Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Developments in Local Struggles for Housing, Criminal Justice, and Healthcare

The city has seen some major developments in housing, criminal justice, and healthcare in the past few days.

First, housing: Activists have been complaining for years about problems with HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Some validation came this week in a report from HUD, which the Times-Picayune referred to as, "74 pages of unrelenting criticism." Katy Reckdahl reports in Friday's Picayune, "The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday issued a scathing assessment of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, saying its finances are a mess, its staff makes decisions without good information and hundreds of public-housing apartments sit vacant because the agency doesn't have a system to turn them around when families move out."

HUD promises that they fix the problems with HANO. We've heard this from HUD before, but we hope this time real change will come.

On to criminal justice: Just days after the Picayune revealed new information about the federal investigations of police shootings of civilians in the days after Katrina, another update: "Two veteran New Orleans police sergeants involved in the Danziger Bridge shooting -- one accused of shooting civilians and the other an investigator who examined the incident -- have received letters stating they are targets of a federal investigation."

Juvenile justice advocates also took steps forward this week, as US District Judge Ivan Lemelle signed off on consent decrees that spell out improvements at the city's notorious youth prison.

On healthcare, this news came to us from our friends at SaveCharity:

The City Planning Commission has called its first public hearing on the hospital controversy for this Tuesday, February 23rd, at 1:30 p.m. It will be considering a request by the administration of Mayor Ray Nagin to close 16 blocks of city streets in the proposed Lower Mid-City site for the Veteran Affairs hospital:

This is our first chance to be on the public record and have a public hearing in front of the City Planning Commission. Tuesday will mark the first time that the commission has ever held public hearings on any aspect of the hospital controversy. Without approval of the street closings, the hospitals cannot be built as planned on the Lower Mid-City site. We will have an opportunity to present testimony and comments to the CPC about the current destructive proposal.

Please join us at this meeting. There are a number of reasons the City Planning Commission should deny Mayor Nagin's request to close these streets. The process has been flawed from the start, has not included the hospitals in the Master Plan, and the current proposal would destroy the Lower Mid-City neighborhood and negatively effect the city for decades to come.

The street question will gives interested members of the public an opportunity to comment on the economic impact of the hospital, its effect on drainage and traffic flow, the demolition of historic buildings, the relocation of the hospitals from the Central Business District and other matters.

One of the lessons we've learned in the past four years since Hurricane Katrina is that we -- as citizens of New Orleans -- must be involved in the planning process for our city. When we fail to participate in the decisions that shape our home, the whole city suffers.

For more information, email the folks at Save Charity directly, at We hope to see you there.

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