TALK OF SECESSION HEATS UP AMONG NEW ORLEANS EAST RESIDENTS

Political battle may be on the horizon

 

By Vincenzo Ciccone

 

NEW ORLEANS, La – The political movement of New Orleans East residents to formally secede from the City of New Orleans, once considered a long shot during the turbulent 1970s, now has gained in popularity.

 

“We’re looking to secede in the near future,” said Alicia Plummer Clivens, a Louisiana State Democratic Central Committee Member for District 100, businesswoman, political activist, and lifelong resident of New Orleans who grew up in the Upper Ninth Ward. “We’ve been suffering for a very long time. We started feeling like we were the step children of New Orleans, and we’re about sick of it.”

 

Clivens explained the reason for the outcry. “We pay over 55 percent of the tax dollars to the city budget, and we’re not seeing anything for our tax dollars. Things were bad before Katrina, but things got worse after Katrina. We were one of the areas most damaged, but got the least amount of resources in Katrina recovery dollars. They used the Lower Ninth Ward as the poster child in front of the nation to be able to get the dollars to come, but the money did not come to where it was needed,” Clivens said.

 

The New Orleans East section of the City of New Orleans is “separated” from “New Orleans proper” by the Industrial Canal. New Orleans East is the geographic area lying to the east of the canal, including the Lower Ninth Ward, and represents “67 percent of the land mass” of the city. “New Orleans proper,” on the other hand, is the part of the city lying west of the canal, according to Clivens.

 

The population of Orleans Parish is 354,850. This parish is “contiguous” to the City of New Orleans and generates approximately $170,421,809 in sales tax annually. The property tax revenue is an estimated $1,152 per capita, according to a 2010 report filed by the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

 

Clivens estimates New Orleans East residents contribute $350 million to the city budget in tax revenues, yet only 91 police officers are assigned to take care of this area of the city that is larger than Lake Charles, La. She contends that some 250 police officers should be on patrol in the streets of New Orleans East. “We simply are not getting a bang for our dollar,” said Clivens.

 

Ronald Rankins, 21, a New Orleans East resident, agrees, “For a long time the East has not been receiving its part of the money as being a part of the city. They’re always working on uptown and working on downtown.”

 

 

The secession movement is also not without precedent in Louisiana. “The last city to secede was Central Louisiana in 2005. They seceded from East Baton Rouge and became their own city,” Clivens added.

 

Clivens concedes that a similar effort to secede was quashed in the 1970s, but her research of the legal path to secession has left her optimistic.

 

“We will be gathering petitions, and we have to have ten percent of the community or ten thousand signatures. That will put it to a vote. The problem I find is everybody in the City of New Orleans has an opportunity to say yes let them go or let them stay. We’ll keep their money, and you all can’t go anywhere. On the chance that we’re successful, then it goes to the governor who can put it on the statewide ballot. Then, if we win, the governor appoints an interim government and sets up elections for permanent seats with terms,” Clivens explained.

 

The movement thus far is a grass roots effort or as Clivens describes it, “a group of citizens who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

 

Sidebar: To read Richard Campanella’s brief history of New Orleans, click here:

http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/94.3/campanella.html.

Sidebar: To read the full report of annual report of the Louisiana Department of Revenue,

click here: http://revenue.louisiana.gov/publications/TCReport(09.10)Final.pdf.

 

Photo captions:

 

Redwood St., pictured above, is part of the New Orleans East community.

 

neighborhood

Redwood St., pictured above, is part of the New Orleans East community.

levee

 

Improving the stability of levees like the one pictured below is an example of one of the ways Katrina recovery dollars should have been spent, according to Ms. Clivens.

 

 

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