Greetings, friends, and welcome to the collaborative Anti-Oppression/Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for the run-off election on Saturday, November 16! These guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who wish to confront the lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government. We did a lot of research and talked with our neighbors, friends, and co-conspirators. We produce this guide so people feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about voting, and whenever possible, to illuminate means of political engagement beyond the voting process.
We agree on the following guidelines to shape our analysis:
- Promote justice, autonomy, and dignity for Black people and people of color, poor people, queer and trans people, immigrants, youth, women, unhoused people, people with disabilities, and people most affected by climate crisis—prioritize the needs of people most harmed by systemic oppression.
- Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of poor and working class people, undocumented people, people impacted by and most vulnerable to incarceration, and others caught in the vicious dragnet of our punitive legal system.
- Be strategic about New Orleanians’ specific needs being adequately addressed on the state and federal levels, especially with regards to environmental, economic, and health care concerns.
- Vehemently reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government.
We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos. Harm reduction is a philosophy and praxis rooted in autonomy and mutual aid. It was designed and led by people who use drugs, specifically focused on minimizing the harm associated with drug use.
The impact of harm reduction is immediate and individual—we see the life-saving benefits of this ethos every day. Participation in the democratic process is a bit murkier. Is it possible to reduce harm within a system fundamentally based on control and disenfranchisement? Analyzing electoral politics presents an opportunity to educate ourselves on the forces shaping our local landscape. We proceed from the perspective that we cannot easily or quickly move the mountains of inequality, prejudice, bureaucracy, and oppression that keep people down; but we also believe that voting, especially on a local level, can be part of how we do that. When we say “diversity of tactics,” well, partner, voting can be one of them.
Vote early and vote often! If you are registered and don’t care to vote, please find someone who is currently incarcerated, on parole, undocumented, or otherwise disenfranchised from voting, but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interests.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity. The Secretary of State audits all voter affidavits after the election to ensure that you are who you say you are.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office. For more details on disability and voting, see the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting information page (sos.la.gov).
October 12, 2019 was an eventful day in New Orleans. An underground transformer exploded, downing powerlines. We had one of our bi-monthly boil advisories. And the Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapsed. Oh yeah, there was also one of the biggest primary elections in recent memory. When we voted on October 12, any candidate able to secure more than 50% of the vote won their election outright. For those elections where one candidate did not secure 50% or more of the vote, the runoff is Saturday, November 16, in which the top two candidates will face off. This system is colloquially known as a jungle primary.
John Bel Edwards (Democrat)
“Eddie” Rispone (Republican)
Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards did not gain enough votes to avoid a run-off and win a second term. Ralph Abraham split the Republican vote, but Eddie Rispone managed to secure 27.4% of the vote. The stage is now set for a stomach-churning runoff to determine which particular level of hell we will occupy.
Rispone is a businessman who claims to have been chosen by God himself to enter into the political sphere. Initially trailing Abraham, Rispone vaulted ahead after blasting airwaves with vicious attacks against his Republican rival. Many commentators decried Rispone’s attack as the GOP shooting themselves in the foot, effectively setting up the path to victory for Edwards.
Now, however, the attack is looking like a well-executed strategy, and Rispone has wasted no time turning his sights on Edwards. It’s been somewhat widely reported that Rispone’s campaign is not short on funds, and we are already seeing Rispone pump money into the dissemination of attacks against Edwards. In addition to his own wealth, Rispone has the aid of Lane Grigsby, Baton Rouge construction tycoon and longtime contributor to Republican causes in Louisiana.
According to some excellent reporting by Lamar White, Jr. over at the Bayou Brief, Grigsby is the mastermind behind Rispone’s rise. Rispone refers to Grigsby as his mentor; Grigsby refers to himself as a “kingmaker” and boasts about his ability to buy Louisiana elections. Indeed, Grigsby and his extreme wealth have been operating behind the scenes for months to get Rispone to where he is right now—on the verge of toppling the man many thought was a shoo-in. Grigsby spent $100,000 on radio ads for Democratic challenger Omar Dantzler in the primaries. He was also exposed for attempting to bribe candidate Franklin Foil to drop out of the race for Senate District 16, paving the way to a win for Grigsby’s preferred candidate.
Yes, this type of foul play in politics is par for the course—but such brazen display of corruption happening out in the open and without consequence is emblematic of the new normal in politics nationally.
