HB2’s Replacement Worse for Cities

With the passage of HB142, North Carolina has officially repealed the infamous “Bathroom Bill.” Unfortunately, it also brings a host of preemptive measures that threaten the notion of local control in the Tar Heel State.

On March 30, 2017, HB142 was signed into law by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. (Getty Images)

Following a boycott campaign that spanned from PayPal to Deutsche Bank to the NBA, the state of North Carolina repealed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — better known as HB2 or the “Bathroom Bill.” Victory for the law’s opponents came in the form of HB142, a compromise measure drawn up through dramatic last-minute negotiations inside the state legislature.

Unfortunately, while HB142 does make some improvements to the original law, it fails to fix HB2’s preemption of local authority — and serves to further ignore the will of local voters.

As a response to criticism, HB142 does only the bare minimum: It repeals HB2’s controversial restrictions on bathroom access by transgender individuals. At the same time, however, the bill places a shockingly broad moratorium on local laws around nondiscrimination.

Already, a wide audience has weighed in on HB142 — with mixed reviews, at best. Advocacy groups including the Human Rights Campaign and ACLU have already mobilized against the law, and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has described his tepid support for the bill, which he helped broker, by stating, “it’s not a perfect deal.”

Though it may ultimately be marketed as a civil liberties victory by the state, HB142 is just one more entry in a long line of attempts by state legislatures to preempt the authority of city leaders. In February, the National League of Cities (NLC) published a report, “City Rights in an Era of Preemption,” offering a state-by-state analysis on the growing trend of preemption. The report found that North Carolina is one of three states that explicitly preempt local authority to pass anti-discrimination ordinances.

Despite egregious actions against local control in statehouses across the country, NLC is committed to standing with cities facing preemption battles. Later this year, NLC will host City Summit 2017 in Charlotte, where a local nondiscrimination ordinance led to the original adoption of HB2. NLC will continue to support and fight for cities that build inclusive communities and exercise local control.

Make no mistake: HB142 is a fleetingly small step forward for civil liberties, but it represents a huge leap backward for local authority. City leaders are America’s most trusted form of government, and they are the leaders closest to residents’ concerns.

By stripping power away from local governments, the state of North Carolina has chosen to strip power away from its citizens. A substantive law returning that power should be enacted soon, and in full, if the state is to overcome its recent past.

About the author: Brooks Rainwater is Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.

Your City Can Receive Funding From the Volkswagen Settlement

Cities can use funds from the Volkswagen Clean Air Act settlement to invest in new vehicles, improve energy efficiency, provide public energy infrastructure and more.

Funds from the VW settlement can cover up to 100 percent of the cost to upgrade, repower or replace diesel-powered government vehicles with either newer, cleaner-burning models or vehicles that run on alternative energy. (Getty Images)

The settlement of the Volkswagen (VW) Clean Air Act violation case has created a unique opportunity for cities across the country to take advantage of more than $2 billion available for investment in new, cleaner vehicles and improve energy infrastructure in their communities.

In punishment for VW’s violation of the Clean Air Act by cheating on the emissions tests of more than 500,000 vehicles, VW will pay out $14.7 billion to alleviate the environmental damage created by their actions. $2.7 billion of this settlement will go into an Environmental Mitigation Trust that will be given directly to states to fund projects that reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions at the local level.

The funds will be given out proportionally based on the number of violating vehicles bought and used in the state, ranging between $381.28 million for California and $7.5 million for Wyoming, with states like Florida, Oklahoma and Washington receiving $152.38 million, $19.09 million and 103.96 million respectively. Cities are well positioned to take advantage of this money – and taking the initiative now ensures that local governments can put these funds to use in their communities.

The Environmental Mitigation Trust will be managed by a trustee, who will be confirmed in the coming weeks. To access the funds, each beneficiary must submit a certification form, signed by the governor, which designates a state agency to manage fund allocation no later than 60 days after the trustee’s confirmation. The designated agency will then have 150 days to create and submit mitigation plans detailing how the funds will be used, who the recipients will be, and how it will oversee the distribution. This document from the National Association of State Energy officials provides a complete breakdown of the Environmental Mitigation Trust’s timeline.

