WWL>Topics>>8-4-14 3:10pm Angela: on fixing NOLA's streets

8-4-14 3:10pm Angela: on fixing NOLA's streets

Aug 4, 2014|

Angela talks with Janet Howard of the Bureau of Governmental Research about how best to fix the streets of New Orleans.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Let's say just sitting and listening to -- Campbell makes me feel better. What a talent and so knowledgeable about nutrition and health and she's gonna come back we're gonna do another one. Not -- not too long from now -- bring in a shaft and we'll talk about how to get recipes down to on a more healthful. Recipe. We are moving on -- the crowds are building the voices are getting louder throughout the city about fixing our streets. Our latest program with one of the neighborhood groups on the West Bank wasn't just a cry for help. But a call for a plant a game plan to get the monumental job done. What's interesting is that the same sentiment was expressed over seven years ago. When the bureau of government over search presented a report called street smarts maintaining and managing New Orleans -- work. Two years later the PG ark came out with a second report. The price of civilization. Addressing infrastructure needs in New Orleans. It was a study in neglect. The next year 2011. A third report was released. A report it would look at our tax structure. And the need to look at the nonprofit exemption. That is costing all of us and could be a source of funds to fix the streets. So as we hear the ever growing cries of fix my streets. We need to know that these are not the first cries. The bureau of governmental research saw the need for a master planned years ago and offered a specific idea on how it could be done. It looked healthy infrastructure of New Orleans was being neglected. And it looked at -- need protection reform. It doesn't really matter who cried out for the change first. What's important is that the voices are now loud and in many ways joined together. Today we're going to talk with the executive director of the bureau of government over search. About what the three reports revealed. And how they might be brought back to life and delivered to City Hall. I'm so how. -- to have -- Janet Howard executive director with us. Talking about. What everybody is talking about that it's time. And it is complex because these -- roles streets they have been neglected. We don't have the funds. But you as I said seven years ago said let's talk about and so lots to talk about it. To be here to talk thinking I appreciate that this I'd do if I'm sure others do and I certainly hope that all of our listeners out there. And I know you have this concern about the streets hasn't heard from me. Your thoughts on what realistically can be done. Not just fix my streets but what can we do to get a grasp. On having decent streets. In a big plan in the big -- so take -- there if you will Janet. Street smarts street smarts aren't. Any comment and conversation about street simply an excellent chance to start with the basic information. And there is in place commonly in cities of something called -- pavement management system. And that system involves an initial assessment. And then updates. Of the condition of streets and it ranks them by type. Do they need reconstruction. Do they need moderate repairs do they need to maintenance. And so it identifies. The condition of the individual streets to prioritize its main groups and then. Do you develop a priority is nation for which ones to take on for us. Fixing streets shouldn't be a question of just dividing money among. Take council districts regardless of conditions. It there should be some kind of rational basis for it so that's a first step that needs speed unfortunately the constipated developing a -- management system has been going down. Over ever time this technology in groups. But you can't do anything without the information so that would be our first and how is that information garnered. Under different ways of doing it sometimes cities have employees who go around and kind of do -- to -- the basis of looking at. Through their eyes the more sophisticated way is to use equipment that actually. Can can take reads on what's below. The surface and read into this surface mattered that would be the preferred method of doing especially if you're going to embark on some kind of -- huge capital program. So. You get this in the pocket computer system. And then that becomes true master plan well anytime master plan hand Stevie. -- handsome and human intervention involved in it obviously. This provides database information tells you what streets or at worst winter with best you do what's next it's ever. Now one of the things kind of counter intuitive about this is people tend to think oh let's start with the -- streets and take care of them first. Well. First -- One of the most critical things is to do maintenance on streets that aren't in terrible condition because if you don't do the maintenance at little cost. They become your. Big big costs down the road -- continue to deteriorate gets more and more expense. We have other factories you've got to consider besides just what the condition is you -- issues like how much is the street used. Are there particular development issues that you want to address and so it and it kind of planning it. It involves and a sense of of the information. Something that to you I don't remember this reporter in the previous yet so this would have been. The New Orleans department of public works and you did this one in 2008 yes. Two in these may have changed but even if it's. Similar it was kind of startling to me the world from overseas approximate 16100 miles of streets that I can understand. The department's totaling total operating budget about twenty million. Parking enforcement. Nine point three million of this a 160. Employees. A 120. Of them involved in parking control. When I read that I thought we have to have parking control on not being naive. But that's the bulk. I -- you have that forty employees that are looking at street vs. 120 that are looking parking meters. That's you obviously want as a revenue generator. And the other is is costs and it appears that that's just totally totally backwards. But -- is very little money actually invested in New Orleans and street maintenance it's -- It at the most recent meetings have been saying two point seven million dollars a year. When we looked at 2008 at that point it was four million dollars and -- lesson that. And -- That the then director of public works that we would need forty million dollars a year just for me it's not for reconstruction not -- for maintenance. We keep hearing the three billion to do everything right. That's probably -- -- as times change but three billion statistics ourselves up and then forty. 