Mayor Cantrell Offers Her Look Back on 2021

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From handling an ongoing pandemic to weather emergencies and everything in between faced by New Orleans and its residents in 2021, Mayor LaToya Cantrell says her administration has reached “very critical milestones in City government, and in launching innovative initiatives to enhance City services” in 2021.    

“Although we were faced with significant challenges this year, the City of New Orleans maintained continual operations and online services for our residents. We continued to make critical investments in our infrastructure, even as we weathered a major hurricane, and in restoring City funds to right the financial ship as we move toward full recovery,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “As we welcome a new year and a second term, it is critical that we accomplish what we set out to do from the beginning. The COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on our economy and our people. Now is our time to rebuild with innovative approaches that will provide better opportunities for people to thrive in our great city.” 

Mayor Cantrell’s 2021 In review highlights include:

Public Health: COVID-19 Response  

The City of New Orleans implemented systems to slow the spread of Coronavirus that included stay-at-home orders, business closures, mask mandates and critical protocols and safety mitigations that remain in place. More pandemic response strategies were implemented in 2021:  

  • The New Orleans Health Department partnered with the Louisiana Department of Health, LCMC System and other medical agencies to stand up the mass vaccination site at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The Department also coordinated additional sites for testing and vaccine distribution with the Louisiana National Guard.  
  • The City of New Orleans was one of the first government agencies to require vaccines for all City employees and has achieved one of the highest municipal vaccination rates in Louisiana and nationally.  
  • A Youth Vaccination Initiative was launched through $90K in investments from philanthropic partners in collaboration with CrescentCare and NOLA Public Schools. These strong mitigation measures and robust testing requirements from NOLA-PS have kept schools open in 2021, lessening possible academic and social losses for school-aged children. 
  • These programs were critical in keeping residents safe and instrumental in achieving a 63.8 percentile of completed vaccinations for the City’s total population; 80 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated.  
  • More than 11,000 volunteer hours were spent on COVID-19 vaccine outreach, distribution and patient support. 
  • More than 31,000 doors were knocked on by volunteers and community partners to combat vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. 

Public Safety  

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) completed three (3) academy recruit classes, hiring 43 new police officers. The Department also promoted 44 officers and expects to initiate a total of 160 promotions by the end of the year. As a part of Mayor Cantrell’s $77 million mid-year budget adjustment, funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was allocated to address critical operating needs focused on enhancing public safety services to address crime and implement new public safety initiatives. They also focus on restoring government operations impacted by revenue shortfalls and launching initiatives that improve the quality of life for residents.  

  • This year, $34 million has been invested in programs by the City to help reduce violent crime.
  • The City created more than 19 programs and offices to help reduce crime through holistic methods, including the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families and Office of Gun Violence Prevention.  
  • The recently launched Violent Crime Abatement Investigation Team (V-CAIT) and District Community Action Teams (D-CATs) helped achieve a homicide solve rate of 50 percent as of December 2021.
  • The Office of Criminal Justice Coordination continues to work with reentry partners and service providers to ensure access to necessary resources. Over $6 million in grants for justice agencies and community stakeholders was secured, in addition to $3.5 million from City bonds that will fund the construction of the firing range.
  • The City also broke ground on the NOPD 4th District Station.
  • Approximately 1,950 illegal guns were apprehended and 16 cold case homicides were solved.
  • NOPD promoted 16 Captains for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. 

Affordable Housing  

This year, the Mayor’s Office of Housing Policy and Community Development allocated approximately $33 million for emergency rental assistance to help residents navigate the pandemic. The City also received an additional $9.5 million from the U. S. Department of Treasury allocated to the City after being recognized as a high performer.  

The administration was hit with a major blow in December when voters opted against renewing a .91-mill tax to support affordable housing initiatives and neighborhood improvement programs. The revenue raised by the millage would have gone to the City’s Housing Fund for programs to expand homeownership opportunities, remediate blight, and provide affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income residents. For nearly two decades, New Orleans has been in an affordable housing crisis that has only been exacerbated by devastating natural disasters, bad policy decisions, stagnate wages and, now, a pandemic.

  • Over 900 affordable housing units were produced in 2021 as a result of funding provided through the City of New Orleans; 600 units are currently under construction. 
  • The City was awarded $10 million in federal dollars to fund housing development that will produce an additional 504 affordable housing units with a combined total development cost of $118 million.
  • A Notice of Funding Availability was issued for $7 million in affordable housing development.
  • Approximately $9.2 million has been expended by the City to expand and rehabilitate homeless shelters; 350 new beds were made available along with expanded support services.
  • The Office of Housing Policy and Community Development created a $2 million Hurricane Ida Insurance Deductible Program that served 200-300 households.

City Services 

During the pandemic, the City waste management contractors experienced a decline in the number of employees. This led to a backlog in collecting trash from households in both service areas. Mayor Cantrell spearheaded the combining of several City departments into one major solid waste collection operation to immediately solve this problem. The solid waste industry labor shortage is a national crisis that continues to impact cities across the country.