As if responding to a siren’s call, Trump swooped down to Lake Charles on the eve of the primaries to endorse Rispone. Of course the president loves Rispone. They’re both “not career politicians,” they’re both staunchly anti-abortion and anti-immigration, and they’re both rich and white.
Like Trump, Rispone seems less concerned with the values or ideology of politics, and more with saying whatever he thinks his base wants to hear. His most widely circulated ad denounces New Orleans as a “sanctuary city.” That designation has a very specific meaning in terms of how policing agencies share information, but the spirit of the designation certainly seems violated when, for example, an injured worker from the Hard Rock collapse is arrested and detained. That ad is full of preposterous alarmism, and juxtaposing it with these realities is what makes us so scared.
Rhetoric aside, officially, we know very little overall about Rispone’s policy points. He’s barely appeared publicly during the runoff period, and his website has little more than a bio, link to his Twitter feed, and a donation button. His campaign at this point seems to be exclusively positioning himself as a Trumpian doppel who also isn’t John Bel Edwards. He’s literally running ads in which he himself doesn’t appear a single time, and instead it’s just footage of Trump alongside fabricated data disparaging Edwards.
We really have no idea what an Eddie Rispone governorship would even look like, but the people and ideas he’s aligning himself with, even in the abstract, are making our stomachs sour. One thing we know that is NOT in the abstract—Louisiana leads the U.S. in forcing undocumented people into cages, and Rispone is hell-bent on deepening and widening our state’s commitment to this violent practice. Listen, John Bel Edwards is not good—from his proposed ban on abortions after the sixth (!) week of pregnancy, to a totally underwhelming pay raise for teachers, to his endorsement of law enforcement. Edwards is a moderate centrist candidate masquerading as a Dem. Ultimately, his best policies are ideological red herrings that fall well short of the kind of change we really need, and his worst are outright attacks on human rights. All that said, as bad as it’s been under Edwards, it would be profoundly worse under Rispone.
Our trepidacious, yet ardent and invigorated request of you, dear reader, is to vote for Edwards. What’s more, now is the time to talk to family, friends, coworkers and voting-neutral peers. Implore them to vote for Edwards as well. Rispone now presents a very real threat, as we can assume that the bulk of red voters who went for Abraham will be redirected toward the other GOP candidate in the runoff. This is an important moment, and we all have to do what we can to push our state, however marginally, in the right direction.
Finally, no matter what happens come November, be prepared to buckle down on your commitment to your communities and to our shared responsibility to our neighbors, because this vote is only the beginning of the fight.
SUMMARY: John Bel Edwards.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Kyle Ardoin (Republican)
“Gwen” Collins-Greenup (Democrat)
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before—the runoff for Secretary of State will be between incumbent Kyle Ardoin and Democratic challenger Gwen Collins-Greenup.
While the bulk of New Orleans went for Collins-Greenup, Lakeview and a few areas of Riverbend near Loyola and Tulane defected from the D in the SOS vote, going with Ardoin. The sliver near Slidell that went red for Governor also chose Ardoin.
Statewide, Ardoin held the majority, but not by enough to avoid a rematch with Collins-Greenup. Last time around, Ardoin won the runoff by securing 59.3% of the vote. His 41% to Collins-Greenup’s 33.8% in this one looks to be setting us up for a repeat. Still, Collins-Greenup’s star continues to rise. An underdog powered by a grassroots campaign in her first go-round, Collins-Greenup’s numbers are trending up and she’s garnered the endorsement of the Louisiana Democratic party.
The primary role of the Secretary of State is to oversee elections. Most immediately and notably, the winner of this race will be tasked with replacing Louisiana’s antiquated voting machines. Louisiana is one of three states that still uses paperless voting machines—meaning there is no paper trail to verify poll results.
If you’ve been keeping up, these are the same voting machines that Ardoin, in his previous term-and-a-half as Secretary of State, was supposed to have updated ahead of this election. That project was delayed, however, after Ardoin’s office was accused of trying to manipulate the bidding process for the new machines. Instead, Ardoin and co. spent approximately $2 million on renting machines for the election, and a majority of Louisiana voters then went and pressed a button next to his name to advocate for him to continue doing the job that he failed to do. The irony, dear reader, is exhausting.
SUMMARY: On multiple occasions, Ardoin has shown the people of Louisiana that he can’t do this job. Hold him accountable, and vote for Collins-Greenup.
