City Council committee hears from frustrated residents, businesses about city permitting

Members of the New Orleans City Council Community Development Committee heard an earful on Monday about the challenges of doing business in the City of New Orleans. The need to crackdown on unlicensed vendors who sell food, alcohol and even marijuana on Bourbon Street was a frequent refrain, but several speakers also expressed frustration with weeks or even months-long wait times for building permits.

After agreeing to overhaul a controversial ordinance that would have placed a moratorium on the prosecution of building infractions cited by the Vieux Carré Commission, City Council member Freddie King III, the committee chair, established a task force to review permitting practices citywide. When introducing the task force, he told the audience that his goal was not to relax enforcement but to expedite permits for legitimate business and construction activities.

Acknowledging that the administration of Mayor Latoya Cantrell recently hired a consultant to review departmental procedures, King stated that more urgent action was needed. He charged the task force with delivering a set of recommendations in approximately six weeks.

Councilmember at-large J.P. Morrell suggested that additional staffing or other resources could be made available to carry out the recommendations. While the mayor and her appointees are responsible for a day-to-day oversight of city agencies, the council has authority over the city budget.

Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.