Despite previous grumbling, council meeting verges on love-fest in passing budget

By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer |

In a city confronting an ever-rising homicide count and profound infrastructural and economic challenges, one place remains relatively calm: City Hall. With a noticeable absence of strife or dissent, the City Council voted today to unanimously approve a  $497 million general operating budget for 2012 that looks remarkably similar in substance and detail to the budget proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu in October.

Student loan amnesty would $upercharge grad-magnetic New Orleans


By Nathan C. Martin, The Lens contributing opinion writer |

New Orleans is home to seven four-year colleges and universities that graduate thousands of students each spring, and in the years since Hurricane Katrina has become a powerful magnet for well-educated transplants. Last year, in fact, we welcomed more of them per capita than any other city in the United States.

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.

Making 'Complete Streets' a policy makes complete sense

By Matthew Rufo, The Lens contributing opinion writer |

In recent years, New Orleanians have witnessed a transformation of their streets from motor vehicle speedways to multimodal havens for a variety of users. Since 2004, the city’s bike lanes, paths and shared lanes have grown to over 40 miles.

Gung ho for demolition: FEMA pays, but neighborhoods lose

By Brad Vogel, The Lens contributing opinion writer |

Over the weekend, David Simon, creator of HBO’s Treme, publicly critiqued the city’s ongoing blight fight. Addressing the sixth annual Rising Tide conference, he noted how odd it was to see politicians standing in front of demolitions crowing about progress.  Referring to a spat with the Mayor Mitch Landrieu over demolitions on Derbigny Street, Simon observed, “[He] demonstrated that there wasn’t a great deal of novelty to his approach.”

I have to agree.  Unfortunately, for all the talk of innovation, the City of New Orleans continues to push for yet another round of mass demolitions, seemingly hell-bent to display as little creativity as possible in its blight eradication effort.