245 million just to maintain. -- the numbers are are very squishy I would say when we did a report in 2008 we are told OK to repair its streets bring him up to snuff that would be one point four. Billions of the latest number from the city I believe is saying. Nine billion including. Sewer. And the unity is sewage and water port. I think -- -- two billion in -- for sewage and water board and I I. Can't quite grasp how the number could go from one point four billion to close to nine to set to seven -- -- for streets. That's a number that. Needs a closer look at various city actually for some information to to break -- It's aghast in these -- cast. Guesses. It is maddening union I was hoping that this would not be an hour right here myself whining got a parent myself -- tonight after a and I I don't mean to because I think this is a very significant problem and and it really is on people's. Conversations. In their conversations about what can we do. But -- the magnitude of it is what's so. I hear what -- -- saying about you would think start with the were streets because I've heard people sitting in the room with our neighborhood groups who say. I have a street that's you know you can't drive to. We have to go two miles an hour and then heaven forbid you have been down the street lingo flying past. Three foot pothole or whatever and exaggerating but. And yet I understand what you're saying the ones that are most trafficked. Should be the ones that are fixed first its finest things you have to take into account when you're here you're sending your priorities clearly. That they be interesting thing about this priorities is you can talk about streets. But. And you talk about sewage and water board but what we're really -- you know -- for the two days for the public to assess the problem. It has to look at the problem from across all the government agencies that are operating. And we've got to take a good look at where's our money going is being properly. Allocated. And what do all this needs to adults and this is what we tried to do back in 2010. And again it's. Getting good numbers is. Not and easy to stay with -- everyone we're gonna continue to talk to Janet Howard head of the out BE RG but I'm sorry BTR. About the streets and we want to be part of this so well I love that stay with the -- stay with this -- We'll be right back. Well we are talking with Janet Howard. President of the bureau of government researcher about. What everybody is talking about and that -- streets and some studies that were done. A few years back on strong recommendations on what we could do to trying to. Try to get a handle on it again Nolan is saying this is going to be easy it is a monumental task. And yet that we need a starting point because as these neighborhood groups are voicing their very real concerns about when can my street be fixed. When can our streets be fixed I think were holding me and on perhaps we need to look at these studies a little closer. Before -- about the gentlemen tray you've been holding on and I appreciate it. I think is you do. Do agree thank you. Let's get that -- it really is always on really baffled me and and border is dubbed arrow. Actually lived right in the same -- is probably. -- viewers. On in. I don't get in. Apple's street 08. From like now trio Aaliyah and an -- that -- Bright and and in between eight. Where tickets to Broadway. It's like oh broke courtship and marriage in new Blackberry and not -- You know then being involved in a way to get to Brazil Warner. Course locations cool higher. We aren't near what street that the streets as they it would have been an entire country and it's injury and trying to get to this story. -- I think. You probably voice what many question to. So let me just argue that the current doesn't like it if it would be just. I think -- could be okay it was. I mean I don't understand why did they think everything and -- -- Stopped there and and. -- want to talk magazine street you know you just bring up some wonderful points and and I hope that. You know the conversations going to go on in City Hall. Certainly -- a budget hearings go but I think neighborhood groups are getting together I think they're going to be. Become a very large voice big voice and I hope I -- it because you're very specific and you ask the right questions. I don't -- are they get. The -- like we're done talking about you you don't get -- editor -- here. Maybe or so you know it. This man. People woke up until -- -- -- for the very first and only time. It content it is one of the two. It were a year after Katrina and -- incident -- right. I didn't that they did. It out it was odd ball -- -- in a lot of ways. And it should. Hit the. Get on track all your right and you are wonderful to call and I appreciate it never hesitate to we're gonna have to move on to Pete. -- -- What is a company company contact. That would -- betray try to bestow. He'll do okay. They've brought in story trucks. The national policy should. And I believe didn't destroyed streets -- -- on pop up book. And it should be second or. And -- it to myself and then he constructs a mistrial street and showed up look like that it. Sure I. Want to. No obvious and bless your heart and know that that's very bad it's probably an accumulation. Of a lot of heavy trucks over a long period of time post-Katrina. Coming in to to work on streets. But our streets -- great -- into Katrina and I think that's the whole point that we