Keith Hardie, a Carrollton neighborhood activist, reminded the candidates that a proposed property-tax to support the Audubon Institute had failed, in part because voters wanted their tax money to go to a wider range of recreation activities. The city, however, has no unified public parks system — it has individual boards that govern specific properties like Audubon Park, a recreation department, and even a Parks and Parkways department that handles other green spaces.
Would the candidates be in favor of uniting this “Balkanized” collection of agencies, Hardie asked, into a single public parks department like other cities? And would they then support a new property tax dedicated to funding it?
The worst of those individual boards serve as little semi-private fiefdoms people like Ron Foreman use to turn public subsidies into six figure salaries. The NORDC model introduced by Landrieu also engenders a kind of territorial jealousy over the best use of amenities that tends to favor friends wealthier interests and commercial partners. There are other concerns but Hardie's question was primarily about the most equitable use of public resources. Judging from the answers only Joseph Bouie seemed to understand this.
What the parks and the schools have in common, said State Rep. Joe Bouie, is that both have suffered from the post-Katrina trend of “privatizing” governmental services — through chartering the local schools to individual nonprofit boards or outsourcing the parks to the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission.Helena Moreno had actually brought up the schools first but in a slightly different sense than how Bouie means it. She suggested more "partnerships" between schools and parks. That's fine if she means it the way Bouie does when he says school facilities can host community events sometimes. But, in her version, the school facilities and the "open to the public" parks facilities really ought to be the same thing. That's a less good thought.
“We are actually privatizing almost all of our public assets. I have serious concerns about that … to take the community’s voice out of their tax dollars,” Bouie said, noting that the school were open to more neighborhood events before charters took them over. “Prior to the privatization of our schools, that’s how we used the schools.”
To be clear, though, her answer wasn't bad. It was just incomplete. Only Bouie talked about the privatization problem. Which means, of course, he is not the serious candidate in this race.