August 20, 2020 10:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - At today's regular meeting, the City Council formally approved the renaming of Jefferson Davis Parkway in honor of Dr. Norman C. Francis, amended the City Code to exempt feminine products from local sales tax, passed an ordinance clarifying its authority to mandate the removal of statues and monuments on public property, and called a special election asking Orleans Parish voters to consider several millage propositions.
The Council also approved two initiatives to address inequities within the criminal justice system.
Council Approves Final Step in Renaming Jefferson Davis Parkway
The Council formally voted to rename the entirety of Jefferson Davis Parkway to Doctor Norman Francis Parkway with the passage of Ordinance 33,004. The name change, which was originally proposed by Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno in June, received unanimous approval from the City Planning Commission (CPC) at this month's meeting.
Today's vote represents a huge step forward for the entire City of New Orleans. Instead of glorifying the white supremacist values of the past, the well-traveled roadway will now commemorate a champion of the civil rights movement, civic leader, and tireless proponent of philanthropic endeavors.
"Removing the vestiges of Jim Crow from our public spaces is essential work. It does not solve our problems, but it is a small part of healing our society's wounds. This change, driven by a community-led petition, supported by five current or former New Orleans Mayors, US Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, Congressmen, State Senators and even national figures like Stevie Wonder, is just the beginning of our work to defeat and dismantle systems and symbols of white supremacy and racism," said Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno.
The approved change will go into effect on January 1, 2021.
Dr. Francis receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2006
"Pink Tax" Exemption to Lower Costs of Feminine Products
The Council passed Ordinance 33,090, which amends the City Code to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from local sales and use taxes. Unlike many other essential health products that are available tax-free, feminine health products like tampons are not exempt from taxation, enacting an unnecessary premium on products women buy as a part of daily life.
According to Lift Louisiana, the average annual cost to buy diapers for one child is $1,460. Exempting the local 5% sales tax from diapers would result in a family saving close to $73 in sales tax per child annually. Lift also calculates that the average woman spends close to $160 on feminine hygiene products per year; this exemption would save $7.95 in sales tax annually. Estimates by Lift predict this exemption could lead to roughly $2.5M in sales tax savings for New Orleanians.
With the Council's approval of this ordinance, New Orleans becomes the first city in Louisiana to grant a sales tax exemption on feminine hygiene products and diapers.
Councilmembers Remain Steadfast in Efforts to Dismantle Systemic Racism
The Council approved Ordinance 33,071 to clarify and reaffirm the Council's authority to mandate the immediate removal of monuments, statues, plaques, or other structures, erections, or works of art commemorating an event or individual from outdoor display on public property. Per the ordinance, the Council reaffirms its commitment to combating and dismantling systemic racism, including recognizing and confronting racist institutions and landmarks.
With today's Jefferson Davis Parkway renaming approval, and the newly-created Street Renaming Commission, the Council and the entire city are taking great strides to right the wrongs of the past and create a more inclusive and welcoming community for future generations.
Voters to Consider Millages to Support Infrastructure, Housing, Education & More
The Council adopted Resolution R-20-266, calling for a special election on December 5, 2020, to approve several millages in lieu of those previously approved by voters to support citywide infrastructure, housing, economic development, and early childhood education needs.
The resolution includes the following millage propositions that will be up for a vote:
- CITYWIDE MILLAGE PROPOSITION #1: PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE
Authorizing the City to levy a special tax of 2.619 mills for 20 years (estimated at $10,500,000 in the first year) with the proceeds dedicated to the payment of debt service obligations and public infrastructure projects across New Orleans, such as repairing, improving, maintaining and operating streets and bridges, surface and subsurface drainage systems and stormwater management facilities, as well as public buildings and safety facilities.
- CITYWIDE MILLAGE PROPOSITION #2: LIBRARY & EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Authorizing the City to levy a special tax of 0.987 mills for 20 years (estimated at $4,000,000 in the first year) with the proceeds allocated to constructing, improving, maintaining and operating public libraries, early childhood education facilities and related programs.
- CITYWIDE MILLAGE PROPOSITION #3: HOUSING & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Authorizing the City, over the course of twenty years, to levy special taxes of a.) 1.05 mills (estimated at $4,250,000 in the first year) for the purpose of constructing, acquiring, improving, maintaining and operating affordable housing facilities and alleviating urban blight; and b.) 1.164 mills (estimated at $4,600,000 in the first year) to be used to support economic development activities in New Orleans, provided that a portion of the monies collected be remitted to certain state and statewide retirement systems.
Measures Passed to Address Public Defender's Office Funding and Unfairness of Court Fee Collection Gains
Following favorable support from the Criminal Justice Committee earlier this week, the Council approved two significant items, delivering on a commitment to thoughtfully examine the City's criminal legal system for opportunities to reduce inequity.
Ordinance 33,093 attempts to reduce the funding disparity whereby the District Attorney's Office receives two dollars in City funds for every dollar received by the Public Defender's Office, not including the significant in-kind support provided to the City's prosecutors and the supplemental resources of the Police Department.
"The ongoing funding crisis at the New Orleans Public Defender's Office is unacceptable," said Councilmember-At-Large and Criminal Justice Committee Chair Jason Williams. "This 'ordinary injustice,' which has been normalized in courts across this country, often leads to life-disrupting, costly and deadly outcomes we can no longer allow to continue."
Resolution R-20-192 states the Council's objection to the continuation of the "user-pay" system that has existed for generations and incentivizes the transition away from the oppressive culture that has permeated the system for decades.
"Today's resolution showed this Council's commitment to hearing and acting upon the desires of those that filled the streets of cities and towns across the country this summer," said District "C" Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. "We must make real structural changes to our criminal justice system if we are ever going to see progress. Eliminating overly punitive fines and fees is an important step in that process."