Grace Notes: Crime and flooding are top concerns, but short-term rentals could be high on next New Orleans mayor's to-do list

Thursday, 12 October 2017, 12:56:25 PM. In a recent poll of New Orleans voters for The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV, the 500 registered voters interviewed offered entirely predictable answers as to which issues are most

In a recent poll of New Orleans voters for The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV, the 500 registered voters interviewed offered entirely predictable answers as to which issues are most important: In first place came crime and public safety, with 72 percent giving it a 10 on a scale of one to 10, and in second place came drainage and flood control, with 64 percent declaring it as important as can be. No other issue listed topped 50 percent.

As for just what the new mayor is likely to tackle once he or she takes office, though, I'd put another issue high on the to-do list: grappling with how to regulate short-term rentals offered through sites such as Airbnb.

The next mayor will have to hire a police chief and new head of the Sewerage & Water Board. But beyond that, tackling crime and flooding will take longer-range, multifaceted plans that are unlikely to come together quickly.

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But addressing the growth of short-term rentals, an issue that has roiled a number of neighborhoods and come up repeatedly on the campaign trail, and that can be handled more completely through legislation.

Late last year, the City Council adopted rules backed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu that regulated these properties for the first time, but even then members said they'd likely revisit them. Now that they're in effect, the conversation among council and mayoral candidates has shifted to how the rules are enforced and whether the limitations do enough to protect investors, residents who rent out their homes, neighborhoods and low-to-moderate income residents in need of housing. All of the major candidates for mayor, and many council hopefuls, are now saying the policy should be revisited.

If all those interests sound like they could conflict, well, the poll hints at why. In general, 43 percent of those interviewed said they favor allowing residential properties in their neighborhoods to be used for short term rentals, and 41 said they oppose. Right there, you've got the makings of a robust debate.

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