NEW ORLEANS -- Before the full City Council Thursday morning, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu painted a dire financial picture for the city if two major consent decrees -- one for the New Orleans Police Department, another for the jail -- are implemented simultaneously.
"The bottom line is that both the OPSO and NOPD consent decrees cannot be paid for at the same time without raising taxes or substantially gutting all aspects of city services, especially public safety," Landrieu said. (See Landrieu's complete remarks)
The mayor told the council that a combination of layoffs, furloughs and cuts to the city's operating budget would have to be implemented.
Options for each varied widely: anywhere from 100-300 city workers laid off, furloughs between 15 to 30 days for all city employees, and a cut to the operating budget, which could range from 6 - 45 percent cut.
"Put simply, it does not make sense to lay off or furlough police officers and firefighters, so we can hire more prison guards and pay them higher salaries," Landrieu said.
The council was not voting on anything related to the issue and went into executive session to discuss the pending litigation, but not before hearing from the public.
"Instead of sitting down and trying to solve the problems, we're spending an enormous amount of time and energy fighting it -- fighting it -- and that's astonishing to me," said civil rights attorney Mary Howell.
"Even if we decide the money is going to be used for the best possible purpose, then we have to decide where you're going to take it from, and that is a hard decision," said Councilman James Gray, who represents District E.
In a news conference shortly after the meeting, Sheriff Marlin Gusman criticized the Mayor.
"Today's City Hall spectacle is a last-ditch attempt by the mayor to deflect attention away from a problem that he knew was coming for many years," Gusman said. "The mayor ignored our attempts to work together. He made threats, criticized the federal courts and the Department of Justice, and cut our budget again."
Eyewitness News contacted the U.S. Department of Justice for this story, but they said they would not be commenting. A hearing on the jail consent decree is set for Monday in Federal Court.