In the November issue of Preservation in Print, we synopsized opinions of the two remaining mayoral candidates, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet, on issues related to historic preservation and urban planning as expressed in a forum held on September 19, organized by the Preservation Resource Center and the Louisiana Landmarks Society, and hosted by Loyola’s Institute of Politics and Center for the Study of New Orleans, titled Shaping a Livable Historic City: The Challenges of Calling New Orleans ‘Home.’
In Preservation in Print, we covered the candidates stances on short term rentals, rising property taxes and blight, master plan amendments, tourism management, and preservation as economic development. Below are a few additional topics the candidates touched on during the forum.
Issue: New Orleans has limited open green space, such as Audubon and City parks, and proposals come up to convert some of it to parking lots or for new construction. Should changes to the city’s large parks be subject to review by the City Planning Commission and the City Council?
Gist: Cantrell has a proven track record of working with groups like Parks for All to conserve public green space, and she plans to continue that commitment.
Memorable Quote: “I’ve demonstrated my commitment to preserving our urban canopy and expanding and extending green space throughout the city of New Orleans, whether that is during that resources were adequate to bring back our neutral ground space or standing up when the community was totally outraged that a soccer stadium was being proposed right there at Audubon.”
Gist: We need to preserve green spaces whenever we can. Every issue is different, but she defaults to maintaining as much green space as possible, as it promotes good health and wellbeing.
Memorable Quote: “In communities where there’s green spaces, immune systems are better, there’s enhanced activity, and even it creates a noise pollution buffer between areas of buildings.”
Issue: All candidates stated that job development and access to jobs is important. What plans does each candidate have to improve transportation options in New Orleans?
Gist: Transportation in this city is seriously lacking, and that deficiency is hurting people’s job prospects. Money slated for the Regional Transit Authority in the BP Oil Spill settlement was diverted to tourism, and residents have seen the ill effects. Better streetcar and ferry coverage is needed, and options for rapid regional transit should also be explored.
Memorable Quote: “When we talk to our partners, for example, at Ochsner, they’re saying their number one cause for termination is because people are showing up late and that’s why they are moving forward with a transportation hub. We have to do that here in the city of New Orleans.”
Gist: Progressive cities have great transportation and approach transportation regionally. New Orleans needs more bus options, including more express buses from New Orleans East.
Memorable Quote: “What I want to do is transform transportation in this city so it’s not a poor person’s way of getting around. I hate the fact that that is the stigma that is attached to transportation.”
Vacant historic buildings owned by the city
Issue: The City owns many historic, blighted properties, including the Municipal Auditorium, the Armstrong Park buildings, Charity Hospital, and the Touro Shakespeare Home in Algiers. What should be done with these important buildings?
Gist: Cantrell would partner with nonprofit or public organizations to redevelop the Municipal Auditorium, using FEMA dollars in part. Historic tax credits and tax abatements are important tools. The African American Museum in Tremé is also an important property in need.
Memorable Quote: “I think right now we really need to… push harder for the federal historic tax credits to stay because we have projects in queue right now that will not move forward if we ignore that level of funding.”
Gist: The current administration has not been aggressive enough against property owners who let their buildings crumble, and Charbonnet’s administration would be different. She would sell historic, blighted buildings if needed, or reuse them for city purposes. The Municipal Auditorium could be a City Hall annex, or Charity Hospital could be the new City Hall.
Memorable Quote: “I believe in preserving our properties, but that Charity Hospital could be just be a beautiful example of real recovery in this community.”
Cruise ship terminal on Poland Ave
Issue: A new cruise ship terminal is being planned for the Bywater neighborhood.
Memorable Quote: “On Poland Ave, I would love to see a cruise ship terminal developed but I would also like to look at the new wharfs that the city would now have under its authority with the recent cooperative endeavor agreement with the public belt and the port.”
Memorable Quote: “The terminal would determine what the community needs. Again, I believe in listening to the citizens. But, what I would really like to know about Poland Ave. is what’s going on with the naval support academy that has sat in disarray forever.”
HDLC decisions reversed by City Council
Issue: 70 percent of HDLC rulings that were appealed to City Council were reversed. Should the appeals process be reconsidered?
Memorable Quote: “I would be in favor of a relook. However, the New Orleans City Council has that authority, and I do not believe that it should give that up.”
Memorable Quote: “Yes, it needs to reviewed, because if we have a Master Plan that is supposed to have the spirit of law, the tension of law, then why is it overturned 75 percent of the time. So, something’s wrong here. I don’t get it.”
Funds for historic cemeteries
Issue: City-owned cemeteries have been neglected for decades. Should fixing them be a budgetary priority?
Memorable Quote: “The remains of our people have to be a top priority, absolutely.”
Memorable Quote: “Yes, if we could afford it. Again, we have so many other issues in this community that we have to prioritize. But, certainly. When you talk about tourism, people come to see the cemeteries all the time. If we can afford it, I believe in preservation.
Innovation district and marketplace under the I-10 expressway in Tremé
Issue: After years of studying the possibility of removing the I-10 expressway overpass along Claiborne Avenue, the City is proposing instead to establish a cultural innovation district and marketplace underneath it.
Memorable Quote: “Based on the community support at the New Orleans City Council for this initiative and development, I support it.”
Memorable Quote: “I support it.”