Friday, July 31, 2015

Back at the budget circus

Every year there's at least one of these meetings where the folks are extra shouty.  This year it was District A.
The “Fix My Streets” group, formed in Lakeview around budget time last year, was among the first cluster to speak and was well represented throughout the comments all evening. They asked how they can be sure that their tax money is really being spent on fixing streets — suggesting they would be open to a dedicated tax to speed the effort — and they asked Landrieu to move swiftly to create a committee to help oversee the process.

Landrieu’s response was a glimpse into the particular kind of hopelessness that municipal government can create. Admitting that the interior neighborhood streets are terrible, Landrieu said it would take $9 billion to fix them all. Even if he completely transferred the budgets of the entire police and fire departments to that effort, it would still take 20 to 25 years.

In the meantime, Landrieu said, the city is doing the best it can to fix the roads that benefit the most people. It has already repaired many major roads around the city, rattling off a list around District that included several in Lakeview (“You ride on them, don’t you?” Landrieu asked, to which someone in the audience yelled back: “Very slowly!”). Next, the city is using new GPS and 3-D scanning technology to map the damage to every street in the city, to prioritize them for repair.
And, from the looks of things, "Fix My Streets" was the tame petitioner last night, relatively speaking.. and that is saying something. The firefighters were there to yell, as usual. And, of course, this being Lakeview, a lot of pro-Confederates were in the audience. 
Another vocal constituency at the Lakeview meeting was the “Save Our Circle” group, formed in response to Landrieu’s recent suggestion that the statue of Robert E. Lee be removed from Lee Circle downtown. Organizer Tim Shea Carroll asked Landrieu how much the effort was going to cost in light of the other budget difficulties, and said he had a petition of 22,000 signatures asking that the mayor “stop talking about the monuments.”

Landrieu replied that, as the city both recovers from the flooding after Hurricane Katrina and prepares for its 300th anniversary, it has the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and shape itself into the city it always should have been. The statues honoring Confederate leaders were erected in a period of history during which white supremacy and anti-integration sentiment was being reasserted by the governing class, and Landrieu said that they do not represent his values or those of many other New Orleanians.

“Just because it was part of our past does not mean it has to be there for all time, or that it has to be revered,” Landrieu said, noting that Lee Circle was originally Tivoli Circle before it was renamed in honor of the Confederate general.
If one goes by the tweets and other live-bloggings, that passage downplays the mood in the room where there appear to have been multiple outbursts and standing ovations in favor of keeping the monuments. For some reason, this is very important to District A folks. 

We'll have to wait and see if the Civic Leaders take this anxiety into account during their deliberations. 

The final budget circus is scheduled for August 10 in District E at the Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Multi-Service Center (1616 Caffin Ave)

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