Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Government in Action - Gretna Style

Last week I had occasion to attend the Gretna City Council Meeting.

It was a great opportunity to see Government in Action and judging by my small window it actually seems to work.

I arrived early and the mayor introduced himself to me while I was waiting for the rest of my party to arrive. He even took the time to check the agenda to see if my matter was on it.

The meeting itself was a model of decorum, with the council members offering courteous, respectful comment on the issues before them.

The meeting had the possibility of running off the tracks in several places but failed to do so.

Its interesting that the issues paralleled issues which come before our much more Self Important Council.

Historic Preservation. Several issues dealt with the Gretna Historic District and approvals of various proposals. Everyone seemed to be trying to come to a reasonable conclusion. They discovered and discussed a few issues which needed further consideration and actually came to a sort of resolution.

Advisory Base Flood Elevations. Gretna adopted the FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations. A representative of FEMA was present. She offered helpful information and was treated with respect.

FEMA Trailers. Like Jefferson Parish, Gretna adopted a Housing Emergency Ordinance after the flood. Their Ordinance apparently authorized trailers in Gretna (they are otherwise prohibited) until January 1, 2007. After that trailers are technically illegal. City Workers have managed to locate all 501 trailers in Gretna and have so far delivered two notices of the existing requirements to each one. City workers have identified 78 trailers which do not meet the requirements of the regulations or were not permitted and suspect many more do not but they can't be sure.

The City of Gretna will be notifying each trailer after the first of the year that the Housing Emergency has expired and will eventually cite any trailer in violation of their regulations. Any trailer complying with the rules will be allowed to stay until repairs are completed, but monitored for progress. All in all a fair outcome. The rules apparently allow trailers only to be used by citizens of Gretna as a temporary residence while their home is repaired. They apparently may not be used to house displaced relatives or as rental property. Seems reasonable to me. I don't have all of the rules but this is what I understood from the meeting.

Citizen Involvement. One portion of the meeting was set aside for Citizen Statements. Apparently the statement can be on any issue. Most of the comments were on FEMA trailers. As you might expect most of the people commenting were not well informed, apparently there was a rumor that all trailers were going to be moved to a trailer park somewhere. The Mayor and Council listened carefully to each citizen and tried to understand their situation. In a couple of cases they made recommendations for the Citizen to consult with someone at a city department later to provide more information.

The Times Picayune also came up. Apparently the Paper gets it wrong a lot and reports things like murders as occurring in Gretna when they didn't

Meetings like this make you understand that government can work and doesn't need to be all about the politicians. Although the meeting took almost four hours and we were near the bottom of the agenda, I'm glad I had to go.

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