«Mission Statement The following Mission Statement was adopted by the Board of Directors on March 28, 2000: The Committee for a Better New Orleans is ...»
Given this circumstance, the City Management Task Force avoided efforts to directly increase revenues from the people of the City. Indeed, fees per capita in the City are high already compared to similar
cities. Instead, several other revenue-generating approaches were discussed, including:
- State-imposed restrictions, both constitutional and legislative, on how the City can raise revenues. The best approach for dealing with this barrier is to form alliances with regional leaders and with other municipalities statewide who face the same difficulties.
- Equitable assessment of existing taxes, and fair and efficient collection of taxes and fees. This includes City review of under-assessed properties and attempts to bring these properties up to fair assessments, an effort that should be made in cooperation with other revenue-receiving entities.
- Thorough review of the fairness and effectiveness of various tax exemptions, including exemptions for nonprofits, businesses and homeowners.
- Pursuit of payments in lieu of ad valorem property taxes.
- Examination of ways to collect revenues from the many non-residents for whom the City provides services.
As might be expected, government efficiency was also a prime topic of conversation. It was noted that the number of City employees has been cut in half, from a high of 12,000 to approximately 6000. Most of these people are hard-working, dedicated and professional; most are seriously underpaid, especially by comparison to salaries for similar skill levels in the private sector. An alarming number of City employees earn wages at or below the federal poverty level.
Raising the pay levels and skill levels of City employees is a key part of the solution. Training must be increased, and flexibility in hiring and compensation is needed. In addition, an overall culture of customer service needs to be created.
A larger problem, however, is that City government contains many structural inefficiencies. New Orleans has more branches, agencies and boards than most cities of similar size, resulting in extensive duplication of services, inefficient use of resources, turf wars, and overall weaker government performance. Many of these anomalous boards and districts have been created by acts of the state legislature, and in many instances, the City provides services to these entities with little or no compensation in return.
To the greatest degree possible, these entities must be consolidated. In addition, the basic structure of City government needs a major overhaul, with focus on streamlining, functionality and performance.
Communication between various segments of City government needs to be vastly improved.
Privatization and other alternative service delivery methods should be examined, implemented where appropriate, and monitored closely for effectiveness. In a similar vein, services that have at present been outsourced should also be reviewed, and returned to City operations if appropriate. Either way, these services should be included in the performance monitoring process.
Reforming City government and improving its performance is no easy task, especially given the severe financial restraints. Political will must be combined with private sector financial support, public participation, regional cooperation, and significant change at the state level. The City Management and Finance Task Force action plan is a carefully crafted, results-oriented challenge to all parties to make City government work for all the people.
Key crossover issues:
- Reversing population decline (Economic Development, Housing)
- Improving the tax base through business development (Economic Development)
- One-stop shopping (Economic Development, Housing)
- Regional cooperation (Economic Development, Transportation)
- Creation of a City economic development fund (Economic Development)
- Poverty (Economic Development, Education, Housing, Public Safety)
- Lack of a property database (Housing)
- Public bid laws (Economic Development, Housing, Transportation)
- Tax incentives (Economic Development, Housing)
- Homestead exemption (Economic Development, Housing)
- Government structural inefficiency (Transportation)
Critical Issues and Goals
1.0 Accountability in government: communication, transparency and credibility.
The City of New Orleans should build credibility and responsiveness into its operation through openness with its citizenry and willingness to rate itself against its peer group of cities nationally, based on objective criteria and measures.
Build citizens' trust in City government by ensuring transparency in appropriate aspects of City operations, assuring effective communication with the public and accepting impartial monitoring of appropriate performance measures to judge the effectiveness of City government.
1.1 Mayor to initiate and maintain an objective, third-party administered system for evaluating and reporting on the performance of City management, including but not limited to financial management, human resources, information technology, capital management, managing for results, and acquisition and disposition of assets.
1.2 Mayor to instill a customer service culture throughout the City administration, the effectiveness of which will be measured against benchmarks for delivery of selected services, and the results of which will be reported to the citizens on a regular basis.
The City should become creative in securing additional funding by forming alliances with Louisiana cities, parishes, school boards, and other entities in similar situations. It should also guarantee that assessments and collections of taxes are complete and accurate.
Provide an equitable, growing tax structure that is equitably administered and is capable of generating adequate revenue to fund necessary City services.
2.1 Mayor to foster effective working relationships with municipal, regional and state political leaders, based upon mutual trust and confidence, which will lead to granting authority to local governments to create adequate revenue bases.
2.4 Mayor and City Council to pursue opportunities to enhance City revenues through negotiation of payments in lieu of ad valorem property taxes, where applicable.
3.0 Consolidation of management systems and evaluation of privatization activities.
The City should modernize its management structure and make its operation understandable, responsive and user-friendly for its citizens.
Create the most efficient government possible by consolidating management systems, where appropriate, and developing criteria for evaluation of the City's privatization and other alternative service delivery activities.