Cities can use the funds in a variety of ways to improve energy efficiency and provide public energy infrastructure, and many of the projects can be fully funded through this trust. Specifically,

  • the trust funds can cover up to 100 percent of the cost to upgrade, repower or replace diesel-powered government vehicles with either newer, cleaner-burning models or vehicles that run on alternative energy;
  • the trust funds can cover up to 75 percent of the cost to replace or repower non-government vehicles;
  • the trust funds may be used to buy, install, operate and maintain new Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) supply equipment such as LV1, LV2 and DC fast-charging stations in public areas, work places and multi-unit dwellings; and
  • other uses for the funds are allowed under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Grant program, including truck stop electrification plans and idle reduction equipment. More information on eligible programs can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s DERA website.

Cities can get involved in this program in several ways to secure available funding for use in their communities. For example, cities should prepare by identifying local projects that seek to reduce NOx emissions in their communities in collaboration with state agencies, local EPA offices, Clean Cities coalitions, and other community stakeholders. Cities should also identify which agencies will be charged with creating the mitigation plan in their state, and what the process and timeline will be for accepting public comments. Much of this information can be found online through state websites or governor’s offices. Once the beneficiaries have been chosen by the trustee, cities can submit their project proposals to the designated agencies to have their projects added to the state’s mitigation plan.

More information and details on the settlement and its associated time tables and deadlines, along with additional tools designed to help cities effectively submit their proposals, can be found in this document released by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

About the author: Will Downie is a federal advocacy intern at the National League of Cities. He is a senior at George Washington University studying political science and international affairs with a concentration in economics.

Local Officials Support Climate Action, but What Will Happen to the Clean Power Plan?

The president’s executive order on energy leaves the Paris Climate Agreement intact – but while it merely calls for the review of the CPP, it has been widely viewed as the president’s first step to dismantle Obama’s signature climate change measure.

(Getty Images)

“The Clean Power Plan is about more than power plants – it represents the country’s most aggressive effort to date to protect the health and well-being of our communities from carbon pollution and climate change.” -Mayors Bill Peduto and Jim Kenney (Getty Images)

This post was co-authored by Lisa Soronen and Carolyn Berndt.

This week, President Donald Trump released his long-awaited Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which seeks to “promote clean and safe development of our nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”

However, by targeting the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as well as federal agency preparedness and consideration of climate impacts in decision-making, the EO will undo much of President Barack Obama’s climate legacy and “undermines [the strong federal-local] partnership, imperils the health of our citizens, and threatens our environment,” said NLC President and Cleveland Councilmember Matt Zone in a statement.

As the EO was in the process of being released, more than 150 local elected officials sent a letter to President Trump and Congress reaffirming their commitment to acting on climate change at the local level and calling on the federal government to be a partner in that effort.

“As the elected officials closest and most directly accountable to residents, we cannot let our communities down by taking a step back on our actions and commitments to address climate change,” the NLC letter states.

A letter from the U.S. Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda network expressed a similar commitment to “taking every action possible to achieve the principles and goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, and to engage states, businesses and other sectors to join us.”

Clean Power Plan

The EO leaves the Paris Climate Agreement intact, and while it merely calls for the “review” of the CPP, it has been widely viewed as the president’s first step to dismantle Obama’s signature climate change measure, which, coupled with the other changes, would make it difficult for the U.S. to meet its commitment under the Paris agreement. The EO goes on to say that, after review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind the guidance, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules.”

The CPP would reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and sets state-specific carbon emissions reduction goals, letting the states develop and implement their own plan for meeting the goals.

A number of states have sued the Obama administration, claiming the CPP regulations exceeded EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Others states and cities, as well as the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, filed amicus briefs in support of the CPP. In February 2016, the Supreme Court prevented the CPP regulations from going into effect until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (and the Supreme Court, if it chooses to) rules on the regulations.

