Although I cannot claim to speak on behalf of every business in the French Quarter, I can confidently say that my quiet and hardworking community of merchants and shopkeepers strongly supports the French Quarter Economic Development District Tax Proposition. However, our support and the funds raised by the tax increase, which come from the fruits of ours labor and efforts to make an honest living, should not be taken for granted. While a 0.2495 percent increase in the tax rate may amount to small change, it should produce a significant shift in attitudes toward tourism in the French Quarter.
First, tourism and the businesses involved in it provide significant benefits to the French Quarter and to the rest of our city. Apart from the jobs, investments, sales taxes, property taxes and national recognition that the hospitality industry generates, tourism provides intangible benefits as well. The creativity and cultural appeal of the French Quarter literally lubricates the economy of New Orleans and helps to make our home the most interesting city in America. If it takes a tax increase in the French Quarter (which will largely be borne by tourists) and a dedication of those funds to public safety for people to realize how tourism sustains both the French Quarter and New Orleans, then so be it.
Second, anyone who has lived or worked in the French Quarter knows the neighborhood would be far more dangerous without the presence of the businesses, workers, deliverymen and customers who deter, report and recognize criminal activity. The tourist businesses of the French Quarter often act as the eyes and ears of the overworked and understaffed NOPD, and workers in the hospitality industry are sometimes the true first responders in reporting criminal activity, providing aid or calling for police and medical assistance.
Third, the city’s leaders should focus their efforts on genuine threats to quality of life and real risks to public safety. If the sales tax increase can focus the attention of city hall on addressing the major challenges of the French Quarter like crime, aging infrastructure and broken streetlights, then I, as a stakeholder of the French Quarter, am willing to put my own money toward addressing true problems in the historic district.