Article by Charlie London
Hear Charlie London talk about bandit signs in an interview on March 14, 2011 on WGSO AM 990
This Faubourg St. John property at 1549 Verna is just one of the over 50,000 properties in New Orleans needing attention.
March 10, 2011
This was the 9th BlightStat meeting where the public was invited to attend. Attendance was dramatically down with 26 people in the audience.
A big announcement (and one that neighbor Dean Burridge mentioned on the yahoo group on March 9th) was that the City of New Orleans has been selected for a IBM Smarter Cities grant.
The grants provide cities with access to IBM’s top experts to analyze and recommend ways they can become even better place in which to live, work and play. For more information about the Smarter Cities Challenge grant program, please visit www.smartercitieschallenge.org. To learn more about IBM’s corporate citizenship initiatives, please visit: www.ibm.com/blogs/citizen-ibm
It was also announced that the next Fight the Blight Day will be held on Saturday, March 19th.
Kristin Illarmo of the Code Enforcement Department announced that the newly hired Case Managers for code enforcement hearings have completed their training. She has assigned cases to the Case Managers coupled with performance goals.
Doug Leper joined the meeting once again via conference call. He said the city is defining what a “work in progress” is to thwart those who continually provide excuses for not repairing their property.
W.H. Reid noted that his department has a “shoot to kill” strategy on blight meaning that aggressive steps are being taken to solve the problem. This was picked up by several other department heads in their statements and will likely become the mantra for the city’s fight against blight.
Mr. Reid mentioned the demolition of blighted apartments in New Orleans East along I-10 and that the Law Department is quickly certifying cases to make the demolition process smoother. 5 acres of buildings were removed along with dumped tires and debris.
The Sanitation Department received applause from all attendees for their collaborative effort with the Code Enforcement Department, non-profits, and many city employees who helped clean up the city after Mardi Gras parades.
City employees teamed up to make sure St. Charles Avenue was clean after the both superkrewes of Bacchus and Endymion rolled through. Andy Kopplin stated there was “twice the trash and it was picked up in half the time”. The Administration and the City Council worked together to make sure resources were available.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain Lear, Sanitation Department Director, noted that her department has a total of 23 employees. Those employees, along with numerous other departments pitched in to make sure the city was clean. It should be noted that many worked until 3 a.m. in the morning after the superkrewes rolled by and were at work again that morning for their regular shift at 6 p.m. Very impressive!
N.O.P.D. Quality of Life Officers made sure equipment needed for the cleanup operation was able to get in and kept workers and the public safe.
Because of the information supplied by the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, other non-profit groups, and the City on cleanup efforts that the National Keep America Beautiful program is fast tracking New Orleans for certification and everyone should know more after the meeting on April 6th. Part of that program will be to educate the public on keeping the city clean. Ms. Lear mentioned that the Downtown Development District has put out cigarette butt receptacles and put out 200 more trash containers for Mardi Gras.
The next BlightStat meeting is Tuesday, March 29th at 8 a.m. on the 9th floor of the Amoco building at 1340 Poydras.
Nov 4, 2010 | Nov 18, 2010 | Dec 2, 2010 | Dec 16, 2010
| Jan 13, 2011 | Jan 27, 2011 | Feb 10, 2011 | Feb 24, 2011 |
Mar 10, 2011
More details of the March 10, 2011 BlightStat meeting can be seen below and was obtained from the Uptown Messenger.
City officials – including Hebert, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, and numerous department heads – meet every two weeks for the BlightStat meetings, as they discuss strategies to meet the city’s goal of remediating 10,000 derelict properties in three years. The city has set benchmarks for numerous components in the fight against blight, and noted marked progress in some Thursday and substantial work to be done in others.
The number of FEMA trailers left in the city has fallen from 230 in December to 168 as of this week. The city has declared the trailers a zoning violation, and hearings on 51 sites will be held March 28. Meanwhile, FEMA will begin charging rental fees for any trailers still out beginning May 1, suggesting that the vast majority could be gone in the coming months.
Code-enforcement inspections were another source of some success Thursday. The city’s goal is to conduct 1,200 inspections every two weeks, and has met or nearly met that benchmark in three of the four BlightStat meetings held so far this year. In the last two weeks, the inspection backlog fell from 882 to 735, and the number of inspection requests older than 90 days was cut the most deeply, about 30 percent.
Another element of the anti-blight strategy is to sell properties with excessive unpaid fines through sheriff’s auctions, and the city’s law department has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of properties scheduled for sale. The process is costly, however, so the city tries to choose the properties most likely to actually be bought at a price that will cover expenses, Hebert said.
“We need to have properties that will sell in order to make this work,” Hebert said. “This isn’t a free process for the city. This is arduous.”
The sheriff’s sale can be an elusive goal, however, law officials warned. Even once a sale is scheduled, new information received can result in a sale being canceled at the last minute.
One area where the city has yet to meet its targets are in code-enforcement hearings, officials said. The city’s goal is to average 450 hearings every two weeks, but has yet to even reach 350, and the last period totaled only 178 because of the holidays. The city is making strides, however, in bringing the hearings it conducts to actual guilty judgments instead of indefinite postponements, officials said.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty has been in achieving actual demolitions of derelict properties. The most recent two-week period showed only three demolitions, and even gains the city thought it had made in previous periods were reduced after discovering that it had counted about 10 demolitions twice.
“The quality of the numbers isn’t great, and what they’re showing is not very good either,” observed Oliver Wise, the city’s performance director, who runs the BlightStat meetings. “What really matters is getting the numbers up. That’s what people care about.”
Officials touted one major demolition property underway in the 14100 block of Kern in New Orleans East, a five-acre vacant apartment complex that will be reduced to a concrete slab. Kopplin said that overall, the intense scrutiny of the BlightStat meetings continues to improve the system, and that the number of demolitions will improve soon.
“Every time we come back here, we find another problem that needs to be solved. Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of them,” Kopplin said. “The processes are improving. We’ve gotten a lot smarter about how we do our work.”