The Seven Commandments dissected

 

I have always thought the Seven Commandments, scripture of the Hoodies’ battle plan, were awful. Not just this or that point; the whole thing, from concept to comma. Reading this bully’s manifesto in fact finally drew me into this struggle. I don’t own a bar or play music. I just find abuse through articulate ignorance unacceptable.

Let’s start dissecting this fossil.

7 Essential Items to make New Orleans
Sound Ordinance fair and functional

1. Establishments that offer live entertainment must take reasonable measures to assure compliance with the requirements of the noise ordinance. Such measures include, but are not limited to, developing and implementing a sound control program and documenting sound level measurements to be kept on file at the premises.

Why is live entertainment singled out? Is recorded sound exempt? Motorcycle engines? Air conditioners? Why should a recording program be imposed on everybody? If a building has satisfactory sound management reducing emission to code, why should it have to spend time and money making sound charts? “Essential”1 starts it off as it means to go on: simplistic, one-size-fits-all prescriptions that disqualify the document from serious consideration. This is just not thought through.

The Neighborhoodies should understand from this why they are accused of being anti-music. Live music is the specific area this document targets. Some may suspect there is just not enough money in suing a 6 AM leaf blower or a 3AM Harley driver.

2. Appoint a full time person who will have the authority and affirmative duty to administer and enforce the ordinances, and who shall have the full backing of NOPD and Health Department, and who shall establish and maintain a publicly accessible (via interactive website) centralized record-keeping system to track complaints, enforcement and compliance efforts.

A bit better, though professional opinion says about four people minimum would be required to run a successful program here. There are many things to resolve. Is this about bars, or noise? Music, or disturbance? Who deals with boom cars and loud motorcycles late at night? Trash collection at 5 AM? Leaf blowers at 6 AM? Do all sound issues go to sound office, or does automotive stay with police? That is one reason the FQMD, an important stakeholder in the issue, recommends working out the sound management procedures, including enforcement under current ordinance, before tackling the text of a new statute.

3. Amend ordinance to clarify that all measurements of sound emanating from private or public property in all zoning districts will be taken at the property line of the source of the sound.

“All measurements.” A terminally bad oversimplification. Measurements at the property line are part of an evaluation process to determine the sources of sound. To decide how a property impacts its environment, you have to analyze the environment. That is why the WHO recommends receiving space as primary point of measurement. Once again, the amateur, simplistic, pre-judging, one-size-fits-all approach disqualifies this document from serious consideration. The evaluation routines must be determined by – and remain fine-tunable by – professional acousticians.

4. In order to impose penalties that will deter repeat offenses for abuse of sound ordinance standards, pass state legislation to allow higher or unlimited fines. In the absence of this legislation, consider other deterrents such as limited operating hours or complete shut down of the offending establishment.

Another terrible idea, unnecessary, impractical, wasteful and open to easy abuse. If the fine for second offense is say $500, and an offender is cited for violation, the officer can check again in 20 minutes. If they have cranked the volume back up, it is another $500. If an offender gets three fines a night for a few weeks, and a larger court imposed penalty for scofflaw, the effect is better and stays more in the hands of the sound management office.

5. Make significant revisions to the Mayoralty permitting process to ensure advance public notification and opportunities for public comment prior to granting a mayoralty permit authorizing a sound-producing land-use to the requesting establishment.

The quality of thought is getting worse. Public comment would be dominated by neighborhood association types – hardly the right people to sit in judgement of each event. This is a transparent power grab by the personality type that composed this document. This kind of approach overloads the permitting procedure, putting excessive burden on both applicant and administration. If the city wants a modification of the permitting process, it should be decided like any other administrative procedure, and then delegate to its department to administer.

 6. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Return decibel levels in Vieux Carré Commercial (VCC) and Vieux Carré Residential (VCR) districts to the following levels which existed in 1997 in the French Quarter and which still currently exist in the Marigny.

