Hospitality district, board could be in the works for New Orleans
Aiming to streamline government and seal off avenues to corruption, New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina pushed to consolidate public offices and require political appointees to be chosen based on their fields of expertise. But despite a campaign pledge to rein in the city’s nearly 150 boards and commissions — including a few where profligate spending has piqued prosecutors’ interest — it appears that Mayor Mitch Landrieu and local tourism leaders have been quietly pushing to create a new board to govern a proposed downtown hospitality district, though the mayor on Friday sought to distance himself from the effort.
Under proposals by state Sen. Ed Murray and state Rep. Walt Leger III, both New Orleans Democrats, the district’s board would be comprised of as many as 11 appointees, about half of whom would serve at the mayor’s pleasure and without set terms.
The others would represent the city’s six main public and private tourism associations. The directors of those groups generally are close allies of Landrieu, who in his previous job as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor served as the state’s top tourism official.
Though voters wouldn’t directly choose any of the hospitality board members, the body would make policy decisions, and have the power to levy taxes and issue bonds, according to the bills.