City Council endorses creation of new public-safety district in French Quarter

The New Orleans City Council passed resolutions last week that will start the process of creating an Economic Development District for public safety in the French Quarter, despite misgivings from the city’s police unions.

According to council members, the Economic Development District would fund more patrols in the French Quarter by New Orleans Police Department officers as well as Louisiana State Police troopers.

According to Councilmember Nadine Ramsey, a sales tax increase of 0.25 cents will create revenue for the Economic Development District.

“We believe this will ultimately generate about $2 million, which all will be spent on public safety enhancement,” Ryan Berni, advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said.

Two speakers from the Fraternal Order of Police New Orleans, James Gallagher and Donovan Livaccari spoke in opposition of the proposed plans.

“I would like to say for the record, it is disappointing that there is no discussion of how this is going to positively impact our members of the New Orleans Police Department,” Livacarri said.

“I think that the officers who are hearing about these plans and are trying to make plans for themselves have really become more despondent by this news,” Livacarri said.

Gallagher said that the council should make plans to improve the current issues with manpower in the NOPD rather than creating a new public safety entity.

“Our goal should really focus on rebuilding the New Orleans Police Department as opposed to spending tax dollars on funding long term permanent relationships with other law enforcement agencies to take over responsibilities that fall squarely within the city of New Orleans,” Livacarri said.

Berni said that the plans are not to take away from the current duties of officers, rather to help them.

“I think the whole idea of this entire plan is to support the 8th District officers that we have and to support the current crop of NOPD officers that we have, and to make sure the entire city is safe,” Berni said.

Council member James Gray said public safety in the French Quarter does also fall into the responsibilities of the state police.

“The mayor has repeatedly said that we should think of the French Quarter and some other things in the city as more than just responsibilities of the city of New Orleans so we don’t want to back away from that position,” Gray said.

“There are some things in the city such as the French Quarter that perhaps the state does have an obligation to help support even though I realize this money is being raised locally,” Gray said.

Gray assured that the council is doing everything they can to develop the current police department.

“We have allocated as much money as we can spend, I think, on the police department and we are looking for more police to spend this money on as quickly as we can. So we are trying to grow the police department as rapidly as possible,” Gray said.

Council member Stacy Head wanted to reiterate that the council’s main goal in creating the Economic Development District.

“To be very clear, our goal is public safety in the French Quarter and around the city,” Head said.

“It’s to protect the state asset which is revenue generated for the city and the state, and the tangential benefit is that we are able to have more police presence in other neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans,” Head said. “So I think this is a great additional step getting us toward that very clear goal.”

Ramsey announced that the proposed resolution would appear on the Oct. 24 voting ballot if approved by the council.

“This provides a wonderful opportunity for the French Quarter residents to vote on a solution to address the crime in their very own neighborhood using funds generated not only from in that neighborhood, but it doesn’t divert resources from other neighborhoods, and I want to make it clear that that will not happen,” Ramsey said.

The council said a public hearing on the proposed resolution will be held at the April 23 council meeting.