VCR: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 60 Lmax 70; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 55 Lmax 60.
VCC: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 65 Lmax 75; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 60 Lmax 65

7. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Enforce a maximum of 85 Lmax in the VCE for sound protruding into the public space. This maximum helps ensure that citizens and involuntary listeners won’t be exposed to sound beyond acceptable industrial levels. Also, maintain ambient as the standard in the VCE but use as “db level 10 above ambient noise level, not to exceed Lmax 85 db.”

Oversimplification. Lmax is not a suitable sole standard for modern urban conditions. Modern sources including WHO use Leq as main standard. This is a matter for scientific evaluation. The people who wrote this document are not nearly qualified. These details must be left to professionals, who might work to laymen’s ordinary language targets, but must be in charge of the means. It is not for the laymen to pretend to what they have not mastered by using the professional’s symbols.

The entire concept of using 1997 as a reference point is silly. This is just VCPORA’s instinct for historical reenactment. Nothing to do with science or good management. The goal is where we want to be in 2015 and 2020, not 1997, or where they may really want to go, 1859.
Dave Woolworth’s sound walk with several city council staffers and observers, whose results have been published on the city’s web sites, show on a page how inadequate these ideas are.

Many people, including members of more enlightened neighborhood associations, have been telling VCPORA and Chapman for months that their numbers and methods are flawed, but they won’t change. Some speculate that the objective may be to further empower their unofficial enforcement division, the Dementor Department, to harass businesses with private lawsuits. CM Head said in committee session this week that nobody wants that, yet on December 19th, all the council members endorsed first reading of a bill that would have done exactly that. I don’t want to disinter that horse for another beating, but to point out that allowing amateurs and parties with axes to grind to trample into the professionals’ zones of soundscape management is a formula for muddle. Council should be looking at framing laws that set up the sound management system, set out goals and outline procedures.

In the controversy about the December 19th amendment, VCPORA/Chapman bizarrely stated that its dB tables were similar to the Woolworth recommendations. I believe Dr Woolworth was quite surprised to hear it. Do they say such things out of total misunderstanding, or do they believe that propaganda, belief and pushing their program trump evidence and facts? What I call acoustic creationism?

The sound walk results have now cut the head off this snake, but note VCPORA’s response to date: no change. Loyalty to the unreal, through thick and thin.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional either. If some element of detail in my argument is wrong, I apologize, and refer the decision to Oxford Acoustics.

Council staff say the Sound Walk chart is public on their web site, but I have not been able to find it. This link should allow you to download it from my Dropbox account, or copy and paste into your browser:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hwf3ieb31ugzlxx/soundwalk%201-15-14%20city%20council%204-6pm%20FQ.xls

Please follow and like us:

HHNC, Part the 3d, and Last

 

One more point bothers me enough to keep flogging this horse, even though it is starting to look a bit dead.

We have to get something on paper.”

I think Jackie Clarkson, Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer all said that. LaToya Cantrell might have said it, if she had said anything at all. Maybe Ms Cantrell was listening better.

Why?

Genuine question, not a trap, trick or lead in to a joke.

I don’t get it. If you have to write something to get the conversation started, why not at least try to write good stuff instead of bad? Ms Head says her exec Jonathan Harris knows the field, so it must be good. But everybody knew at a glance that the draft corresponded to Chapman’s propaganda, not Woolworth’s research, so why wasn’t it checked with Oxford Acoustics for clangers?

And if it really didn’t matter, if it was just an opener and part of a fair and just process, why didn’t the CMs say so? Not hard to say: “This will not be law; we need it to open the debate. We know it is scientifically indefensible, and we promise the city, it will never be law in this form.”

They did not. They introduced it without prior debate; when introduced, they did not advertise debate to kick off from it; when the protest erupted, they withdrew it; and four days later, Stacy Head, its sponsor, as far as we can tell without explicit statements, was still supporting it.

Let’s assume I am an innocent. I am just not capable yet of understanding the legislative process here.

Can anyone connect those dots into a logical sequence?

i look forward to hearing from you.

Please follow and like us:

Another quick cold comment on Monday’s HHNC session

 

Two of them really, but I didn’t want to scare you, in case the cold weather is disabling your attention span.

