Legislative support for Hospitality District bill LA SB 573 is eroding.

ZONE OUT — My Neighborhood ≠ Your “Hospitality Zone” (Credit: Jason B. Berry)

It was reported on Thursday, 5/10/12, that Louisiana State Senator J.P. Morrell (D-District 3) formally withdrew his support for the proposed Hospitality District legislation currently under consideration in its present form as LA SB 573.

I confer my highest praise upon Sen. Morrell for this choice of action, which he attributes to the opposition to this bill expressed by his constituents. That a politician who was invested in this act of legislation withdrew his support in favor of the citizens he represents was, in my opinion, a bold act and should be a lesson taken to heart by all involved — in particular, Senator Edwin R. Murray (D-District 4) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

For our elected officials who continue to support LA SB 573, I simply ask that you acknowledge and place the concerns expressed by your respective constituencies — the people who voted you into office — over the whims of the hospitality and tourism industries. We need your voices to represent us clearly and conscientiously in this matter.

The following is reportedly the full text of the letter sent by Sen. Morrell to his colleagues in the legislature and members of our New Orleans City Council withdrawing his support:

To whom it may concern,

There has been rampant speculation about my position regarding the proposed hospitality district, so I thought it best to clear the air to all parties involved.

After numerous calls and meeting with my constituents regarding the original legislation, I withdrew my support acknowledging their concerns that the legislation was hastily drawn, had a board of politically unaccountable groups/ associations and had expansive powers beyond the scope of its stared purpose.

I do not support the current proposed amendment as it splits the revenue from the proposed district into 3 equal parts, with 2/3 going to marketing and 1/3 going to infrastructure which is, in my opinion, the antithesis of the original proposal submitted to the delegation which was based largely upon infrastructure improvement. (As recently as today the Convention Center Board has stated it has concerns about allocating the 30 million dollars without a revenue stream to maintain the improvements. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/05/taxes_control_over_money_still.html)

More troubling, final versions of these amendments have not been made available to stakeholders to review and it is unclear if the proposed amendments address any of their concerns.  Additionally, we have not received any guidance from the New Orleans City Council as far as what their position might be on this important legislation, whether it be through individual  letters, emails or Council resolution(s).

I support the idea of the Hospitality District and firmly believe it could be a great resource in providing a reliable revenue stream to support the area of the city most impacted by tourism.  The execution of this proposal as well as the details that surround it have been lacking.  I hope, moving forward, these communication issues can be resolved.

Sen. JP Morrell
District 3

Sen. Murray pledged on 5/3/12 (when LA SB 573 was first withdrawn from consideration before the Local & Municipal Affairs Committee) to bring all “concerned parties to the table” prior to its again being placed on the agenda. To the best of my awareness, this action still has not occurred.

However, due to Mayor Landrieu’s extolling the workforce of the Hospitality industry to go to Baton Rouge to “show up and let your voice be heard” (on the same day Sen. Morrell withdrew his support), it is likely that this matter will not be tabled until the next legislative session and that an effort will be made to push it through without even acknowledging or attempting to address the concerns of the citizens who reside with the boundaries of the Hospitality Zone.

Sen. Murray and Mayor Landrieu, couldn’t you at least pretend that you care what respective constituencies think about this act of legislation and acknowledge that significant discord exists regarding this matter?

The hospitality and tourism industries hear your support loud and clear — yet the citizens of New Orleans that you represent are left feeling like we’re screaming into the void.


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