A special state Bond Commission meeting will be held on Aug. 27 to decide whether a tax renewal for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East Orleans Levee District will be allowed on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
The decision to hold a special meeting followed a long discussion at Thursday’s Bond Commission meeting about the agenda item after opposition was voiced by members of the Bond Commission and the Orleans District Division of Non-Flood Assets board who want some of that money to go to non-flood assets.
“The issue is solely about holding an election and the only reason I’m letting us get off on this (discussion) is because it’s important,” State Treasurer John Kennedy said.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Levee District was in charge of flood protection and also managed property it owned, such as real estate, a marina, a casino and airport. After the storm, there was pressure to separate the two functions because there was a feeling that the non-flood asset management distracted the levee district from the goal of flood protection.
It was something that received a lot of public support in the year after the storm, said Ruthie Frierson, founder of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans.
“We are united as a community to keep a focus on flood protection,” she told the Bond Commission.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has been formed and includes the former Orleans Levee District flood control and hurricane protection operations. A different group, the Orleans District Division of Non-Flood Assets Board, controls the other non-flood assets.
At the state Bond Commission meeting Thursday, the issue was a 6.07-mill tax, 30-year tax renewal for money that will just go for flood control work.
Those in favor of allowing the tax to go to voters on Nov. 6 said all legal requirements have been met, the Nov. 6 date will have larger turnout because of the presidential election and it will be cheaper for the board because so many things will be on the ballot.
People opposing the ballot measure say there’s still time between now and 2015, when the current tax expires, to hold an election. Opponents also claim the current tax proposal is being rushed through by the levee board to exclude the non-flood asset interests.
“I hope this doesn’t send us back to the politics of the past that caused the creation of this board,” said Timothy Doody, president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. “Here we are seven years from Katrina and it seems the further we get from that event, the hazier memories get.”
State Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, said everyone thinks flood protection is important, but there remains the problem that when the state Legislature split the two functions, there was no revenue stream set up to take care of the non-flood asset side.
“This is not about taking funds from flood protection,” said Robert Lupo, chairman of the Orleans District Division of Non-Flood Assets Board.
However, he said, it’s premature to approve the measure to be on the ballot because it does not include any language to take care of Lakeshore Drive, one of the assets.
The Bond Commission decided to postpone a vote until a special meeting later this month, giving the two sides a chance to work out their problems, Kennedy said.