Orleans Parish Prison Takes Big Hit in Local Election Results!!
Kind of disappointed in the election results in general, but specifically one local proposition that failed on Tuesday. The people of New Orleans voted the wrong way on this one. Granted it was a slightly more complex proposal than most, involving giving the jailer access to new cash from a previous bond issue that is getting cheaper to maintain over time. It meant around $9 million annually, a very tidy sum for a jail under a Federal Consent Decree as I write this.
This proposition enjoyed widespread political support prior to the election. It doesn’t matter since the proposition failed 51,000 to 46,000. However, consent decree changes are widespread therefore costly. That $9 will have to come out of the Mayor’s budget and he doesn’t have it. We need our jail to be operating constitutionally permanently, not occasionally, as it has for eons. So this bond issue failing creates a large funding problem. This makes life more difficult for the mayor, Marlin Gusman, the City Council, the federal judge overseeing the decree, and everyone else seeking a more just and humane jail.
Gusman and Landrieu presented a unified front in an effort to pass this proposition. That doesn’t happen very often. About as often as when pigs fly.
The Orleans Law Enforcement District, the legal vehicle the Criminal Sheriff uses to issue bonds, was granted a 2.9 mill property tax dedicated to servicing bonds that the electorate voted for in 2008. As these bonds are retired, the costs to maintain them drop and this is where the ‘free’ money would come from that made both Mitch Landrieu and Marlin Gusman see eye to eye briefly. If they are both chasing a pile of money that can be used to pay for jail and decree costs that costs nobody nothing, they become thick as thieves. This is a very rare occurrence.
The honeymoon is over for sure as they are scrabbling today over $900,000. Gusman went to court to ask for $6.7 million he claims Landrieu owes him for jail expenses through the end of 2014. The $900,000 Gusman wants is for immediate operational costs like inmate food, medicine, and staff payroll. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Gusman’s jail is basically broke.
Who’s the real loser here? The people of New Orleans, who have to put up with a bad jail a little longer due to continued funding problems. This was a free pass that was voted down by 6,000 votes. It cost the taxpayers zilch, but jail reform efforts got $9 million annually to fund the fix it effort. That’s a no brainer.