Second French Quarter police safety sales tax measure approved for April 24 ballot

French Quarter residents will get another chance to vote on a sales tax to pay for additional New Orleans Police patrols after the ballot measure was approved Thursday.

The French Quarter Economic Development District, which includes all six members of the City Council, voted unanimously to approve measure, which heads to a April 24 election and would levy a $0.245 sales tax on purchases made at businesses (minus hotel rooms) in the Vieux Carre.

The tax would last from May 1, 2021 until April 30, 2026 and the first $2 million raised would pay for supplemental police patrols in the French Quarter, while the rest would go towards other public safety-related programs, such as homeless assistance.

French Quarter voters rejected a similar measure, with 67% voting against it, on Dec. 5.

The measure was introduced by FQEDD and District C City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer and supported groups such as the French Quarter Business Association and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates.

But the best part of the FQEDD’s Jan. 14 meeting wasn’t the discussion on the ballot measure resolution, but the fine lesson City Council procedure.

Before members could actually vote on the ballot measure, they had to first vote on three amendments: two by District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen and one by Palmer.

Palmer’s amendment added language that would equally split the remaining cash for public safety programs (after the initial $2 million was collected for police patrols) and allow the sales tax trust fund to be administered by the French Quarter Management District, which is an unelected body, although it would be subject to quarterly budget and expenditure reports to City Council.

Nguyen’s amendments included: not letting the FQMD administer the funds and amending Palmer’s amendment to eliminate the 50/50 split requirement for more patrols and other public safety programs.

“[Gisleson Palmer] offered an amendment to the resolution, the original one,” said Lora Johnson, the council clerk. “In order for her amendment to be adopted, Councilmember Nguyen offered an amendment to that amendment. I will read Gisleson Palmer’s amendment first, but it can’t be adopted because Councilmember Nguyen offered an amendment to that amendment. So we will take up the original amendment and then I will read the amendment to that amendment first, and if the body chooses, we will adopt Councilmember Nguyen’s amendment first. After it’s adopted, we go back to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment, and adopt it as amended.”

Did you get all of that?

Here’s what happened:

1. Read resolution for ballot measure resolution and amendments.
2. 10-minute break to allow public comment.
3. Read public comment.
4. Read Gisleson Palmer’s amendment.
5. Read Nguyen’s amendment to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment.
6. Adopted Ngyuen’s amendment to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment.
7. Adopted Gisleson Palmer’s amendment as amended.
8. Read Nguyen’s second amendment resolution.
9. Adopted Nguyen’s amendment.
10. Adopted the ballot measure.

Addendum, Jan. 20, 2021, 12:22 p.m. CST: Nguyen’s second amendment failed by a 4-2 vote.

Here’s a video of the meeting: