May 8 2012
Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS — Several neighborhood groups are raising serious questions about a plan to create a new hospitality and entertainment district in the city.
Opponents of the plan say it lacks transparency and could give too much power to a governing body made up of appointees.
The groups say proponents of the plan have been trying to quietly push it through, and now they’re calling for a slowdown in the process.
“We have never had a true seat at the negotiating table, and at this point we think it’s just too late. We are willing to meet about this next year in an open and transparent fashion, and yes we do have time for that,” said Carol Allen of Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, or VCPORA.
The proposal calls for the creation of a board comprised of appointees that would have the authority to make key decisions affecting the French Quarter and other areas, including the ability to levy taxes.
It’s a plan that aims to generate millions of dollars for improvements in some of the city’s most popular tourist spots.
But the neighborhood groups are skeptical as to exactly how the cash would be distributed.
“The bills are pretty vague and they’re broad,” said Jessica Knox of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association. “We do need dollars for community development projects. However, with these bills, it is unclear if those dollars would ever come to the projects that we see that need developing.”
And the proposed makeup of the hospitality district’s governing board, which would consist of several representatives from the tourism industry, is what scares French Quarter residents like Kalen Wright the most.
“It cuts the residents out of the process,” Wright said. “There is no way for this board to be accountable to the individuals who actually live within the hospitality zone, and I ask if this is something that is really equitable to the neighbors and to the residents of these communities.”
There are two similar versions of the plan - one authored by state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, and the other by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.
Murray said Monday his proposal is still evolving and that there is no consensus yet as to what the final version will look like. He also said he feels strongly that it will not include the creation of new governing board.
Murray’s bill is still waiting to go before a committee.
Source: WWL TV
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