Fact Check: Cantrell Admin Spreads Inaccuracies about FQMD Statements Regarding Task Force Patrols

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell

The battle over security patrols in the French Quarter continues, with Mayor Cantrell’s administration remaining at odds with the French Quarter Management District (FQMD) on how previously-collected tax monies should be spent. The FQMD is currently responsible for funding and oversight of the Supplemental Police Patrol Program more commonly known as the French Quarter Task Force and has requested access to public money in order to continue the program.

On Sunday, the FQMD issued a press release stating that the mayor’s office is holding $327,000 in funds from a supplemental sales tax commonly known as the “Quarter for the Quarter,” which was originally intended to pay for Louisiana State Police (LASP) patrols in the French Quarter. Voters overwhelmingly voted against continuing the tax in December, after years of poor reporting and documentation of expenditures by the LASP.  The money is being held in the French Quarter Economic Development District (FQEDD) Trust Fund, which is overseen by the New Orleans City Council. The FQMD has requested those funds to continue Task Force patrols. In return, Cantrell accused the FQMD of failing to manage their financial resources effectively.

“Late last year, the FQMD represented to the City and to the general public that they would continue to fund task force operations in the French Quarter through April when a new funding mechanism will go before voters,” Cantrell said. “The FQMD failed to manage their financial resources effectively enough to keep these patrols on the street, and their funding expired today. Because the FQMD failed to meet their obligations, the City will be tapping into reserve funds from the FQEDD to continue providing security in the Quarter.”

On Monday, New Orleans Director of Strategic Initiatives Joshua Cox held a press conference where he doubled down on those statements, saying that voters were told the FQMD would be able to fund the French Quarter Task Force patrols for six months.

That appears to be an exaggeration, however. A report released by the Bureau of Governmental Research on December 2, 2020, showed that the FQMD funds supporting the French Quarter Task Force would run out in February 2021. On December 11, 2020, FQMD Chairman Christian Pendelton told WWL-TV that the group had enough money to keep patrols on the street until March, at which point the FQMD would have to rely on “gap funding.”

Finally, in a Dec 31, 2020 statement, the FQMD said that its Board of Commissioners voted to approve a motion to enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with the City of New Orleans to allow the FQMD to continue to fund and operate the Supplemental Police Patrol Program for up to six months, or until their funds were exhausted. “As the French Quarter looks into 2021 and the impact of COVID-19 on hospitality revenues that have funded supplemental security, the FQMD wants to assure stakeholders that we are dedicated to exhausting our restricted funds for public safety,” Pendelton said.

The FQMD said has it has reached out to the mayor’s office “continuously” since the tax proposal failed in December to negotiate an agreement to continue supplemental security patrols. However, Cox noted that the Cantrell administration has been against the language proposed by the FQMD in the CEA “since the beginning.” Under the proposed language, the entirety of the “Quarter for the Quarter” sales tax revenues would be allocated to the FQMD, which they would then use to fund the Supplemental Police Patrol Program, which would pay for off-duty NOPD officers to patrol the French Quarter. However, the Cantrell administration wanted half of the money to be spent on unarmed Department of Homeland Security employee patrols which would address “quality of life” and code enforcement issues.

That plan was the one presented to voters on December 5, which 67 percent of voters rejected. Many felt that the City failed to present a complete spending and accountability plan to ensure that the tax would be effectively used to address public safety needs in the French Quarter.

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