Mayor Mitch Landrieu will hold the second of five town-hall meetings on the 2015 city budget Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in City Council District A, represented by Councilwoman Susan Guidry. It will be held at Lakeview Christian Center, 5885 Fleur de Lis Dr.
The Lens will live blog the meeting here.
This year’s first meeting, in District C, was unusual in that many attendees were not only concerned with where the city’s money goes, but where it comes from and how to maximize it.
The city could use some ideas. Landrieu’s administration faces millions in new expenses to pay for reforms to Orleans Parish Prison mandated by a federal consent decree and a $17.5 million court judgment to shore up the firefighter’s struggling pension system.
At Monday’s meeting, people suggested that the city raise fees for fairs and festivals and end property tax exemptions for commercial businesses whose properties are owned by nonprofit organizations.
“If the nonprofit owns the business, it should be paying taxes,” Landrieu said.
Still, he emphasized another way to bring in additional money: tax increases. The mayor is asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the city to double the portion of property taxes devoted to police and fire protection.
In the long term, Landrieu said he hopes the city will overcome its financial troubles through economic development and continued population growth, bringing in more tax revenue. In the short term, however, the city must deal with problems that, he said, stem from decades of mismanagement.
In the wake of high-profile shootings in the French Quarter and the Lower 9th Ward, several attendees asked for more police patrols. Newly minted interim police chief Michael Harrison, who took over from Ronal Serpas on Monday, attended and spoke briefly at the meeting.
The Police Department has just over 1,100 officers, its lowest in decades, and far short of Landrieu’s stated goal of 1,600. Landrieu downplayed the manpower issue at the meeting.
“The frustration and the anger, I know is palpable,” he said. “This is not going to get fixed just with a bigger Police Department, but let me tell you, we’re at a 30-year low with the number of murders we have.”
As is the case every year, a number of attendees confronted Landrieu about the sorry state of the city’s neighborhood streets. Several held up signs in support of a new citywide movement, Fix My Streets, that is demanding immediate action on the city’s pervasive potholes.
That issue probably will come up again Wednesday night. Lakeview is home to some of the worst streets in the city. The founder of Fix My Streets, Robert Lupo, lives in Lakeview.