By William Khan
Hiking the cost of parking meters would be economically counterproductive and regressive. It would take a greater bite of incomes from service workers, and it would be especially harmful to the hospitality workers and businesses that make the city’s economic engine—tourism—run.
Our city needs creative solutions to its fiscal crisis. Taking more money from workers who have not seen an increase in the minimum wage and who are grappling with a rising cost of living is not the answer to New Orleans’ budgetary woes.
Here are four practical alternatives to raising parking meter rates.
1) Legalize, regulate, and tax short-term rentals. Our city is desperate for revenue, and it is a unique magnet for tourists and visitors. The city and the public need to accept reality, and legalize short-term rentals like Airbnb and Homeaway so that they can be regulated and taxed for the benefit of our cash-strapped city.
2) Tax non-profits with a special emphasis on the commercial operations of non-profit entities that are not related to their core mission and place greater scrutiny over vacant or blighted properties owned by non-profits. Taxing non-profits properly means that they can start to pay their fair share of property, sales, and other taxes. In 2011, the Bureau of Governmental Research estimated that 43% of property value in New Orleans was exempt from taxes.
3) Eliminate freight, passenger, and loading zones for non-existent businesses and replace them with metered parking that provides recurring revenue. The city should comprehensively review the no-parking zones that were put in place decades ago and no longer relevant in many areas. There are loading, freight, and passenger zones in front of vacant storefronts and empty buildings for businesses that are no longer in operation. The city could monetize a lot of underutilized curbs and streets by eliminating obsolete freight/loading zones and adding metered parking.
4) Increase fees for filming permits, including a hike in costs for street closures, sidewalk blockages, traffic obstructions, and other inconveniences. According to the Department of Public Works, renting an entire block in the French Quarter and disrupting the lives of neighborhood residents and businesses for a film only costs $615. If the city really wants to ensure that tourists contribute more to the municipal budget but that locals do not bear the brunt of increased fees, the city could always charge film crews extra for taking over public streets.
William Khan is a resident of New Orleans and French Quarter business owner.