WTF is going on in Baton Rouge today?State halts land acquisition in Lower Mid-City. Check out the latest at SaveCharityHospital.com.
Today, Commissioner Davis said: "There remains no agreement on the proposed governing structure and it is critical that we make an intensified effort to reach an agreement before the state acts to purchase the property..."Unfortunately, congressional testimony reveals that the state most definitely DID act to acquire property within the "preferred" footprint as early as June 2007. "...The city and its partners have the financial means to expeditiously acquire the necessary land, which will be done with the support of a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) with the State of Louisiana. This CEA engages the state to use quick-take authority for public benefit for all of the land required for the VA site, something it is in the process of doing for the adjacent LSU location. Site acquisition can be accomplished within the VA’s 18-month design timeframe for the hospital, so that construction can begin immediately upon completion of the design. The city can provide the necessary infrastructure for the site, including water, sewer and electricity, and has conducted preliminary site assessments which indicate environmental concerns will not be a problem..."New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin testimony before the Field Hearing on the Future of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care in South Louisiana (July 2007)"...State officials have already initiated land acquisition for the targeteddowntown site using state general funds and have assured me that the site will be ready for construction before the end of that design process. I am confident that there is no unique delay in the timeline for opening the VA hospital downtown..."LRA Chair Kim BoyleAugust 1st 2007 testimony before the U.S. House Of Representatives Committee On Energy And Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight And InvestigationsNovember 28, 2007Times-Picayune article "N.O. Seals Deal to Assemble Land for VA hospital" described a memorandum of understanding under which the city would offer clear-cut land to the VA as incentive for locating within the city-preferred hospital footprint.On November 29, 2007 a public meeting was held at the LSUHSC to discuss the LSU portion of the biomedical project. The moderator who initially attempted to refuse to identify himself, told the audience the VA agreement would not be discussed and informed the audience that no questions would be answered. Audience questions were to be submitted on cards to the interested parties on the panel but would not be answered. Numerous audience members seized the opportunity to speak on uncensored open microphone at the end of the presentation. Many complained they had followed proper procedure, submitting requests to the environmental assessment company, asking to be involved in the planning process, only to be ignored. Others asked where to obtain transcripts, only to be told transcripts would not be provided. Panelists were: C. J. Blache (moderator), Jerry Jones, Dr. Fred Cerise, Dr. Benjamin Sachs, Ezra Rapport, John Connolly of FEMA, and Tracey Dodd of United States Risk Management. No subsequent public meetings were held to address site selection for the LSU portion of the project; the VA held its first public site selection meetings in June 2008.
Tulane's role in this deserves attention. LSU is easily painted as the villain, but Tulane is complicit in this war on the poor. Tulane made it clear that if they get on the new board, they will support the mid-city site plan. While touting their commitment to "community service," Tulane has been a stalwart supporter of the closure of charity hospital with no prospects of a new hospital until 2013. This action alone has greatly prevented uninsured displaced poor from returning and makes a sham of Tulane's marketing itself as instrumental in rebuilding the city.
Local media and city officials have consistently misrepresented the hospital footprint building permit ordinance as a moratorium under which affected residents may appeal and obtain permits. There is, however, no right to appeal in the ordinace that has been in effect since December 2007. Mayor’s Council Series Ordinance 22,944 reads: “…no person shall be issued any building permit for construction, renovations, repairs, or for demolition in the area bounded by the west side of S. Claiborne Avenue between Tulane Avenue and Canal Street, the south side of Canal Street between S. Claiborne Avenue and S. Rocheblave Sreeet, the east side of S. Rocheblave Street between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue, and the north side of Tulane Avenue between S. Rocheblave Street and S. Tulane Avenue, excluding Square 556.” On January 30, 2008, the Times-Picayune story “Old City Hall annex plan has risk - Building might later face demolition” reported the following:“…In December, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring property owners to get special dispensation before taking out a new building permit in the hospital redevelopment zone. Councilwoman Stacy Head said her colleagues wanted to protect mom-and-pop entrepreneurs from sinking money into businesses that might be condemned. This month, the council passed amendments making exceptions for two historic properties in the area: the former City Hall annex and the Dixie Brewery. Head said the developers who own the 2400 Canal building seemed confident their project would move forward….”The building permit ban has nothing to do with protecting mom and pop. Who benefits?
Tulane is throwing its weight against LSU:Dear Tulane Alumni and Friends,I appreciate your interest and effort as we continue to expand and improve health care and medical education in New Orleans. Here is an update on this effort.On June 19, the Board of Tulane unanimously accepted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) developed by officials from LSU, Tulane and the Department of Health and Hospitals for the proposed new academic medical center.On June 22, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved an amended Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) differing in key points from the one agreed upon in our negotiations with LSU officials and Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine.Specifically, the modified MOU adopted by LSU calls for a change in the board composition from a 12-person board to an 11-person board on which LSU holds five seats (the MOU we approved had four), the community has only three independent trustees (instead of five in the original MOU), and the other universities have three seats. Tulane and Xavier will have permanent seats and Delgado, Dillard and Southern will rotate one seat.Such a distribution of board members is unacceptable to Tulane since this clearly will not represent the community’s best interest. LSU would have control of a board that for all practical purposes would not have ample independent oversight or appropriate safeguards to protect the public interest.The decision by the LSU Board of Supervisors to approve this amended MOU indicates that Tulane and LSU have fundamental and philosophical differences with respect to the board composition and the appropriate safeguards and independent oversight of the proposed academic medical center.Given the importance of the unresolved issues to the community and to the state, Tulane believes the matter should now return to the Legislature and the administration for further action. We look forward to working with both of these entities to bring this issue to a successful close for the good of the community’s health care and the future of medical education in Louisiana.Sincerely, Scott S. Cowen President
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