Friday, April 1, 2016

Anti-oppression / Anti-bullshit voting guide for New Orleans elections, April 9

Hello, team, and welcome to the April 2016 edition of the anti-oppression / anti-bullshit New Orleans voter guide!

We are being invited to the polls to vote on two fundraising initiatives, and that's it. Of course there is already a kerfuffle brewing about "public safety" and all the veiled racist claptrap that brings up, but what's a New Orleans election without a kerfuffle and veiled racist claptrap, amirite?!

It's your right to turn up and turn out, so here's what we recommend:
 (Select 1)
Shall the New Orleans City Council be authorized to annually levy an increase in ad valorem taxes of a total of seven and one-half (7.5) mills as follows: (1) dedicated solely for recruiting, hiring, equipping, and paying police officers for increased police protection, in the amount of and not exceeding five (5) mills on the dollar of assessed real property valuation throughout the city and (2) dedicated solely for fire protection in the amount of and not exceeding two and one-half (2.5) mills on the dollar of assessed real property valuation throughout the city, for twelve (12) years, beginning January 1, 2017 and ending December 31, 2028, (an estimated $17.73 million reasonably expected to be collected at this time for an entire year as a result of the 5 mills increase for police protection and an estimated $8.87 million reasonably expected to be collected at this time for an entire year as a result of the 2.5 mills increase for fire protection), in accordance with Article VI, Section 26(E) of the Louisiana Constitution? 

Basically, this mill - also known as a property tax - is pulling a tricky number by tying firefighter money to police money. The firefighters have spent years confronting the City on overdue backpay and pensions, only to have their union diluted and the City renege on court-imposed payment timelines. This mill would designate more money for the firefighters (2.5 mills), but it would also funnel a bunch more money (5 mills) to the police.

As we know, firefighters perform an inarguably useful service to the City and to humanity. As for the police: Well, we're not so convinced. Regardless, politicians need to stop combining this stuff because not only is it confusing to voters - Nobody wants to vote against firefighters - but it's not fair to play further games with firefighter money by linking it to entirely different City service budgets.

What we also don't like is the fear-mongering PR campaign behind this election, funded by some outfit called the "Citizens for Public Safety PAC." They recently sent out a shiny mailer with a blurry photo of a white woman clutching her purse while a shadowy figure in a hoodie approaches her from behind. The suggestion is that if we vote for this mill, we'll be safer from criminal danger. Of course, it begs the questions of WHO is going to be safer from WHOM, and WHOM the police protect and serve.

Now, we've never met a single New Orleans citizen who is against public safety, but it's a stretch to say that giving more money to the police actually results in a reduction of crime. As our friends at European Dissent put it, "The NOPD is already the highest funded department in the New Orleans government and its budget has only grown over time." We can think of at least 500 other initiatives in the City that would address the roots of crime more effectively than giving money to the police.


PW Prop. (Capital Improvements) - $120M Bond - CC - 30 Yrs. (Select 1)
Shall the City of New Orleans, Louisiana (the "City"), incur debt and issue up to $120,000,000 of bonds, in one or more series, to run not exceeding thirty (30) years from the date thereof, with interest at a rate not exceeding eight percent (8.00%) per annum, for the purpose of making capital improvements, including constructing, renovating, acquiring and/or improving (i) $100,000,000 for roads, streets and bridges, base stabilization, drainage adjustments and related sidewalks, curbing, street lighting, stormwater management, and landscaping associated therewith; (ii) $15,000,000 for public buildings and facilities and parks and recreational facilities, and (iii) $5,000,000 for fire trucks and firefighting equipment, including acquiring all necessary land, equipment and furnishings for any of the foregoing, which bonds will be general obligations of the City and will be 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 25.5 mills currently being levied to pay General Obligation Bonds of the City?

This one is asking to issue City bonds - basically a gambling way for the City to borrow money against its future ability to repay it - for street repair, which should be a no-brainer except SURPRISE! it never is.

First of all, this proposition doesn't specify which streets are going to be repaired, so we really don't know what we're voting for.

Also, the Bureau of Government Research (BGR) makes the point that "Even with the pressing need for street repairs, there are potential drawbacks to funding the work with bond issues that have a 30-year life. The lifespan of streets repaired through the bond proposition may very well be shorter than the repayment period contemplated by the city." So we might fund street repair with promissory notes only to wind up in the same exact position after we've paid back the debt. SMH, New Orleans, SMH.

But the normally tax-averse BGR thinks we should vote Yes on this, as long as the City seeks other funding sources for street repair. Basically, we all agree that our streets are jacked and anything we can do to fix them would be a good thing. Okay.


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