The French Quarter Task Force received more than $300,000 in additional cash last month to keep its supplemental security patrols running, months after voters rejected renewing a tax measure that would have provided funding for the next five years on Dec. 5.
The money was requested by French Quarter Management District officials, who manage the patrols and who requested New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell release the money after learning it was being withheld last week, according to executive director Karley Frankic. Then came the dueling press releases:
“Late last year, the French Quarter Management District represented to the city and to the general public that they would continue to fund task force operations in the French Quarter through April, when a new funding mechanism will go before voters,” Cantrell said in an emailed statement on Feb. 21. “The FQMD failed to manage their financial resources effectively enough to keep these patrols on the street, and their funding expired today.
“Because the FQMD failed to meet their obligations, the city will be tapping into reserve funds from the French Quarter Economic Development District to continue providing security in the Quarter,” Cantrell added. “The city remains committed to public safety, and to solving the security problem created by the FQMD.”
Then there was also this press release from the FQMD:
“The mayor’s office is holding $327,000 of those sales tax dollars that were previously obligated to pay for Louisiana State Police to patrol the French Quarter through 2020,” Frankic wrote, also on Feb. 21. “Had the city fulfilled its obligations of fiscal transparency with the sales tax revenue collection and spending, the public would have known that the mayor was holding these funds that were obligated to pay for supplemental public safety in the French Quarter.
“Since voters rejected the mayor’s tax renewal in December, the French Quarter Management District has reached out to the Mayor’s office continuously to negotiate a long-term cooperative endeavor agreement to continue the Supplemental Police Patrol Program after the April vote, and the mayor’s office has yet to answer the call for a meeting, remaining focused on the agenda of the Mayor and not of the voters,” Frankic added.
An April 24 ballot measure to vote on a new, but similar FQEDD tax, will go before voters.
The FQMD was created with the passage of state legislation in 2007 with the purpose of revitalizing the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina. In 2015, French Quarter voters approved the FQEDD, with a 0.2495% sales tax on good and services (equating to 25 cents for every $100) including hotel stays, to fund public safety measures following a rash of violent crime in the neighborhood that year and to assist an understaffed police department, according to Frankic.