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Rosa Keller Library (5:00-9:00 PM)
My House NOLA presents a rolling food vendor mini festival
Maple Leaf (8:00PM)
Feel the Mardi Gras Indian beat with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux
Rebirth Brass Band
Crescent City Farmers Market
Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns
The Antenna Gallery (7:00 PM)
A series of music-themed movies and documentaries, curated and hosted by DJ Soul Sister, and co-presented by Charitable Film Network, Press Street, and WWOZ
Jewish Community Center (7:30 PM)
The second evening of a chamber music festival that has something for classical aficionados and dilettantes alike
Circle Bar (10:00 PM)
Catch the Indie rockers on their North American tour
Fund Along With Mitch
All the Hits From The Newest City Budget
In Gallier Hall Thursday, throngs of city government officials and workers were practically frothing at the mouth as they waited in wild anticipation for the release of Mayor Mitch and the Hype Machine's latest chart-topping smash: the fiscal year 2011 city budget.
Against the baroque backdrop, Mayor Mitch made sure to hit on the old standards: belt-tightening, back-to-basics, and banishing the old guy's ways.
Local scribes took away the ear-pleasing “news you can use” sound-offs: higher taxes, higher sanitation fees, and the development of a lean budget that was informed by citizen input. M.M. even affirmed the scribes as he told them what they had already reported – that the city's crime cameras didn't work and were on the outs, and the recreation budget would double.
That was the speechifying, clearly the work of a lean, uplifting artist heavily influenced by U2 or middle-period Talking Heads. The actual budget is another matter.
The 466 page document, which lays out spending plans for $483 million of public money, falls right into line with the most epic 70s concept albums.
Like The Who's “Tommy,” there are the grand pronouncements of outcast and neglected souls coming to prominence.
“New Orleans is a model city,” the budget states early on. “We demonstrate to the world the power of strong leadership in the halls of city government and on streets of hope.”
It also wears the heavy influence of Pink Floyd's “The Wall.” The department budgets drone on for hours about funding increases and personnel numbers until the difference between drug-induced haze and out-and-out stupor is unintelligible.
There are Rush-styled washes of improvisation, as an introductory section says the city plans for 2 thousand less inmates than last year, while the actual department budget figures on 4,622 more.
And, like Zappa, there are moments when you simply don't know what the heck they're talking about, like when the City Council axes almost $6.2 million in an opaque line item called “Utility Regulatory/Energy,” or $51 million is saved in the unknowable “Transit-Oriented Development” category. (It could be the demonized New Orleans Public Belt, but the answer seems lost in the feedback.)
Still, there are are redeeming rewards for wading through the document. Much like the euphoria that takes over after listening to Stevie Wonder's “Songs in the Key of Life,” you just feel like a better citizen afterward.
After all, there remains nowhere else to learn the true taxpayer cost of maintaining horseshoes for the NOPD's stable of Quarter-peacekeeping steeds ($20 thousand), or post-Mardi Gras cleaning ($169,290).
After parsing through all the details - and even after playing the record backward in hopes of discovering the hidden answer to the location of Ray Nagin's e-mails – we decided that, much like anything ever released by the Alan Parsons Project, no one should ever have to sacrifice those 6 hours of life.
So, here's all the hits from the document itself:
Eyes Wide Open
This year's biggest initiative is a Hype Machine crafted monolith titled “Open and Effective Government.” This being the 21st century and all, the budget looks to make more city stats available to the public through a program called NOLAStat, and unleash a new customer service/ citizen input system called “Ask NOLA” for a combined $3 million.
Apparently, being a model city has a price on it, as an initiative by that name costs about $9 million.
With eyes cast on the horizon, the roughly $644,000 “One Database, One City” program is also rolling out to consolidate data about all city projects in one spot.
In all, programs that fit into the “Open and Effective Government” category account for 20% of the budget. That's roughly $96 million, and some serious pie chart space!
Not funded in this area remains a $250,000 line item in the Chief Administrative Officer's budget called “Public Records Request,” which is ostensibly a measure to set up a system so the public could request documents not so neatly packaged as the budget. “Copier Management” for the CAO, on the contrary, comes in around $480,000.
Workin' for the People
The public works department gets some attention at the top of the budget as Mayor Mitch works to hit that vaunted big-city mayoral goal of keeping the streets paved and the buses...well, we're taking it one a time.
Outlining the budget priorities, the doc touts a proposal to spend $14 million to fill 30 thousand potholes/craters in our Sea-of-Tranquility like streets. But in the actual public works budget, it says that's well down from 2009's total of 84 thousand filled potholes, and 2010's projected total of 45 thousand. The same is true of streetlight repairs, which hit 22,000 last year, but are only pegged at 16,000 for the coming year. During his address, Mayor Mitch said past city number crunchers were given to flights of fancy, and this could be another such case. But the black-and-white of it is there.
Catch basin cleaning, on the other hand, is set to increase – from 3,300 last year to 8,000 this year. Let the November rain flow again!
The Little Guys
It takes true civic commitment to be involved in city divisions like the Historic Districts and Landmarks Commission (HDLC) and the Vieux Carre Commission (VCC). For occupying Velvet Underground-like space of the city operations, those organizations are getting rewarded.
The HDLC – which handles permitting for construction and renovation in historic districts down to such detail as roof color, storm shutter design, and window pane configuration - is receiving close to a 60 percent budget increase for a program called “One-Stop Permitting and Enforcement.” The program will consolidate department staff, and create a single point of contact for people to apply for permits. The HDLC budget now clocks in close to $1 million.
The VCC is also getting an increase close to 60 percent for their budget, which is smaller than HDLC by about half-a-million dollars. The increase comes in the form of about $150 thousand for “professional outreach.” Not funded for the VCC is a roughly $114 thousand line-item called “Effective Leadership.”
Also receiving more attention in Crunk City is the bare-bones Alcohol Beverage Control Board, which rose to $1,500 from $1,179 last year. That's up from a budget of $50 in 2006.
Ins and Outs
Also telling about the budget in terms of this year's priorities is what's not funded. In addition to those aforementioned little guys that slipped through the cracks in the style of Karen Dalton, unfunded programs include the ever-groused-about curbside recycling program ($5.1 million), operations in the public defender's office (unprinted amount), cold case homicide investigation (about $540 thousand), security at the abandoned Six Flags (250 thousand – though the budget later says the service is slated to procured through a private contract), and the Global Green Community Development and Climate Action Center (about $2.75 million).
And, because it's as hard to resist as a sweet Shirelles melody: While Mayor Mitch said in his speech that there's “no free lunch,” the budget for jury meals is slated to increase to $360 thousand from $190 thousand a year ago.
Note: These numbers reflect the mayor's proposed budget, which was released last week. After a run of hearings and doubtless grandstanding, the City Council will adopt the final FY2011 budget later this year.
Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Ian Hoch, Sarah Esenwein, Ryan Sparks, Will Dilella, Chris Rinaldi, Lianna Patch, Phil Yiannopoulos, Cate Czarnecki, Jonas Griffin, Jennifer Abbot, Mary Kilpatrick, Elaina Patton, Mike Horst, Devin Bambrick, Katherine McGuire, Norris Ortolano, Joe Shriner
Ryan Sparks, Kerem Ozkan
Michael Weber, B.A.
Assistant Managing Editor
B. E. Mintz
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