Data Center Report Addresses Structural Limits on Black Political Power

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NEW ORLEANS – From the Data Center:

The Data Center has released the first in a series of briefs on systemic inequity in New Orleans. The new report is titled “New Orleans and the Hollow Prize Problem: Structural Limits on Black Political Power.”

As cities, including New Orleans, began electing Black mayors for the first time, those mayors’ ability to provide opportunities for upward mobility for residents was greatly constrained. These constraints were a result of several factors, including federally supported suburban development—and subsequent white flight—and the loss of manufacturing and other middle-skilled jobs paying family sustaining wages. Additionally, funding from states and the federal government began to decline in the late 1970s. Thus, at the moment when cities like New Orleans were first electing Black mayors, and many working-class residents were seeking help on critical needs such as housing and employment, city governments lacked the revenue and influence necessary to act on these mandates. This was the standard state of affairs that many Black mayors faced as they took office.

This report examines the history of declining city tax revenues in New Orleans through the 1980s, the relevant interventions prioritized by New Orleans’ mayors beginning with Ernest ‘Dutch’ Morial, and the challenges facing current Mayor LaToya Cantrell as she attempts to address the effects of multiple, compounding crises for low-income residents.

The brief ends with recommendations that include prioritizing new federal funding streams to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, working with the Louisiana legislature to create a regional taxing district, and redrawing state legislative districts such that they unite suburban and urban residents whose demands are increasingly similar.  

Since 1997, the Data Center has been an objective partner in bringing data to conversations about “building a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable region.”


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