Mayor and Uptown residents debate city’s priorities at standing-room-only public meeting

Civics is hard, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a packed room of hundreds of Uptown residents on Monday night, after hearing their calls for better roads, less blight, lower taxes, improvements to Gert Town, and full staffing of the fire department and city planning offices. All those issues are undeniably crucial to the city’s future, Landrieu said in a sort of pregame show for the budget he will unveil after a series of community meetings around the city. How to allocate a limited amount of money to each of those priorities is where the real difficulty comes in. Take the firefighters, for example. “I have great respect for them, [but] they are just like everybody else when it comes to budget,” Landrieu said.

Tulane hopes to reach stadium agreement with city by end of August

Tulane University officials pledged Wednesday night to reach an enforceable legal agreement with the city of New Orleans governing the activities and operations at its new football stadium — with hopes of resolving most of the issues in it by the end of August. The proposed zoning district that would have forced Tulane to gain the blessing of the New Orleans City Council for its stadium was already off the table prior to Wednesday night’s community forum. On Tuesday, perhaps in tacit acknowledgement that such a district no longer had a viable path to passage, City Councilwoman Susan Guidry announced that she would withdraw the proposal at Thursday’s meeting of the City Council, and she opened Wednesday’s meeting with an explanation of her current stance on it. “We feel at this time that there’s been a lot of movement on the part of Tulane,” Guidry said. “The council is going to remain involved, but the IZD has not been recommended, and we need to remove that and let this process continue as a voluntary process.

Interim council member’s connections to Jefferson-family charities questioned

Diana Bajoie, appointed earlier this month by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to represent Uptown-based District B on the City Council until a replacement can be elected in the fall, may have been one of the local politicians who “steered public money to sham charities run by members of then-U.S. Rep. William Jefferson’s family,” based on testimony by a government witness in last year’s trial of Renee Gill Pratt, reports Michelle Krupa of The Times Picayune. Bajoie has never been charged with any crime and denied “any wrongdoing,” but declined to answer specific questions about the case, Krupa reports, and a spokesman for Landrieu said Bajoie was chosen based on her record and instead questioned her service on a charity run by the Times-Picayune.

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: New Orleans will always have the homeless

Congratulations to Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu for having the courage to attack the homeless problem in New Orleans and to bring in the very talented Stacy Horn Koch to lead the way. There is no question that Unity for the Homeless, led by Ms. Koch, has been doing an outstanding job in reaching out to those who need supportive services including affordable housing and health care. Our offices are in the CBD and we are frequently approached by the homeless – many of whom are elderly or disabled, all of whom are in desperate straits. Our heart goes out to them. Our heart especially goes out to the homeless children and families living in cars or abandoned buildings.

Walgreens renovation on South Claiborne viewed as window into city’s revitalization strategy

Mayor Mitch Landrieu personally convinced the pharmacy chain to undertake a $1.4 million renovation of the building at the corner of Napoleon Avenue, and Walgreens agreed in part because CVS was building a new store across the street, writes Rebecca Mowbray of the Times-Picayune. The upgrade both beautifies the entrance to the Broadmoor neighborhood and typifies the mayor’s detail-oriented approach to improving the landscape of New Orleans one property at a time, the article states.

Owen Courreges: May I see your bicyclers’ license?

This month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made a serious and necessary concession. In delivering the welcoming address for the Bipartisan Policy Center, he conceded that, generally speaking, there is too much government regulation. Landrieu specifically cited New Orleans historic preservation law, which often inhibits the renovation of historic properties. As I noted in a previous column, it is a sad fact of owning a home in New Orleans that ignoring the Historic District Landmarks Commission is typically easier than working with them. Incidentally, this past week a story began making the news circuit about a ruling earlier this year by the European Union.

District A residents invited to discuss priorities for next year’s city budget

Residents of City Council District A — which runs covers most of the Carrollton, University and Audubon neighborhoods from Jefferson Avenue to the Jefferson Parish line in Uptown New Orleans, plus much of Mid-City and Lakeview — are invited to a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss priorities for next year’s city budget with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City Councilwoman Susan Guidry. Department heads and deputy mayors will also be present. A “resource center” with one-on-one conversation will begin at 5:30 p.m., and the community meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at Lakeview Christian Center, 5885 Fleur de Lis Drive.

Mayor asks for Uptown budget priorities

Mayor Mitch Landrieu will host a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at Dryades YMCA seeking input on the top budget priorities of residents of City Council District B, which spans much of Uptown, the Garden District and Central City. Quoting from email:
On Tuesday, August 9, 2011, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will launch a series of community meetings in each councilmanic district to discuss 2012 budget priorities. The first meeting will be co-hosted by District B Councilmember Stacy Head. They will be joined by Deputy Mayors, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, NOFD Superintendent Charles Parent and department and agency heads. The Budgeting for Outcomes process is aimed at producing a more citizen-driven budget and ensuring improved government performance and accountability.

Former second-in-command from NOPD Sixth District appointed to lead Eighth District during camera investigations

Barely a month after his promotion into NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas’ inner circle of commanders, the former second-in-command of the Uptown-based Sixth District has been appointed to lead the Eighth District in the French Quarter and Central Business District. Commander Jeff Walls led the investigative unit in the Sixth District as a lieutenant under Commander Robert Bardy (covering the Garden District, Irish Channel and Central City) until a ceremony March 31, in which he became one of 16 newly-appointed NOPD commanders and was reassigned to lead the department’s crime lab. Even after his transfer, Walls remained close to Bardy and the district, returning in April to lead a community meeting about shootings in the Irish Channel. On Thursday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the suspension of Eighth District Commander Edwin Hosli amid an ongoing investigation into a company Hosli formed to receive payments for writing citations based on recordings from the city’s controversial traffic cameras. Walls was appointed to lead the Eighth District during Hosli’s absence, Landrieu said.