1st SUPREME COURT DISTRICT
“Will” Crain (Republican)
Hans Liljeberg (Republican)
Both Will Crain and Hans Liljeberg pulled pretty far ahead of the two other Republicans they were running against, winning 38.6% and 32.5% of the vote respectively with next-highest vote winner Scott Schlegel taking only 17.5%.
Since the primary, Crain has received the LAGOP endorsement (at an event with Liljeberg, as Crain pointed out in his statement on the endorsement) as well as the Jefferson Chamber PAC endorsement a few days later. He maintains his position as a business and industry favorite.
Liljeberg has spent much of the second leg of his campaign on the parish fair and food fest circuit with his wife, earning an endorsement from the Jefferson Parish Republican Party in the meantime.
The split this runoff lays bare runs right through the oil-dominated landscape of politics, economy, and, yes, the judiciary in our state. Crain has the oil business and industry support, and Liljeberg has the support of the law firms angling to extract damages from those industry players on behalf of coastal parishes. This has raised some concern about what will happen when the lawyers who bought Liljeberg’s seat end up before him in court. But, again, those lawyers have an anti-oil company track record. As long as they don’t flip their script and start representing the oil companies, we can rest easy that our elections are being bought by the guys profiting from taking down oil companies, not the ones defending them.
SUMMARY: Liljeberg may be able to deliver slightly less harmful outcomes in the Supreme Court re: oil industry exploitation.
John H. Bagneris (Democrat)
Joseph “Joe” Bouie (Democrat)
Dr. Joe Bouie and John Bagneris will face off for the 3rd District Senatorial Seat. They’re both state reps who attended Southern Law together in the ‘70s.
Bouie, who earned 44.3% of the initial vote, has a voting record that’s pretty solid. He’s advocated for local governance of public schools, equal pay for women, and anti-pollution measures. Though his record on abortion is not as sturdy as we’d like, he did vote against the six-week ban on abortion SB 184, an unbelievably low yet undeniably relevant bar for a politician to clear in Louisiana in 2019. He has endorsements from progressive Step Up Louisiana as well as the Independent Women’s Organization, among others.
Both candidates have pledged their allegiance to much of Edwards’ platform. However, they’ve separated themselves on the issue of charter schools. Whereas Bouie has been critical of charters for years, Bagneris, who garnered 29.1% of the October vote, has been endorsed by pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform.
SUMMARY: Joseph “Joe” Bouie.
Mandie Landry (Democrat)
Robert McKnight (Democrat)
Mandie Landry and Robert McKnight, both lawyers, are the remaining two candidates in the 91st State representative race. Landry, who earned 29.9% of the vote, and McKnight, with 30.0%, just beat out Carling Dinkler, with 27.4%.
McKnight has since earned Dinkler’s endorsement. Step Up Louisiana, a local organization fighting institutional racism, also backs McKnight, citing his preparation and knowledge at their Candidate Forum. And it’s true that McKnight advocates for progressive criminal justice reform, including ending court fines and fees. The former Orleans Public Defender is hosting a Young Professionals Mixer with Councilmember Jared Brossett, Representative Ted James, and Sheriff Marlin Gusman—all listed as members of the “Honorary Host Committee” for the event. If McKnight is elected, hopefully he won’t be so smitten with Gusman’s financial support that he forgets his own commitment to reducing the jail population as a way to boost the local economy.
Mandie Landry’s campaign draws from her career as a lawyer, notably her time with abortion advocacy group Lift Louisiana during which she was a vocal opponent of the myriad ways the state legislature sought and succeeded in the punishment and oppression of women. In her social media posts, she claims her campaign has had “no institutional support,” which is big if true, considering her near-tie with McKnight in the primary. A search of the campaign donors website shows that Landry’s largest electronically filed contributions are from individuals (seems like mostly family and lawyers). Landry wants to protect the Medicaid expansion (which might be a tough job if Edwards is ousted in November), raise the minimum wage, and preserve our coast. She is committed to putting ”people over projects.”
SUMMARY: These are two decent options. McKnight has a compelling Step Up endorsement and Landry has strong pro-choice positions. Each candidate has their strong and weak points—which of them matter to you?
