Lieutenant Governor Bill Nungesser wants to restore tourism across Louisiana as the state reopens – and he wants to start by taking control of the French Quarter away from the city of New Orleans.
“For the last many years, New Orleans has been trending – three things: crime, cleanliness, new attractions – it’s been trending down,” Nungesser said during a segment on KEEL News Radio. “Now with this shutdown, we believe that if we don’t clean up the Quarter and bring it back with a bang it will have a negative impact on tourism as we open up the doors nationally, internationally. So goes New Orleans, so goes tourism in the rest of the state.”
According to Nungesser, his office is working on a plan to present to Mayor LaToya Cantrell that would mimic what was done in another tourism-heavy city – San Diego.
“We’re working on a plan to present to the mayor of New Orleans to do what they did in San Diego, where they took the Gaslamp District away from the city, ran it with the group that manages it, and have their own police force, clean the streets, and really make it the shining star that it ought to be to draw people to Louisiana.”
According to Nungesser, the French Quarter – and by extension the state – needs a “wow factor” in order to ensure a swift return of tourism in New Orleans. Anything less, Nungesser says, and the Quarter may not survive.
“There is legislation already in place for that Downtown Development District that gets money for extra police. It’s not managed properly,” Nungesser said. “There ought to be one [police] force all working together, crime cameras all over that Quarter, much like they did in San Diego.”
This echoes a plan Nungesser outlined in 2019 to turn the French Quarter into a Louisiana state park – a plan Cantrell soundly rejected. In the past, the Leiutenant Governor had said he would not pursue the proposal if businesses and residents in the French Quarter weren’t interested – but seems to be hoping that a prolonged COVID-19 shutdown may have generated more interested in a state takeover of management.
“Sometimes things have to get so bad that you have to take a step back and say, ‘What are we going to do to fix this?’ And I think this is one of those times. A slow crawl back into tourism in New Orleans…many of those businesses and restaurants won’t make it.”
In previous discussions on the issue, Mayor Cantrell had stated that while she welcomed Nungesser’s help with making the French Quarter a cleaner, more attractive tourist spot, she wasn’t interested in turing the area into a state park or giving the state control of management.