Thursday, September 18, 2008

We Do Not Have A Record But At Least You Have The Land

This is a portion of my Wednesday morning email to members of City Council advocating for the complete repeal of Executive Order 08-04:

I am reading in the Times-Picayune that the Mayor is granting some sort of "concession" on Executive Order 08-04, which suspended an unbroken NCDC review process in favor of a secretive process seemingly rife with opportunity for mistaken demolition, contractor fraud, and/or contractor noncompliance with environmental mitigation procedures. I believe this only serves to further complicates a process did not demand post-Gustav modification. Even if you don't care one iota about either transparency or the preservation of architectural heritage, you must still unequivocally demand the total repeal of 08-04. Executive Order 08-04 re-initiates the same types of cloudy demolition procedures that lead to the still-pending multimillion dollar lawsuit against the city for the tragic demolition of the homes of some neighbors. Why would the Mayor eliminate a functioning system of checks and balances that had no purview over the demolition of structures in imminent danger of collapse in favor of the same type of convoluted demolition process that could yield more lawsuits, more bad press for the city, and more mistrust between citizens and municipal government?

Such alarmists we are, just assuming the city would keep poor records and not properly inspect buildings put on the chopping block. I mean, shouldn't the Nagin administration be given the benefit of the doubt?

No it shouldn't. Not ever again.

Read the whole thing from WDSU:

After Hurricane Katrina, Williams put $34,000 of her own money into renovating the house. But when she returned from evacuating after Hurricane Gustav she got a phone call from her contractor she'll never forget."He said he didn't even know how to tell me -- that my house was gone. I thought he was clowning. I said what do you mean the house was gone?" said Williams.

Mayor Nagin's legally redundant and antagonistic executive order has just yielded another lot of demolished dreams and exposed city coffers to yet another demolition lawsuit.

Last week, Williams said she took the matter to the Safety and Permits department."The man was very nasty. He said it was emergency demolitions that they were doing around the city. It got torn down and there's nothing anybody could do about it. He said, 'At least you have the land,'" said Williams.


The list of homes in imminent threat of collapse after Hurricane Gustav includes 4825 Laine Ave. When Williams went to city hall, she said there was a picture of the home she owned at 4829 Laine Ave. associated with the demolition order.

"We do not have a record of that property being demolished by the city. So we will investigate further," said James Ross, with the mayor's office.

Read today's T-P for some details on the city's imminent danger of collapse classification procedures. Here's a taste:

The city's code, however, provides no criteria for designating structures in "imminent danger of collapse." Instead, it places the determination solely in the hands of a "code official" and the Department of Safety and Permits.

Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, whose presence on Council must be an increasing source of embarrassment for reporters, citizens, and colleagues alike on her hearing's "achievement":

"When the mayor walks in to a recovery meeting at my specific request and rescinds the order within 48 hours, you don't say, 'That's not good enough.' "

It's not like it's the Council's job to ask questions as to why the order was issued, why the city does not use structural engineers to evaluate properties, or why the Mayor allowed 'enterprising individuals' to game the system to push through their pet demolition projects without the approval of NCDC?


Civitch said...

The council, once a semi-reliable speedbump on the administration's road to hell, has abdicated its duty.

And why? Are they getting soooo much from the mayor that it's worth it to play nice? Is this spirit of cooperation/capitulation yielding any benefits to the citizens?

I just hope they'll regrow a collective pair come budget time.

E said...

I lay the blame almost entirely on Jackie Clarkson.

She seems to favor a false projection of unity over making sure that other Councilpeople and citizens get answers to their questions. She's like a retiring kindergarten teacher that just wants the children to play nice. She stems debate and dissent in favor of a "teamsmanship" that allows the Mayor to run roughshod.

mcbrid35 said...

This property is outside the Neighborhood Conservation District, and would never have been reviewed no matter what.

The Excutive Order has nothing to do with this. Please get your facts straight.

The facts are that two IDC permits (which wouldn't have been reviewed by NCDC even if the property was in the District, which it's not) were issued after Gustav for the 4800 block of Laine Ave. One was for 4825, the other for 4823.

There was no permit for 4829. The city screwed up, but it had nothing to do with the Screw-Up-in-Chief.

Carmen said...

This isn't in a Conservation District either but it helps further explain the problem (which goes beyond the powermongering aspect of the Executive Order):

Something or someone at Safety and Permits is amiss. The mayor's job is to correct problems of City Hall infrastructure, problems which come up repeatedly. Firing or reforming departments are among his many available tools. That he allows corruption or incompetency to keep threatening his citizens makes his intent suspicious.

It also makes me wonder, after all this time, why Nagin has not reached across the divide to neighborhood groups or preservation councils, why he has not thought to hire someone like Gadbois (who knows the city like the back of her hand) to streamline the process. Because this aides him somehow, to keep up the seeming randomness of demolitions. Someone needs to be at every jobsite with photographic id, to sign off on demos, and that needs to be a city employee or contractor head.

E said...

Right, apologies for misstating that the collapsed property was NCDC. Carmen speaks to the larger issue: that the suspension of ncdc was just part of a larger ill-conceived attempt to look large and in-charge of S&P.