French Quarter Economic Development District Tax Renewal
French Quarter residents will vote whether to renew the sales tax that funds a “supplemental public safety task force,” a.k.a., the golf cart patrols founded but no longer run by Sidney Torres, which may be staffed by off-duty cops or a civilian corps. The sales tax approved by voters in 2015 previously paid for additional patrols by Louisiana State Police, which have been criticized for a few major reasons: expense, lack of transparency, and the fact that NOPD is bound by a federal consent decree that does not constrain the Louisiana State Police.
A minuscule portion of voters will decide on funding supplemental law enforcement on the millions of people who pass through the French Quarter in a typical year. As reported by The Lens, “there were only 3,100 eligible voters when the tax was first approved in 2015, and fewer than 1,000 people actually voted. The measure was passed with 773 yes votes.”
The City and the French Quarter Management District have been at odds this fall with competing plans for the renewal. The arguments center on who controls the money and how exactly will the funds be used.
While FQMD's plan is to keep paying the golf cart task force the mayor wants to give it to something called a "Grounds Patrol'' operated by the city's Homeland Security department. The key difference is that the Grounds Patrol would deputize civilian "quality of life" officers relegated to code enforcement which, the claim is, would free up NOPD to focus on real police work. This sounds dubious. In fact, The Lens points out in that article that model is similar to a failed Landrieu Administration experiment known as NOLA Patrol which had to be discontinued after the citizen deputies were found out to have been issuing traffic tickets.
Again, it would appear that this dispute isn't really about how best to spend a shrinking pot of policing money. It's about who controls the pot and how much extra patronage they can wring from it. Of course, all of this petty squabbling and attendant corruption could be avoided (and patrons of French Quarter businesses could get a sales tax break) if we would just agree to de-fund the wholly unnecessary police-surveillance apparatus altogether. But where is the profit in that?