In September 2016, the entire D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in West Virginia v. EPA, but the court has yet to issue an opinion in this case.

The Trump administration has asked the D.C. Circuit to hold the case in abeyance while the EPA engages in rulemaking. The motion argues abeyance “avoid[s] unnecessary adjudication, support[s] the integrity of the administrative process, and ensure[s] due respect for the prerogative of the executive branch to reconsider the policy decisions of a prior administration.”

The D.C. Circuit is more likely to agree to the motion if all parties involved agree with it. Almost all interveners supporting the CPP want the litigation over the current CPP regulations to continue and will oppose the motion.

If the D.C. Circuit grants the Trump administration’s motion, the practical effect is the current CPP would no longer be valid. If the D.C. Circuit does not grant the motion, litigation will continue. No matter who wins West Virginia v. EPA, assuming the abeyance motion is denied, the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court, which may or may not agree to hear it.

Meanwhile, a new version of the Clean Power Plan will work its way through the lengthy notice and comment process under the Administrative Procedure Act. It, too, will likely be ultimately litigated regardless of the fate of the current CPP.

Other Provisions in the Executive Order

One of the Obama-era executive orders that President Trump’s EO revokes outright is Executive Order 13653: Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change (Nov. 2013), which created the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The Task Force provided recommendations to the president on ways in which the federal government can remove barriers, create incentives, and provide tools and information to state and local governments to increase preparedness and resilience to climate change.

More broadly, the EO calls for the “immediate review of all agency actions that potentially burden the safe, efficient development of domestic energy resources,” as well as the review of the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions that factor into federal agency decision-making. These provisions reverse the requirement that agencies consider the risks posed by climate change to their missions, programs and facilities, which will undermine the ability of the federal government to prepare for future impacts – a position that is at odds with many of the sustainability and resilience initiatives underway at the local level.

About the authors:

lisa_soronen_new_125x150Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC), which files Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Big Seven national organizations representing state and local governments. She is a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

 

Carolyn Berndt is the Program Director for Infrastructure and Sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. She leads NLC’s advocacy, regulatory, and policy efforts on energy and environmental issues, including water infrastructure and financing, air and water quality, climate change, and energy efficiency. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.

NLC Announces 2017 SolSmart City Challenge

Cities can earn national recognition and prizes by showcasing their support for solar energy.

(SolSmart)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program helps cities remove regulatory barriers to solar deployment and implement best practices to harness economic opportunity. (SolSmart)

Solar energy experienced a record-setting year in 2016 as 14,762 megawatts of solar PV became operational across the U.S. For the first time ever, solar energy was the leading source of new electric generating capacity added to the U.S. energy mix, beating out wind and natural gas. Cities played a strong role in making that happen.

From coast to coast, there are examples of cities leading the way by installing solar panels on the rooftops of city halls, fire stations, libraries and old municipal landfills. Cities also realize they can promote solar in other ways, and are making it easier for local homes and businesses to install solar by streamlining their permitting processes or updating zoning codes.

Cities that embrace solar energy recognize the value it brings to the community: local, well-paying jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 from the Solar Foundation found that 1 out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. was in the solar industry. The report documented 260,077 solar workers in 2016 ­– just as many as in the natural gas industry.

The National League of Cities (NLC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SolSmart recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to become solar leaders through customized technical assistance. NLC recently recognized the latest group of SolSmart designated communities at its 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.

New SolSmart Communities:

  • SolSmart Gold: New York City and Louisville, Kentucky
  • SolSmart Bronze: Maricopa County, Arizona; Moab, Utah; Plano, Texas; Salt Lake City; and Summit County, Utah

SolSmart Communities Achieving a Higher Designation:

  • SolSmart Gold: Denver
  • SolSmart Silver: Charleston County, South Carolina, and Pinecrest, Florida

NLC wants to see more cities become SolSmart designees. To that end, we are launching the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge, a new national competition for cities to showcase their support for solar energy. The SolSmart City Challenge will run from Monday, April 3, until Friday, June 30. Cities can join the challenge by completing a SolSmart scorecard.

