by Charlie London
This was the 22nd BlightStat meeting to which 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.
CLICK HERE to view a PDF of the City’s BlightStat Presentation
BottomLineStat was announced as a new Landrieu administration initiative and is designed to “ensure that departments are held accountable for cutting unnecessary expenses and staying on budget.” It said city departments have been ordered to eliminate unnecessary services, reorganize their operations to make them more efficient, and invest in programs that yield long-term value.
ReqtoCheckStat was also announced and is described as an effort to improve the performance and speed of the city’s contracting system. Mr. Wise indicated the Office of Performance and Accountability has designed a program to review the entire process of contracting out services such as picking up trash, paving streets and rebuilding libraries.
Mr. Kopplin described ReqToCheck as the process of requisition to check for vendors. He indicated the initiative is aimed at a contract or procurement that is stalled. He believes ReqToCheckStat should save the city money as vendors get paid faster and therefore bid lower because the cost of delayed payments won’t be factored into bids.
Data.Nola.Gov was mentioned as a new data sharing platform and that
Seattle uses same platform. Mr. Square said the Department of Information Technology and Innovation “soft-launched” data.nola.gov, a new online program to provide “high-value, frequently requested data” to the public but presently is is mainly for GIS users. City performance data will eventually be put on this website. Eventually people will be able to make their own GEOCODE maps. Raw data right now.
Mr Hebert announced the National Vacant Properties Conference will be held in New Orleans next summer. People can find out more at Communityprogress.net
Mr. Andy Koppel – Inspections down but goal for the year has been met. Emphasis is on hearings. Inspection staff is being used for data entry and title research to help hearings move faster.
JPHebert – targets to be re-adjusted next year.
Ms. Bosco with Code Enforcement indicated that while inspections are down, inspectors are being assigned duties to move the hearings process along faster.
Mr. Square discussed the complaint that much data for inspections is done manually because Accela can’t do automatic reports.
Mr. Hebert – asked the audience if there are any areas that have not been covered. The completed inspections map indicates the entire city is being covered.
Ms. Kristin Illarmo noted that the number of hearings has improved in part due to the increased speed of Accela. Ms. Illarmo said research on the next cases will be the priority over the next few weeks so the number of hearing will go down. Only a few cases have been set for the first week of October so that research can be done on the next 1,700 cases.
Mr. Hebert strongly advised that all of the cases need to be adjudicated and suggested bar association volunteers to help out. Looking for long term internships as well so that the backlog goes away. Asked Brenda Breaux to meet with Mr. Hebert and Ms. Illarmo tomorrow to find ways to move the process along.
Ms. Illarmo noted that guilty cases are up but compliance is down a bit. She also noted that some hearing officers are levying lighter fines on buildings that will be demolished by FEMA. But, the owners did not know FEMA was going to return to do demolitions so the owners should have been fully fined. Other owners have stepped up and fixed their properties.
Code Enforcement liens were discussed. An analysis was done on fines collected. Mr. Wise indicated there is a relatively high collection rate.
Ms. Illarmo indicated the present backlog report is not really useful as it does not reflect the volume of work being done.
Mr. Hebert asked about the magnitude of unrepresented work.
Ms. Illarmo responded that Accela is the problem.
Mr. Wise asked Justin for an overview of how the report is calculated.
A discussion ensued between Justin and Ms. Illarmo about the backlog definitions for the report.
Mr. Hebert suggested that the report be eliminated until the problems are worked out.
Mr. Wise suggested more help from Accela is needed.
Mr. Square indicated the Accela team was here recently but Ms. Illarmo countered that the Accela team could not even help with basic functionality issues.
Mr. Wise asked the IT team for more information about the problem indicating that the Mayor has made it clear that the backlog will be eliminated by the end of the year.
Ms. Square indicated they will do the best they can with the resources available.
Mr. Wise indicated that the prudent course may be to find out what Accela can do and asked for a report on that for the next BlightStat meeting.
Ms. Bosco indicated additional demolition sites have been identified and are currently going through the utility cutoff process. She indicated that demolitions should increase over time.
Mr. Hebert indicated 86 strategic demolitions have gone through the process but materials are being salvage when possible.
Mr. Russell Callahan indicated more case files are needed and that he, his staff and Ms. Illarmo are working toward that end. Mr. Kopplin and Ms. Breaux discussed file management issues.
Mr. Carrere indicated that the contractor is working diligently to eliminate buildings in danger of collapse.
Mr. Kopplin reviewed the strategic demolition process slide.
Mr. Wolcott reviewed the FEMA demolition process slide. He said that the process is moving along better now and there have been 61 guilty judgements. FEMA has begun the selective salvage process.
Mr. Hebert indicated the selective salvage process is a separate project worksheet.
Mr. Wolcott indicated three crews are out working this week which has not happened before.
Mr. Wise reviewed the demolitions map which indicates that demolitions are being done throughout the city.
Mr. Paul May indicated 12 FEMA trailers are left. All 12 have a judgement against them and the City is waiting for FEMA to remove them. Most of the remaining FEMA trailers are in Council Districts D and E. Mr. Wise indicated that housing options are available for the remaining 12 FEMA trailer occupants.
Ms. Sylvain-Lear discussed illegal dumping. The Sanitation Department is continuing to focus on removing bandit signs, tires dumped, and tire stores without manifests. Mr. Kopplin congratulated the Sanitation Department on their great work.
Ms. Breaux indicated that the Law Department is strongly enforcing the sign issues. Ms. Sylvain-Lear indicated she is receiving reports of wheel barrow loads of cement and other materials being dumped into storm drains. Ms. Lear asked for help from the public on identifying these situations.
Mr. Hebert indicated that serious legal action will be taken soon against commercial properties that ignore the law.
Mr. Granderson noted that there are upcoming Lien Foreclosure auctions coming up in October and November. He indicated that checks for curators are slow to arrive. Mr. Kopplin indicated that is a “jump on my table” issue and that checks can be cut immediately if necessary.
Ms. Breaux indicated that Miles and Tyler are working diligently and that the issue of slow checks is being addressed and that there is an emphasis on getting problem properties to Sheriff Sale. Mr. Gray (Tyler) indicated that once a property goes to Sheriff Sale that the phone rings off the hook of people wanting to pay off blight liens.
Mr. Kopplin indicated that the 2012 city budget is being reduced by three million dollars.
Mr. Kopplin indicated that there about 1,000 properties with writs. 167 have been sold or the fines paid. He indicated it is important to get the properties to Sheriff Sale because many of the property owners only pay their fines when it goes to Sherrif Sale.
Ms. Joyce Wilkerson reviewed the total NORA closings. 46 closings were done this bi-weekly period which is above the goal of 35. Sale this Saturday at UNO by Gilmore Auctions. No reserve for this sale. Everyone is invited to attend. Another auction will take place in October.
Audience questions were answered and the meeting adjourned.
WHO: Key blight policy and code enforcement staff
8:00-9:30 AM CST
9TH Floor—City Planning Conference Room
New Orleans, LA 70117