Ariella Cohen

Recent posts

RTA chief tells it like it is: pre-Katrina service won't be restored in depopulated areas

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

The city’s transit chief delivered a blunt message this week: Don’t expect service to return to pre-Katrina levels in parts of the city where significant numbers of people haven’t come home. “Unfortunately, what happens is a mindset that says, if I had it before Katrina I should have it again,” New Orleans Regional Transit Authority CEO Justin Augustine said Wednesday, at a City Council hearing on his agency’s 2012 budget.

Satellite government bodies doing just fine, not likely to return much money to city

As part of its annual budget review, the City Council heard presentations today from the dozen semi-autonomous agencies that manage New Orleans assets such as Piazza D'Italia in the Central Business District and, less glamorously, the city's thousands of blighted lots. Though none of the entities depends on the tax dollars that go into the city's general operating fund, their budgets must be approved by the council.

New Orleans will soon boast bigger libraries — which will soon need bigger budgets

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

New Orleans taxpayers are likely to be asked to pay more money to run city libraries, officials with that system told the City Council today. The need for more operating funds is due in large part to a post-Katrina rebuilding of the system that one-time disaster grants paid for, which the city will be responsible for maintaining, New Orleans Public Library officials said.

Public library to raid reserves, cut programs if city slashes budget supplement to zero

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

Despite perennial financial woes and a tough rebound from Hurricane Katrina, the city’s long-beleaguered library system will start 2012 in better shape than many of its peers around the country. At a time when 60 percent of libraries nationwide report flat or significantly decreased operating budgets and staff layoffs, according to the American Library Association, New Orleans will open five gleaming new facilities this year, maintain all full-time employees and see only a slight dip in its operating budget.

Police monitor says she's working with volunteers, asks for a million dollars more

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

The city’s independent police monitor hired last year to be a watchdog for the New Orleans Police Department needs more money to do the job her office was created to do, she told the City Council today. Susan Hutson’s three-person office is part of the Office of Inspector General.  Between $450,000 and $500,000 from the inspector general’s $3.6 million budget went to the police monitor in 2011, Hutson told the council, which is reviewing all department budgets in the city’s proposed 2012 budget.

Despite community input, Landrieu increases NOPD spending, cuts most other areas

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

This summer, Mayor Mitch Landrieu invited residents to come out and tell him how they wanted their tax dollars spent in 2012. Community meetings held in every section of the city attracted hundreds of residents who spoke passionately about needs in their community – needs for jobs, access to health care and, overwhelmingly, a need for a reduction in blight and improvements in the city’s aging infrastructure.