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F.Q. residents gather to learn about proposed sales tax to fund state police

French Quarter residents gather at Omni Royal Orleans French Quarter residents gather at Omni Royal Orleans

After a violent random attack in the French Quarter, some residents point to the need for additional long term security. Tuesday, French Quarter voters gathered to hear more from the city about a proposed additional sales tax, intended to fund state police presence in the quarter, for five years.

“The state police will go away if this tax does not pass,” City Representative Ryan Berni said Tuesday night.

That's the reality the City of New Orleans wants French Quarter voters to understand. Speaking before a group of business owners and residents Tuesday, Berni outlined the specifics of the proposal, which if agreed to by voters, calls for a quarter cent sales tax to be imposed in the newly created economic development district.

“Anything we can do as property owners, I think, I’m all for that,” resident Juliette Laughlin said.

Laughlin explains, she feels safer seeing state troopers walk the streets of the quarter, especially after recent incidents of violent crime.    

Early Saturday morning, two woman attacked a man walking on Burgundy Street, first sucker punching him and then robbing him.

“That's just unbelievable to see something like that,” business owner Donald Barkemeyer commented.

Barkemeyer says the video made him sick. He believes the area needs all the security it can get, so he's in favor of the sales tax, which would provide a minimum of 30 troopers, meaning seven would be on patrol at any time.

“I feel confident that it’s going to pass and I think it’s much needed,” Barkemeyer said.

The amount of extra money the average shopper will have to shell out is minimal. In fact, for every $100 spent, the sales tax would only call for an additional 25 cents.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, its negligible,” resident Edward Foulks said.

But not everyone is in favor of the plan. Resident Larry Lane thinks it's just a quick fix.

Lane explains, “I don't think there’s anything long term to help NOPD and that was the idea when we started out bringing state troopers in here. There’s a shortfall on the number of NOPD officers we have and the idea was to bridge the gap.”

Lane says if the tax passes, he'd like to see 100 percent of the money go to state police the first year, then shrink in size the following years, with more funds going to New Orleans police.

The tax is expected to bring in two million dollars annually, which would be matched by the hospitality industry. The city would also kick in $500,000, bringing the total to four and a half million.

And Tuesday, the Bureau of Governmental Research, threw its support behind the plan, saying it'll improve safety for residents and tourists alike.

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