Tuesday, May 01, 2012

More commentary on the Ho Zone

Hospitality district, board could be in the works for New Orleans

And even better:

New Orleanians:  If you're not disgusted by the proposed Hospitality District, then you're not paying attention

I ask, is cronyism not only possible — but perhaps inevitable? What could possibly go wrong as a result of the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, perhaps without proper regard to their qualifications? Just because a board member is associated with the hospitality and/or tourism industry or appointed directly by the Mayor does not mean that they are qualified to address the needs of the impacted neighborhoods appropriately, completely, or adequately. And while Mayor Landrieu is reportedly attempting to distance himself from this legislative action, the overall impact and intimacy created should reasonably inspire caution. If the idea of creating special legislative districts was devised as a strategy to thwart abuses of power and public money in the Post-Katrina era, is this the best our elected representatives can craft?

Indeed, are we still playing these bullshit games?  Really?  I thought we had moved past this.  I thought we'd turned the page.

Apparently, I was sadly mistaken.

The only thing I disagree with on Lunanola's commentary is the report that the mayor is distancing himself from the bill.  That may be the public perception the administration is attempting to create but look through that smoke and I am quite sure the administration is throwing logs on the fire...with lapdogs stoking it in rather bombastic ways.

A new taxing district is not the issue, it's probably a good idea if done correctly.  The issue is the way this plan was surreptitiously orchestrated and pushed into this legislative session with little to no public knowledge, not to mention the "Superboard" structure being put in place to run it.

Yet another unelected, governing entity with no term limits and little to no oversight.

This is an old-school New Orleans power play and it makes me want to puke.  There has yet to be a single public meeting on this thing and it's headed to committee tomorrow.

It's no surprise the neighborhood organizations are revolting.

Marigny group wants out of proposed Hospitality District

You see...here's how this went down.  When they first proposed the bill, they tried to stick to the Quarter, Warehouse District, and CBD.  However, the bill allows them to extend the "Zone" to encompass whatever part of the city into the district they want to at their discretion.

Basically it gives them carte blanche to extend this taxing district to wherever and whatever they want to.

The ambiguity of the bill also keeps them from having to negotiate with the neighborhood associations and keeps them from having to pledge money out of the taxing district to improve "quality of life" projects in those districts that would take money away from the shit the self-described "stakeholders" want to spend money on.

After initial resistance, they then drew back...verbally, not on paper.... the "we will define the Zone at our discretion" aspect of the bill.  They did this verbally, not on paper, in order to make it look less like the overarching power grab it really is.

 But then, after they gave the appearance of compromise, they just went ahead and included the marginal districts in the bill....Treme, Marigny, and a chunk of the 7th Ward.  That chunk of the 7th has no idea it's been included and they have little to no neighborhood organization to address the matter.

One interpretation of the bill (the details/intepretations keep shifting daily) is that only 3.8 million is designated to infrastructure repairs to be decided not by the city but at the discretion of the self-appointed board that meets four times a year.  The city, and/or neighborhood orgs. and district entities (FQMD, DDD), would only come to the board and present what they think the money should go to annually.

What we have here is a select few...very privileged...board members doling out 15 + million dollars in tax generated funds, annually, with little to no oversight by city government or the public in general.

This thing is so half-baked it's going to flop right out of the oven.

There was a "closed meeting" on April 20th by the "stakeholders and architects" of the "Zone" and some of the community organizations regarding the nature of the bill.  Narrated by the mayor's CAO, Andy Kopplin, no media were allowed to attend even though the bill will probably go to committee  by Thursday.  There has still been no public discussion regarding the proposed Zone.

If I had to imagine what went on at the meeting on the 20th.....

I would imagine Kopplin made a plea that the city is broke (thanks Ray) and we are spending 10% less for city services than we were 3 years ago.  Point being, a new income source is direly needed in order to maintain basic city services.

The old..."Oh my god...we are in dire straits....we have to do this or shit will explode!!!" tactic.

I suppose he's comfortable allowing that money to be allocated by a self-appointed board.  He's also comfortable with 11 million out of 15 million going to tourism marketing instead of the bulk of the money being spent on infrastructure.  That lopsided agenda must make perfect sense to him and the mayor.

I would imagine that a certain legislator raised the issue that there are already board driven entities that are in place to oversee and distribute the monies generated by this newly created tax and there is no need to create an entirely new board.

And I'm quite sure that point was ignored.

I would imagine a point was made that the CVB and NOTMC are getting the lion's share of this newly created budget and therefore they should not have a seat on the Hospitality Zone board, if the board is created.  I would imagine there was an angry response from the "stakeholders" that this would be a "nonstarter" and that this is "their" money being generated from "their industry" and that they would absolutely demand the CVB and NOTMC representatives hold appointments on this newly created board even though they are the majority beneficiaries of the newly generated tax.

