News and Updates

June 8, 2021

Neighborhood Spotlight: Michael Burnside

by Benaiah Harvey, District D Liaison
Filed under: light, neighborhood, spot


I moved to my present location in August of 2015.


Internally, I got involved the day I moved here. I met with my physical neighbors and discussed with them my plans for my property, and how that might be positively integrated with the expectations of the people already here. I planned, and did build, what was then the smallest legal house in New Orleans [176 sq ft, see the assessor's web page of my address.] I built this tiny home myself over a period of a year and a half. This oddity required respect, and coordination, for and with, the neighborhood culture already here.
Externally, I got involved with outside organizations in my neighborhood when my non new olreander sense of normalcy was outraged. There used to be a three-foot section of wooden utility pole suspended in midair over the down-river, riverside, corner of south liberty and felicity streets. This three-foot utility pole section was being held up by one metal support wire. I thought that the bolts for the support wire would pull out of the rotting wood, and i was concerned about the safety of such an oddity. Eventually after some serious learning, I managed to get cox cable corporation to send a bucket truck out here to safely lower the piece of wooden utility pole to the ground and reconnect the various wires. I have kept that pole section on my property as a "souvenir" ever since. I must say that it turns out the bolt was a though-and-though, and thus the situation safer than i realized at the time. Still all in all, a good action, and a good learning experience.


The people, but don't tell them 😊.


Over the years we have had several. I'd say that the top three would be catch basins, utility poles, and crack houses.

Four years ago, nine out of the sixteen catch basins directly draining my municipal square did not actually drain water. Three local streets flooded during rain events. Now only one of those sixteen catch basins still does not function. All streets did not flood during our very last rain event. Mayor Cantrell and the past DPW head worked hard to achieve a serious improvement in my neighborhood.

Utility poles here are an ongoing problem. It is hard to see them as a success. However, Councilwoman Moreno and her chief of staff have doggedly kept the pressure on, and over the past three years well over 25 utility poles have been replaced in my small section of central city. We still have poles here with 1964 inspection stickers, which is the year I was born. Still, the utility pole situation here is a qualified success. All but one of the actually broken poles have been removed. Regrettably, we still have a large number of broken cross-arms.

Crack houses will always exist as long as crack users, crack dealers, and empty blight properties are collocated. This said, four of the long-term, squatted-in, crack houses in my neighborhood have been demo'ed by the city over the past three years. This is the result of the combined work of Councilman Bank's constituent services director, and the past head of Code Enforcement.

Perhaps the real success has been the willingness of people, who do not live in this neighborhood, to help us when we are persistent in reaching out to them.


We have a problem with the enforcement of a conditional use permit. Covid has disrupted several schedules, but pre-Covid the local bakery got a conditional use permit from the city to expand their current 40,000 square foot food processing plant in our hu-rd2 zoned neighborhood. The expansion will basically double the footprint of the existing plant, and it will fill an entire municipal square. One of the "wins" for the neighborhood during the city's conditional use permitting process was a "proviso" restricting the 18-wheeler traffic flow while exiting the bakery's loading dock from using one of our small local streets. We are having on-going difficulties having this proviso of the conditional use permit enforced. This enforcement difficulty, and its solutions, have increased in complexity as time has progressed. We are up to attempting to change a truck route designation in the city's traffic plan and getting two different streets designated as one-way from their current two-way status. So far, we are failing, but we are not yet without hope.


(1) Persistence matters the most. (2) Learn the language of the city; speak in a manner your listener can use to do, what you want done. (3) Expect help: from fellow residents, from city employees, and from corporate stakeholders.

In summation: act consistently in a manner that your expectations can be met by over time. Above all do not be the person telling yourself "no." Make a city [or corporate, for that matter] employee tell you "no," never tell yourself this word. After somebody else tells you the first "no," go politely and respectfully to his or her boss and start the process all over again. Keep going, ‘til somebody somewhere says "yes" then keep your eye on the ball, to make sure "yes" is performed in the real physical world. The delay between "yes" and action can take a full year, if budgeted money is at stake [there might not be a budget, until the upcoming year.] Obviously sometimes "yesses" are forgotten. People retire or get transferred. Go back, rinse, and repeat. Getting the city [or public utility] to do what you want, can be a lot of work. It helps in huge measure to have at least one friend walk this road with you. It also helps, if you want what other people in their own home community would also want in a similar situation [nobody wants a three-foot section of utility pole dropping on their head, not even a Cox corporate headquarters lawyer.] Please note, being too weird can get you nowhere, no matter your persistence. Also, obviously, without the help of other people, you can burn out even on the most accepted of expectations.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to be in your spotlight. I hope many people involve themselves in our city's issues and complexities. We need all the help we can get.