City Spends Millions on Mardi Gras, But Tourism Taxes Don’t Go to the City

By LaVonna Varnado-Brown

In a March 8, 2019 press release, two days after Fat Tuesday, Mayor Cantell expressed deep gratitude to all the departments whose efforts contributed to a successful Carnival 2019. The city spent millions to mobilize the “New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans Fire Department, New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, Department of Health, Department of Public Works, Department of Sanitation, Department of Property Management, Parking Enforcement, Parks and Parkways, Orleans Parish Communication District, and the New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.”

Aside from whatever enjoyment the people get out off Mardi Gras, its purpose is to bring in millions in profit for the tourist industry, which pays for none of these services. The press release magnifies the fact that the city is subsidizing multiple private industries without concern for the needs of the working class residents of New Orleans. I recognize that the mobilization of these resources is needed to ensure safety for the influx of tourists and New Orleans residents. But the contradiction is that many of these resources are denied to the residents who live and work here every day. In the case of hospitality workers and service industry employees, our work generates the bulk of the revenue that they, in private board rooms, allocate as they see fit—usually away from black, brown, low income spaces.

$180 million in hotel taxes go to private non-elected commissions to boost the profits of private companies.  It does not go into the budget.   Meanwhile we have no money for infrastructure and early childhood education. This $180 million dollars worth of stolen taxes could be allocated for childcare for service industry workers during Mardi Gras while schools are closed.  This money could be used to provide healthcare, maternity leave, and pensions to service industry and hospitality workers.  This is not money that we need to letter write and ask for politely. This money belongs to the working class and has been stolen. We Demand that it be returned and used to elevate the humanity of workers locally. Doing so can only further illuminate and strengthen the city.  The time is now to educate ourselves on the things we want to see changed. Agitate others to view the contradictions that exist. Then organize for revolution. The time for change is now and can begin with you, now.

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