STATE REPRESENTATIVE 94th DISTRICT
Stephanie Hilferty (Republican)
Tammy Savoie (Democrat)
With 33.6% of the vote, Tammy Savoie trails Hilferty by a significant margin. With Republican Kirk Williamson having scooped 24.3% of the vote, it will certainly be an uphill battle for the Democratic challenger. Savoie campaigns on pro-choice values, raising the state minimum wage (to $9 an hour…), opposing gerrymandering, and improving flood infrastructure. As anti-imperialists, we’re not jazzed on her career in the military (as a clinical psychologist) or “volunteer” work with border patrol, but we appreciate her stance on the aforementioned progressive issues.
Coming out ahead with 40.7% of the vote, Republican incumbent Stephanie Hilferty has served one term in this office. Her unwavering track record of voting against reproductive autonomy—including support for the so-called “heartbeat” bill—has garnered her a whopping 100% approval rating from the Louisiana Right to Life Federation. Her record also features opposition to sanctuary city legislation (HB 453).
SUMMARY: Tammy Savoie.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE 97th DISTRICT
Eugene Green (Democrat)
Matthew Willard (Democrat)
While it was speculated that this primary would result in a runoff between Eugene Green and Ethan Ashley, Matthew Willard pulled the most votes with 33.9%, much to the chagrin of political pundits who had discounted him.
Williard scored the highest of all the candidates on the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) scorecard (a big, bad 95), sports endorsements from AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and racial/economic justice organizers Step Up. Since the run-off campaign began, Willard rounded out his Councilmember endorsements, adding Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen to join Councilmembers Jay Banks and Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Green, who garnered 29.5% of the votes in October, scored the lowest for this race on the GNOHA scorecard. No doubt Green’s literal and figurative investment in the commodification of land and housing informs his values. In 1986, he founded the Nationwide Real Estate Corporation, a company that serves as the middle-person between landlords and renters. Basically, Green’s company does everything a landlord would do, except it isn’t the property owner, so there is even less incentive for Green to actually care for the tenants.
SUMMARY: Matthew Willard.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE 98th DISTRICT
Aimee Adatto Freeman (Democrat)
Kea Sherman (Democrat)
Things aren’t looking great for District 98. Aimee Freeman, who earned 32.1% of the vote, is a Republican in liberal clothes. But Kea Sherman is not too progressive herself, with an endorsement from the Regular Democratic Organization, an “independent” political organization that also endorsed Jeff Landry for Attorney General and Ralph Abraham for Governor.
At a public debate in September, Freeman claimed that property crime is the most pressing issue in District 98. Freeman wants to fix Uptown’s car vandalism problem by providing the police with more technology to solve crimes and to track people when they return home from jail. Do we need more technology like the ever-looming crime cameras peering down at us at all hours of the day and night? Is that what safety looks and feels like?
Kea Sherman’s campaign focuses on infrastructure, coastal restoration, and toothless gender policies. But she lacks meaningful policies to improve the lives of women across racial and socioeconomic spectrums—such as reproductive autonomy. While her gender rhetoric may have helped her squeak past Ravi Sangisetty in the primary (she earned 18.9% of the vote to Sangisetty’s 18.5%), she’ll have a harder time using gender to surpass Freeman in the election. Sherman also supports a constitutional amendment to allow New Orleans to make local decisions regarding infrastructure, an increased gas tax to generate revenue for coastal restoration, and robust public schools.
SUMMARY: Kea Sherman. If Freeman wins, we must be ready to push back against her draconian, pro-police policies.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE 99th DISTRICT
Adonis C. Expose’ (Democrat)
Candace N. Newell (Democrat)
Louisiana’s primary system is wild. Candace Newell, earning 49.9% of the vote, was merely 20 votes shy of an outright win in the primary election. Now she is forced into a run-off with Adonis Exposé, who garnered 40.3% of the votes. While there is not that big of a difference between these two candidates’ positions, it probably makes a difference to them, at least, that Newell was so close, yet so far.
After picking up ousted-candidate Jameel Shaheer’s endorsement, Adonis Exposé hasn’t changed his tone much from the primary campaign. His campaign still mostly focuses on community engagement and local governance of charter schools (not getting rid of them, just ensuring they fall under local leadership, as opposed to control by out-of-state stakeholders and institutions).
Candace Newell works for the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board. Backed by Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Mary Landrieu, she supports coastal restoration, publicly funded childcare, and legislation to allow New Orleanians to set their own minimum wage.
