Voters in New Orleans on Saturday approved a proposal to put a City Council representative back on the Sewerage & Water Board, a move aimed at providing an outside perspective at a utility that has been under scrutiny since 2017 floods.
The charter change passed 65 percent to 35 percent, with 34,390 voters casting ballots. Turnout in the election was 13 percent.
The measure partially reverses a charter change that voters approved in 2013 that eliminated the three City Council seats on the S&WB and made other changes to its makeup. That left the board presided over by the mayor and with all of its 10 other members appointed by the mayor.
But after flooding in the summer of 2017 revealed widespread problems with the S&WB's pumps, power systems and staffing, state Sen. J.P. Morrell proposed adding a council representative back to the S&WB.
Morrell, who championed the previous charter change in the Legislature for former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said the adjustment in the board's makeup would not fix all of the utility's problems but would help provide an alternative perspective on the board.
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The change means that the chair of the City Council's Public Works Committee, another member of the committee or a civil engineer reporting to the council will have a seat on the board.
Public Works Committee Chairman Joe Giarrusso has said that he doesn't intend to sit on the board himself, given the workload on his committee and the oversight it has over the S&WB.
The new charter amendment will also require one of the mayor's appointees to be a retired engineer and will strengthen requirements surrounding quarterly reports the S&WB must make to the City Council.