Mayor Mitch Landrieu will hold his second of five town hall meetings on city finances and the 2016 budget Tuesday evening in City Council District C, at Alice M. Harte Charter School in Algiers. District C includes the West Bank, the French Quarter, Treme, Faubourg Marigny and Bywater.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m.; The Lens will live-blog it here.
The meetings are designed to allow the public to weigh in on how Landrieu should spend public dollars in 2016.
Landrieu kicked off this year’s budget meetings on Monday night in Gentilly, where he listened for more than an hour to residents’ pleas for money for street repairs, street lighting and improved minority hiring for major city contracts.
Several residents complained about children soliciting charitable donations from neutral grounds, often running into busy roads to collect money. Landrieu said that while he worried about the children’s safety, “there’s an issue of constitutional rights.” Courts have repeatedly struck down the city’s anti-begging laws as unconstitutional.
A group of attorneys from the Orleans Public Defenders Office, which handles about 85 percent of the city’s criminal caseload, was also there to ask the city for additional funding. The city’s 2015 budget as adopted allocated more than $1.5 million to the office.
Overall, the office expected about $6.5 million in revenues from the city, the state and court fees this year. That’s about half the District Attorney’s budget. But court revenues have fallen about $300,000 short, and the state announced funding cuts of about $700,000. Last month, Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton announced plans to cut services and warned of impending layoffs and staff furloughs.
“I work between 60 and 70 hours a week,” Laura Reeds, who works for the public defenders office, said at Monday’s meeting. “There have been times over the past year when I have had over 180 cases.”
In response, Landrieu said he was willing to work with the office during budget negotiations in the fall but did not commit to additional funding. He noted that while the city is in better financial shape now than it has been in years, the city faces uncertainties related to federal litigation over the constitutionality of the jail and the police department and state litigation over fire department pension contributions and back pay. The city’s fate, Landrieu said, is “in the hands of three judges.”