SUMMARY: Candace Newell.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE 105th DISTRICT
Mack Cormier (Democrat)
Christopher J. “Chris” Leopold (Republican)
Democratic underdog Mack Cormier garnered 39.0% in the October election against incumbent Chris Leopold, who yielded 45.8% from a constituency vexed by toll issues. Cormier, the son and brother of two former Plaquemines Parish presidents, didn’t do much media to define himself in the initial election. But he has been more active in the intervening weeks, identifying himself as an anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment candidate. The more he has become a viable candidate, the less he differentiates himself from his opponents on social issues—instead taking a stand on the fate of freshwater diversions. His lack of endorsements from the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association is enough for us, given that the bar is below below sea level.
SUMMARY: Mack Cormier.
PW HRC Amendment – Art. V, Secs. 5-1101 through 5-1103 – CC
Shall Article V of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended to add Sections 5-1101 through 5-1103 thereto to create a local Human Rights Commission to safeguard all individuals in the City of New Orleans from discrimination and to exercise all powers, duties, and functions provided by applicable state and municipal law?
“Human rights” as a framework for protecting the dignity and survival of vulnerable people is a fairly recent invention. Its roots lie in the neoliberal ideological shift of Reagan/Thatcher, which individualized the success or failure of any individuals’ quality of life and heralded renewed gutting of the social safety net (continued by Clinton, etc). Thus it is no surprise that this framework contains no inherent critique of systemic economic oppression, privatization, root causes—let’s just say it: capitalism.
An example based on several real life situations: there’s an economically depressed (read: historically looted) community who sells its resources, let’s say water, to a corporation, let’s say—hypothetically of course—Nestlé. The community finds itself unable to afford the fruit of their land, whose finite resources have been depleted. Now, with a human rights framework, a just response might be “water is a human right.” To what extent is that a mobilizing conclusion? The remedies it implies could include community members having discounted or free access to the commodity (water). It could include the corporation making some financial donation to the community. Or perhaps it would involve an entirely separate philanthropic entity to band-aid the problem. The framework, in practice, has not appeared to generate remedies like: nationalize access to water, dismantle predatory companies, redistribute their wealth to the communities they’ve looted.
Thus we argue that the language of “rights” is limiting and problematic in the same way that well-intentioned laws are limiting and problematic. In this framework, resources and conditions fundamental to survival are identified discretely, touted by some governmental and nongovernmental entities, and occasionally enshrined in anemic laws or policies. They also become fodder for the ongoing culture wars—what is or isn’t a right? Daily we see that battle play out in our personal lives and the highest courts of the land. Often the most despicable violator of human rights is the state itself (examples too numerous to list, so let’s go with one: immigrant concentration camps). So why would we entrust the state with defending our rights?
So what’s the alternative to this framework? Feminist and anti-colonial critiques argue that collectively uplifting values like dignity can generate more effective, broad, and accurate responses to the harms the rights-based framework seeks to address. It also collectivizes those values, creating the potential for building a new society absent the institutions meting out rights here and there.
And yet here we are in reality, negotiating survival between lesser evils. We’re skeptical of what an actual Human Rights Commission would look like in practice, and wary that the vague language in the amendment may be a way of skirting inclusivity. Will sex workers be safeguarded from discrimination? Will people who use drugs? Will the Commission be diverse and representative of the people it’s protecting, or will it be largely white, male and/or cis? Will it be at all modeled off of the lousy, disappointing, inadequate Human Rights Campaign?
These are questions that will need to be addressed and dealt with if something like the Human Rights Commission is going to fulfill its proposed duty of protecting all indvidiuals in New Orleans from discrimination. But the nugget of the right idea is there, and ultimately if the commission is protecting anyone, it could be a body that we, from the outside, can push and petition to truly center justice and dignity for people under the direst of attacks. If this passes, we could have yet another avenue for advocating, organizing, and vocalizing the needs of the people.
