Tag: Mayor Mitch Landrieu

New Orleans City Council Votes to Remove Confederate Monuments

Confederate Symbols
The Robert E. Lee Monument is seen in Lee Circle in New Orleans.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

New Orleans‘ leaders on Thursday made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets.

The council’s 6-1 vote allows the city to remove four monuments, including a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood at the center of a traffic circle for 131 years.

It was an emotional meeting — often interrupted by heckling — infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.”

City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws.  “If anybody wins here, it will be the South, because it is finally rising,” Williams, who is African-American, said.

Stacy Head, a council member at large, was the lone vote against the removal. She is one of two white council members.  She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.

Fixing historic injustice is “a lot harder work than removing monuments,” she said, even as many in the packed council chambers jeered her.  She said the issue was dividing the city, not uniting it. “I think all we will be left with is pain and division.”

The decision came after months of impassioned debate. On Thursday, four preservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to stop the city from taking down the monuments by challenging the city’s removal process.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu first proposed taking down these monuments after police said a white supremacist killed nine parishioners inside the African-American Emanuel AME Church in CharlestonSouth Carolina, in June.

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In a U.S. First, New Orleans Finds Homes for All its Homeless Veterans

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US Navy veteran Ray Charles Griggs receives keys to his new home in New Orleans, December, 2014. New Orleans became the first US city to end veteran homelessness on Jan. 2 after housing 227 people in less than six months. (Photo Courtesy of UNITY of Greater New Orleans)

Most people celebrate the New Year by making resolutions. The city of New Orleans rang in 2015 by keeping one.

At 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, social workers in New Orleans moved the city’s last known homeless veteran into his new apartment – becoming the first US city to effectively eliminate veteran homelessness.

Homelessness advocates around the country are hailing New Orleans as a model for cities around the country looking to end homelessness, not just for veterans, but for all people needing a permanent home.

“The solutions that work for veterans are the solutions that work for all people,” says Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The problem is absolutely solvable when we invest in the practices that we know work.”

This time last year, nearly 50,000 US veterans had no home to call their own, according to an annual count. On Independence Day, first lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Since that time, more than 300 mayors, six governors, and 71 other local officials have joined the pledge to house every veteran by the end of 2015.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu took that pledge one step further, promising to meet the goal by the end of 2014.

“We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation,” Mayor Landrieu said in a statement Wednesday, announcing that New Orleans had housed all known veterans in the Crescent City.

In total, the city has placed 227 veterans in housing since the start of 2014.

Other cities have made huge strides in this area as well. Both Phoenix and Salt Lake City have managed to house all chronically homeless veterans, who have experienced long-term homelessness. The city of Binghamton, N.Y., successfully housed its 21 homeless veterans in November 2014. However, New Orleans is the first major city to be able to meet the needs of all homeless veterans, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“There’s been a lot of skepticism as to whether this is a problem that we can actually solve and I think that [New Orleans’ progress] is a proof point for us as a nation that this is something that can actually be done,” says Ann Oliva, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for special needs.

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