On the Ballot

Commentary: Vote yes on New Orleans’ library funding measure

By Gambit Commentary

Source: Gambit

November 25, 2021

Early voting for the Dec. 11 municipal runoff begins Nov. 27 in the (thankfully) final election of the year. Voter turnout tends to be pitifully low in December elections, even when the stakes are high. This year’s election will set the stage for the post-pandemic era in New Orleans, making it a particularly important contest. We urge readers to take the few minutes required to fulfill their civic duty and go vote.

Below you will find our runoff ballot, which includes Gambit’s endorsements for sheriff and City Council seats in Districts B, C, D and E. We have taken no position in the Criminal District Court clerk race. In addition to the runoffs, the Dec. 11 election also presents voters with a choice of whether to approve millage renewals for the library and affordable housing.

We strongly endorse a yes vote on the first initiative, which would renew the existing 4-mill property tax millage for public libraries for another 20 years. Despite the mayor’s misinformation campaign last year, voters wisely rejected her bid to cut the library millage significantly. In the wake of that defeat, the City Council moved forward with a clean extension of the existing millage, keeping intact a primary source of funding for the city’s libraries. This is not a tax increase; it merely renews an existing millage for a vital city service.

We have chosen to remain neutral on the second ballot initiative, which proposes to renew the existing millage rate for the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund. The stated purpose of the renewal is of course laudable. But we have concerns about how the funds have been managed in the past. As the Bureau of Government Research recently pointed out, the city still does not have a plan laying out how the funds would be used for affordable housing and neighborhood improvement projects. Additionally, we are deeply concerned about BGR’s finding of “unexplained decreases in the Housing Fund’s tax revenue in 2020 and 2021.” Without more accountability, it is impossible for us to be confident the funds will be used appropriately.

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