City Council President Helena Moreno Discusses Policy Positions and Goals in Interview With Big Easy Magazine

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City Council President Helena Moreno is one of the city’s most respected elected officials. Moreno began her career in New Orleans as a reporter with WDSU-TV and then served at the Louisiana Legislature. She is currently seeking her second term as City Council At Large.

DC: Should the City of NO establish a requirement that every person entering a bar, restaurant, hotel, club, sports venue, public building or any building funded in part by public dollars must present a vaccination card?

HM: What we are currently dealing with is a pandemic that is mostly being spread by the unvaccinated and due to this, our city as a whole is at risk. To attend large indoor gatherings or visit businesses where many people will be gathered, it makes perfect sense that as a safeguard proof of vaccination should be required.

DC: What will you do personally to encourage citizens to get inoculated? 

HM: Constantly promoting vaccines, sharing information, continuing to outreach with advocacy groups and faiths based leaders.

DC: What can you do to make the permitting process more flexible and easier to navigate for outdoor music venues, art markets and food-related businesses?

HM: There needs to be a text amendment to allow for outdoor music venues. I support and am eager to move forward with this. Councilmember Banks’ office asked to begin this work on permitting and is drafting legislation.

DC: Do you support the new 98-bed special needs building Sheriff Gusman wants to construct?

HM: No, we are dealing with much different circumstances than when this building was approved. I believe a better alternative can be proposed and hopefully agreed upon by all parties.

DC: New Orleans first responders are underpaid. Will you support an across the board pay raise for fire, police, and EMS as a recruitment and retention tool?

HM: We have many underpaid city workers including emergency personnel. Some are not even making a living wage of $15 an hour. That’s what needs to be corrected immediately. As for recruitment of emergency personnel, we need to think outside the box. Aside from increased pay, what else can we offer? Are there potential housing opportunities that could help with recruitment and retention? These are some of the options I’m looking into now.

DC: You support a living wage. What should be the minimum starting salary for city employees? 

HM: Yes, I support a living wage of AT LEAST $15. The problem is that it is taking too long to implement. That’s why I’m working with CAO Gilbert Montano to come up with a strategy to implement ASAP. He should have a report back to the Council on August 15th.

DC: What will you do to encourage local business leaders to implement a living wage for their lowest-paid employees? 

HM: Lead by example. Also, private businesses contracting with the city will be required to do as the city does.

DC: How can we more quickly make available early childhood education slots for New Orleans youth?

HM: The state and legislature making it a bigger priority would create more spots the fastest. Even though this is not a city issue, we recognize the importance of this investment. The Council over the years has appropriated millions of dollars to create more spots.

DC: What suggestions do you have for the DA and the NOPD to help reduce juvenile crime?

HM: We need to improve coordination of services for youth who have interacted with the criminal justice system. It still is very disjointed and there is not enough follow through. We also need to focus on their families. As we focus on public safety we must invest in prevention.

DC: What kind of new businesses could you recruit to open in New Orleans during the next four years?

HM: We need to focus on the congressional infrastructure bill and find ways to leverage those dollars to create more tech and renewable industry jobs in our city.

DC: Many residents oppose dedicated bike lanes. Are they necessary in every neighborhood or can some areas request to opt out?

HM: I support having safe options for bicyclists, no doubt about that. But, what I hear from neighbors is that they are caught off guard by the popping up of bike lanes and the design can be troublesome for neighbors. Also, there are some occasions where what is implemented is actually contradictory to guidelines. So increased communication and the opportunity for neighbors to weigh in must become a requirement. Then based on that input, the determination of how to proceed should be made.

DC: Where should a new City Hall be located?

HM: Personally I’ll say that the current building is in terrible shape, but its location is a good one. I’m willing to consider all options, but I can’t support City Hall relocating to Municipal Auditorium.

DC: How can the City better license and regulate STRs?

HM: If the current laws were enforced much of the problems would be solved.

DC: What is the single greatest attribute you bring to City Hall?

HM: I go after big initiatives and get them done.

DC: Which current elected official is doing the best job of serving his or her constituency?

HM: Rep. Troy Carter

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