Kristin Palmer asked for a change in terms of the discussion. Nobody wants to criminalize music, we want this conversation to be carried on in scientific terms, etc.

That really neglects the people at the core of this discussion, the majority of the active participants. Ms Palmer might want to consider resetting her emphasis.

Yes, there are some people at the rough edges of the discussion. There always are. But if you tune your listening, most of the interested are articulate, sensible people interested in a fair legal framework.

Scientific reference was established in August by the Woolworth Report, and Kristin Palmer was hugely popular for sponsoring it. Thousands of people were optimistic that good law would come from this. Kristin was our hero. And that is where we want her to be again – defending good science against bad law.

There were a few grouchy resisters in August. The usual suspects. They came up to the podium that August day to note their knee-jerk resistance to reason: Nathan Chapman, Meg Lousteau, CoCo Garrett. My personal impression of their input was: Chapman had not really read it or listened and did not understand Woolworth’s program; Lousteau’s job is to be against everything, so she did her job; and CoCo Garrett actually did understand it and had difficulty sticking with her tribe. She almost left the cult for a minute there.

It is not the people out here, on the citizen’s side of the council chamber’s dividing line, who changed that frame of reference.

Some one of the council members decided to work with the VCPORA tendency, if not officially with the club itself, to write and read in a draft text which, now that it has been withdrawn, we can look back on as almost comically stupid. But it was scary that day, and Kristin Palmer and all the other CMs actually signed on to that lunatic document.

That is what brought the pitchforks out.

You, dear Council Members, you did this, on December 19th.

You say nobody wants to criminalize music, but even at some of the wilder edges of this debate, people can read. And they could see that criminalizing music is what you came close to doing on that day before Christmas, when you read an awful draft bill into your legislative list.

If you want a sober discussion in scientific terms, the answer is clear: stick with the Woolworth process. Do not continue to accept that any one of your colleagues allows privileged access to any of the “7 Essentials” cultists. It does not matter how many associations of questionable representation Nathan Chapman gets to follow his parade. It is not scientific. It is a cult. Blow it off.

I believe they have behaved so badly that they should be barred from the rest of this process. It will be tainted if you allow their participation. Include them out.

Second order of business:

One of the several questionable things Meg Lousteau said was that Bourbon Street businesses just want no change, no improvement, no enforcement. Just noise. The way she said it implied that it was the representatives of the entertainment businesses who were present and spoke who were the accused – Robert Watters, Chris Young and Jude Murullo.

Later that afternoon, Meg Lousteau participated in a French Quarter Management District meeting.

The discussion was about penalties and enforcement for sound ordinance violations. Two significant executives of Bourbon Street clubs, Robert Waters and Jude Murrullo – yes, the same ones who were at HHNC – were in the discussion. Both accepted the need for stiff fines for violators, and for repetitive fining if violation continued.

By repetitive, I mean that the question was posed, what if a bar gets a citation for $500, the enforcement official goes away, comes back in 20 minutes, and they cranked it up again? Both said without hesitation, he gets another ticket. And if caught again the next day, another. That means the cost of persistent violation could be thousands of dollars per week, ending up in court action. Both club executives actually proposed further enforcement leverage that even I thought might be harsh.

Who demurred, questioned the debate, said it was premature, she could not possibly say at this time and generally tried – unsuccessfully – to derail the steady progress to agreement?

Why, yes. Ms Lousteau.

That does not mean that back in council, she was completely wrong. Some operators will not cooperate. Of course there will be a process with resistance. But core, influential operators are ready to join a rational, scientific process and are eager to work with Dave Woolworth.

Not, of course, with Nathan Chapman’s program. They can spot a dead end when they see it.

VCPORA’s cranky ways and crotchety placards and shadowy coalitions are not going to get anybody anywhere worth going. They sooner they are sidelined, the faster this process will get somewhere.

Please follow and like us:

A Fine Day Out

Interesting day! The Council’s HHNC committee session for public comment on the sound bill, and then I was invited to the French Quarter Management District meeting. That was good – felt like I was among grown-ups there. Some of this will be more like reporting than the usual Nolascape mission to savage the bad guys and laugh at the clowns.

