Inside Metro New Orleans Politics for Feb. 16, 2013

New joint committee
rules ‘clear as mud’

NEW ORLEANS — While the full City Council meets every other week, its members break off in between to meet as committees that oversee everything from the airport to youth and recreation.

Each committee has a distinct mission. There have been instances recently where joint committee meetings have been held to discuss overlapping issues. However, there were no rules to govern those meetings, and some questions arose.

To resolve the issue, Evelyn Pugh, the council’s chief of staff, worked to write new legislation that could help if the full council approves it.

“A quorum shall be established for the joint committee if either or any — if there are more than two committees — has a quorum present and at least one member is present from the other committees and the total membership present constitutes a majority of the membership of the combined membership of the two or more committees comprising the joining committee,” Pugh said last week during the council’s governmental affairs committee meeting.

“Clear as mud,” she said.

In layman’s terms one committee must have a quorum with at least one member of the second committee present for the meeting to occur. A council member who sits on committees that might overlap can’t be counted twice, meaning an alternate must be present.

“Who stayed up at night thinking this up?” asked Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

Pet ownership ordinance sits, stays

Like an obedient dog told to sit and stay, Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s efforts to update the city’s pet ownership laws are not going anywhere.

Guidry and the SPCA have worked for more than a year to update the decades-old ordinance that governs pet ownership in the city. While the proposed ordinance that would update the laws was discussed at a governmental affairs committee meeting in November and sent to the full council, Guidry later withdrew it.

It reappeared last week on the governmental affairs committee’s meeting agenda but once again was put on a leash and pulled back.

“This is one that we have been working on for a very, very long time, and just when we thought we had all of our I’s dotted and T’s crossed, someone came to us with another suggestion we decided was worthy of looking into a little bit further,” Guidry explained.

She said she hoped to have the new ordinance ready “soon.”

Issues arise with
two board nominees

While the governmental affairs committee approved each committee and board nominee with no problem, one issue arose when it was time for the full council to vote on the issue Feb. 7.

Nolan Marshall III, whom the Landrieu administration nominated to the City Planning Commission, changed work between the time he was asked to be on the commission and who now works as the public affairs director for the Downtown Development District.

That raised a question about whether being an employee of the DDD disqualified him from being on the board. The council also wondered if Marshall had a conflict of interest since the planning commission votes on the DDD’s budget and could decide other issues involving the agency.

Ron Purcell, the council’s attorney, found that since the DDD is not a city agency and does not pay his salary, Marshall is not a city employee and can sit on the commission.

If there are ever issues that could be a conflict of interest, such as voting on the DDD budget, Marshall should simply recuse himself from acting on those matters, Purcell said.

The council voted 6-0 to approve Marshall’s appointment with Councilwoman Kristin Palmer absent.

The mayor’s appointment of Kyle Wedberg to the planning commission was a topic of brief discussion at the governmental affairs committee.

A recent story reported by The Lens said Wedberg “last spring paved the entire street frontage of a lot adjacent to his home and did so without securing permits for the curb cuts as is required by law.”

During the Feb. 4 governmental affairs committee meeting, Palmer said Wedberg, who is president and CEO of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and a commission for the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, made that issue known in a questionnaire each applicant has to fill out for his or her post.

Palmer said while the problem was due to Wedberg’s contractor not filing the proper paperwork with the city, “he (Wedberg) is pursuing action on this, and he has been in conversations with the HDLC and planning commission.”

“I think he’d be a wonderful addition to the city planning commission,” Palmer said.

Wedberg’s recommendation passed the full council Feb. 7 with no discussion.

Compiled by

Danny Monteverde