By: Allen Johnson
State Sen. Cheryl Gray met with Uptown constituents last week to discuss proposed legislation that would put their neighborhoods on one of the fastest growing trends in government nationwide special taxing districts. Neighborhoods love them, says Jim Brandt, president of the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council (PAR). There are three types security districts, in which neighborhood residents tax themselves for extra police protection; improvement districts, in which residents pay additional fees for security, beautification, and other purposes; and development districts, which have no taxing authority but can enter into contracts and accept contributions. Orleans Parish currently has 23 special neighborhood taxing districts. Eleven are security districts, nine are improvement districts, and three are development districts, according to Gray legislative aide Cheryl Napoli. Gray is asking the Legislature to authorize the creation of four more special districts all in her Senate district. Critics say special taxing districts contribute to the Balkanization of city services, raise questions about the deployment of off-duty cops, and widen gaps between haves and have-nots. Grays bills need both legislative passage and citywide voter approval on Oct. 4.