Nathan Chapman told me I shouldn’t say ‘bad guys.’ I was told this afternoon I should not be personal. It’s not done, old boy. Just not cricket. Stick to the issues.

Sorry, guys, I don’t buy it. Name names! People play these games, not abstract forces. Or associations with confidential membership numbers. Associations do not have free will. Their strings are pulled by persons known or unknown. When they are unknown, find them. Name them.

Council first.

These may be out of order and details may need verification. I was not there to do newspaper-type reporting, so I did not take detailed notes.

Stacy Head made a little speech summarizing the events to date: the problem five years go, then two years ago CM Palmer took charge of it and commissioned Oxford Acoustics. Then in December they introduced the famous Amendment in order to stimulate public debate and . . . .

Wait a minute! No they did not! Is she saying they deliberately read in a bad bill to provoke people? But of course, they didn’t tell us it was bad and just a trick, because that would spoil the game, wouldn’t it? And is she claiming that sneaking it into first reading with just 24 hours notice is a way to stimulate broader discussion? Call me if you can make that compute.

But she also said she wanted to get something into statute before French Quarter Fest. Can you stuff these two ideas into the same jar? I am going to loose the hounds on this bit of . . . embellishment soon, but let’s keep moving for the moment.

The video is up – I can check some things. In her intro, Stacy Head says some people don’t want any legal framework of sound management, and others just want quiet. Both are irrational extremes. And she says she wants less hyperbole. Come on! We can’t let her get away with that. We are going to come to the part where the circumstantial evidence and the Perdido rumor mill indicate the CMs enabled the most virulent extremists of all, the Hoodies, to virtually write their amendment. When they enter a bill, that is a plan to use force. That bill made music that some didn’t like a punishable crime. Hyperbole is a valid rhetorical device. Do not compare it to threats of fines and criminal charges. Do not. Exaggerating the strength of hyperbole to compare it to the NOPD exerting its kind of force is a much worse kind of hyperbole than any we opponents of the sausage grinder bring to the story.

As a condition for answering a question I posed, Ms Head asked me, was I one of those who wanted no law, or neighbor agreements. You might as well know where I am coming from, too.

No, I am for law and protection of heritage. Just good law, not bad law. Ms Head introduced a bad law, and now I think is engaged in a tricky ballet of withdrawing it without admitting it was bad, covering up how the scraps got made into the final fragrant boudin and having to shift direction without admitting any liability for the old way. Waste of time, if you ask me, but they didn’t. They would have an easier time if they just admitted the mistakes and cleaned the slate.

The HHNC committee session was mostly a stream of people who came to the mic to say a piece for three minutes, or two, with revealing interludes by the CMs in attendance, Stacy Head, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, LaToya Cantrell and Miz Jackie Clarkson. Jackie Clarkson is the alternate. All the regular members of HHNC were there, but Clarkson sat in, and had quite a lot to say. And Ms Cantrell, who is, did not say anything at all. I wonder – could we be seeing a bit of of a Housing invasion, and a silent act of dissent? All speculation, of course.

I am just going to review a tiny selection of the speechettes.

A surprising number of people, including even Mike Howells, a MaCCNO stalwart, actually expressed gratitude to the Council Members for withdrawing the bad bill.

What!

The council members who withdrew that thing were the same ones who inflicted it on the city. (They deny they ever intended to sign it into law; we will get to that.)

When is one of the CMs going to man up and apologize to the people of New Orleans for having introduced such a misconceived piece of bad work? It was drafted in a secret and with backdoor, and for my money, unsavory collusion, entered on to the agenda with minimal notice. They did not withdraw it because they saw the light, and got converted to Truth. CM Stacy Head was still saying it was a good bill at a campaign event four days after they announced its withdrawal. We don’t know what went on among them yet. Indications are strong that Head brought it into Council, and was the contact point for the pressure group. You Know Who and co. We don’t know yet which one was leader of the movement to ditch it. But whoever it was, they pulled it because of public outcry at just what a stinker it was.

