«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 ...»
1.3 Chief Administrative Office (CAO) to insure a more aggressivehousing code enforcement on blighted and substandard properties, including vacant lots.
2.0 Neighborhood revitalization.
Nothing defines New Orleans' character so much as its rich variety of neighborhoods. To maintain these treasures, the citizens themselves must be in charge of preserving their heritage and charting their future, and must have the information, tools and resources to take on this responsibility.
Strengthen the capacity of our citizens to define, develop and maintain attractive and vibrant neighborhoods.
2.1 Mayor and City Council, with oversight by citizens and neighborhood associations, to redefine neighborhoods by geographic boundaries based on commonality of community focus.
2.2 Chief Administrative Office (CAO) to create and maintain a user-friendly, comprehensive automated property inventory system, which includes all public information on every parcel of property within Orleans Parish, to facilitate neighborhood development research and planning as well as the redevelopment of blighted properties.
2.3 City Planning Commission (CPC), in partnership with citizens and neighborhood associations, to develop and implement a systemic and integrative planning model with clear outcomes, which will define the characteristics of attractive neighborhoods, and map the assets and needs of each neighborhood.
2.4 New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative to promote new public/private partnerships which increase citizens' capacity to effect change and manage their neighborhoods.
3.0 Increasing the rate of home ownership.
In that it gives people both a much larger stake in the future of their neighborhoods as well as a platform for their own economic advancement, home ownership is widely considered a key to community health and revitalization. New Orleans must increase dramatically its rate of home ownership.
Significantly increase the rate of home ownership for low to middle income residents through a combination of public and private initiatives addressing home finance and education, as well as livable and affordable supply of housing stock.
3.1 New Orleans banking community to facilitate increased home ownership for low to middle income residents through development of a consortium of financial institutions and non-profit organizations, which will identify and qualify potential homeowners, train them for effective home ownership and provide a pool of at least $200,000,000 of affordable mortgage financing, applying underwriting standards more relaxed than those of secondary market affordable loan products, while reflecting appropriate risk/reward standards.
3.2 Mayor to direct the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development (DHND) to provide more affordable home purchase and renovation loan financing by expanding the use of (a) subsidies for down payment assistance, interest buy-downs and loan guarantees, (b) soft-second mortgage gap financing as leverage with standard mortgage financing by public and private lenders, as well as (c) lobbying for tax credits for purchase and renovation of older homes and for revenue bond programs.
3.3 Mayor to re-engineer the City's permitting and approval process for housing and create a "one-stop" shop for issuance of construction permits and HDLC approvals, so that the time required to issue permits will not exceed thirty days. (This objective is also essential to accomplishing goals 1 and 4 of this plan.)
3.4 Finance Authority of New Orleans and Housing Authority of New Orleans to create home ownership opportunities for renters with low credit scores by utilizing leasepurchase financing, combined with a credit improvement plan, as provided in innovative programs such as HUD's Section 8 voucher program.
4.0 Affordable rental housing.
Renters will always be part of the housing equation. As the City aims to reduce residential density in the housing developments, additional rental properties will be needed in neighborhoods throughout New Orleans. A particular pitfall to avoid in this process is clustering of low-income renters. Low to moderate income residents, the elderly and the homeless are specific populations with particular rental housing needs.
Increase the supply of affordable rental housing by increasing resources and removing barriers for low to moderate income housing (including special needs populations) in mixed income areas.
4.1 City's Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development to design a model, which removes barriers and promotes a scattered-site strategy for affordable rental housing, including giving a priority for redevelopment of small complexes (1 - 4 units) located throughout the City.
4.2.1 Time Frame: April 2002; ongoing 4.2.2 Financing: No additional financing required 4.2.3 Resources: Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to assist.
Feasibility: 10 4.2.4 Legislation: Intent is to amend HUD regulations
Although public safety is actually a broad issue, including aspects such as public health, hazardous materials, hurricane protection and planning, domestic violence, and evacuation planning, most people think of public safety first and foremost as relating to crime. This is especially true in a city like New Orleans, which has experienced more than its share of crime problems in recent years.
New Orleans has enjoyed a dramatic decrease in violent crime over the past five years, due in large part to reforms instituted by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), increased police manpower, and new techniques and technologies employed by NOPD. Law enforcement officials readily acknowledge that the increased participation of citizens in supporting the reforms (i.e., the Police Foundation) and their active involvement in helping the police to identify and capture violent criminals (i.e., Crimestoppers, Neighborhood Watch and the Metropolitan Crime Commission) have played a critical role in this effort.
The Baseline Survey conducted by Dr. Silas Lee confirms that New Orleanians agree that police services have improved. This reflects the improvements in the department as well as substantially greater communication with the public. However, 73% of respondents are still concerned about their personal safety.
Moreover, year 2000 statistics indicate that the fight against violent crime is far from over. Murders in New Orleans increased from a 30-year low of 162 in 1999 to 205 in 2000. Much of this increase has been attributed to turf battles between drug gangs. While murder rates dropped in the second half of the year, as police instituted measures to mitigate the drug war problems, the continued demand for drugs and the ancillary violence associated with the sale of drugs continues to plague this community. A comprehensive approach to long-term resolution of the City's drug problem was identified as the top priority of the Public Safety Task Force.