Parishwide Proposition (Bond) – $500M Bond – CC – 30 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans, Louisiana (the “City”), incur debt and issue up to $500,000,000 of bonds, in multiple series, each series to run not exceeding thirty (30) years from the date thereof and bearing interest at a rate not exceeding eight percent (8.00%) per annum, for the purpose of making capital improvements in the City permitted by the City’s Home Rule Charter, including constructing, renovating, acquiring, and/or improving (i) roads, streets and bridges; (ii) public buildings, affordable housing facilities, libraries, and parks and recreational facilities; (iii) surface and subsurface drainage systems and stormwater management facilities; and (iv) public safety equipment, including acquiring all necessary land, equipment and furnishings for each of the foregoing, which bonds will be general obligations of the City, payable from ad valorem taxes to be levied and collected in the manner provided by Article VI, Section 33 of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana of 1974 and statutory authority supplemental thereto, with no estimated increase in the millage rate to be levied in the first year above the 22.5 mills currently being levied to pay General Obligation Bonds of the City?
The City is asking our permission to borrow $500 million to invest in infrastructure and affordable housing. The bond issuance would protect residents from an additional property tax increase (see millage prop below) while still allowing much-needed improvements to city infrastructure.
But the money would not just go to infrastructure. The city plans to divy up its income from these bonds by giving $250 million to drainage and roads (here’s looking at you potholes, flooded streets, and biker-unsafe streets), $225 million to “public buildings and equipment,” and a mere $25 million to affordable housing. Since New Orleans lost more affordable housing units than it created over the past year, one would hope that affordable housing funding would take more of a priority than 5% of this loan. Also, what exactly are these public buildings and equipment? The language of the bond proposal allows for funding of “public safety equipment,” which might include anything from more traffic cameras to more prisons. Who’s to say?
The good news is that the City Council has to approve each project using these dollars, which opens the door to public input. That means that if we approve the bond issuance to fix our roads and buildings, we have to keep a keen eye on our city leaders as they dole out the money. No sneaking in more scary NOPD crime cameras. Maybe we could even push Cantrell’s office to dedicate more dollars to affordable housing. Call to action, anyone?
SUMMARY: Vote yes, and organize!
Parishwide Proposition (Millage) – 3.00 Mills – CC – 20 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans, Louisiana (the “City”) be authorized to levy a special tax of 3.00 mills on all property subject to taxation in the City (“Tax”) for a period of twenty years, beginning January 1, 2020 and ending December 31, 2039 ($10,250,000 currently estimated to be collected from the Tax for an entire year), with the proceeds to be dedicated solely to public infrastructure in the City and to be used for the purposes of repairing, improving, maintaining and operating (i) roads, streets, and bridges, (ii) surface and subsurface drainage systems and stormwater management facilities, and (iii) public buildings and public safety facilities of the City, including purchasing related equipment and vehicles for any of the foregoing, provided that a portion of the monies collected shall be remitted to certain state and statewide retirement systems in the manner required by law?
City Council put this proposal through some paces before allowing it to appear on our ballots with a slightly narrower scope. The Mayor and Council seem united in their desire to find funding for streets and drainage, and that is half of the thrust of this proposal. However, while City Council successfully removed software and furnishings from the list of allowed uses of these funds, “public safety facilities” and vehicles, which includes jail buildings and cop cars, remain.
This mill would produce more than the original estimation of $10.25 million in annual revenue because of the higher tax assessment values many homeowners across the city were burdened with this year.
Unlike the bond revenue described above, which is intended for very similar purposes to this millage, the City is beholden to no one and nothing but the language of this proposition in how it actually spends these funds. Of the three infrastructure-plus-dubious-funding-streams the City is pushing for on this ballot, this is the one we’d feel most comfortable saying “enough is enough, you already have two” to. Only half of this one is even projected to be spent on roads and drainage. It’s a pittance. We deserve better.
SUMMARY: No. Do better.
PW Prop. (Short Term Rentals Occupancy Tax) – 6 3/4% Short Term Rentals Tax – CC – Perp.
Shall the City of New Orleans (the “City”), under provisions of Article VI, Section 30 of the Louisiana Constitution and other applicable constitutional and statutory authority, be authorized to levy and collect in perpetuity, beginning January 1, 2020, on short term rentals of overnight lodging in the City an occupancy tax (the “Tax”) in an amount not to exceed six and three-quarters percent (6 3/4%) of the rent or fee charged for such occupancy, with approximately $10,500,000 estimated to be collected from the levy of the Tax for an entire year if it is levied at the 6 3/4% maximum, and with the proceeds of such Tax, except for a reasonable collection fee, if any, to be distributed as follows: seventy-five percent (75%) shall be dedicated to the infrastructure fund of the City created pursuant to Ordinance No. 27,986, M.C.S., and twenty-five percent (25%) shall be allocated, pursuant to a multi-year cooperative endeavor agreement approved by the City Council, to New Orleans & Company to be used to promote tourism in the City?