Man, you make a mess like that, you could at least say “Oops.”

Grateful to them for pulling it. Are we now so attuned to government processes working against us that we are grateful when they dial down the threat level a bit?

Yeah, we can be pretty sure there was push back on the CMs. The phones would have been hotting up. The Hoodies were probably in emergency session, maybe even bringing in the heavy guns. Might have got the fearsome Dementor to take a hand personally. At least that’s what the Perdido rumor mill says.

Pat Bryant said, people think music belongs to the FQ. Totally wrong. Music comes from the neighborhoods. Attacks on music in the neighborhoods, some of them by “latecomers” have driven entertainment to be bottled up in the French Quarter, where now they can attack it again. Let the music come out again, come back home, the FQ will decompress. CM Palmer called time on him, but the audience was loving it. A big round of applause and some us saying, “Let him speak. Let him finish!” CM Kristin threatened to clear the court. That was great, like an episode of Boston Legal. Ms Palmer had a stormy look. Gavel banging seemed to be a major risk, but maybe no one had thought to bring a gavel. Since the meeting was set up for people to blow off steam, I wonder what would have been left if we were all chucked out. But, hey – maybe I don’t really understand politics.

Some people seemed to be exempt from the time limit. The CMs like Deacon John. Well, we all do really, and when Kristin Palmer cut Pat Bryant off, she cited his previous presentation as justification. But if you would care to be so ungracious as to put a timer on the speeches, you will find that the good Deacon got over four minutes while Pat Bryant was cut off sharp at 2:20. Time is relative, right? We’re on Big Easy time for the favorites.

Robert Watters, chairman of FQMD and The BBA, owner of several French Quarter clubs, made one statement we want to nail to the mast: the Woolworth Report, introduced in August, is Ground Zero in this process now. It made no sense whatever to introduce any draft bill that ignored the Woolworth study, let alone the formula for mayhem even worse than the current outdated ordinance that they did introduce.

The Woolworth Report is ground zero. We do not go back to 1997, or 1859, or 1938. Here we are. Where do we want to go? And let the Woolworth study be our guide.

The 1997 levels recommended by VCPORA, promoted by Nathan Chapman, are unadulterated, double distilled, 100% pure smoke. Acoustic creationism. They are trying to sell you the Garden of Eden. Probably nicer weather than the Brooklyn Bridge, but the same kind of scam.

Too early for preaching. Back to the ordre du jour.

David Freedman of WWOZ emphasized process. Mr Freedman emphasized it, repeated it, and around again. So far, he said, progress on sound issues has been “quirky and murky.” Council needs to make a plan, publish it, and stick to it, with each stage and input transparent. Process.

I would go along with that. I think I would have used harsher words to describe the record to date, but I would second Mr Freedman’s motion. Clean up the sausage machine.

Cheron Brylski took the stand at one point, and I thought, here we go! Notebook out, pencil sharp. In case you don’t know, Brylski is PR for Stacy Head’s reelection campaign and full time for Stuart H. Smith, one of our favorite villains of the piece, our own Captain Hook, not too much in evidence today. But her input was irrelevant.

Meg Lousteau took the stand. The Warrior Queen of the Hoodies. She gets four minutes. VCPORA does a trick; extra people enter speaking cards, then yield their slot to Meg. Can’t really hold it against them – any of us could do it.

When the spirit of VCPORA speaks through the voices of Nathan Chapman or Meg Lousteau, we get a Sci Fi treat – a glimpse into an alternative universe. Today Meg scolded us all. She was disappointed and annoyed at criticism of VCPORA, the organization she was proud to serve. She called criticism “misunderstanding.”

I guess that includes me. Hope so, anyway.

We misunderstood how wonderful VCPORA really is. First of all, it is 75 years old. And second and third, it has done some good things. A bus route came into it somewhere.

There’s that alternative universe peeking through. What have VCPORA’s age and a bus route to do with this sound bill? How do we connect those dots?