Drugs are a multi-faceted problem. Among the solutions discussed by the Task Force are:
- Treatment. Drugs are as much a health problem as a crime problem; many drug users are not engaged in other criminal activities. Non-violent drug users must be directed to treatment and education programs, which at present are sorely lacking. To gain community support for this, people must first believe that drug users can be rehabilitated, which requires an educational effort of its own. From this, it is believed that widespread support for investing in affordable drug treatment facilities, both inpatient and outpatient, can be developed.
- Education. As experimentation with drugs begins at an earlier and earlier age, anti-drug education must stay ahead of the age curve. Such education should begin in kindergarten, and continue through every level of schooling. Even as much as a year's gap can have seriously negative consequences on drug usage levels. Many effective in-school programs exist, such as DARE; these need to be identified, expanded and funded, and more programs need to be developed. Complimenting these efforts, drug education in the home is also desperately needed. This requires making parents aware of the scope of the problem, and providing them with the support and resources to be effective anti-drug educators at home.
- Testing. Programs exist now to test most people arrested in Orleans Parish. Testing in the schools is being explored. The Task Force felt strongly that this should be expanded to include every school in the City, although participation in the public school system will be voluntary to a certain extent.
To be truly effective, testing must be combined with treatment, including rehabilitation and education for identified drug users as well as a family counseling component.
- Economic alternatives. A large percentage of the people who sell drugs do not use them themselves, and indeed, an entire economic sub-culture has grown up around drug sales. Viable economic alternatives must be provided, including living wage jobs, career counseling and business mentoring.
- After-school activities. The after-school hours are the time of prime susceptibility to the temptations of drug use. The schools, the City and the private sector must work together to provide appealing, safe and ongoing after-school activities as an alternative to idle time.
Though pervasive, drugs do not represent the only challenge to public safety in New Orleans. The City's criminal justice system is fragmented, contains many overlapping and even competing jurisdictions, and communicates poorly within itself. Even with these overlapping jurisdictions, the actual manpower dedicated to fighting crime is lower per capita than many other cities. While NOPD briefly reached its first staffing goal of 1700 officers, recent attrition – sparked by lack of funds to deliver promised promotions and raises – has regenerated the manpower crisis. Funding must be found to reverse this trend, and ultimately to achieve the goal of having 2000 well-trained, highly qualified officers on the force. In addition, officers need better career opportunities within the department, as well as incentives for continuing training and education.
The issue of overlapping police jurisdictions is extraordinarily complicated by itself. To eliminate some of the many police forces (i.e., Levee Board, Dock Board, Mississippi River Bridge) will require complex negotiations, major legislative action and tremendous political will – and a great deal of time. In the interim, the roles of all law enforcement jurisdictions need to be much more clearly defined, and communication among the jurisdictions greatly improved, so that the limited resources are effectively applied, duplication of efforts is reduced and infighting between the entities is eliminated.
Infighting also occurs among the major components of the criminal justice system, including NOPD, the sheriffs, the courts, and the District Attorney. Again, the first step to resolution is substantially improved communication. Having the leaders of the different elements meet regularly is essential.
Information-sharing must become mandatory, and communications technology (an issue unto itself) must be upgraded and integrated, with personnel in each component properly trained to maximize usage of the system. Citizen oversight of the cooperation between elements of the system will be needed to make sure it occurs, and the spotlight must be shone on those who fail to participate. If all else fails, there may need to be consideration given to the establishing of a criminal justice system czar.
Two specific components of the criminal justice system received considerable attention from the Task Force. The first was the court system, particularly the criminal district courts. Communication from the courts to other players in the system, and even among the judges themselves, was deemed particularly poor. The courts are under funded, and their facilities in dreadful condition, but many judges are not effectively using the technology and other resources that they do have. A single, strong administrator for these courts is needed. Alternative courts, such as drug courts and teen courts, need to be expanded, and a common database for case management is imperative.
A specific problem facing the judges is mandatory sentencing. Faced with mandatory sentences that many judges feel are unduly harsh, there is a tendency to find defendants guilty of lesser charges to avoid excessive punishment. Dialogue between judges and legislators is needed to find a middle ground that serves society more effectively.
The juvenile justice system and courts are also in need of overhaul, with focus on diversionary programs, juvenile drug courts and other alternatives. A major problem is the complete lack of juvenile facilities in the New Orleans areas, which is a severe impediment to family participation in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. In light of the fact that a startling percentage of adult offenders have juvenile records, much more focus needs to be given to resolving these problems.
The second component that the Task Force examined in detail was the parole and probation systems.
Drastically under-funded and under-staffed, these systems still produce remarkably effective results.
They cost substantially less than incarceration, in both dollars and costs to society, yet most people are not aware of their effectiveness, and they remain a low priority in both City and State government.
Solutions in this area include much stronger rehabilitation efforts while prisoners are still incarcerated;