City Council District A candidates talk preservation

Overview
District A • District BDistrict CDistrict DDistrict E At-Large

 

If elected to the New Orleans City Council, what will be your role and focus in the area of cultural and historic preservation?

 

Joseph ” Joe” Giarrusso III – D (incumbent)

As a Councilmember who has worked on historical preservation, I want to ensure the rules work as intended and to close preservation loopholes. Councilmembers Banks, Palmer, the HDLC, and I worked on revising the HDLC “demolition” definition. Applicants were skirting the past definition. We changed the demolition definition by prohibiting the raising of a building for habitual space (this also helped as another tool to manage the Doubles to Dorms phenomenon), banning obscuration or removal of more than 50% of any exterior wall and obscuration or removal of more than 50% of roof removal.

 

Amy Misko – L

My role would be to organize the transfer of ownership from the City to dedicated historical preservation organizations to own and manage these wonderful, old historic buildings in OUR City. OUR City Administration over the past 6 decades has destroyed and neglected every building WE have offered to THEM. Just look at City Hall today. It’s a shambles and a disgrace. The Pontalba Apartments that the City inherited a century ago, stands wounded and neglected. The fabulous and irreplaceable ironwork is pitted, decaying and rusting. The galleries have punctured holes of open exposed support beams. There is plain, hostile, open destruction going on all over the French Quarter today. This is the direct fault of THIS ADMINISTRATION. They all need to be voted OUT. The City Administration cannot BE TRUSTED and should NOT be managing any of OUR city properties. They have neglected and destroyed many of OUR historic buildings based on political pull and disregard for US and OUR City.

 

Robert “Bob” Murrell – D

Our culture and history are part of the fabric of this city. I believe it should be appreciated and preserved but not commodified. Zoning is a vital part to historical preservation, and I believe the NPP should be expanded so neighbors get a larger say in zoning. Preserving a living history like our culture requires us to support workers and culture bearers. We need to make it easier for artists to perform outdoors safely, which is why I favor the CPC’s recommendation re: permits for live music outdoors. Artists continue to struggle to afford to live in New Orleans, so I would work to recoup money from the Convention Center and New Orleans & Co. to create a fund for culture bearers, musicians, and hospitality workers.

 

New Orleans simultaneously struggles with affordable housing and blight. How can we move more blighted and vacant houses into the hands of people who will bring them back to life?

 

Joseph ” Joe” Giarrusso III – D

First, generally, the City must ensure the City’s Code Enforcement department is properly funded to help prevent devastating blight from happening in the first place. Blight reduction also spurs economic development by putting properties back into commerce and increasing housing opportunities in central locations in the city.

Second, we have seen blighted homes mired in the title research phase for too long, allowing these homes to fall further into blight while neighbors suffer. While working within constitutional constraints, the Code Enforcement process must be streamlined so that government works equitably and efficiently for all people.

Finally, I have proactively managed blight by reducing the fees to bring established multi-family homes back into commerce. So many multi-family homes are passed down through generations but fall into disrepair due to a lack of resources or nearby family members. I lowered fees to re-establish these structures from thousands of dollars to just $500. In addition, one of my staffers was meeting weekly before the pandemic with Hollygrove neighbors to work on blight problems. They still continue to address blight with the neighbors.

 

Amy Misko – L

Lower real estate taxes and end the “every 4 year reappraisal of private property.” I had to pass on a $50.00 per month rent increase this year because I got a property tax bill that was 35% higher than the year before. This increase was not announced. It was illegal. But with City services closed and OUR Courts closed, I had no recourse but to pay the extortion. For blighted property, I will as City Council Member offer a “Forgiveness of Back Taxes Program” with the objective of finding the most likely rightful owners (especially applicable the 9th Ward) and giving the properties back. Once these properties are in the hands of OUR citizens, US, they will get improved and become more housing available for all of US.

 

Robert “Bob” Murrell – D

Vacant and absent land owners are abandoning the people of this city. Housing is a right, and if a landlord doesn’t act to house people in their vacant or blighted properties, then the city should either purchase the home & sell it to someone who will, or acquire lots & homes for CLTs via eminent domain. The housing crisis should be fought with the urgency that people want crime to be fought.

 

City leaders agree that the current City Hall needs to be modernized or moved to adequately serve its citizens. As a council member, how would you address this issue?

 

Joseph ” Joe” Giarrusso III – D

The answer to this question is working with affected neighbors first and listening to other stakeholders, too. As for relocating City Hall, relocating near Duncan Plaza, New Orleans East, or another open location have been widely discussed. The public has been clear that City Hall should not be relocated to the Municipal Auditorium or around Armstrong Park. City Hall needs to be someplace where it is easily accessible to the public and, as importantly, where it can house as many city agencies as possible. If someone comes to City Hall to check on a permit and pay their property taxes, they should not have to go to two separate locations across town.

