By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer
The city inaugurated a blight-tracking program today, bringing together several city departments to share myriad statistics with each other and the public.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu opened the first meeting of “BlightStat” by telling the audience members in the crowded conference room that they were welcome to participate, but they could only ask questions, not offer general comments, and he told them to stick to the agenda. (Download a PowerPoint presentation from the meeting here.)
Landrieu said he hoped the multi-department forum would ensure that information gets passed accurately from agency to agency, preventing a situation where “an apple turns into an orange.”
Landrieu’s top aide, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, said the administration values the public input, but he offered a warning of sorts to those unfamiliar with how government operates.
“This will be a messy process,” he said.
Kristen Phillips of the city’s Code Enforcement Department said inspection delays during the last two weeks of October were a result of the training of “super inspectors” to do inspections that used to be divided into two different departments.
The department released a graphic showing that 49 percent of the time, the department missed its target of inspecting a complaint property within 15 days.
Jennifer Weishaupt of the Mid City Neighborhood Association questioned what process was used to create the initial database of blighted properties, citing the hours of work the neighborhood has done to create and track blighted properties through the system.
Phillips said citizens could call a city hotline to report blight.
That didn’t help Weishaupt.
“I can’t call and recite the over 200 properties we already have reported,” she said.
Other concerns expressed by members of the public included the short notice given for the meeting – less than 24 hours – as well as the large number of extensions given to property owners violating city codes.
Additionally, neighborhood leaders pointed out that citizens who show up to testify when a neighboring property is on the agenda and are made to wait for hours until the hearing officers can determine if the owner is going to show up.
Landrieu agreed that that has to change.
“This is not a cattle call,” he said. “I don’t want to see people sitting there for hours waiting.”
Department heads and city officials did their best to air problems and work out solutions between departments while trying to address the audience.
The meetings will take place in the Amoco Building at 1340 Poydras St. on Nov. 18 and Dec. 2, Dec. 16 and Dec. 30. The location is subject to change.
To report blight call: 658-4300