This was the nineteenth BlightStat meeting where the public was invited to attend.
The City continues to march toward its goal of eradicating 10,000 blighted properties within three years. City departments that can help with this process meet every two weeks for a “BlightStat” meeting.
Goals have been set for each department and a presentation is made at each meeting to show how each department is doing toward meeting those goals.
BELOW ARE NOTES FROM THE July 28th BLIGHTSTAT MEETING
Mr. Oliver Wise, Director of the Office of Performance and Accountability began the meeting. About 35 people were in the audience. Many of those people were city employees.
Mr. Carrere with Code Enforcement was the first to give a report. Mr. Carrere discussed the progress of demolitions. Twenty-three cases are currently being processed and have received all necessary approvals. Mr. Andy Kopplin asked about delays in the process and inquired as to whether barriers to progress had been eliminated. Mr. Carrere and Ms. Breaux made it clear that barriers to progress have been removed on their end.
SHPO continues to slow the demolition process. Mr. Carrere discussed that archeological reports are now required by SHPO for some properties. Mr. Carrere indicated this was something they did not have in the past. Mr. Jeff Hebert asked if this involved Indian issues. Mr. Carrere indicated that it had more to do with analyzing old bottles found in the ground.
Mr. Dean Wolcott continued the meeting with a discussion of FEMA activities. Twenty percent of FEMA sponsored demolition cases have to be returned for further review. Seventeen FEMA sponsored demolitions are ready to go. Hundreds of properties are “in the pipeline”. Mr Wolcott indicated he does not see the bottleneck being fixed in the near future. Historic review of properties appears to be the biggest delay in the process. All 458 FEMA sponsored demolitions have been inspected. About 150 are currently going to hearings. The balance should be done by the end of September.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson continued the meeting with a discussion of NORA demolitions. Some are tied up in multi-family building issues (townhouses). The process, while slow, continues to progress. Ms. Wilkerson mentioned that many NORA properties are going to the Sheriff’s sale. Mr. Kopplin asked for more information on the properties going into the demolition “que”. Mr. Carrere indicated that many times there are one or two units in a multi-unit building where the owners have fixed their unit. The problem is that prevents taking down the rest of the blighted building. The city is looking into relocation for those who have fixed their units in an majority blighted multi-unit building.
Ms Kristin Illarmo discussed the final FEMA trailer hearings indicating the remaining 31 FEMA trailers should be removed in the coming months.
Ms. Cynthia Sylvain-Lear discussed tire removal and clearing of dumping sites. Quality of Life Officers throughout the city are reporting tire dumping and lots where dumping is taking place. One arrest was made recently when a Quality of Life Officer caught a man dumping tires. Twenty thousand tires have been picked up by the Sanitation Department during the last year.
Mr. Miles Granderson discussed files being readied for Sheriff Sale. The Case Managers are doing a better job of getting the files ready. Mr. Granderson expects a “high yield” from the files being readied since March of this year. Files are mainly rejected for errors in “noticing”. Mr. Granderson explained that there can be many reasons. Mr. Kopplin suggested that if ninety percent of the properties are not making it through the process that there may be issues that need to be addressed. Mr. Granderson indicated that he and Tyler are on this project full time now and are working with Ms. Illarmo in Code Enforcement to move the process forward. Mr. Kopplin asked for reports on how well the law department is doing with getting blighted properties moving.
Mr. Granderson continued by indicating Mr. Peter Rizzo manages Sheriff’s Sales. Mr. Rizzo said that a separate information sheet is being made for curators outlining their responsibilities as managers of properties getting ready to go to Sheriff’s Sale. Mr. Granderson keeps up with the curators to make sure they are completing their work timely.
Mr. Kopplin asked that a list be kept of those who do not complete their work timely. That list may be reviewed at the BlightStat meetings. Judges appoint the curators and the curators are often friends and associates of the judges. Mr. Kopplin wants 1,000 properties seized and the issues resolved by the end of the year.
Ms. Wilkerson continued the meeting with a discussion of NORA closings. Total NORA closings to date are above target. She indicated NORA is under pressure to spend their NSP2 money. The goal is to have 1,000 NORA closings by the end of the year. Ms. Wilkerson indicated there is an issue with some properties falling out of the process between purchase agreement and closing. Ms. Wilkerson continues to work diligently to move NORA properties through the pipeline.
The gentleman from LLT discussed the cost versus benefit concerning rehabilitation of blighted properties stating, “there is not a property in the city that can’t be rehabilitated if enough money is available”. Mr. Kopplin discussed “pushing more on the auctions”. Ms. Wilkerson indicated that once the redevelopment tools are out there that more properties will move. Mr. Hebert indicated that both the State and the City have little money or resources available now and into the future for LLT to continue the process. LLT has a five year budget of 216 million dollars. Mr. Kopplin indicated that there are thousands of Option 1 Road Home recipients who have not met their obligations. Mr. Kopplin indicated that the LLT is running out of money. Mr. Kopplin indicated that using FEMA money is a priority now which is why Mr. Wolcott’s bi-weekly report is so important. The representative from LLT indicated he would like to work with Mr. Wolcott.
Mr. Carrere continued the meeting with a report on inspections. He indicated that inspections are down a bit due to the “summertime lull”. It should be noted that the Code Enforcement Department has consistently exceeded its goals each bi-weekly period throughout the past year.
Mr. Wise indicated that the inspection backlog is an issue that needs to be resolved indicating that there is no excuse for the inspection backlog to continue.
Mr. Square indicated that his department continues to work on the problems with the computer system. Ms. Illarmo indicated that there are two computers in the building that Code Enforcement goes downstairs to use because they are “lightning fast”.
Mr. Wise reviewed the completed inspections slide. Mr. Hebert indicated that the map is a useful and important tool. He indicated that it “make us a lot smarter, letting us know where we’ve been”.
Mr. Hebert indicated that neighborhood organizations provide useful information. Mr. Kopplin indicated that use of neighborhood organizations to check out areas might be a good idea.
Mr. Kopplin continues to take control of the BlightStat meetings indicating that performance objectives will be met.
Ms. Ilarmo and Mr. Granderson reviewed information previously discussed as the just arrived TV camera from Fox 8 News rolled.
Mr. Kopplin mentioned that city attorneys have done some work on a couple of Saturdays to help move the process along. He also mentioned that the mayor had asked the bar association for assistance from members to help with the backlog of cases for adjudication hearings.
Ms. Illarmo indicated 142 blight court cases are set for August. 156 are set for September. She indicated compliance remains steady at twenty six percent. Mr. Kopplin indicated that Code Enforcement has already met its yearly goal for inspections.
Ms. Illarmo indicated that the unscheduled hearings backlog remains a problem but Code Enforcement is developing a good stockpile of cases ready to go to hearings. She indicated some of the staffing issues have been resolved and Code Enforcement is getting better able to move forward more efficiently.
Mr. Hebert continued with questions from the audience. Algiers Point has a number of old cases not yet up for Sheriff sale. Mr. Hebert asked Ms. Illarmo to look into this issue. Mr. Granderson indicated that soon there will be no 2008 or 2009 cases in the backlog.
In the past, the City did not always follow all of the steps to get properties properly adjudicated. That situation has been remediated.
Question from the audience…
How long does it take to get a curator assigned to a case?
Resident indicated that inspections get done but curators don’t get assigned. Mr. Granderson indicated that a curator is only assigned after a property comes up for Sheriff’s Sale.
Mr. Kopplin indicated that the property has not yet gone to Sheriff Sale but the process is well on its way.
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117