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City Council Honors Retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson

At the start of its Jan. 14 meeting, the New Orleans City Council honored and celebrated retired Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson for her more than three decades of service to the people of New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana.

Johnson retired on Dec. 31, 2020.

 The Council adopted Resolution R-21-14, formally recognizing Justice Johnson on her career, which culminated in her serving as the Louisiana Supreme Court’s first-ever African American Chief Justice.

 “A fierce advocate for civil rights, social justice and equality, Chief Justice has inspired her colleagues and all elected leaders to acknowledge our roles in perpetuating a system that has left too many of our loved ones and neighbors disenfranchised,” said Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno. “Aside from her many professional accomplishments and accolades, she has personally touched all of us through her firm and unwavering commitment to serving our state and its citizens. We wish her the very best in this new and well-deserved chapter of retirement.”

As a part of The New Orleans Tribune‘s 30th Year Anniversary Celebration, Justice Johnson was honored as one of The Tribune’s People of the Year–receiving the Trailblazer Award.

Justice Johnson’s judicial career began in 1984 when she was the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans. In 1994, her colleagues elected her chief judge. Chief Justice Johnson was then elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1994, and was re-elected without opposition in 2000 and 2010. As the senior justice on the Court, she was sworn in as Chief Justice on Feb. 1, 2013. She was the Court’s 25th Chief Justice, its second female Chief Justice, and its first African-American Chief Justice.

Chief Justice Johnson has always been an advocate for social justice and civil rights. She worked as a community organizer with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. 

Following law school, Chief Justice Johnson became the managing attorney of the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation (NOLAC), where she provided legal services to clients in socio-economically deprived neighborhoods. She practiced in federal, state and juvenile courts, advancing the rights of children, the poor, the elderly and the disenfranchised. In 1981, Chief Justice Johnson joined the City Attorney’s staff, and later became a Deputy City Attorney for the City of New Orleans.

Community Office Hours Return by Appointment Only

The Mayor’s Neighborhood Engagement Office is bringing back Community Office Hours (COH) on Monday, Jan. 11.

Community Office Hours help make City Hall more accessible and responsive to local residents, city leaders say. City personnel will be available to connect with residents at several locations around the City.

COH will take place on Mondays through Wednesdays with the exception of holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the office hours will be by appointment only. Residents will have the opportunity to meet with neighborhood liaisons and city personnel in-person or by virtual appointment. To make an appointment, residents can call 504-658-4933 or visit www.nola.gov/coh.

Police Community Advisory Board is Taking Applications for Members

The City of New Orleans and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) recently announced that enrollment has opened for Police Community Advisory Board membership. 

Open enrollment officially began on Jan. 11 for PCAB Advisory Groups city-wide.

These community boards are responsible for vetting community ideas/suggestions, working with NOPD to understand operations, processes and challenges, and building consensus on priority items important to the community before submitting recommendations to NOPD for consideration. PCABs also help NOPD in recruitment efforts.

The Advisory Group is a district-based participation structure with one PCAB for each NOPD District for a total of eight across the city. Members serve a 24-month term, and the boards meet quarterly to achieve the following goals:

Maintain a consistent partnership between the community and law enforcement;

Serve to help reduce crime and enhance the quality of life for all citizens;

Establish goals that can be accomplished through positive and open communications;

Assist law enforcement in helping to maintain police standard for accountability;

Create processes to help address issues of bias-based policing;

Improve interaction between police and citizens through education and training; and

Strengthen and ensure the application of equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Membership is open to all New Orleans residents who are 18 years or older and interested in serving as a volunteer leader in their respective police district.

For more information or to apply, please visit us at www.nola.gov/neo/pcab.

City Leaders Break Ground on $23 Million Roadwork Project that Covers Three Council Districts

Mayor LaToya Cantrell recently joined other officials and community leaders to break ground on the $23 million Bayou St. John, Fairgrounds, 7th Ward Group B roadwork project – the Administration’s largest awarded Joint Infrastructure Recovery Response (JIRR) program in terms of cost.

 Of the $23 million project, $10 million will come from the Public Works Department  and $13 million from the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO). The project includes repaving roadways from curb-to-curb; patching roadways with asphalt or concrete; replacing damaged underground water, sewer and drainage lines; replacing damaged sidewalks and driveway aprons; and installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps at intersections. 

 “This roadwork project is one of the most expansive infrastructure projects under our JIRR Program that coordinates efforts of DPW and the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. This $23 million FEMA-funded project includes work in three City Council districts – A, C and D – and will improve at least 122 blocks in the Bayou St. John, Fairgrounds and 7th Ward neighborhoods by spring 2022. It’s a shining example of how we are moving this City forward when it comes to fixing our aging infrastructure despite the pandemic, safely and securely,” said Mayor Cantrell.

COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program Extended 

The City of New Orleans announced recently that the COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program will continue to run through January.  The meal program delivers twice-daily, restaurant-made meals to New Orleanians in need. More than 11,100 residents are enrolled in the program receiving free daily meals, and officials say there is plenty of room for new participants.

Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been approved through at least Jan. 30, bringing the program into its seventh month. 

“We know that January is shaping up to be a tough month for many of our residents, with COVID-19 cases on the rise and many New Orleanians also struggling with food insecurity,” says Collin Arnold, director of New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness office. “This unique program has supported 16,500 of our most vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic and has provided over 2 million meals to date. I’m grateful that our partnership with FEMA will allow this program to continue and to keep our residents healthy and fed through this winter surge.”  

The program serves New Orleans residents impacted by COVID-19, including seniors, high-risk health individuals, residents who are COVID positive or are quarantining due to potential exposure, homeless residents, and children under 18. 

To be eligible for the meals, individuals must fit at least one of the following criteria and not be receiving any other federal food support (including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)): 

• Seniors age 65 and above  

• Adults with high-risk health conditions and special medical needs (Examples include pregnancy, smoking, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, obesity, cancer, compromised immune system, kidney disease, liver disease, HIV, AIDS, Sickle cell disease, and more.)  

• Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed and require isolation or quarantine

• Homeless residents  

• Children under 18  

To apply, go to ready.nola.gov/meals or call 3-1-1. 

The program has also been an “emergency financial lifeline” for the local restaurant industry hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic, says Chef’s Brigade founder and Executive Director Troy Gilbert.  

More than 80 local restaurants, through the Chef’s Brigade coalition, have been producing meals, which are organized and stored by the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI), packaged by Revolution Foods, and delivered by d’livery NOLA. Low-sodium and diabetic-friendly meals are also available and are being produced by Revolution Foods.

“Permanent closure has been a constant threat since April,” says Clare Leavy, owner and chef at Live Oak Cafe. “Partnering with the Meal Assistance Program has saved us many times, most recently with the program’s extension through January. This program has given us more than a means to survive, it has given us a mission and we are proud and grateful to have work worth doing.”

According to a survey of the participating restaurants conducted by The Chefs Brigade, the meal program has re-employed at least 500 New Orleanians who may have otherwise been out of work due to the pandemic. Other jobs have been created in the delivery and administration components of the program.