  • After Hurricane Ida, the City initiated Operation Mardi Gras, mobilizing laborers and heavy equipment from multiple departments and partner agencies to pick up municipal solid waste.
  • The Office of Business and External Services created satellite office hours at central locations, making public-facing services more efficient, transparent and effective. 
  • The Office of Performance and Accountability conducted a comprehensive, data-driven audit of Department of Safety & Permits inspectors and inspections and developed a Grass Cutting Dashboard to track Chapter 66 cases to increase transparency about the City’s grass cutting program.
  • The Office of Historic Preservation opened 242 violation cases in the French Quarter alone, which resulted in fines of over $330K.
  • The Office of Economic Development led the redevelopment of major projects on behalf of the City, including future development of the Six Flags site, NSA, West End and NASA/Michoud. 
  • The Office of Workforce Development provided over 900 new job seekers with employment and training services and placed over 800 job seekers in employment. 
  • The Office of Workforce Development secured a $2.9 million federal CAREER grant for workers and job seekers affected by COVID.

Infrastructure 

This year, the City’s Department of Public Works continued the Joint Infrastructure Recovery Response (JIRR) program, in partnership with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO), to fix surface and subsurface roads throughout New Orleans. The City plans to begin more than $1 billion in additional projects within the next year with funding allocated from a $300 million bond sale and dollars expected as a part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). These projects will include sustainable storm water management and broadband access projects. In addition to the federal Act, President Biden visited the SWBNO facility to highlight it as a prime example of a facility that is in dire need of infrastructure upgrades. 

  • SWBNO received a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan for $275 million.
  • SWBNO used $700K in Fair Share one-time funds to winterize and maximize capacity of turbine 6, which brings power to the sewerage and water system. 
  • Mayor Cantrell signed a Responsible Contracting Law that establishes policy to implement more stringent responsibility standards for prospective City contractors.
  • Capital Projects completed 12 projects at a value of $52.6 million that include the NOFD Multi-Station Phase I and Administration Headquarters Phase I, Municipal Yacht Harbor Marina and Administration Building, Citywide Emergency Generator Transfer Switch Installations and Temporary Municipal and Traffic Court (at the Old VA Hospital Building).
  • Project Delivery Unit (PDU) Sustainable Infrastructure managed $208 million in hazard mitigation and disaster resilience projects.
  • The Office of Transportation relaunched the Blue Bikes share system ahead of schedule with a 500-bike fleet.

Youth and Families 

Mayor Cantrell created the Office of Youth and Families (OYF) to support systems-level change for vulnerable families.

  • The department was organized to connect schools and community organizations to spearhead out-of-school-time enrichment.
  • This department led child tax credit and emergency broadband informational campaigns to increase enrollment.
  • The department raised over $100K to vaccinate 1,110 total youth during NORD summer camp sessions and in partnership with NOLA Public Schools.
  • OYF authored a citywide youth master plan which contains a comprehensive set of recommendations for free transit for youth, increased investments in early childhood education and afterschool programming and expanded access to career and technical education opportunities.
  • The administration created alternative-to-detention and workforce development programs for over 200 system-involved youth. These include the Summer Success and Pathways program, Evening Reporting Center and the Intensive In-Home and Community Supervision Program.
  • The City maintained its investment in the City Seats Program at $3 million to fund 200 early learning seats for 0–3-year-olds.
  • The City received a $433K grant to fund a citywide parks and recreation master plan beginning in 2022 and received a $500K grant from Mayors for Guaranteed Income to provide direct cash payments for ten months to 125 opportunity youth. 

Economic Development 

One of the primary focuses of the Cantrell administration has been to restructure the way we invest and grow our local economy. This year, the City continues to nurture emerging industries that assist culture bearers in building wealth, such as the food and music industries.  

  • Big Easy Bucha recently announced their acquisition by Beliv, which includes an expansion in their facility and more available jobs. 
  • The City’s AmeriCorps VISTA project provided more than 20 full-time jobs supported by a federal grant. 
  • The Office of Economic Development spearheaded the Parklet Pilot program that converted street space into outdoor dining for restaurants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The City put out an RFP for the redevelopment of the Six Flags site and selected Bayou Phoenix to develop the area that has been blighted since Hurricane Katrina. This proposal includes plans for a sports complex, hotel, logistics center and much more.

Cultural Economy 

The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy has created opportunities for artists to elevate their work virtually and established the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund (NOTCF) to support their work. Cultural Economy has also created opportunities and systems that enable true economic activity and growth for cultural stakeholders.

  • The City partnered with NOTCF to provide $1.1 million in grants for culture bearers.
  • The City hosted $753 million in production in the first three quarters.
  • Along with partners, the Office of Cultural Economy created virtual concerts and programming called “Embrace the Culture” during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns to help artists maintain income sources.
  • The Office of Business and External Services, along with the Office of Cultural Economy, is creating the Office of Nighttime Economy, which will give a voice to and elevate industries such as music clubs, bars, restaurants and other venues that drive our tourism industry and its revenues.  
  • In 2021, the Office of Cultural Economy has given out $130K in grants to 40 organizations/initiatives.