Mayor Mitch Landrieu will face two big hurdles in implementing the new security plan for the French Quarter and other parts of the city he announced Monday: figuring out how to pay for it and getting the approvals he'll need from the City Council.
While it remains unclear exactly what the council's role will be, the scope of the financial challenge has started to come into clearer focus as more of the details have started to circulate among council members and others.
About $35.6 million of the anticipated $39 million total cost for 2017 will be one-time expenses for new infrastructure such as cameras and barricades. The plan involves a big expansion of the city's surveillance capabilities, as well as closing off an eight-block portion of Bourbon Street to vehicles.
That leaves about $3.8 million in annual expenses — for additional personnel and maintenance — that the city will have to spend every year.
That may seem small compared with the city's $615 million operating budget this year, but the budget is always a tightly balanced spending plan, and the heads of various agencies and departments often end up feeling shortchanged, as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro did this year.
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The board of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, an independent state body with its own taxing authority and considerable financial reserves, is stepping in to help with one-time costs. On the premise that promoting the safety of visitors and residents is important to the center's success, it has agreed to kick in $23 million toward the infrastructure and equipment.
The rest of the money would come from the city.
Of the $39 million total, about $9.2 million would be specifically focused on the French Quarter — including additional sanitation services and graffiti removal, street and sidewalk repairs and new “street furniture” such as benches. The rest would be distributed among the Quarter and 19 other neighborhoods citywide seen as hot spots for crime.
Early versions of the security plan focused only on the French Quarter, but several of those briefed on the discussions said pressure from lawmakers and others forced a broader focus to attempt to tackle crime in areas of the city beyond the prime tourist districts.
Exactly how much will be spent in each of those neighborhoods has not been shared even with some members of the City Council.
Councilman Jared Brossett said he only received a copy of the final version of the proposal Monday and has not yet heard from the Mayor’s Office on specific spending details.
The first elements of the plan, including implementing a long-delayed program aimed at curbing false burglar alarms and beefing up NOPD staffing, are expected to be underway by the end of February.
Those would be followed by increased sanitation services in the French Quarter in March and the installation of more security cameras and lighting there by April, according to the timeline.
Other areas of the city would get security cameras by June, around the same time the city would be ramping up a centralized command center to monitor their video feeds.
Changes to alcohol outlet regulations, including requiring bars to install outward-facing cameras that feed into the city system and requiring them to keep their doors closed — though not to stop operating — after 3 a.m., would take effect in May.
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Bollards to block traffic would be installed on several blocks of Bourbon Street by September.
The city's share of the money for the first year of the plan would come from various sources, including about $9.7 million from the capital budget, $1.5 million from the French Market Corp. and $800,000 from the general fund, according to the Mayor’s Office. Another $4.2 million would come from commercial loans to buy 300 new take-home vehicles for police officers who live in New Orleans.
It’s not clear how all of the planned financing would work. Capital funds cannot be spent on anything but infrastructure or major purchases, and the other sources of money for the city's share of the budget would not cover the full cost of staffing and similar expenses.
The city has not responded to questions about what existing programs might see their funding cut to come up with the funds for the anti-crime plan.
The administration also has not provided details on how the program would be funded beyond this year. City officials said the ongoing costs to the city would be about $3.8 million a year.
Brossett said Wednesday that the council needs more information about the financing of the proposal, including how the city plans to pay the ongoing costs, whether enough money is going to areas outside the French Quarter and whether all the elements of the plan are really related to public safety.
“$39 million is a significant investment, and I want to make sure that these resources will be adequately utilized across the city to combat crime,” Brossett said. “I would say there are going to be some questions about (things like money for) tow truck operators and sanitation enforcement — I mean, how is that going to combat crime?”
New Orleans public safety and improvements budget
|PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY|
|Action 1: Establish Integrated Camera and Surveillance Program||$10,375,000|
|Expanding fiber network and camera setup to Canal Street||$1,000,000|
|Cameras and signage, equipment and installation (FQ)||$430,000|
|Cameras and signage, equipment and installation (19 other areas)||$8,170,000|
|Integrate Private Sector Cameras Citywide into Security Program||$50,000|
|Remote sensing technology||$725,000|
|Action 2: Develop Centralized Command Center||$8,102,247|
|Building renovation (floors/walls, electrical upgrade, security, generator, etc)||$2,500,000|
|Data systems (computers, monitor screens, servers, furniture, etc)||$4,000,000|
|24/7 management system (real-time crime center staffed 24/7)||$965,000|
|Civilian NOPD staffing||$466,165|
|Detective NOPD staffing||$171,082|
|Action 3: Redeploy Patrols for Optimal Public Safety||$7,313,368|
|Additional NOPD staffing||$1,173,368|
|Additional Parking Enforcement Officers (PEO)||$300,000|
|Parking enforcement vehicles||$30,000|
|False Alarm Program (prioritizes patrols to high risk incidents over low risk)||$150,000|
|Electronic police monitoring (reduces downtime for patrol officers)||$50,000|
|Take home cars for 300 patrol officesr||$4,200,000|
|Rapid response tactical vehicles (2 heavy duty vehicles with security equipment)||$750,000|
|Tow truck operators||$300,000|
|Action 4: Enhance lighting for increased visibility||$1,550,000|
|Action 5: Upgrade infrastructure to reduce terror risk||$2,740,000|
|Bollard system to reduce terror threat||$2,400,000|
|Traffic analysis to assess impact of security measures||$340,000|
|Action 6: Modify and enforcement ABO Code||$120,000|
|Additional ABO staff||$120,000|
|FRENCH QUARTER IMPROVEMENTS|
|Action 1: Create Nighttime Management System||$415,200|
|New shift creation and maintenance||$415,200|
|Action 2: Additional Sanitation flushing||$80,000|
|Action 3: Increase sanitation staffing||$240,000|
|Action 4: Increase sanitation enforcement||$160,000|
|Dedicated rover inspector assigned to French Quarter||$160,000|
|Action 5: Increase graffiti removal||$90,000|
|Action 6: Reimagine land use vision and use mix||$75,000|
|Action 7: Street furniture and amenities||$475,000|
|Action 8: Improve critical intersections||$800,000|
|Four critical intersections at $200,000 each||$800,000|
|Action 9: Continue Sidewalk Repairs||$1,000,000|
|Improve pedestrian and wheelchair access||$1,000,000|
|Action 10: Repair Bourbon Street Surface and Underground infrastructure||$4,500,000|
|Fix cutter bottoms and streets in poor condition||$4,500,000|
|Action 11: Jackson Square Improvements (Plantings, lighting, sidewalks)||$1,400,000|
|Total project cost||$39,435,815|