District “C” Report to Citizens, February 2016
I hope everyone’s new year has been going well! Please take a moment of your time to read about some exciting new developments in District “C.” These significant accomplishments are just the start of what we can accomplish when we work together on our top priorities. There is still more work to be done. I am committed to collaborating with City leaders and community organizations to find ways to provide more resources for the Department of Parks and Parkways for tree trimming and grass cutting, for the Council on Aging to fully fund Meals on Wheels, and for the Arts Council. I look forward to working together with you to tackle more of the challenges, problems, and opportunities we face as we continue to make New Orleans a better place for everyone!
District “C” Councilmember Nadine M. Ramsey
Huge Victories for the Canal St. Ferries
This year, we scored three huge victories for one of our vital forms of public transit in New Orleans. Despite numerous setbacks and service interruptions in recent years,we refused to give up and kept fighting to bring much need upgrades to New Orleans’s ferry service.
New Canal St. Terminal
The Regional Transit Authority (RTA)/Transdev are working to deliver a state-of-the-art, high-speed ferry terminal on Canal Street. In recognition of the Tricentennial in 2018, the opening of the new Canal Street Ferry Terminal will mark a new era in transportation planning and design for New Orleans, characterized by interconnected air, rail and vehicular systems with local streetcars, buses, and bicycles sharing the streets. The project will be funded by a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Transportation. This addition to the foot of Canal Street will expand and enhance service between Downtown New Orleans and Algiers. I am hopeful that we can also update the Algiers terminal to increase ridership and use it as an economic development tool in Algiers.
Two New Ferries
The old ferry boats were slow and inefficient, and they used too much fuel creating serious budget problems. Working together with state and local officials, we were able to secure two new passenger ferry vessels. RTA/Transdev is finalizing the design-build specifications of the two new ferries that will operate on the Canal Street/Algiers Point route. The catamaran-styled ferry vessels will transport up to 149 passengers per trip. The new ferries will also be ADA compliant to provide maximum passenger comfort and amenities. Additionally, the ferries will be designed and constructed to meet all United States Coast Guard requirements to safely operate on the Mississippi River. The first new ferry vessel is projected to be placed into service within 12 months of selecting a contractor. The second ferry vessel is projected to be placed into service 6 months later.
Extended Service Hours
People depend on the ferry for both work and leisure, much of which happens later in the evening than an ordinary 9-5 job. Hours of operation have been extended to better accommodate working people and residents on the Westbank. Below is the new schedule.
|First Ferry- Algiers Point||6:00 a.m.||6:00 a.m.||10:30 a.m.||10:30 a.m.|
|First Ferry – Canal St.||6:15 a.m.||6:15 a.m.||10:45 a.m.||10:45 a.m.|
|Last Ferry – Algiers Point||9:30 p.m.||11:30 p.m.||11:30 p.m.||9:30 p.m.|
|Last Ferry – Canal St.||9:45 p.m.||11:45 p.m.||11:45 p.m.||9:45 p.m.|
Another Win with FEMA: Food Map Victory
Previously, FEMA labeled significant portions of Algiers as flood hazard areas. If implemented, the flood map would have seriously harmed home values and increased the insurance premiums of a large portion of Algiers. After an appeals process, I am happy to report that FEMA ruled in our favor concerning the 2014 Revised Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
During the original mapping process, FEMA failed to take into account significant improvements made by the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, such as the widening of drainage culverts in the canal on General De Gaulle Drive. We asked them to re-evaluate based on this and other new information. After the incorporation of this new information, FEMA concluded that the statistical flood risk should be eliminated for many areas of Algiers. This victory will help attract investment in Algiers and maintain reasonable insurance rates for homeowners.
2016 Budget Update
On December 1, 2015, the City Council unanimously approved a 2016 Budget totaling $601.6 million for operating and $484.3 million for capital. Prior to the final vote, the Council conducted extensive public hearings where each administrative department, board and commission spent several hours explaining in detail to the Council and the public their plans for 2016.