have. We have failed in the maintenance. In difficult circumstances and how many times have we heard were were built on coffee grounds we get that. I always say where's the creative. Science. That will find something that will hold up better because we are built on coffee grounds. But you bring up a good point -- and I truly appreciate you calling. We're going to be talking again but Janet Howard right after we go to the newsroom. Give a sure thoughts on our streets what can be done we're gonna talk about will we get back with Janet though. Some issues concerning how we fund this because it's a lot of money. We'll be right back. We are back -- Janet Howard with the bureau of government -- search talking about. Really three studies she has done in the last 67 years. Concerning these roads arm arm issues with streets. And a that's sort of bubbling up now. And looking back at them and what was recommended in the first when you were talking about in the bumpy road for violence. But the need for. Plan a guide and and that the commitment just about their commitment that we never had to maintenance. Correct I mean pennies on the dollar for doing. And then -- -- your third thing which I think is so important. Is looking at. Our tax structure. And they exemption factor. Correct me if I'm wrong but roughly. One out of four of -- -- paying taxes 23 to 24%. Well -- the estimate is -- approximately only 40% of the value of property is on the tax. That -- 60% 60. Is not as so what you hand is a situation room very very small group of taxpayers. Is carrying the burden and it plays out to weigh in the people -- at a higher mileage level than they would otherwise pay at the base for broader. And you bring in far less rabbit. We've its first look at this 1996. And at that time -- two thirds of the property was off the rolls. We. Kind of been able to extrapolate. Since then property values gone up -- the up. Give privately held property is gone up a 146%. They don't reassessed. The -- property assessor doesn't reach -- to reassess that so you don't know it's its value. Doesn't get changes and I don't get reflected on the book. So what we did was we assume that if that went up at the same rate in -- reason to think it might be higher as you have a proliferation of these properties. Then you still be around in the 660%. Off the tax rule. And they're off the tax rolls because it's. They're off for because they're exemptions that are set in state constitution. And they fall into basically three different categories the largest piece of ball is government property. And then it's followed by the nonprofit accent to property. And the constant except proper. A -- has the homestead exemption has had. What is it that's impact is in diminishing bright overtime. One thing you have every year at the legislature an attempt to raise the level of the homestead exemption which would -- you know increase the problem gambit has been. Something has been diminished as is values increase its. If you're looking at the three things the government properties the nonprofit the homestead exemption artistic the first two the government properties. Some are non functioning entropy sells them for being money. That that would be money to build the local government there are some priests you know obviously you locally we can't tax. The federal government. There are things you can do that a pick up value. Pick up some kind of contribution for example if you have a properly constructed training HV. The federal government has said they will -- The that goes back to the nonprofit in this has been a discussion united had -- -- hit ninth and and she is very very committed. To addressing it and it is a very controversial subject because it's sort of hallowed ground that we don't talk. But in the city as we are today. Are in need of funds. Big time for it this is perhaps the time to address it. I think he can absolutely say that you cannot solve the street problem you cannot solve the infrastructure problem without addressing the basic structural problem we have with our finances. Which is the -- prop. It's just going to take political will. And take guts. To say too that the nonprofits. It's going to be an evaluation of them first of all because I think they're quite a few on the roles that what are questionable. And -- non profit ready yet to places -- -- wanted to one is that the the administration. Of of the exemptions which could be. I'm tightened in in some ways and then you have to look at what you're. Treating is exempt and Louisiana is very very broad when it comes to the nonprofit exemption. For example most states if a property is not used directly in the mission of a nonprofit organization. It is tax that is not the case in Louisiana. It is it kind of is here with say -- if it's not used for commercial purposes. It's not text well that means you can hold property. Do nothing with it. You can hold it for investment -- center. It doesn't have to be used your mission and that's have really fundamental thing and change it really should be made without anyone feeling too. Emotional. About the but their. Some of the things when it comes to that to the to the and addressing the nonprofit group that. And I do have -- you do that. You nonprofit that is an -- restaurant and -- Maybe it's a lack of manpower don't know but again our -- office would be the one in charge of surveying. One periodically checking on the status of nonprofits as something that should have to be proved. On on a regular basis that it's it's it's exempt. We we've looked dead to -- their number things you can do one of the things we think should happen is instead of listing in the constitution. Multiple categories of property some of which are not allowed anywhere as far as we can see you back for trade organizations that that's -- You can defy you can have a constitution that defines in broad terms. That you'll allow exemptions for cultural educational religious institutions something like that and -- the legislature. Define what it it's. That's exempt because everything doesn't have to be exempted falls -- those -- you can also allow. A