By David Soublet, Sr.

My family has resided in our New Orleans East neighborhood in District E for over 32 years since my daughter was born in 1991. The neighborhood was built in the late 50’s and early 60’s. There are mostly modest sized brick slab homes on oak tree-lined streets near Chef Menteur Hwy and Crowder Blvd. Like most neighborhoods in the city, Hurricane Katrina took a heavy toll on our properties. Our will and ability to return was tested. But, return we did for mostly practical reasons. Not the least was strong relationships built up over sometimes decades with good neighbors. Our neighborhood has not been affected materially by gentrification. But neighbors have noticed and expressed concern over property crime infiltration and litter.

To address the changes in our neighborhood, a dozen or so neighbors started meeting in summer of 2022. We planned how to better protect our real and personal property. And we cleaned up the area and improved the curb appeal of the main entrances to the neighborhood. We formally resurrected our long dormant neighborhood association and elected a board/officers. We got out and picked up trash along Chef. And we even chased off a few large trucks that were illegally parking there. The neighborhood has approximately 750 parcels spread out over 8 north/south parallel streets and 3 east /west roads including Chef.

Neighbors Band Together Against Crime and Litter

Having worked for 20 years in local and state government, I suggested that we try to pass a special assessment property fee. Yes, a tax. We need to fund our security and beautification efforts. In my opinion, this was the best way to fund large scale improvements on an annual basis. 30 or so other neighborhoods in the city already have these “security districts” installed. Most of us agree that we can’t rely on NOPD to suddenly add hundreds of officers to their payroll.

While we have made progress, local and state government officials, frankly, have not been very helpful. The best semblance of guidance we received thus far is a 7 item list of things that have to be done to “create a security district”.  However, the timing within which these somewhat ambiguous items must be completed, and the proper sequence of addressing them, remains largely undefined. Also who is exactly responsible for determining that an item has been satisfactorily completed is unclear. 

We hoped to place a proposition on the October or November 2023 gubernatorial ballots.  Our hopes were dashed a few days ago when were advised that we were “not yet a district”. And we missed some unspecified deadline to complete the steps to become a district.  So, even after a year of meeting among ourselves and making multiple phone calls and emails to local and state officials, no measure can be put on the ballot in 2023.  To our dismay, we were even advised to hire an attorney to guide us. One official described it as a quagmire of “misinformation”.

Neighbors Band Together Against Crime and Litter

We are truly disappointed and feel let down by our elected officials. But the process has yielded valuable information about what we are facing.  We learned that at some point we will have to secure petition signatures of at least 30% of registered voters in the neighborhood to put the measure on the ballot.  That may be a real challenge. Based on an examination of the assessment records, approximately 44% of property owners do not have a homestead exemption on these properties.  That suggests that a few hundred of these properties are rented. And non-resident owners and tenants are not likely to support the measure.

We were also reminded that the tax revenues for these special assessment districts are received sporadically from the city coffers. This is due to the considerable late property tax payment patterns of the citizenry. Property taxes in Orleans parish are normally billed in early January of each year and generally due on January 31. But many don’t pay by the due date.

Another important revelation is there is redistricting at the state level. So our neighborhood is moving to a different state representative district in 2024. That means we have to build a brand new relationship at the state rep level to guide us through the remainder of the district creation process.

Neighbors Band Together Against Crime and Litter

Speaking for myself, but probably for many of my fellow association board members as well, we may be discouraged but not defeated.  The hurdles placed before us must be scaled to protect our investments and our still relatively quiet and friendly environs.  We have to press on, too, for the approximately 124 senior households who have over 65 age assessment freezes, for they are the property owners who likely have the most at stake if the neighborhood declines.  Hell, in 3 years, I’ll be one of those seniors, and I don’t plan to be forced out of what is now still a good neighborhood.  

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