District B City Councilman Jay H. Banks will be the council’s appointed representative to the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, following Saturday’s sweeping decision by city voters to return a council member to the board of the embattled utility.
District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso, chair of the council’s Public Works Committee, announced Banks as his selection on Thursday afternoon in a statement that promised greater transparency and accountability at the agency as a result:
“Councilmembers are among the closest elected officials to the public. The Council – as a result — must be responsive, accountable, and focused on the most pressing issues. Because we represent the people, it is the Council that fought water shut-offs, questioned the S&WB’s billing system, and identified the root causes of the most recent boil water advisory. This is exactly the type of activity expected of us.
With the S&WB, the public deserves both accountability and engineering expertise. Instead of unilaterally selecting either a councilperson or a civil engineer, I want to set a precedent of publicly discussing the approach my colleagues and I believe is in the best interest of all New Orleanians. I am inclined to appoint Councilmember Jay H. Banks, who recently served on the S&WB governance task force, to the S&WB. Councilmember Banks will have full access to the in-house Council engineer to support him on technical matters.
The Council engineer will, as a minimum, help to:
- Prepare CM Banks for every relevant S&WB meeting;
- Attend pertinent S&WB meetings with Councilmember Banks; and,
- Draft an executive summary of S&WB actions for the Public Works Committee, as needed, and post the summary on the Council’s website.
In my view, this approach accomplishes the best of all worlds by combining public accountability and familiarity with S&WB and its leadership with internal technical expertise and support to the appointee. And while I will not serve on the S&WB for now, I will continue to demand that the utility serve all of the residents’ needs and look forward to having Cm. Banks on the S&WB who will demand the same.”
The legislation, which passed Saturday with 65 percent of the vote, specified that either the chair of the public works committee or his appointee was to serve on the Sewerage & Water Board.