Ask any New Orleanian to list the good things about the city, and chances are you’ll get a laundry list of accolades.
Flip that question to focus on the city’s down side and you’ll likely get a handful of gripes. Among them, undoubtedly, will be the condition of the city’s often bone-rattling streets.
For decades, New Orleans’ roads have buckled and crumbled for myriad reasons — everything from poor soil conditions to not having enough money or a comprehensive plan in place to fix them.
The latter issues recently led a Lakeview businessman to begin a campaign called “Fix My Streets,” which has since become a cry across the city, resulting in red yard signs that carry that demand and to a meeting Tuesday night at which residents hope to discuss a long-term street repair plan with elected officials.
The city has said it would take about $9 billion to properly repair every street in Orleans Parish. Even though hundreds of millions of dollars of FEMA money are being spent to repair Katrina-related problems, in many cases, that is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
Businessman Robert Lupo knows that even if the city were flush with cash, fixing all the streets would be a Herculean undertaking, both financially and logistically. But, he said, he and others feel a lack of urgency from city leaders about the issue of street maintenance.
“No one blames the current administration,” Lupo said. “This is probably a three-decade-old problem.”
Tuesday’s meeting, open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. at the St. Dominic School gym in the 6300 block of Vicksburg Street in Lakeview.
Neighborhood leaders from across New Orleans will be there, and Lupo and his team have invited Mayor Mitch Landrieu and all seven City Council members to attend.
A City Hall spokesman said the mayor will not be in attendance but that Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, and Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant, who oversees Public Works and will soon take the helm of the Sewerage & Water Board, will be there.
Representatives for council members Stacy Head and Susan Guidry said the councilwomen will attend the meeting. Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey’s chief of staff said Ramsey or a representative from her office will attend. Attempts to contact representatives of the remaining four council members were not successful Friday.
Lupo said that while representatives are welcome at the meeting, he and others in the “Fix My Streets” campaign want to discuss plans for street repairs with actual elected officials.
To that end, he said, the meeting will not be a chance for residents to ramble on about individual problems. He said organizers hope a thoughtful dialogue can occur.
“We’re just asking that we all get together and come up with a plan,” Lupo said. “We’re not going to let anyone get up and rail.”
Organizers acknowledge the city’s budgetary problems and realize that even if a comprehensive plan were developed tomorrow, it could easily take 10 to 15 years to implement and could cost residents a lot of money.
But, Lupo said, something needs to be done now that will result in better streets.
“Let’s make a plan,” he said. “We can’t tell our children and grandchildren they’ll be driving on dirt roads.”
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.