This is speculative because I don’t speak extra-galactic but what I think I heard between the alien lines: Meg was acknowledging that VCPORA had meddled in this process way over any limits acceptable to the broader public, and either (a) yes, they had got it wrong this time, but we should still love and respect them because their club is 75 years old; or (b) since they were 75 years old and did well on that bus thing, the sound draft acquired goodness and virtue just because they did it; and even though it was really bad, let’s all pretend it was okay because VCPORA cannot tolerate this irreverence any longer.

If anybody got a clearer picture, let me know.

For me, Meg’s talk confirmed again what we all know anyway: it was the Hoodies’ hand turning the crank on the sausage machine that squished out that late, unloved piece of pre-Ground Zero troublemaking.

At the end, the council members gave us a little scolding. I suspect Ms Clarkson, CM Supreme, had to hold on to her hand to keep from wagging her finger at us. Still exuding that strange confidence, the eternal confidence of Big Brother, perhaps, she reproached us out here, on the riffraff side of the bar, for our lack of faith in our loving, loyal Council Members. Why did we think they do not love the music? Of course they do! They love every Second Line and Festival and brass band everywhere and especially in the French Quarter.

And they have good intentions. Every member of the council, said Ms Clarkson, has good intentions. I felt that strange seasick sensation I get from VCPORA logic.

What do good intentions have to do with anything? This is supposed to be for grown ups. Whether you bring us a malodorous mess out of malice or muddle, so what? When the outcome can be fines, punishment, citations, criminal records for victims of bad law, you can’t just lay down scrappy work and say, I had good intentions.

Maybe if they tried, “Forgive me, I meant well,” they might score some forgiveness. But that is not their way. It comes with a slight condescending smile. Reassure the gallery, then they will all go home to watch a dance contest show on TV and forget about us.

When you say “Thanks” to an elected body for not screwing you this one time, you are playing into a paradigm of serfdom.

There is a big soft question inherent in a lot of the general opinion now. Do we just move on? The past is the past. Let’s put it behind us, and the sun will come out tomorrow.

No, I don’t think I agree with that. Something happened. Something ugly. We need to watch it die out in the light to make sure it does not happen again. Let’s explore it more next chapter.

 

French Quarter Management District (FQMD)

The meeting room was a simple conference table with a pad and pen for notes at each place. As a visitor, I looked for side chairs or a gallery to sit in, but the officers indicated it was fine to sit at the table.

Present were Robert Watters, chairman; Kim Rosenberg, vice-chair; Robert Simms; Gail Cavett ; me; Alex Chasick, aide to CM Palmer; Meg Lousteau, for VCPORA; Brian Furness, FQC; Lawrence Hesdorfer of the VCC; and Jude Murullo, owner of several clubs.

We were all given a five page handout comparing aspects of the current sound ordinance to Woolworth Report recommendations. The first item was penalties. Mr Watters opened the meeting, saying their idea was to discuss the items sequentially to generate recommendations for a sound management system to be written into a bill.

They are very careful and systematic. Kim Rosenberg conducted most of the discussion. They considered the two different approaches and then went systematically around the table for viewpoints and recommendations, making notes of each contribution. Speaking first, Robert Watters mentioned Stuart Smith.

Whoa! Mistake! Sharp interruption from Ms Lousteau. No names! No personalities! It is wrong, inaccurate, unjust, improper, impossible, impecunious, impish. We must not take His name in vain!

Here comes that seasick sensation again. In the Alternative Universe, people do not have names. We discuss issues. FQMD accepts this principle. I wonder if Meg harangued them into it. She can be quite sharp-tongued and decisive. Decisive even in indecision, as we shall see.

I wonder if this principle should be applied to football. Why not, to ensure a fair and even playing field, and focus on the real essentials? “A pass has been thrown and yes, it is flying through the air. It has been caught by a player before hitting the ground. Turning and running toward the goal line, quite possibly in an attempt to win six points, he is crashed into by a large man in a different color shirt, and falls out of bounds. A pass has been completed.” Do you think it might catch on at WWL? Perhaps the Alternative Universe has an Alternative WWL, and you can catch its broadcasts of Space Ball at Rampart St HQ.