This August saw one culmination of a lengthy, contentious fight by affordable housing advocates to halt or reverse rampant displacement and protect the city’s dwindling affordable housing supply. City Council yielded mixed outcomes, and one clear message: STRs are here to stay. This proposition is further proof. New Orleans loves to fund essential services by a Rube Goldberg-esque mechanism of individual taxes and millages. On one hand, those essential services (like the Orleans Public Defenders Office) need funding. On the other hand, this tendency creates reliance on practices that aren’t really good for the people of New Orleans (e.g. excessive and sometimes sneaky traffic fines); or that seem like rather slender reeds (e.g. tourism) upon which to balance something important (e.g. infrastructure).
The City estimates revenue from this prop, if passed, will amount to $10,500,000 annually. It’s unclear how they landed on that number. It’s unclear how enforcement is going to work. It’s unclear if short term rental platforms will be forced to have data transparency. This item proposes a specific tax (6 3/4%) on (seemingly all) short term rentals and specifies that 75% of the revenue will go to infrastructure, with the remaining 25% allocated to tourism. This creates a permanent dependence on short term rentals—which seems to signal the end of a fight to mitigate the damage they wreak, or at least this era of that fight. It also creates a permanent dependence on tourism, which while undeniably is a driver of the local economy, is a pot of gold that could vanish at the whim of just one ornery tropical depression. This is not a good way to make a budget. But it is in line with Mayor Cantrell’s “fair share” deal.
Conspicuously, the revenue disbursement breakdown here leaves 0% to fund affordable housing. This feels like a giant slap in the face to low income homeowners, low income renters, and housing activists who have been begging leadership to put the needs of residents over those of tourists. Though the party line among most elected officials and planning commission appointees was to find common ground and a compromise, the tourism industry is walking away from this fight with more money. Of course we need infrastructure funding. But with the rest of the money designated to tourists, it’s hard not to ask—infrastructure for whom? Who will still be able to afford to live here and benefit from it?
SUMMARY: A stubborn, principled “no” or a resentful “yes” vote. We lean toward the latter because it’s not nothing, and nothing is what we expected. Leave the voting booth and support grassroots tenant organizing, affordable housing activism, and eviction resistance. And snitch on illegal STRs.
Mid-City Security District – $250/$375/$150 Parcel Fee Renewal – CC – 5 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Mid-City Security District (“District”) annual parcel fee in the District, bounded by: Tulane Avenue (both sides), Interstate 10 (interior side), City Park Avenue (interior side), West Moss Street (interior side), Orleans Avenue (both sides), and North and South Broad Streets (both sides), in an amount not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per year for each improved residential parcel, and not to exceed three hundred seventy-five dollars ($375) per year for each improved commercial parcel, and impose the levy of a parcel fee not to exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150) per year for each improved residential parcel subject to a special assessment level pursuant to Louisiana Constitution Article VII, Section 18(G), for five (5) years, commencing on January 1, 2020 and ending on December 31, 2024, which fees are estimated to generate approximately one million, thirty thousand dollars ($1,030,000) annually, to be used solely and exclusively to promote and encourage the security of the District, which additional security shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the District by the City, the State or other political subdivisions?
For the past decade, Mid-City (along with other self-surveilling sub-states in the city) has been paying NOPD officers to drive around the neighborhood after their shifts with their eyes and guns and “authority and responsibilities,” and it’s this fee that allows them to do it.
Seriously, isn’t there a laundry list of ways money like this could be used to materially improve people’s lives? We are opposed to the police state, hard stop. We already live in a lurid panopticon. Defund, disarm, disband the police.
For more in-depth information on the candidates and races, please refer to our October voting guide.
As of press time, the deadline to register to vote for the November 16 election has passed. Early voting was from Saturday, November 2 to Saturday, November 9. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, November 12. The deadline for casting an absentee ballot is Friday, November 15.
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov to view your ballot by your name or address. Saturday Election voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
League of Women Voters of New Orleans
Candidate biographies and questionnaires
Voters Organized to Educate
Equal justice and civil rights advocacy
Bureau of Governmental Research
Report on Sewerage & Water Board Governance Change
This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an official endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY or New Orleans Harm Reduction Network.
APRIL 4, 2020