We Are a Community — Not a Commodity!

(Credit and huge appreciation for the title of this post goes to phenomenal New Orleanian Mari Kornhauser.)

(Note: If you are not familiar with the proposed “New Orleans Hospitality Zone District,” please see New Orleanians: If you’re not disgusted by the proposed Hospitality District, then you’re not paying attention.)

(Credit: Jason B. Berry)

Approximately 20 people from New Orleans (predominately from the French Quarter, but also the Faubourg Tremé and the Faubourg Marigny) traveled to the Louisiana State Capitol Building today to represent the citizens’ opposition to the proposed Hospitality District (the special legislative district’s management structure) and the hospitality zone that it would control. (There were also a few people present today whom I didn’t know personally; other affected neighborhoods may have been represented as well.)

I am pleased to report that I personally collected and handed in a stack of at least a dozen opposition speaker comment cards; even more were submitted directly by those in attendance. And although we didn’t get the opportunity to address the committee today, those who were in attendance were clearly willing to go the distance.

It is also known that approximately 40 people wrote personal and individual emails (not form letters) expressing opposition to this act of legislation. It is entirely possible that more emails were sent (these are simply the ones that a particular neighborhood association also received as the result of being included an addressee). This was characterized by someone who is more familiar than myself with this kind of effort as a “bombardment.”

It is believed that these factors contributed significantly to LA State Senator Edwin R. Murray (District 4) deciding to request that LA SB 573 (the “parent bill” for this matter) be temporarily postponed until next week (it was withdrawn from consideration as a part of today’s agenda). However, the Local & Municipal Affairs Committee members also expressed interest in reviewing this matter via a “special meeting” — as a result, it is unclear how or when the next hearing regarding this matter will occur.

On a positive note, it is also believed that Sen. Murray is going to make the effort to bring “all concerned parties” to the table before this goes in front of the committee again. If that becomes the primary reason for additional delay in the formal consideration of this matter, then it’s a good thing.

It is my impression that, had we not shown up today, it might have resulted in dire consequences — this act of legislation might well have been pushed though without significant opposition.

Two things I learned or had reaffirmed absolutely today: there is real power in simply showing up, and every expression of opinion matters (whether in-person, via email, or by phone).

I am willing to personally bet cold, hard cash that, the next time this matter comes before the Local & Municipal Affairs Committee, those who support this measure will have a more substantial in-person presence. The simple truth is that the tourism and hospitality industries have money to throw at this, while average Jane and Joe Citizens have limited time and resources.

Louisiana State Capitol Building — 5/3/12

If we are going to have the best chance of defeating this act of legislation (if it isn’t revised to a less detrimental/ possibly more acceptable version), it’s going to boil down to this: individuals must make a personal decision to invest themselves.

As very few amongst those who oppose this matter have the luxury of a flexible schedule, I propose the following: If you care about this issue and can’t go to Baton Rouge personally to suit the rescheduling by our Legislature — and many can’t, that’s just a fact of life — then you had better take ten minutes to write and send a damned email explaining why you oppose the creation of the proposed Hospitality District, or pick up your phone and take the time to call our legislators and give ‘em a piece of your mind.

Get involved — every person who throws in matters. We are a community — not a commodity. And it’s up to us, the citizens, to remind everyone involved of this simple truth.

Please stay tuned — more specific information will be made available as soon as it becomes known (including the scheduling of local public meetings or a new hearing date, or information about revisions to the bills included in this act of legislation).

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6 thoughts on “We Are a Community — Not a Commodity!

  1. What would it take for a resident-created plan to take shape? How much time and/or money? If residents could create a plan, than I bet business would come to the table. Does something like that have any precedent? Could VCPORA + FQC jointly craft a plan on their own to accomplish the stated HZ objectives with a more resident focused governance structure, for example?

  2. From my perspective, it seems that the agenda is to cut the residents and their representation via the New Orleans City Council out of the process (including VCPORA, FQC, and all other relevant neighborhood groups). This has all the hallmarks of an old-school New Orleans power play, plain and simple; I have doubts that a resident-created plan would satisfy that over-arching agenda that I’m beginning to suspect has been years in the making.

    To answer the question of “How much money?”: It has been established that the current price for controlling the French Quarter and the surrounding/adjacent neighborhoods (in part or in whole) is $30 million… That’s the amount that the tourism and hospitality industries are offering in exchange for requiring on-demand legislation to obtain their collaborative investment.

    Plus: With the proposed taxes levied as described in the current version of the legislation (and if such taxes are approved by the voters), it’s really more of a loan that will be repaid with public dollars than an actual expense… An anticipated “$11 million of the new revenue would be split among the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp. and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.” It could be said that a profit from this investment could be generated in as little as three years’ time. (Source: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/hospitality_district_board_cou.html )

    (I have, however, forwarded your comment to the neighborhood organizations with which I have direct contact for additional consideration.)

  3. I agree: this is one huge power grab. If SB 608 is passed, 473 and 573 will delineate that power. The Commission may designate and control any property that it deems usable for hospitality/tourism. It can acquire that property by “gift, grant, payment or otherwise.”
    We don’t need more tourists in the Quarter. We need different tourists with family venues in every area of the city. Cooking, music and golf, for instance, with small inns, shops, and pro shops, as well as shuttle service to the different areas.

  4. HoZone Postponed via Library Chronicles: http://librarychronicles.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html#6893480030788548913

    And my comment: “Thanks, but I did not organize the trip to Red Stick… That was accomplished by several of the neighborhood associations in the HoZone-affected areas, particularly VCPORA. I just put the word out attempting to get more younger people involved. I was along for the ride with the posse of usual suspects (VCPORA, FQC, FMIA, etc.).”

  5. ***COMMUNITY MEETING***
    PROPOSED “HOSPITALITY AND ENTERTAINMENT” TAXING ZONE (SB 573)

    Monday, May 7, 2012 at 7:00 PM
    St. Mark’s Church (1130 N. Rampart Street)

    Please join us for a community meeting to learn more about Senate Bill 573, which would establish a “Hospitality and Entertainment” Taxing Zone to include the French Quarter, the Marigny Triangle, Tremé, parts of the Seventh Ward, the Warehouse District, Faubourg Lafayette, and “adjacent areas.” The bill, introduced 10 weeks ago and un-amended despite numerous suggested changes, has dangerous implications for the neighborhoods that lie within “the zone.”

    There has been no public hearing on this bill, so this meeting will be the first (and maybe only) chance for citizens to weigh in publicly on this very important issue!

    We are reaching out to all of the neighborhoods impacted by this bill, our City Council members, and state legislators. You need to be there!

    ~ Security and refreshments provided ~

    This meeting sponsored by VCPORA, French Quarter Citizens and the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association

    P.S.: We apologize for the short notice – this issue has been moving quickly and unpredictably. Staying ahead of it has been challenging!

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