Fair housing advocates filed an emergency motion in federal court Wednesday to hold St. Bernard Parish in contempt of court after they said the parish defied a federal judge’s order to turn on power for a controversial mixed-income housing development.
Parish President Craig Taffaro said a federal judge’s order to turn on the electricity for the housing development violates the parish’s right to govern itself. Proponents of the development said the latest move comes as no surprise.
“The judge said very simply and plainly, ‘Authorize the power and water, and let’s move forward.’ We’re saying the parish has to comply with that order,” said James Perry, the executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
The legal battle between St. Bernard Parish, Texas-based developer Provident Realty and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center has been going on for years.
A federal judge said the parish’s attempts to block construction are ‘racially discriminatory,’ but Taffaro denied that allegation.
“The developers have misused race as a screen to shield their own singular motive of profit at the expense of a recovering community,” said Taffaro.
In the past, Taffaro has filed for restraining orders, asking for a cease and desist, but all were denied.
On Wednesday, Taffaro said he went to state agencies overseeing financing and asked them to review the project and freeze funding, citing improper drainage, incorrect elevation levels and improper installation of utility poles. He said allowing the construction to move forward violates the parish’s Constitutional rights.
“What we have been forced to accept is a systematic stripping of local governing authority which has resulted in deep-rooted concerns for the ability to maintain the appropriate structure of our community’s redevelopment,” said Taffaro.
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