The final score on Saturday’s New Orleans property tax vote was a lopsided 29 percent yes, 71 percent no.

Tallied a different way, it was Mayor LaToya Cantrell 1, City Council 0.

In a truly strange turn of events, the council had scheduled the millage increase, which would have provided the Council on Aging with a direct funding stream to increase services such as Meals on Wheels, against the mayor’s wishes. Cantrell argued that she wanted to address these needs as part of a broader proposal rather than dedicate a millage to a private organization.

In a second unusual development, a political action committee affiliated with the mayor actively campaigned against the ballot proposal.

Here’s some of the language from an Action New Orleans PAC mailer that arrived in mailboxes on Election Day: “Those who spend our tax dollars should be accountable to the taxpayers,” it said. “If the new property tax for the Council on Aging is passed this Saturday, that will not be the case in New Orleans.”

Grace Notes: New Orleans' dueling millage votes just one more example of why Louisiana has too many elections

New Orleans Council on Aging tax proposal brings political, policy debates before voters

The mailer also pointed out that “this is a new tax on homeowners, including seniors.” And it pitched a separate tax proposal that Cantrell strongly supports, this one a renewal that would redistribute money for recreation, which will be on the May 4 ballot. That tax, the piece said, “will benefit people in every neighborhood of all ages, including thousands of seniors who participate in NORD activities.”

The voters sided with the mayor, which actually wasn’t such a hard sell even for people who support increasing services for the elderly, as Cantrell insists she does. With property values on the rise, lots of New Orleanians are already struggling to pay higher tax bills. So while the outcome surely reflects her political strength, that wasn’t the only factor.

Still, the result does put the ball in Cantrell’s court. In opposing the tax, she has talked about coming up with a better plan that, as her PAC mailer said, “addresses all of our city’s needs — including early childhood education and mental health.”

Now that the tax has failed, it’s time for her to stop talking and start planning.


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.