Mayor Mitch Landrieu will hold the third of five town hall meetings on city finances and the 2016 budget Wednesday evening in City Council District B, at Kipp Central City Academy. District B includes Central City, the Central Business District, Broadmoor, the Garden District, the Irish Channel and part of Mid-City.
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.
At Tuesday’s meeting in Algiers, an organized group of residents from Algiers Point demanded answers not only from the mayor but from their council member, District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey. The group wanted to know why Ramsey recently requested that a strip of riverfront green space in the neighborhood be rezoned for maritime industrial use. The recently passed comprehensive zoning ordinance already allows for building heights above what the neighborhood association requested in another section of its riverfront. Many opponents of the changes carried signs saying the riverfront is “Not for Sale.”
“In the CZO, the Algiers Point Association asked for height limitations of 40 feet. Why, Council member Ramsey, did you vote for heights of up to 110 feet?” asked Michael Verderosa, a member of the neighborhood association.
Ramsey said the city’s 2010 Master Plan, a City Council-approved framework for the CZO, called for industrial zoning at the site. Though she’s personally not in favor of the change, she made the request because she wants the CZO to be in line with the Master Plan.
On the height issue, Landrieu told the audience that New Orleans has become one of the most active real estate markets in the country, and, as in many other cities, riverfront property is the most valuable land.
“So there have to be rules about what can be built in and around there,” he said. “Let me tell you what’s not going to happen. We can’t have people who live close to the river who say ‘No one else can live in this neighborhood because I’ve got mine and nobody else can have theirs.’”
Staff and supporters of the Orleans Public Defenders Office, which faces a $1 million deficit, continued their aggressive push for city funds at Tuesday’s meeting. Landrieu has argued that funding the office is a state responsibility, but on Tuesday, one public defender who spoke said the city sets local criminal justice policy and the deficit would lead to a crisis for the city of New Orleans.
Landrieu pointed out that the city has allocated the office $1.5 million.
“You can’t say we haven’t given you any money,” he said.
Responding to repeated demands that the city conduct a “disparity study” on city contracting to determine whether gaps exist in minority participation, Landrieu said such a study would be expensive, about $1 million, and could take years. Landrieu called for such a study in a 2010 executive order, but the city has yet to deliver one.
Landrieu said the city may be able to secure foundation funding for the work. A disparity study, he said, “isn’t an unreasonable request.”