NOLA community budget meeting: complaints, compliments & cuffs

Published: Aug. 14, 2012 at 1:51 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2012 at 2:21 AM CDT
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Sandra Wheeler Hester, being taken away by police
Sandra Wheeler Hester, being taken away by police

New Orleans, La. -- There was chaos Monday night during the District B community budget meeting at the Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue.  There were some complaints, a few compliments, and a pair of handcuffs.

The meeting was the first of five planned throughout the city to get public feedback.  And it was a very crowded room at the JCC.  Citizens were invited to voice their concerns about funding in the next city budget.  They were asked to fill out cards to request to speak, and then given two minutes to speak.

"My complaint is with the random and arbitrary uncalculated increases in property taxes," said one citizen.

Another said, "When are we going to get more fire stations?"

Nick Felton with the Firefighters' Association used his two minutes to urge city leaders to reconsider cuts to the NOFD.   Felton says city leaders have warned him about $4 million in potential cuts.  City leaders say it's too early in the budget process to say exactly what will happen.

Monday's meeting ran smoothly until community activist Sandra Wheeler Hester took longer than the allotted two minutes.

Hester said, "This is ridiculousness about two minutes.  I didn't come down here to sit in this freezing room to talk no two minutes.  Even the Orleans Parish School Board gave us more than two minutes."

After refusing to abide by the two-minute time limit, some people in the meeting began to leave.  Then Hester began arguing with people in the crowd.  Minutes later, police handcuffed Hester and took her to jail.

Hester is charged with disturbing the peace and misrepresentation.  After her arrest, the meeting continued.  Before the next speaker took the microphone, Mayor Landrieu reminded everyone to be courteous.

There are four more "Annual Budgeting for Outcomes Meetings."  The next one is in District E.  It's set for Wednesday, August 15 at Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Church, 5600 Read Boulevard.