If poll results were tea leaves, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu could probably read the new University of New Orleans Quality of Life poll and feel pretty good about Saturday’s public safety millage election.
The UNO poll didn’t directly ask how respondents plan to vote. But there are some positive signals in the data for Landrieu and other backers of the proposed 7.5 mill property tax increase, with two-thirds of the proceeds slated to go to hiring more cops and one-third to meet the city’s obligations to pay firefighter pensions.
For one thing, crime-fighting is clearly a top priority among respondents. Nearly half of the 403 New Orleans residents interviewed last month named crime as the city’s top problem. That’s down from 62 percent three years ago, but still awfully high. More than a third said they don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods at night, and a quarter reported hearing gunfire a few times a month.
Paired with that is a generally positive attitude toward the mayor and his police chief. Landrieu’s approval rating in the poll was 60 percent, even after he lost a chunk of white support, probably for his controversial drive to take down four Reconstruction-era monuments. And Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, the man who will be in charge of putting that extra money to good use should the millage pass, scored a 62 percent approval rating. That’s quite a vote of confidence considering all the negative news about slow response times and other shortcomings, which the department has already taken some major steps to address.
As for the firefighters, residents clearly think they’re doing a pretty good job. Fire protection scored highest on a list of best city services, with 71 percent rating it good or very good.
Not surprisingly, the condition of the city’s streets landed at the other end of the list, with 79 percent rating them poor or very poor. That’s potentially good news for backers of the other measure on the ballot Saturday, a $120 million bond issue that would go mostly toward street repairs.
Unlike public safety, the city expects to be able to cover the cost of this new street work without raising taxes, so voters would need some other reason to oppose it. Based on both the poll results and common sense, it’s hard to think of one.