 

Amy Misko – L

I have over 40 years of real estate experience. I have owned and managed a property management business. I have managed, owned, acquired and disposed of large and small parcels and properties all over America; for individuals, organizations and government institutions. I would save City Hall, gut and modernize it and preserve it with a systematic, scheduled maintenance program. OR it can be sold and move City Hall to rented space. The City Administration should be a tenant. The City should NOT own property. WE, the PEOPLE own property. WE own AMERICA.

 

Robert “Bob” Murrell – D

The beauty of democracy is that the best ideas come when more people are involved. Every neighborhood should be working towards a resolution on what should happen with City Hall. I’m personally in favor of a renovation as well as decentralizing City offices with ancillary offices spread throughout the city to encourage economic development.

 

Decisions of the Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) may be appealed to the City Council. As a council member, what would be your criteria when considering whether or not to overturn an HDLC decision?

 

Joseph ” Joe” Giarrusso III – D

The HDLC’s mission is to protect some of our city’s most historic, culturally important structures. As a Councilmember, I have upheld HDLC on significant land use issues, modified decisions where preservation and the applicant’s request could be balanced, and have generally overturned HDLC decisions for families who wanted to camelback their homestead-exempt property to aesthetically and proportionally fit their neighborhoods.

We have upheld HDLC on matters of great importance. For example, an applicant requested total demolition of their home in a partial-control HDLC district to build a larger, more modern house. The HDLC denied the demolition application. The decision was appealed to the Council and, after many conversations with the applicants, HDLC staff, nearby neighbors, and the PRC, the application was withdrawn at my request. I also upheld a recent $10,000 fine for an applicant who did not follow the HDLC’s demolition rules.

Also, my office commonly works with homeowners and their advisors to modify their plans to reduce the amount of total demolition but still modernize old homes. An applicant in one neighborhood requested a two-story addition to a single-story home on a 30-foot lot. HDLC denied the request, so we worked with the applicant to reduce the overall scope of the project to a larger camelback home. Now, this home more closely fits the neighborhood and matches the height of other homes in the area.

 

Amy Misko – L

I think property rights are personal and disputes, should be handled in a Court of Law. The City Council should have no role, no appeal. I do not support “Emminant Domain” land takings.

 

Robert “Bob” Murrell – D

1) Has there been adequate support from the neighborhood residents, workers, and business owners? If not, what are their concerns and what are you doing to address it?
2) If the property will have housing, does it have at least 25% of affordable housing units available?
3) Are there any changes made to promote water retention, reduce the heat map, and reduce the carbon footprint of the property?

 

The New Orleans tourism sector is rooted in our historic architecture and our unique culture, but are we doing enough to make tourism equitable? What would you do to protect neighborhoods from “overtourism”?

 

Joseph ” Joe” Giarrusso III – D

There are two reasons why so many historic neighborhoods feel as though there is too much tourism. First, there is an enforcement issue. I routinely hear from residents who feel as though when they report issues after hours or on the weekends they are not addressed. Unlike other city departments, STR inspectors need to be available after hours and on weekends. Second, the State has allocated money for STR enforcement and the Council allocated funds to enforce the STR rules. However, each budget season, it seems like that money is spread out over a number of departments instead of focusing squarely on STR enforcement. That has not worked. We need a dedicated STR office with dedicated resources to fund the necessary positions. Second, neighborhoods near New Orleans tourist destinations feel the impact of STRs and visitors. We must examine the rules and enforcement of rules in those neighborhoods, too.

 

Amy Misko – L

Hotel taxes are far too high and encourage the Air B-N-B issues WE have been plagued with in OUR neighborhoods, especially outside the French Quarter. Let’s make hotel rooms, which are designed for short term stays, more affordable and attractive to OUR tourists by reducing the 26% tax to 5%. Everyone will want to save 20% and come to New Orleans. Let’s give OUR tourists a reason to stay in OUR beautiful and plentiful hotel rooms in the French Quarter. Let’s “Make it Easy in the Big Easy…on OUR guests’ wallets!”

 

Robert “Bob” Murrell – D

I hope for a sustainable future for this city, and that means having a sustainable economy. I want to work towards a more equitable economy that isn’t based on extractive industries with a reduction in tourism. I believe in self-determinism and want to give all residents, students, and workers access to NPP. I will create a constituent portal for reporting issues like over tourism for auditing and reporting.