NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Mitch Landrieu is asking citizens how they want the city to spend its money during a series of budget meetings that will be held in council districts throughout the city.
The first kicked off in District C at L.B. Landry High School in Algiers.
Dozens of community members said their main concerns were public safety, infrastructure, and the future of the ferries.
Every department head in the city was on hand to listen to the communities questions, concerns, and suggestions as part of Landrieu’s budgeting for outcomes process, in which he asks for community input in mapping out next year’s budget.
“Budgeting is not for the faint of heart,” Landrieu said to the crowd.
During the meeting, community members could sign up to speak to the crowd. After the comments were made, Landrieu answered each question.
2014 may be especially tight for the city budget. The City of New Orleans may be on the hook to pay for costly federally mandated reforms for both the Orleans Parish Prison and New Orleans Police Department.
Already, Landrieu says the firm a federal judge selected to oversee NOPD’s consent decree is too expensive.
“For some reason the judge is going to force us to pay $491 an hour for a lawyer from Washington. I just have real problems with that,” said Landrieu.
And there are a lot of other services the city has to fund. Landrieu said public safety is his number one concern, while some community members say more needs to be done to protect the community.
“This is about quality of life, when you hear the comments and you think about the city we live in, we are not safe in our own homes,” said one community member.
And as the police department loses one officer every other day to attrition, The head of the New Orleans Fire Department union also said NOFD is dangerously understaffed.
“In the staffing situations we have, our citizens are in greater danger, as well as our fire fighters, are putting their lives and their families lives on the line every day in a more dangerous and tenuous situation,” said Nick Felton, president of the NOFD Union.
Landrieu said the city could hire more firefighters if it wasn’t paying so much for their pensions. He also says, despite a shrinking police force, murders are down 30 percent so far this year.
District C includes Algiers, the French Quarter, Treme, the Marigny, the Bywater, St. Roch, and St. Claude.
A big concern for the district c community is the scaled back hours for the Algiers-Canal Street ferry and the proposed $2 fare.
“Do what you have to do to get us 24 hour access to our city that we pay for in taxes,” said New Orleans resident Robin Hill.
Some citizens believe the city should subsidize the ferry. They also say ongoing issues like potholes, streetlights, and blight must also be addressed.
The mayor said that while millions of dollars are being spent on road repairs, there is simply not enough money to fix side streets.
Meanwhile, the Coalition on Open Governance says the budgeting process isn’t truly inclusive because department heads have already submitted their budgets to the mayor.