The SolSmart City Challenge has two categories (one winner from each).

  1. SolSmart City MVP: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points total after the initial submission of a SolSmart scorecard.
  2. SolSmart Most Improved: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points improvement between initial submission of a scorecard and resubmission of a SolSmart scorecard. Cities in this category will work with SolSmart technical assistance providers to complete more actions and acquire more points. Resubmissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30. Only one resubmission is allowed.

The prizes for the two winners of the SolSmart City Challenge include:

  • Travel reimbursement to attend the 2017 NLC City Summit, November 15-18 in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Presentation opportunity at the City Summit during a workshop on Energy & Climate
  • Presentation opportunity during a future NLC webinar on SolSmart
  • Recognition in NLC communication platforms, including The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities, as well as NLC’s official blog, CitiesSpeak, and our social media channels
  • SolSmart City Challenge Winning Certificate

Email Nick Kasza if you’d like to get started on the SolSmart scorecard or learn more about the SolSmart City Challenge. If you have a story or picture to share about solar energy impacting your community, send it to Nick and it may be featured in a future blog post.

Please note: the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge is open to new city submissions only. Cities that submitted a SolSmart scorecard prior to April 3, 2017, are not eligible. Previous submissions, SolSmart Early Adopter Communities, and communities with a SolSmart Advisor are also ineligible for the SolSmart City Challenge.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

NLC President Matt Zone Defends Brownfields Redevelopment Funding in Washington

In his testimony, President Zone offered three suggestions on how Congress could increase or maintain funding for the EPA Brownfields Program, increase the overall grant funding to allow communities to cleanup more difficult sites, and resolve the disincentives created by potential liability to facilitate reuse of brownfields properties.

On Tuesday, National League of Cities President and Cleveland Councilmember Matt Zone testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. President Zone called on the House of Representatives to support brownfields redevelopment programs by maintaining their federal funding, and discussed the specific issue of protecting cities from uncertainty around liability concerns.

Describing several brownfields successes in Cleveland, Zone focused on the Trinity Building, a former aluminum products factory site rehabilitated as the City Kennel through a partnership with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He noted that federal/local liability issues nearly derailed the project and raised costs significantly for the city’s land bank.

“Brownfields redevelopment involves a lot of a risk for cities and developers,” said Zone. “Projects like the Trinity Building need public support to compete with newer development sites and overcome the challenges of working with contaminated real estate.”

The EPA defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.” In his testimony, Zone strongly urged Congress to increase or at least maintain the overall level of funding for the EPA Brownfields Program, increase the overall grant funding to allow communities to cleanup more difficult sites, and resolve the disincentives created by potential liability to facilitate reuse of brownfields properties. He focused on three suggestions:

  • Increasing cleanup grant amounts to $1 million for a single site or, under special circumstances, $2 million per site via waiver
  • Establishing multi-purpose brownfields grants that can be used for the full range of brownfields-funded activities (assessment, cleanup, reuse planning, etc.)
  • Allowing funding for administrative costs for local brownfields programs to cover rent, utilities and other expenses necessary to carry out a brownfields project

The issue of municipal liability for cleanup costs is a concern for local governments, particularly if they were not involved in the contamination of the site. Zone encouraged Congress to allow local governments to be eligible for grant funding for properties that were acquired prior to the 2002 enactment of the EPA’s Brownfields Program and to enhance liability protections for local governments that take ownership of contaminated properties through voluntary acquisition where the local government had no role in causing or contributing to the contamination.

President Zone was joined during the hearing by colleagues from the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as Rialto, California, Mayor Deborah Robertson. John Dailey, commissioner of Leon County, Florida, concurred during his testimony that “there is more need for funding” for the EPA Brownfields Program and that the program had made a significant impact in his community.

