Mayor LaToya Cantrell has a new weapon in her arsenal as she seeks to redirect millions of tax dollars from local tourism groups to infrastructure and pushes a range of other priorities.
On Tuesday, Cantrell unveiled Action New Orleans, a political action committee that describes its mission as informing and engaging residents on quality-of-life issues facing New Orleans.
“In doing so, we aspire to support the goals of the Cantrell administration,” according to the group’s website.
The group is being overseen by Maggie Carroll, who ran Cantrell’s 2017 campaign and who worked with the mayor, then a private citizen, at the Broadmoor Improvement Association in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Carroll did not respond to questions Tuesday about how the group will be used.
The committee was initially formed in August but had no public presence until Cantrell tweeted a link to its website on Tuesday. It will not be required to file financial statements until February.
Mayors and other elected officials have long used political action committees — independent organizations, often referred to as PACs, that can collect and spend money for political purposes — to advance their goals.
Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, for example, formed a series of PACs to run campaigns in favor of ballot initiatives and millages sought by his administration before bringing those efforts under a more general-purpose organization, NOLA PAC, in his second term.
But based on the issues highlighted on its website, Action New Orleans may have a broader scope than just urging residents to vote for candidates or propositions supported by the Cantrell administration.
The group highlights six specific issues on its site, including bail reform, affordable housing, transportation, families in crisis and reducing homelessness.
But the most fleshed-out section deals with Cantrell’s desire to redirect some of the tax money that now goes to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Mercedes-Benz Superdome and other hospitality and tourism groups to the city's coffers so it can be spent on infrastructure.
This section mirrors the approach of the Cantrell administration itself, which has shown an eagerness to mix it up with tourism groups over the issue.
Cantrell called a recent industry proposal that would bring in $6.7 million a year for the city through a new hotel tax “inadequate,” given the mammoth size of New Orleans’ infrastructure needs and the amount those organizations now get in tax revenue.
Since then, the mayor has launched a social media campaign highlighting the fact that the vast majority of the $200 million a year brought in by taxes on tourism in New Orleans goes back to tourism groups. The campaign also attempts to shame hotels for what it says are low wages paid to workers.