up the issue of tire dumping in Central City to which Ms. Lear replied that the City has investigated the use of cameras in the area and continues to monitor the situation. She added that redevelopment of properties helps discourage this activity as there are fewer dark areas to dump and more eyes watching. N.O.P.D.’s Quality of Life officers continue to check tire shops for manifests of propery disposal of tires. The Department of Environmental Quality was brought in and has indicated that tire dumping is a nationwide problem.
Mr. Channing Warner of the Legal Department went over the seizure process for blighted properties. Once legally filed the property is seized immediately but the date of sale does not go up for quite a while. First, the owner has to be served notice that the property has been seized which can be complicated when successions are involved.
Out of town owners are contacted by mail and the City has to wait for a response before proceeding. After the owners have been duly noted, the property gets appraised. Then the date of sale is scheduled. Finally a curator for the property is appointed after the City has proof that the owner is absent.
Mr. Warner announced that many more properties will be going to Sherrif’s Sale soon! 57 were filed just last week. New staff is to arrive in the Legal Department this Monday. Look out blight villains, the City is coming after you!
After a discussion of New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and Louisiana Land Trust properties, the meeting ended with Mr. Hebert announcing the next city-wide Fight the Blight day. It will take place on March 19th.
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.
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 4 held on December 16th, 2010
To view the January, 2011 City Planning Commission newsletter, please CLICK HERE
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 5 held on January 13th, 2011
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 6 held on January 27th, 2011
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 7 held on February 10th, 2011
Click here to read a summary of BlightStat meeting number 8 held on February 24th, 2011
BLIGHTSTAT MEETING (every 2 weeks)
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
WHEN: Thursday, March 10, 2010
8:00-9:30 AM CST
WHERE: 1340 Poydras Street
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117