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Quarter Rejects New Tax



Consider those visions of swat teams jumping out of St. Louis Cathedral turrets squelched. For now, the French Quarter will not be a security district.

Vieux Carre residents vanquished a plan Saturday that would've enlisted a private company to provide increased security in the historic neighborhood.

 

By a vote of almost 2:1 (589-317), Quarter rats and aristocrats alike decided against joining 23 other NOLA neighborhoods that pay for private security detail, according to the Secretary of State's office. Residents will not have to pay a proposed $185-per-year pracel fee, and will retain the NOPD as the neighborhood's main security provider.

 

The plan is a defeat for the state-sanctioned French Quarter Marigny Historic Area Management District, which drafted the proposal. The Management District was counting on the tax revenue to be the first way it received operational funding since its inception in 2007. City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer also came out in support of the security district.

 

It would be perhaps convenient to yammer on about how the bohemian spirit of true Quarter residents shined through, as they rejected a proposal designed to bring order and civility to a people who, unlike their less enlightened brethren, could not fathom such restraint.

 

But in the end, this was about local politics. It came down to two sides with entrenched opinions that were unable to make headway.

 

In the run up to the Saturday's vote, opponents and supporters accused each other of spreading misinformation.

 

Vocal opponent Kalen Wright said planners used an inflated murder statistic in their formal proposal for the security district.

 

Meanwhile, supporter Bonnye Pardo, a member of the neighborhood group French Quarter Citizens, said opponents were claiming unfairly that administrative costs were diluting the plan, and spreading the idea that the plan was unfairly weighted toward Quarter businesses.

 

The murder statistic turned out to be wrong. The proposal stated 24 murders occurred in the Quarter since 2007, while the actual total was 7. Seventeen murders were attempted. Pardo said the stat was publicly corrected at a meeting last week, and Wright said she didn't think planners were out to mislead people.

 

In turn, viewpoint was the only determinant as to wheher the information distributed in the opposition's "campaign of misinformation" was laced with lies.

 

Wright saw the plan as drowning in administrative costs, while supporters saw a thin administrative line item.

 

Pardo saw businesses conceding in a way they never had before as they agreed to shoulder the largest portion of the tax burden. Wright, meanwhile, saw an extra cost that she said residents shouldn't have to bare.

 

“I think because of past history in the Quarter there's just a basic mistrust (of the business community),” Pardo said. She added that after attending numerous meetings, French Quarter businesses actually conceded on the security district, as they agreed to shoulder the largest tax burden to pay for the district.

 

(In history so recent it's only barely considered the past, it should be noted, a business attempted to move a cold storage chicken processing plant that allegedly would've emitted unhealthy levels of ammonia attempted to move into a neighborhood that is now mostly the province of residents and tourists.)

 

Still, there is common ground between the two sides, which could make this vote - as Pardo put it - "a bump in the road." Wright said she supports a security district of some kind, just not one where funding came from the citizens, and the officers didn't have authority to make arrests.

 

“Saturday's polling results would indicate that 65 percent of those who voted on this issue would like to give the NOPD the chance to get it right,” she said. “The question is, what will our City Council and the NOPD 8th District do next to act upon that expectation?”

 

Wright said she will be “more than happy” to participate in future plans for a security district of some sort, and wanted to work on the bettering the neighborhood's relationship with the police in the meantime.

 

Meanwhile, the French Quarter Marigny Historic Area Management District remains poised to do good things for the community as a whole, but lacks funding to carry out large initiatives. It is authorized by the state to operate until 2014.

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