National League of Cities' President Matt Zone testifies on Capitol Hill on March 28, 2017.

For more information on the Congressional hearing, watch a video of the hearing, read NLC President Matt Zone’s written testimony, and read the National League of Cities letter on brownfields. For more information on the EPA’s Brownfields Program, read NLC’s issue brief on modernizing the brownfields redevelopment program.

About the author: Sam Warlick is the Senior Communications Associate at the National League of Cities.

How the City of Grand Rapids is Amplifying Local Voices to Connect Children with Nature

Dialogue between the city’s parks and recreation department and its schools and residents has resulted in a new environmentally-focused park system – built around local history and identity – that aims to connect children to nature.

Plaster Creek, a tributary of the Grand River, runs through multiple parks, neighborhoods and commercial areas in southeast Grand Rapids, Michigan. (photo: Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department)

This is a guest post by David Marquardt and Catherine Zietse.

On a sunny afternoon last fall, neighbors from the Hispanic community in southwest Grand Rapids, Michigan, met to re-imagine the space of Roosevelt Park, a well-loved neighborhood gathering place. The group made its way past the picnic shelter and the playground to a wooded bank near a small creek that unobtrusively winds its way along the edge of the park. Conversation quieted as they paused to listen to the babbling sound of the creek water and enjoy the dappled sunlight bursting through the colorful fall leaves.

During this unexpected respite, a moment of realization occurred and a few of the women looked at each other in excitement. This space, they later explained, was just like many in their home country of Guatemala, where women frequently gather along river banks to weave and share conversations. The women noted how remarkable it would be if there were greater access to places like this in their neighborhood.

This story is just one of many shared by city residents through the robust public outreach component of Grand Rapids’ Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan. The story captures the desire of a community to better connect to its environment, unique cultural legacy, and neighbors. By providing a space for these connections to thrive, parks have a great impact on the quality of life of city residents. As one resident described, parks “breathe life into our city.”

“My hope for this city is that we would not only maintain our parks, but proliferate them. Through that, we can allow more children to have experiences of joy and compassion. If we understand the world around us, we can understand each other better.”

These words were shared by one of many young presenters at KidSpeak, an event at which Grand Rapids children and teenagers discuss the value of green space in their everyday lives. Organized by Our Community’s Children (a partnership between the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools), this annual event gives children the opportunity to speak directly to local legislators about important issues in their community. With the theme “Planting Seeds for a Greener Grand Rapids,” many young people spoke of moments when an experience with nature made a notable impact on their lives.

The perspectives and stories shared by Grand Rapids youth during KidSpeak were an important part of shaping the vision for future green spaces incorporated in the city’s Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan. Other voices heard at farmer’s markets, cultural festivals, neighborhood meetings, park walks and community barbeques across the city also impacted the Master Plan vision and recommendations.

In conversations and comments regarding the Master Plan, the Grand Rapids community made it clear that they want more contact with natural spaces and local culture in their everyday lives.

Students at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy take the classroom outdoors. (photo: Blandford Nature Center)

Grand Rapids has a unique ecological legacy created when retreating glaciers shaped the Grand River, a fertile river valley that offers striking vistas from its bluffs. The distinctive nature of the landscape is complemented by the strong identity of the people of Grand Rapids, who take great pride in celebrating the diversity of local art, music and culture in their community.

Today, Grand Rapids parks have great untapped potential to be vibrant spaces reflective of their unique ecological environment and the diverse community around them – but many of the current parks and play spaces lack distinction, making this an ideal time to restore and showcase these parks.

Parks and Schools Shared Use Partnership

The partnership between the city’s parks and recreation department and Grand Rapids Public Schools is critical to attaining an environmentally-focused park system. The relationship between parks and public schools has always been strong in Grand Rapids, and with energized leadership from Mayor Rosalyn Bliss and Superintendent Theresa Weatherall Neal, the future looks bright for the city’s children.