Their procedure is to go carefully around the table and ask each person for input, then to go around again, drilling deeper each round into the issue as modified by the responses. They even asked me to speak. I was surprised, but okay. One of the topics was, what to you do with the real recidivists, the scofflaws? Just trying for a pale joke, I said, hire Smith to shut them down. Whoops! Meg is out of the starting blocks again. In fact, in this instance I was alluding to Smith’s effectiveness, not his activities which we do not like, but nuance may not be VCPORA’s best thing. Anyway, they are always good for a laugh. Gail Cavett told me the rules gently and politely: no names. No blame. No shame. No personalities. Issues. I said sorry, I am just a first time visitor, not yet versed in the fleshless mode of discourse. I like this forum, though, so I will try to learn it. I think I may practice in front of a mirror, with a recorder. Meg Lousteau won’t catch me referring to a real person in future.

FQMD is very thorough and careful. The topic of penalties went around several times, with input from everybody, getting closer to consensus. Well, almost. Meg dissented. Why are we spending so much time on this? It is too specific. We should be discussing more general issues, not a specific topic like this in such detail . . . . The FQMD way surprised me. It is very civilized. No one interrupted her. They let her finish, registered her dissent, and returned to topic.

Agreement was unanimous that decriminalization was best, and fines were the appropriate penalty. Questions were: flat and recurring, or escalating? If escalating, what was the start level? The options were $300 to start, $500 for second offense; or $500 from the off, after warnings. Ms Lousteau said she had not come prepared for that level of detail and would have to abstain, presumably pending consultation with HQ.

Understand that this was not a draft bill. This was a discussion about what people thought might be sound ideas for a recommendation for a draft bill to be written in a few months. The issue at hand was the $200 difference in the amount of the first fine. And VCPORA, which In one version of its 7 Essentials recommended unlimited fines, and of course denies it cooked that whole lousy amendment in its cauldron, which could have closed a bar for customers laughing too loud, needs to have a meeting before its executive director can express an opinion about $200. Do you see the parallel universe too?

So a very fine day was had by all. I am going to break for a coffee, and come back to to work on the mechanism of the sausage machine. How do all those scraps end up in the squidgy boudin in the back stairway? Let’s explore . . .

Late breaking news: the video is up already. http://cityofno.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1740&meta_id=

Please follow and like us:

75 Years (Same) Old

I have replayed Angela Hill’s program on the sound ordinance a few times, and Nathan Chapman has popped another soundbite into the Times Picayune. Let’s have a bit of revenge, shall we? Don’t you think Nathan, VCPORA and the neighborhood associations deserve it?

We heard more than just differing points of view on Angela’s show. We got a glimpse into a parallel universe. The VCPORA Fogey Zone. Let’s run it through the meat grinder:

Chapman said the 7 Essentials and I think he included that ugly amendment were intended for broad public discussion. Isn’t it interesting that thousands of people are now angry and actively protesting because the amendment he pushed was introduced without any? Broader debate on an important popular subject is not hard to get, if that is what you really want. Friday’s events and the discussions now are evidence of that.

Maybe Chapman thought his recruiting drive to neighborhood associations like his own passed as public discussion. I would say that exposes a disabling blind spot.

He was “fed up” of meetings with people who preferred the status quo. In other words, many of us – you – were not worth talking to, because we disagreed with his program.  Most were not in fact in favor of status quo; they just saw that 7 Essentials was even worse. The Nathanic bubble: agree first, ask questions later.

After both business and residential members expressed distaste for the 7 Essentials approach, Chapman decided the French Quarter Management District was “unproductive” and simply attempted to bypass the group mandated by the state to work for synthesis and common interest of business and residents. With City Council complicity, they almost got away with it, too.

So disagree with Nathan Chapman, you’re unproductive. How do you feel about that rule?

Chapman side-stepped discussion of his Coalition on the Angela Hill program because he knows very well it is partly fake and raises issues of credibility.

