Genesis Report re: LA SB 573’s Hospitality District Legislation

I offer the following for your consideration: the Executive Summary of the report that started off the whole mess re: LA SB 573 and the Hospitality District: “Celebrate Our History, Invest in Our Future: Reinvigorating Tourism in New Orleans.”

My request for access to the full version of the report was simple and straightforward:

I am interested in reviewing the data and recommendations of the full version of this report and comparing such with the legislation regarding the proposed Hospitality District. The question I’m attempting to answer is whether or not the Hospitality District (as proposed) will satisfy the needs and/or requirements as detailed in the report.

Unfortunately my request for access to the full version of the report was denied by New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau staff due to its “proprietary” nature. Instead, I was offered a link to the press release issued by this agency in January 2010: New Orleans Launches Strategic Unified Master Plan for the Tourism Industry.

But consider this: If this report is serving as the rationale for major policy decisions, taxing authority considerations, and unprecedented acts of legislation in our city, then shouldn’t it be available for review in the public realm for proper scrutiny and consideration?

Meanwhile, I’m considering filing a Public Records Request for information regarding the expenses associated with the commissioning of this report.
If even one penny was funded via the taxpayers of New Orleans, then it’s
a public document by default.

The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau wants it both ways — they play “public agency” when it suits them to do so, then masquerade as a private group the rest of the time.

Should the citizens of New Orleans be trusting such an entity with additional public funding (as proposed in the Hospitality District legislation that’s currently on the table)?

It’s a reasonable question.

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7 thoughts on “Genesis Report re: LA SB 573’s Hospitality District Legislation

  1. The punchline:

    Today I made a Public Records Request (PRR) to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, and the office of Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne for the following:

    “A copy of the COMPLETE AND FULL REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP DURING THE PERIOD OF TIME BETWEEN 2008 AND 2010. Please note that this is not a request for the 20-page summary that was produced by the New Orleans Strategic Hospitality Task Force in January 2010, but instead for the report on which that summary was based.”

    New Orleans City Councilmembers Gisleson Palmer, Clarkson, and Head were also cc’d on this request.

    This PRR was made because yesterday I received an email reply to a more informal email request as follows:

    “”I spoke to [name omitted] and the full report you are referring to is proprietary.”

    Shortly after sending the PRR via email as noted, I received the following reply from Councilmember Gisleson Palmer:

    “It can be found on CRT’s website at the following address:

    http://www.crt.state.la.us/downloads/BCGMasterPlan/

    Apparently someone at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau is terribly misinformed.

    ::Cue the absurd and sad trombones — Wah Wah Wah::

    It should also be noted that a staff writer for a local news and entertainment publication experienced something absurdly similar recently:

    “Same thing happened to me when I asked for a copy of the BCG report a few weeks ago. In my case, it was because it was cited as a catalyst for the taxi reform bills. I made the same argument to them — that if it was, in fact, the basis for a major public policy change, then it ought to be publicly available. No dice.”

  2. The text of an email (received 5/9/12) and the follow-up letter (received 5/10/12) from a prestigious law firm in response to my Public Records Request of 5/9/12 responding on behalf of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau:

    “We have been asked by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (the CVB) to respond to your email of May 9, 2012 requesting a copy of the full report of the Boston Consulting Group. We advise you that the CVB is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(6) corporation, organized under the Louisiana Nonprofit Corporation Law as a membership corporation and is not a public body within the meaning of the Louisiana Public Records Law. Accordingly,
    it does not respond to public records requests.
    [Emphasis added.]

    “We are not taking any position as to whether the documents you seek are the proper subject of a public records request addressed to a public body in possession or control of such documents.”

    (Before receiving this more formal response, I’d been informed by a senior executive at the CVB that “the full report you are referring to is proprietary.”)

  3. The following is from email correspondence of 5/9/12 in response to my informal inquiry (prior to my making a formal Public Records Request) regarding the Boston Consulting Group’s report. The replies are from an executive staff member at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (but not the same individual who indicated that the report I was seeking was “proprietary”):

    I have a digital version of what I believe is a 24-page executive summary of a report by the Boston Consulting Group titled, “Celebrate Our History, Invest in Our Future: Reinvigorating Tourism in New Orleans.”

    I am interested in reviewing the data and recommendations of the full version of this report and comparing such with the legislation regarding the proposed Hospitality District. The question I’m attempting to answer is whether or not the Hospitality District (as proposed) will satisfy the needs and/or requirements as detailed in the report.

    I have two questions:

    (1) Was it the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Board that commissioned the report by the Boston Consulting Group?

    Response: The development of a comprehensive strategic plan for the hospitality industry was an idea that many industry leaders had discussed in recent years… a roadmap for the future of our city’s largest industry and a strategy with specific tactics for its future growth. The idea gained renewed energy when then Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu formed a “Hospitality Task Force” to help find the funding for the study. When the funding was secured, an RFP was developed, bids solicited and evaluated, and the contract with the Boston Consulting Group was ultimately executed. The CVB agreed to serve as the depository of the funds and deposited them in a separate account from which progress payments were made until the end of the project.

    So this is a long way of saying that the CVB was the entity that executed the contract on behalf of the Task Force, but did so with the authority of the broader representation and funding of the Task Force that directed its activities. The Task Force included many industry leaders such as Quint Davis, Ron Forman, Jim Funk, Ti Martin, John Payne, Doug Thornton, Michael Valentino, Darryl Berger, Mavis Early, Judy Morse and many others.

    (2) Would it be possible for me receive a copy of the full version of the report?

    Response: The report was developed over a period of 8-9 months and during that time there were many, many meetings with BCG at which their materials were presented to the Task Force. As the efforts progressed, they would refine and further refine their ultimate recommendations. We have reams and reams of their research materials and collaborations with the Task Force, however the summary that you have is the best representation of the final recommendations of the consultant.

    In all the BCG materials, you would not see a specific reference to the Hospitality Zone Taxing District. This is a model used in many areas around the country and the task force felt that it offered the best opportunity for generating significant funds on an ongoing basis to supplement other one-time funds that may be available from the Convention Center. Combined, this funding initiative could make a major impact far exceeding anything that the city could accomplish on its own.

    BCG did conduct extensive research into the primary “dissatisfiers” in the city and how we might help improve our current infrastructure, as well as develop new product/attractions to entice more visitation to our city. Streamlining governance within the hospitality industry and raising new funds to improve our deteriorating French Quarter, increasing marketing and sales efforts and improving airlift to attract more visitors were some of the primary initiatives for which any new funding would be directed. How to specifically obtain any new funds for the industry was left to the Task Force.

    Our current legislation which would generate new tax revenue from within the hospitality industry with little impact on New Orleans residents, new revenue raised by the hospitality industry and directed by the hospitality industry for improvements in infrastructure and services within the hospitality district is consistent with the Strategic Plan and, in our opinion, may be the only significant funding available during these times when the City can’t provide such services.

  4. Pingback: Storming the Castle re: LA SB 573: Game-changing amendments added! « NOLAFemmes

  5. Referring to LA SB 573 as amended on 5/17/12: “The amended version also would require that groups receiving the public funds be required to submit to the same rules in regard to public records as public bodies ‘irrespective of the status of the group,’ Peterson said.

    “Peterson said she, along with Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, and Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, added that portion of the amendment in response to constituent concerns about the CVB’s private status.

    “Peterson said she will support the bill only in its amended form.

    “‘There’s a lot of problems with public records,’ Peterson said. ‘That does not support transparency.'”

    Source: Hospitality zone would send public funds to Convention and Visitors Bureau: http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2012/05/hospitality_tax_zone_would_sen.html

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