During the budgeting process, I fought to ensure our budget priorities aligned with the needs and concerns of constituents and the community. As a result of numerous community meetings and public forums, I focused on three categories in the budget that needed sustained or increased funding to improve the quality of life for District “C” and New Orleans as a whole: Public Safety and Criminal/Civil Justice, Infrastructure/Quality Of Life, and Youth Empowerment.
Public Safety and Criminal/Civil Justice
For the first time in many years, $10 million will be dedicated to settle outstanding judgments against the City. It is time for the City to make a genuine effort to pay court judgments, an issue I have championed since taking office.
The Office of Independent Police Monitor will be funded separately from the Office of Inspector General, an important step towards fulfilling its mission. The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) budget will increase $10.5 million. The NOPD budget includes a 15% pay raise, approved by the Council in 2015, and nearly $11 million for overtime pay. The Council also approved an additional $1 million for more 911 call operators to improve dispatch and response times. I am also excited that Juvenile Court, a critical institution on the front lines of diverting young people away from a life of crime, will be fully funded in 2016. This is the kind of effort that shows our city is serious about fighting crime.
Quality of Life/Infrastructure
Everyday, I receive calls about dark corners and badly damaged streets. Streets in disrepair damage our cars, lower property values, and generally make life harder. Addressing infrastructure must remain a top priority in 2016.
The Department of Public Works budget increased by $15 million for 2016, allowing for streetlight repairs and upgrades. Street repair crews will be in each Council District every day of the week, as opposed to the current schedule of just one day per week. Additionally, Mayor Landrieu has committed to work with me to finally get Higgins Gate completely cleaned up in 2016.
As many of you know, I am passionate about increasing economic opportunities for minorities and those who begin life with big disadvantages. I am particularly proud to share that the council approved $500,000 for a disparity study as well as new funding for disadvantaged business enterprise and Living Wage Law enforcement. We are taking steps toward treating minority-owned businesses fairly and giving the disadvantaged a chance to share in the growing prosperity of the city. It is basic fairness and will benefit the entire city.
New Orleans youth are in crisis. The Data Center recently released a baseline report finding that one in three New Orleans children live in poverty. That’s more than 34,000 children out of the roughly 78,000 children under the age of 18. Poverty negatively affects academic achievement across all grade levels, and ultimately job readiness. We are at risk of losing a generation, maybe two. There is an overwhelming need for the Council to focus on youth services and empowerment. Three recent developments are critically important:
- The Children and Youth Planning Board presented to the City Council regarding their efforts to coordinate policy for New Orleans youth. During the presentation, I emphasized that it is important to focus on youth policy beyond the criminal justice arena to include mentoring, health, social services, education, jobs and recreation. I also made a pledge to support efforts to fund the Children and Youth Planning Board. Now we are putting our words into action: in the 2016 Budget, I was able to help secure $100,000 to fund the Children and Youth Planning Board. This is the first time the City has funded the board since it was created in 2013.
- I also requested that the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) expand their 2016 programming to include those 14 to 19 years of age. It is widely accepted that the most vulnerable times for youth is after school, before sports practice, and the time before parents get home from work. I pushed hard and secured $12.1 million for these teens in the 2016 NORD operating budget.
- I spearheaded creating a new Council Special Committee for Youth Services and Empowerment. The Committee will:
- Analyze data on the position of youth in New Orleans
- Identify areas where holistic services and programming can be provided to support youth
- Develop legislative and budgetary priorities to encourage positive youth outcomes
Thanksgiving Senior Luncheon with the Zulu Club
On November 17, I hosted the second annual Thanksgiving Luncheon for more than 300 senior citizens, representing neighborhoods Citywide, at the Zulu Social Aide and Pleasure Club. The luncheon was so popular this year that we had to expand into the new “Roy E. Glapion” Reception Hall to comfortably accommodate more senior citizens than in past years.
The free meal included turkey and all the trimmings. Gift bags were also distributed to the seniors and numerous door prizes were given away. Entertainment for the event was provided by D.J. Captain Charles, The David Darangue Step-N-Slide Dancers, Herbert McCarver and the Pinstripe Brass Band, Zulu Grand Marshall, Norman Thomas, Sr., the Zulu Ensemble and the Zulu Tramps.