Only one problem with that imagined conversation....it's not the "stakeholders'" money.  It's taxpayers' money.  Money that would go to benefit the "stakeholders'" private ventures.  So if that's a "non-starter"....cool.  We don't start.  We do something else with our city and taxing that doesn't involve private business making threats on how we govern taxpayers' money.  If our city isn't an attractive enough destination for specific hotel owners to invest in, they can always pull out.

As a citizen of New Orleans, I don't like being threatened by an outside, private corporation on how tax money is to be governed and spent in my own city.

This is all hypothetical of course.

I would also imagine there was a strong level of in high dudgeon among the "stakeholders" that community members would "distrust" them to have the citizens' best interest in mind, including the management of the newly generated 15 million dollars (annually) of public money.  How coud we possibly question their wisdom?  How could we question the benevolent dictatorship they wish to create?

The nerve of us.

Here's a newsflash to the "stakeholders":

People do not come to New Orleans because we have hotels.  People come to New Orleans and stay in hotels because they want to experience this amazingly, unique community and culture.  That cannot be quantified....without destroying it.

There was also another even more private meeting this past Friday in which no community groups were invited.  Unfortunately, I can't "imagine" what was hatched in that meeting.

Also, here is a newsletter from the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association:

Hospitality Zone
As you all may be aware, State Senator Ed Murray has sponsored several bills, all of which in some form create a new taxing district referred to as a Hospitality Zone or District. The board of the district would be comprised overwhelmingly of hospitality businesses and tourism bureaus. Revenue would come from increased taxes on businesses designated by the board and parking revenue. This revenue would be used to improve infrastructure in the ‘zone’ and to provide advertising monies to market New Orleans as a destination. These various bills define the zone as being comprised of the Warehouse and Central Business Districts, the French Quarter and the Marigny Triangle. This legislation is supported by Mayor Landrieu. Some version of these bills will be presented at this coming Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee.

The FMIA has stated that it unequivocally opposes any legislation that splits the neighborhood. Additionally, it is against legislation designed to market a historic and residential neighborhood (the Marigny) as a hospitality and entertainment destination. Finally, the FMIA opposes the Marigny’s inclusion in any taxing district in which the neighborhood does not have substantial representation.

It is very important that your voice be heard on this proposed legislation. We urge you to contact your state senator, Jean Morrell, and other New Orleans senators as well as Mayor Landrieu regarding the various bills on this subject being introduced; Senate Bills 573, 588, 598 and 608. Anyone who can attend the meeting of the Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee in Baton Rouge this Thursday is urged to do so.

Senator Jean-Paul Morrell – District 3
E-mail: morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Capitol Office: P.O. Box 94183, Baton Rouge, LA 70804
(225) 342-2040
District Office: 6305 Elysian Fields Ave., Suite 404, New Orleans, LA 70122
Phone: (504) 284-4794
Fax: (504) 284-4796

Senator Edwin R. Murray - District 4
E-mail: murraye@legis.la.gov
Capitol Office: P.O. Box 94183, Baton Rouge, LA 70804
(225) 342-2040
District Office: 1540 N. Broad St., New Orleans, LA 70119
Phone: (504) 945-0042
Toll Free Number: (866) 406-6278

Senator Karen Carter Peterson - District 5
E-mail: petersonk@legis.la.gov
Capitol Office: P.O. Box 94183, Baton Rouge, LA 70804
(225) 342-2040
District Office: 1010 Common St., Suite 2510, New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: (504) 568-8346
Fax: (504) 568-8405

Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Office: Suite 2E04, 1300 Perdido St, New Orleans LA 70112
Phone: (504) 658-4900



Anonymous said...

Will these taxes be subject to the homestead exemption for homeowners in the districts where the taxes are levied? Are you familiar with a tax that passed in EBR parish last Saturday (4 21) which sounds similar in many ways?
It is also run by a non-elected board and can decide where and when it wants to impose its authority with an additional claim that it ignores the homestead exemption and charges homeowners and businesses based on the full value of their assessment, as a municipal tax does. Is this authority (capital area transit system) CATS A MINICIPALITY? Can CATS charge residents on their full assessed value 10.6 mills as a municipal tax? Why and how is that possible?

See www,batonrougeteaparty.net and download the link on the top left that says "How could the CATS tax destroy the homestead exemption?".
Is this Hospitality Zone another beginning of the end for taxation only with taxpayer representation?

lil'oya said...

who's the architect?

i could guess, but it could make me wanna vomit.