When Orleans Parish voters go to the polls in March to decide runoff races for City Council seats and probably other offices, they also will be asked to renew two tax millages for the Audubon Commission.
Together, the two taxes bring in about $10 million a year.
By far the larger millage, pegged at 2.99 mills for 2014, was first approved in 1986 to pay for construction and maintenance of the Aquarium of the Americas, though some of the money also has been used for the nearby Woldenberg Park and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
The smaller millage, dating back to 1972, was passed to help finance renovation of the antiquated Audubon Zoo, widely derided as an “animal ghetto,” into what is today recognized as one of the nation’s foremost zoos. It will amount to .20 mills in 2014.
Both millages are due to expire soon, and it was announced at Thursday’s City Council meeting that the council will vote Dec. 5 on a motion to put their renewal on the March 15 ballot. The motion seems certain to pass.
More delay on domicile-rule change
Some New Orleans City Council members are eager to enact an exemption to the city’s domicile rule, which requires city workers to live in Orleans Parish to be hired or promoted. The proposed exemption would let police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers live outside the parish, at least through the end of 2014.
The members supporting such a change believe it would make it easier for the city to hire and retain these “first responders,” especially badly needed police. Yet, an ordinance to approve such an exemption was once again deferred at Thursday’s council meeting.
Council President Jackie Clarkson said she is still trying to round up votes for the measure and may call it up for a vote in two or four weeks.
Only Clarkson and Councilwoman Susan Guidry have signed up as sponsors of the ordinance, so Clarkson needs at least two more votes for it to pass. However, she said she does not want a vote that falls along strictly racial lines, with the four white council members in favor and the three black members opposed. Whether at least one of the black members can be persuaded to vote for the measure is unclear.
The domicile rule was once one of the most hotly debated issues in local politics, with opinions divided largely, though not entirely, along racial lines. The rule was suspended after Hurricane Katrina but went back into effect in January.
Council withdraws its consent for an agenda
For first-time visitors to City Council meetings, one of the more puzzling aspects of the proceedings has often been the reading of the “consent agenda,” a usually lengthy collection of supposedly noncontroversial items that the clerk reads aloud, one after another, and the council then approves by a single unanimous vote, generally without any discussion.
At most meetings, the reading has consumed from 10 to 20 minutes, often early in the meeting, during which virtually no one in the council chamber actually listens to what the clerk is reading. When she — it is always a she — finishes, it usually takes repeated announcements to get the attention of the presiding officer and other members and let them know the reading is over and they can vote.
This quaint custom, alas, seems to have given way to the modern mania for speed.
Taking advantage of a recently passed state law, the council on Thursday voted to have the clerk read only a brief, two- or three-line summary of each item on the consent agenda, not the lengthy descriptions of their contents that have been the rule up to now. It then proceeded to follow that procedure with that day’s agenda, making it by far the shortest such reading in memory.
For those interested, the consent agenda consists primarily of official communications to the council about matters it regulates or may have to vote on, routine ordinances and motions already approved by council committees, and the ordinances giving legal force to decisions the full council made at previous meetings on zoning and land-use issues presented in the form of zoning dockets from the City Planning Commission.
Council President Jackie Clarkson said her next target will be “first readings,” the period at or near the end of each meeting during which the clerk reads aloud the lengthy descriptions of all the ordinances being introduced that day for consideration at later meetings. Clarkson said she thinks that posting the contents online should be sufficient.
Compiled by Bruce Eggler