Thursday, May 5, 2011

State of Louisiana, Jacobs Engineering tried to evade programmatic agreement, avoid public input on Charity Hospital adaptive reuse

On October 18, 2010, the State of Louisiana, using Jacobs Engineering as a facilitator, held a public meeting at City Hall regarding the adaptive reuse of Charity Hospital.  Numerous people and parties attended, and emotions ran high against the state's failure to retrofit Charity - or even discuss that option.  The facilitator was visibly shaken by the raucous experience.

Recently, several consulting parties have learned that they were not given actual notice of two public meetings held on March 16 and March 30 regarding the adaptive reuse of Charity Hospital.  Not a single member of the public attended either meeting - and, indeed, it's unclear whether the third meeting was only held because notice wasn't actual run in a timely fashion in the paper...or because not a single person attended the second meeting.  The BioDistrict and LSU had people on hand, but they apparently were not considered public attendees by the organizers, which is strange.  

Talking to several consulting parties, it seems nobody was even emailed by the state or Jacobs regarding these meetings.  The state did tuck at least one notice in the back sections of the Times-Picayune, however.  Here's the only one I can find.

This was very clearly an attempt to evade giving consulting parties and the public notice of the public meetings.  The state will argue that the fine print newspaper notices were sufficient to meet its obligations of notice, and that it has now fulfilled its public meetings requirements.  And perhaps that would or would not fly in a court of law.

But it's downright shady.  It's shady as all hell.  Mr. Bilyeu with Jacobs Engineering definitely has the emails of the consulting parties that are to be provided with notice per a September 2010 mass email he sent out regarding an adaptive reuse workshop (not a public meeting).  From my experience in several Section 106 processes, the federal agency or responsible entity typically emails the consulting parties regarding meetings.  Consulting parties have indicated that they have either a position or an interest that goes even beyond that of the public more generally when it comes to  participating in the process.

Keep in mind, too, that these March public meetings are coming AFTER a January Jacobs-headed meeting to issue an RFP for Charity - a meeting that consulting parties were not told about.

Here's the requirement in the Programmatic Agreement that governs the Charity adaptive reuse process:

FP&C will endeavor to promote adaptive reuse for those nine
historically significant buildings that neither it nor other state
agencies use. During this process, FP&C will give notice to the
SHPO and to those groups and individuals who participated in this
Section 106 process as Consulting Parties. Additionally, public
meetings and/or forums will be held at no less than 2 points in the
process of evaluating the reuse or transfer of these properties from
State control, to solicit input and comments from the interested

My overarching question: what are they so afraid of...?  Public meetings or forums on adaptive reuse don't even involve binding input.  To diverge from past notice practices to avoid attendance and to have zero attendance subsequently result shows an intentional desire by Facilities Planning and Control to keep the public from having a say as mandated in the programmatic agreement.

Now that the BioDistrict has been shopping around its own proposals for reuse of the building, it's all starting to make a bit more sense.  Mr. Jim McNamara, head of the BioDistrict, was at both March meetings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe a timeline would help.

It has been 63 years since the City's 1948 Master Plan targeted the area bounded by Poydras, Broad, Tulane and Claiborne for an experiment in urban renewal.

It has been more than 60 years since the Miracle Mile unsuccessfully repurposed Tulane Avenue.

It has been over forty years since the DDD (then known as CADD) first partnered with the Health Education Authority of Louisiana to assemble land and plan a biomed district that overlapped the footprint of the same neighborhood which had been largley eliminated, with HUD funds, under the 1948 Master Plan.

It was been twenty-one years since the DDD created the non-profit New Orleans Regional Medical Center (New Orleans Medical Complex) and again partnered with HEAL to assemble land and plan an even larger biomed corridor.

It has been eighteen years since the DDD-affilliated non-profit New Orleans Regional Medical Center was working to plan and assemble a biomedical footprint bounded by Loyola Avenue, South Galvez, Canal and Poydras and received $900,000 from Gov. Edwards to start to make it happen.

It has been six years since the replacement of Charity Hospital and the VA Hospital, both of which had been envisioned under the New Orleans Regional Medical Center, became post-Katrina "recovery projects."

It has been exactly one year since Bobby Jindal appointed Kurt Weigle to the Health Education Authority of Louisiana board.