Action New Orleans, a political action committee formed last year to back Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s political agenda, on Tuesday morning criticized comments made by New Orleans tourism leader Stephen Perry in an interview with The Lens, calling Perry “unhinged.”
In the interview, which was featured on The Lens’ weekly podcast Behind The Lens, Perry — president of New Orleans & Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau — shot back against Cantrell’s recent campaign to redirect local tourism tax revenue from the tourism industry to city government.
Cantrell says the city needs the money to pay for what her administration estimates are tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs. But Perry told The Lens that such a move would undercut the city’s economy, saying that new revenue would be wasted on what he characterized as an underperforming city government.
“In an unhinged interview with the Lens, J. Stephen Perry, who takes home over $430K per year to promote the City, spent most of his time tearing it down,” Action New Orleans wrote in a Tuesday morning press release. (A 2016 CVB tax filing — the most recent one available — shows that Perry’s compensation from the tourism group was closer to $460,000.)
“He attacked local law enforcement,” Action New Orleans’ statement said. “He attacked the French Quarter community. And he made bizarre threats to ‘embarrass people.’ ”
In the interview, Perry repeatedly said the tourism industry was a better steward of the money than the city would be, pointing to services that he said the city had failed to properly manage.
“Take the French Quarter. You’ve got a city that takes a 13-by-8 block area that’s arguably the single most valuable neighborhood commercially in the entire United States. They can’t clean it. They can’t pick up the garbage,” he said. “And so you can understand our skepticism about saying, ‘All right. Let’s diminish the size of the economy and give a little more to them to continue performing badly.’ ”
He indicated that he was preparing to make that case directly to the public.
“We’re trying not to embarrass anybody right now, but we’re about to have to start doing that,” he said.
Action New Orleans was formed last summer by Cantrell’s mayoral campaign manager Maggie Carroll. Last month, the PAC began actively pushing Cantrell’s agenda to the public, with a particular emphasis on tourism taxes, the Advocate reported.
Under current laws, the city gets only about 10 percent of the New Orleans hotel tax, with much of the rest going to the Superdome, the convention center and tourism marketing.
Changing that would require action from the legislature. State Senate President John Alario and Gov. John Bel Edwards have said they are opposed to Cantrell’s proposal.