Fix My Streets Working Group
In December, Mayor Landrieu announced the formation of the Fix My Streets Working Group. The group made up of residents, City officials and community leaders, is tasked with developing recommendations how the City can address and pay for its long-term infrastructure needs. The working group will hold a series of public meetings to allow the public to voice their opinions and concerns on the issue.
This is a wonderful opportunity for citizens to have a strong say in how their government works. Street repair is an issue that affects every area of this city. I believe this working group brings together a very capable team of experts, concerned citizens, elected officials and government department heads. I look forward to working to bring much needed relief to those who face daily the obstacles our streets create. While no one can promise that every street will be repaired, the end result should be substantial improvement of our streets for those who need it most.
Higgins Gate Perimeter Cleanup
In November, I worked with citizens to cleanup the perimeter of Higgins Gate. Overgrown trees and debris on the sidewalks forced p pedestrians to walk in the street. This was a safety hazard for all, especially our children. I will continue to work with City officials and the Algiers Development District to reach an agreement for the cleanup of the entire site. This has been an eyesore and health hazard for more than 10 years, but I am hopeful that real relief is near.
Joseph A. Craig Charter School
2015 Youth Reading Initiative
On November 13, the Dillard University Athletic Department, the Keenan Lewis Foundation, and I hosted an assembly at Joseph A. Craig Charter School in District “C.” The assembly recognized the winners of the school’s October reading competition.
For the competition, students were separated into two groups: 1st through 4th grade and 5th through 8th grade. The top classes and student readers from each group were recognized and winners received gift bags, gift cards, Dillard University athletic gear and autographed memorabilia from New Orleans Saints Cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Farewell to My Alma Mater, Holy Angels
I would like to bid a special farewell to my alma mater, Holy Angels in the Bywater. After over 160 years, the Marianite Nuns will be moving from their St. Claude location. As a former student of Holy Angels, the profound impact the nuns made on my life is immeasurable and directly contributes to my successes today. Although it saddens me to see them go, I am thankful for the guidance and leadership they provided to hundreds of young women in New Orleans over the years.
Confederate Monuments Removal Vote
Councilmember Ramsey joining Mayor Landrieu and other members of the Council at the signing of the Monuments Ordinance
On December 17, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove four divisive monuments from our cityscape. I am honored to have taken part in this historic moment. Many experts and commissions examined the issue, held public hearings, and made recommendations for removal. This discussion did not create a divide; it only cast light on issues that have festered for many decades.
The discussion reminded me why it’s so important to continue increasing economic opportunities for minorities and those who begin life at a disadvantage. It is crucial we address the pernicious and systematic discrimination that still bars some groups from enjoying the full benefits of citizenship. To this end, the Council has strengthened local hiring laws, adopted the Living Wage Law, and provided for the enforcement of disadvantaged business enterprise regulations.
Some individuals have questioned why the City should dedicate time and resources to removing monuments when there are other pressing issues to address. The answer is simple: this symbolic gesture of removing the monuments is part of creating an environment where all people can succeed.
Crime in the French Quarter and throughout New Orleans remains one of the most pressing issues we face. With the support of residents, businesses, the and tourism industry, we created the French Quarter Economic Development District to provide funding from sales tax revenues and private donations to supplement police overtime pay and increase the State Trooper presence.
New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Chief Harrison recently announced a realignment of senior leadership and plans to put more officers on the street. The department has also been able to put more boots on the ground by taking officers from behind desks and putting them back on patrol.
NOPD launched four new recruit classes last year and for the first time in a long time, more officers were hired than retired with 136 new hires in 2015. Two recruit classes are currently in training, and the first recruit class of 2016 is expected to launch early spring. NOPD’s goal is to respond to 90 percent of all emergency calls within seven minutes by hiring new officers and redeploying officers currently on the force.
While it is true we need more police officers, I believe that crime is not a problem we can police our way out of. While we are tough on crime, we must also be smart on crime. This means going after root causes to prevent crime before there are victims and bloodshed. The reality about violent crime in New Orleans is that it’s almost all committed by young people. We have to do something to get our young people off the path toward crime. If we are to succeed in tackling crime, we need comprehensive approach that encompasses everything from physical environment to education to economic opportunity.