Much like important advocacy opportunities such as the KidSpeak event, the preservation of the Joint-Use Agreement between the parks department and Grand Rapids Public Schools provides a unique opportunity to maximize the potential of every natural area in Grand Rapids and extend the reach of green space into every neighborhood. Future collaboration in these spaces will transform parks and playgrounds into natural classrooms and learning labs where children can authentically interact with the world around them.

Instead of common playgrounds or traditional large fields of grass, the spaces in parks can be used as opportunities for discovering and exploring an area’s unique ecological environment, local history and neighborhood context. This process can be achieved by incorporating art, playground amenities, signage and programming, or other enhancements. Moving forward, the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department plans to continue intentional engagement with teachers and children in the design of public spaces to create natural classrooms that make encounters with local ecology and culture an everyday occurrence.

Thousands of citizens in Grand Rapids have been engaged in shaping a new community- and environmentally-focused mission for the city’s parks and recreation department. Together, the city and its residents will build on months of inclusive participation to shape an equitable approach to future investment in Grand Rapids’ valued natural areas that will connect the community and its children to the city’s unique ecological environment and cherished local culture.

About the authors:

David Marquardt is the director of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation.

 

 

Catherine Zietse is the planning and community relations coordinator at Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation and one of the department’s team leads in garnering meaningful community engagement in all park work.

Why the City of New Orleans Just Ended Cash Bail for Low-Risk Crimes

A new policy promises to save the city money and enable the court to tailor conditions to an individual rather than relying on a person’s ability to pay.

By choosing to reserve pretrial jail detention only for those who pose a real public safety or flight risk, the city of New Orleans is leading the way toward more fair and effective justice system policies in Louisiana. (Getty Images)

In the past, low-income defendants who were charged with minor municipal offenses in New Orleans faced a quagmire. People with charges such as loitering or public intoxication could face up to a month in jail before they even went to trial simply because they could not afford bail. Sometimes, these charges would not have resulted in any jail time even if the individual was found guilty. On any given day, three out of 10 jail beds were filled by people incarcerated simply because they could not afford to pay their bail or fines and fees. In New Orleans, as in many other cities, the problems within the system disproportionately affected minority communities. In 2015, black New Orleanians, who comprise roughly 59 percent of the population, paid $5.4 million in bond premiums, or 84 percent of the $6.4 million total.

Losing a primary caregiver or earner to jail for even three days can devastate a family with few resources, leading to a cascade of problems including eviction, job loss and possibly intervention from child protective services.

Jailing people only because they cannot afford bail not only hurts families but costs cities money as well. In 2015, New Orleans spent $6.4 million detaining people who were jailed simply because they could not pay. This equates to 3,947 people who spent a total of 199,930 days in jail.

In response to these issues, the city of New Orleans recently passed an ordinance which ends the use of cash bail for municipal offenses for low-risk crimes. While the legislation eliminates the practice of cash bail for most municipal offenses, it also meets public safety needs by providing exceptions for charges such as simple battery and domestic abuse violence. In these cases, the municipal court makes a decision to impose non-financial release conditions or, in rare cases, preventative detention. The new policy also provides exceptions for people who get rearrested or fail to appear for their court date.

Starting in April, people charged with minor municipal offenses, regardless of their ability to pay, will be able to return to their families and take care of their responsibilities while waiting for their case to come before a judge. Passed unanimously by the city council in January, the ordinance has the support of both law enforcement and community advocates.

Support from the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge helped the city accomplish this crucial change to our local justice system. As the lead sponsor of the legislation, I prioritized this reform to make sure New Orleans uses its resources wisely, reduces harm to families and communities, and protects public safety.

Read more about NLC’s efforts to support criminal justice reform.

About the author: Councilmember Susan Guidry was elected to the New Orleans City Council as the District A representative in March 2010, and was elected to a second term in 2014. Guidry has served as chair of the council’s Criminal Justice Committee throughout her tenure.