New Orleans City Council Throws Out Public Comment on Controversial Library Appointment

Photo courtesy of NOPL

More than 100 public comments that were submitted to the New Orleans City Council regarding the controversial appointment of Dana Henry to the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) Board of Directors will not be read aloud when the appointment is up for consideration again tomorrow the council has confirmed. Those who wish to have their comments read aloud will need to submit them again.

“Because this is a new meeting, they will need to submit new comments. We have previously circulated the comments from last meeting with the respective offices for their review,” said Andrew Sullivan, Chief of Staff for Councilmember Kristin Giselson Palmer. Palmer chairs the Committee of Government Affairs, which oversees recommendations for appointments to boards and commissions.

According to the City Council website:

“At the beginning of the meeting, the moderator will read aloud the entire council agenda. Thereafter, the meeting will recess for 30 minutes so that members of the public may comment on any agenda item. Public comments should be submitted electronically on the E-Public comment form, which will be published on the agenda of each meeting … Before the council votes on an agenda item, a moderator will read into the record all comments pertaining to that item that have been submitted in accordance with these rules.”

At the previous meeting, the appointment of Dana Henry was waived due to the volume of public comment received on the issue. As a result, those comments were never read into the record, although it was noted that they “would be considered.”

Henry’s appointment by Mayor LaToya Cantrell has been overwhelmingly opposed by supporters of the NOPL system. Henry was a vocal supporter of Cantrell’s failed Proposition 2, which would have resulted in cutting the NOPL budget by 40 percent. The current NOPL millage expires at the end of 2021, and a new millage must be drafted for consideration on the 2021 ballot. Many are concerned about having a man who supported deep cuts to the NOPL having a pivotal say in drafting the new millage.

“I am disappointed that the 100+ public comments that were submitted in opposition of Dana Henry’s appointment two weeks ago will not be read aloud. We deserve a transparent process from our City Council. Such a large public outcry deserves to be heard,” said Dixon Stetler, Executive Director of Friends of New Orleans Public Library. “Dana Henry is not a good fit for the library board. The position should be filled by someone who understands the importance of the library within our community, and who can oversee the budget we are working to secure for the next 20 years. Mr. Henry has a proven direct conflict of interest in fulfilling this duty. The City must finally stop playing politics with the library.”

The Save Your NOLA Library Coalition, which was pivotal in driving the public to vote against Proposition 2 agreed, saying:

“Two weeks ago, over 100 public comments were submitted in opposition to the nomination of Dana Henry to the NOPL Board. Save Your NOLA Libraries stands by the public, who voted against Proposition 2 in December, and still feels the city council should vote no on the nomination of Dana Henry. Mr. Henry’s active role in the Vote Yes campaign for Proposition 2 and lack of public apology for this support show he does not value or understand the NOPL and its workers. Knowing this, why is the mayor insisting he is the best person for this position? Why is she not listening to the public? NOPL Board members should actively support the best interests of the library and recognize the crucial role it plays in this community. Based on this alone, the nomination of Mr. Henry to the NOPL Board by the City Council should be denied.”

Those wishing to submit a new public comment on the appointment of Dana Henry to the NOPL Board of Directors can do so here. It is Agenda item F under appointments.

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