3.1 Mayor to conduct a comprehensive organizational audit, resulting in development of a City government structure with fewer departments, headed by senior executives, which consolidate related services and are functional in nature.
3.2 Mayor to conduct a comprehensive review of needed present and future City services, including citizens' expectations, and determine which are best delivered by the City and which are best delivered by alternate means, including privatization, publicprivate partnerships and managed competition.
3.3 Mayor, in cooperation with City Council, to establish procedures to implement and aggressively monitor such alternative service delivery methods.
4.0 Human resource management; civil service system and job efficiency.
The City's management staff and work force should be comparable to New Orleans' private sector in talent, experience, training, competence, and compensation. Compensation should be based on skill levels rather than job titles, with incentives for retention and advancement of technological and managerial skills.
Create an environment that allows City government to attract, train and retain a qualified work force.
4.2 Civil Service Commission, in cooperation with the Mayor and City Council, to develop continuously new staffing categories for the classified service that are flexible, offer compensation comparable to the private sector for similar skills, provide incentives to encourage retention and are designed to attract well-trained, technologically-skilled employees.
5.0 Encouragement of new businesses and expansion of existing businesses.
The City should take a leadership role in using its resources and developing other resources for the retention, expansion and recruitment of businesses.
Encourage new business formation and expansion of existing businesses within the City by creating new, and supporting existing, venture capital resources, equity and debt financing resources.
5.1 City, in cooperation with financial institutions and other private sector organizations, to create professionally managed financing entities to provide venture capital, equity and debt financing for expansion of existing businesses located in the City.
5.2 City to determine feasibility of creating a professionally managed development fund to implement infrastructure improvements that encourage private investment.
5.2.1 Time Frame: May 2002 to December 2003 5.2.2 Financing: $500,000, to be shared by City, private sector and federal grants, if available. Feasibility: 10 5.2.3 Resources: Mayor will implement. No additional human resources required 5.2.4 Legislation: None required
Of the six issues chosen by CBNO, economic development emerged as the most complicated.
Economic development means many things to many people, creating an issue that is broad, complex and difficult to define. The Economic Development Task Force included members from business, labor, public agencies, the nonprofit sector, and education. The diversity of viewpoints and expertise at the table greatly assisted the Task Force in addressing the issues comprehensively and creatively, yet made consensus-building an enormous challenge.
Economic development is a huge weakness of the City of New Orleans. City government spends almost no money on economic development, and the bulk of what it does spend comes from a restricted federal grant. A surprising number of independent entities (i.e. MetroVision, the Chamber, the Technology Council, the Tourism and Marketing Commission, and the New Orleans and Louisiana Offices of Economic Development, among others) focus on various aspects of the issue; cooperation among them -- let alone an overarching vision or strategy -- is lacking. In fact, many are not even aware of each other's existence.
This fragmentation of resources and absence of holistic planning means duplication of effort in some areas and a dearth of effort in others. No coherent message on economic development goes out from the City, and no one is even sure if all aspects of the community are represented in what discussions do take place. All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of doing business here.
The result is a widespread national and local perception that there is a poor business climate in New Orleans, a perception that has an unfortunate amount of truth to it. This perception is only reinforced every time another company leaves the City or moves large portions of its operations elsewhere.
Several basic, deeply-rooted weaknesses were identified by the Task Force. Like every other aspect of the economic development question, these weaknesses are linked to each other in many ways. Chief
among them are:
- Poverty. Even though unemployment figures for New Orleans are not bad, tens of thousands of residents without jobs do not show up in the statistics. An even greater number are working for less than livable wages, and many of the working poor are in jobs with no viable career path. Even in the strong service and tourism industries, an unfortunately high percentage of the available jobs pay at or near the minimum wage. Successful economic development for New Orleans means incorporating strategies that include the poor in growth, and provide these people with opportunities for careers, entrepreneurship and asset building (such as home ownership).
- Workforce. The present state of the New Orleans workforce is a major impediment to economic development. The public schools graduate poorly educated individuals who have received no job-related training or even basic job skills and retention training, let alone training on career and life issues that substantially impact on-the-job performance. In many instances, local businesses must enact costly inhouse training for some of these basic skills. Hot industries like biomedical and technology cannot begin to find the skill levels they need in the City's workforce. Moreover, there are many decent jobs available for which no training exists at all, even in the vocational institutions. This entire situation has been exacerbated by the City's population loss over the past three decades, which has seen a disproportionate share of the educated, white collar workforce leave. Addressing this problem will require training in a variety of skills, provided by a variety of sources, with emphasis on higher paying jobs that represent the industries of the future. Job diversification is essential to the long-term economic health of the City.
Attention must also be paid to training existing low-income workers for better jobs and careers, and to providing career and life skills training for those seeking to enter the workforce. A variety of jobs initiatives will be needed, as well as jobs incentives, which must be grounded in the concept of providing livable, saleable jobs and benefits, and income levels comparable to those available in other cities.