local options so that the local governments which are the ones that are affected by the property exemption. Would be the ones that could decide what. Exemptions today while out within their jurisdiction there's a -- a attempt when a property a nonprofit property is exempt. There is that the public is indirectly subsidizing. -- the operation by replacing something that's a normal. Letting -- not paper semblance of normal cost of a business. And so. The -- you're local community should be the one that's making kind of the value judgment of what do we think is so important to that we're willing to provide -- now might be. Schools because. After all the basic government functions providing education at the private schools the parochial schools aren't doing it then. The but then you might look more strictly at some idea the other things. Well it's good. I know that other communities which you'll have studied. Do. Charge some fees may not be called attacks may be called something else for their participation. In infrastructure. Right and this is where you get maybe if your -- if you can't. Put enough property on property tax -- government starts looking from some other way of getting. The revenue the most -- I think is probably the drainage -- in some places -- street east that everyone. In apace regardless of whether it can -- well we have exempt for a. And lower tax purposes we could do that locally or we we have to go to the legislature and then now we can do things like that low -- So you know I'm just thinking where are we going to get the money. Where are we going to get the money to fix these streets. And have a livable neighborhoods. Wonderful places that we live but and streets and it's gonna come from. People. And it's the same group that's getting nailed all the time. That's bad to it it is people up VP -- for people to move. Pay their their taxes and feel good about it it has to be considered a fair system. In a system that falls on basically 40%. Is not a fair system stay with us everyone will be right back. Again we're talking with Janet Howard from the bureau of government over search. I'm talking about several reports that the her organization put out concerning our streets and that's what this is out. Is how do we get our streets next ball. Asking that were all hearing the same thing it is about money so then the question banks where can we get the money. It's going to it's gonna comfort somewhere it's not gonna come from a year. And so we look at the way our taxes are now structured there's an awful lot of nonprofit to -- And that there is sort of a movement of people saying. We need to address. And that it's not unrealistic other communities have. And and one of the big issue head winds if all of this. Non non non profit but the exemption. Were valued in. Charged we would make -- 115 million a year we be making our estimate that the suspect 2011 was reprieve revenues 125. Million. More a year OK or analogy to BT could increase the level of services infrastructure it's. Alternatively. If all the prop nonprofit property. The estimated value were on the rules you could reduce taxes by forty -- Get the same levels are so. You know -- people are paying for us. One way or another. That's right and I think that's that's a very important point if we were to get these people on the royalties organizations on the rules. Then for the taxpayers have been paying the Milledge goes down. Or it stays the same and more Morse or more services and infrastructure for what they're. And -- in hand there appears this isn't to say that all non profit property should be Korea off the on attacks but what is to say is you really need to look at tightening the exemption. It's changing the way things are administered. You have to look at other there are other programs you know interestingly in some places the state compensates the local dealers it's. Four. The nonprofit exemption because the rules are set at the state level and that the people picket hip on the local and local governments. So that is an option interest they would often -- Augusta so thoughtful and kind New Orleans. They have been your program such as payments the taxes but there's a voluntary and our research says if you had very little effect actually. In the places repair them imposed. And the things start looking at fees instead of taxes to provides services and as I mentioned earlier. Drainage is one area where that's quite common -- -- another. And it picks up not just non profit property but in the case of the -- picks -- federal government property if properly constructed. They said yes we we -- depend on the storm water drainage systems of the what you would also think they also depend on the fire department they depend on the police department. So perhaps even again fees of some kind if were uncomfortable with that -- tax. And let's just need a column what we want to call it but it's money coming in for a job that needs to be -- And here Ryan did you hear that that was me whining. I thought and it's so on track. We are gonna continue to chip away at this because I just were all concerned and we an end that they're concerned as to be able -- we're not complaining that were just saying. We need to address -- we are we have so much going force in this community so many positives. But this keeps rearing its stand. And it's time. Andy -- the administration did try to get. Some creative more creative ways of getting revenue -- -- session and got shot down and I just wanna mention. On our site BG -- work we have a portal that's collected these different reports to make them more accessible for anyone's -- -- reading more that's streets infrastructure in the non profits EGR dot org thank you thank you thank you Janet Howard. -- I really appreciate you while staying with decisions have. We're gonna continue that conversation about the streets and about our taxes. And just one more reminder BGR dot org. Others she says there's a place Ringo we can get all of these reports it's fascinating. Human work they've put -- very very interesting and aren't a -- so enjoy the -- your -- and we'll see you tomorrow.