New Orleans, La. – About 200 people gathered in Central City to tell Mayor Landrieu and his administrators what they want given priority in the upcoming budget. Several representatives of a senior center asked for more support. Others asked for more code enforcement to clear blight. No one mentioned police, despite Superintendent Ronal Serpas sitting alongside the head table.
"I'm not surprised at all. We're working very hard. We are making big headway in this community."
It was the first public hearing Serpas attended after five officers were convicted last week over shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the subsequent cover-up.
"I think the community absolutely supports the jury's finding. And we all come to the same conclusion that that was a horrible day in our time and in our history and for our people. But at the same time we recognize the police department has to take the first steps to heal."
Landrieu moderated and took note of speakers' suggestions and comments as they were made, and later reviewed each one. Suggestions included putting more emphasis on better communications between city departments, more street signs and fewer potholes. Some asked why the Public Defenders Office isn't getting more money, and how the high incarceration rate can exist alongside a high murder rate.
Former City Councilman James Carter, appointed by Landrieu to the new post of criminal justice commissioner, says it's a good question.
"That suggests there are systems changes that need to happen. And we are on every progressive fund as it relates to issues of incarceration, issues as it relates to homicide in particular."
Six more forums are planned before the City Council begins budget hearings in October.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.