In the weeks leading up to Saturday’s vote to renew a property tax that funds one-third of the city’s drainage operations, Sewerage & Water Board general superintendent Joe Becker spoke openly about his fear that this year’s seemingly anti-establishment mood could scuttle the tax, leading to deep cuts for the agency.
“We’re very concerned that people are just going to walk into the booth, see ‘Taxes’ and vote no,” Becker said in November, barely a week after Donald Trump’s Electoral College upset shocked the nation.
It turns out, Becker had little reason to be concerned. Bolstered by support from nearly every public official and watchdog agency in the city, the drainage tax renewal passed easily. Meanwhile, a smaller new property tax to restore funding to the firefighters’ pension fund was not as popular, but still managed to pass.
Of the two, the drainage tax passed most easily, with exactly two-thirds of voters citywide (67 percent) casting ballots in favor of it, a result that repeats down to the precinct level. Only 8 of the city’s 350 precincts voted ‘no,’ all of which were in and around New Orleans East and the Venetian Isles.
Likewise, in Uptown, nearly every ward voted in favor of the drainage tax by landslides. In fact, in only two precincts was the result even with 10 points — Precinct 14-26 in the Fontainebleau at 51.4 percent, and Precinct 2-6 in Central City at 52.4 percent. The individual wards (long strips of precincts that radiate from the river to the center of Broadmoor) all voted for the tax by margins of 75 to 80 percent, except the 17th Ward, which still exceeded the city’s average with a 69-percent ‘yes’ vote.
|Ward||Area||Percent voting ‘yes’ for drainage|
|10||Lower Garden/Central City||75%|
|11||Irish Channel/Central City||73%|
The firefighters’ pension tax — whether because it is a new tax, or perhaps as a lingering symptom of voters’ frustration with the long-running dispute that led to it — drew 59 percent ‘yes’ votes across the city, still a solid win but not as unanimous an embrace. The pension failed in 35 precincts and tied in four more — again, most heavily concentrated in the New Orleans East and Ninth Ward precincts, but with a four each in Algiers, Gentilly and Lakeview.
Only one Uptown precinct actually voted against the pension tax, the same Ward 14-26 that was less enthusiastic about the drainage tax. There, the pension tax lost by a single vote, 55 ‘yes’ ballots to 56 ‘no.’ A handful of other precincts passed the tax narrowly — two in Central City, two in West Carrollton and one near Jefferson Avenue.
About 27.5 percent of registered New Orleans voters cast ballots on the two property tax items, slightly fewer than the nearly 30 percent who voted in the U.S. Senate runoff.