No jobs to be lost in reduction
New Orleans — For decades the city’s leaders spun a web of bureaucracy that resulted in 133 boards and commissions for everything from managing the property Isaac Delgado bequeathed to the city to running the post-Katrina New Orleans Affordable Homeownership housing program.
That flowchart of obscure and sometimes repetitious governance is about to get a little less complicated.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday that he will eliminate or merge 11 of the 66 city-created boards and commissions that have been inactive for years or offer redundant services. The goal is to streamline city operations and reduce spending, he said. No jobs will be lost with any of the changes, Landrieu said.
The city has already begun to make changes in regard to its various boards and committees, most noticeably with the Public Belt Railroad, which was plagued by scandal under its previous leadership, and the Municipal Yacht Harbor board.
“Today we’re going to take another big step forward,” Landrieu said.
The most prominent dissolution Landrieu announced involves NOAH.
The program, founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to get people home, came under scrutiny when it was revealed that contractors the Nagin administration hired to do gutting work didn’t do the jobs. Five people now face federal charges. The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, the city’s blight-fighting agency, will take control of NOAH’s remaining assets.
Reducing the number of arcane agencies running the city will help to avoid future corruption, Landrieu said.
Meanwhile, the Canal Street Development Corp., which oversees plans to rehabilitate the city’s main thoroughfare, will take over the responsibilities of the Rivergate Development Corp., responsible for managing the site of the old Rivergate convention center, and the Piazza D’Italia Corp., which oversees the Poydras Street plaza and a parking lot.
Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp., noted that the three agencies oversaw roughly the same geographical areas and already used the same administrative staff. While Landrieu could not provide a dollar amount the city expects to save with the changes, merging the operations of the Central Business District-area boards has already amounted to about $150,000 in savings, Connick said.
The Upper Pontalba Building Corp., which has a seven-member board, oversees the four-story upper Pontalba Building on Jackson Square. It will merge with the French Market Corp. The city noted an overlapping membership of both boards.
Other boards that will be erased from existence are the Delgado Albania Plantation Commission, the Administrative and Enforcement Advisory Committee, the New Orleans Metropolitan Youth Commission, the Board of Electrical Examiners, the Board of Examiners of Operating Engineers, the Board of Mechanical Examiners and the Coastal Zone Management Advisory Committee.
“If you have fewer cats to herd, it’s a lot easier to herd,” Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin said after the Wednesday afternoon news conference.
In May, Landrieu announced the restructuring of the Public Belt Railroad, reducing the board to nine members with four-year terms, down from its previous 16 members who each held a term of 16 years. Additionally, the board appointment process was modified.
Also reduced so far: The Municipal Yacht Harbor board, down to nine members from its former 16.
Landrieu said he plans to continue to eliminate and streamline unnecessary boards. Ultimately, he said, he will work to restructure the 13-member Sewerage & Water Board. That, however, will require rewriting state law because of the utility’s status as a state political subdivision created by Louisiana statutes.