Government & Politics
 

New Orleans City Council budget hearings end not with a bang, but a whimper

The City Council’s seemingly endless budget hearings came to a close Friday in a brief afternoon session with the Department of Safety and Permits and the Taxicab and For Hire Bureau.

Safety and Permits

The meeting opened with a presentation from Jared Munster, the director of Safety and Permits. He has taken heat in the past for permits being issued in error, but the winds of change or the timing of his department’s hearing may have worked in his favor.

Council members Stacy Head, Susan Guidry, Jackie Clarkson, James Gray II and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell tossed the occasional brick at Munster — but they seemed to be foam bricks, as each complimented him for improvements in the department.

Head, who dressed for the meeting in a T-shirt that read, “Thou Shalt Not Steal Copper,” requested that the Department of Safety and Permits find a way to inform neighbors better about projects that aren’t publicly vetted.

Hedge-Morrell wanted to know if the department had held an employee accountable after he issued permits in error. “We have three mobile homes in my district because someone dropped the ball,” she said.

Munster said the department has instituted a new review policy.

Guidry asked what the department is doing about people who violate zoning laws by starting construction without a permit or pouring concrete in their front yard for parking.

Munster said his department cites those people, who can appeal to the Board of Zoning Adjustments or face a fine.

Taxicab Bureau

Ending the day was Malachi Hull, head of the the Taxicab Bureau, which is part of Safety and Permits. Hull has been tasked with instituting controversial reforms for the city’s cabs.

Among those is a requirement that all cabs have cameras inside. Hull said a camera provided the proof needed for a sexual assault case to be dropped against a cabbie.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said the reforms have been “well-received,” and said she has seen improvements.

No mention was made of the recent dustup that led to a Taxicab Bureau inspector being suspended after being accused of assaulting a tour guide.

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