Chapman derailed substantive discussion of acoustics; although he has set himself up as a leading advocate, he seems impervious to the science of the issue.

We know he could not be bothered with meeting musicians and musicians’ groups, except the few who support his program. Nice and safe in the bubble. VCPORA officers who did meet people trying to represent the creative community smiled politely, but took no real notice of them.

All the circumstantial evidence now points to collaboration between Stacy Head’s office and and 7 Essentials advocates to prepare and promote the late unlamented amendment in time to be read in just ahead of the Christmas holiday season with minimum announcement. Nathan Chapman told people who objected to the bill’s inadequacy that he did want to miss “a window of opportunity” to get it passed.

This kind of date trick is classic political tactics. It is hardly even worth listening to denials; VCPORA and Stacy Head are not politically naive.

If VCPORA associates worked in secret with Stacy Head, that means, ipso facto, Stacy Head worked in secret with them. VCPORA is a private advocacy group, like a lobbying firm. Their tactics may be unpalatable, their dissembling malodorous, but probably not actionable. Stacy Head however should be held accountable. Stacy is a Council Member At Large. That means her mission is to represent and act on behalf of the whole city. A representative should not behave this way to her constituents.

Angela Hill did not bring it within the scope of her program, but VCPORA is also complicit in an unofficial private enforcement campaign, in which they agree to be plaintiff or co-plaintiff in lawsuits against bars and restaurants with live entertainment on various pretexts. The attack dogs are Stuart H. Smith and his firm, SmithStag, but VCPORA is complicit in casting a bleak, deathly pall of mean-spirited conflict over much of the city. We will look at this more closely soon.

So let’s have some conclusions.

  • VCPORA has been caught in a deliberate effort to subvert democracy and impose a law they knew to be unpopular on the city.
  • Many of their statements and responses are simply untrue. Yet I don’t think they are intentionally lying most of the time. I think Nathan Chapman actually believes most of the things he says. That suggests that Chapman and co. have simply lost their moral bearings to navigate our world. Their compass works in Fogey-land, a gray world with its own “truth.” I don’t think a mental condition like that can be fixed quickly. I think New Orleanians simply have to sideline these groups. They do not speak for a significant constituency. Possibly punch above their weight in bank account size, but when it comes to music and art and life in a mixed use area, that is a pretty boring qualification.
  • Nathan Chapman said proudly that VCPORA is 75 years old. I would suggest it might be too old. 75 years same-old.

Today in nola.com, Chapman was quoted as saying

. . . after public comment is recorded, VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens should play a significant role in crafting the new ordinance.

“I can’t imagine they wouldn’t play a leadership role,” said Chapman, a former president of VCPORA. “It would be terrible if they did not. We wouldn’t have a tourism industry if it wasn’t for organizations like that.”

Get that?  “After public comment is recorded.” The stakeholders, and oh yeah, whaddayacall’em, the public, can have their little bleat, then Nate will climb back into the cockpit and fire up the sausage machine.

Because Nathan Chapman, soundbite stalwart, cannot imagine that he and the tedious associations that have just brought us this embarrassing mess of a legislative process would not be back in a leadership role.

No? Why not? I have no trouble at all imagining that. How about you? Do you think the city of New Orleans with consultation by Oxford Acoustics and work parties drawing on several interested communities is capable of considering good sound management without an out of touch historical re-enactment society just caught in a game of dirty pool played against almost everybody?

“It would be terrible . . .” For whom? For the city and the people they just tried to trick into setting up perfect conditions for more lawsuits and extension of Dementor law over the parts of the city they consider their own private patch?

We must be able to find brighter constellations than this codger of an old club. People of spirit to be vigilant in protecting and enhancing the mixed-use life of the French Quarter. People to help restore creativity to the Quarter, not bury it in muffled tourist music. If they can’t find better ideas than mincing back to 1997 decibel levels, trumping science with false memory in their own fogey-space, like a kind of audio creationism, it is time for them to simply retire.

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Sound Amendment Autopsy

Last Thursday and Friday we won a battle, and it felt good.

The city of New Orleans won a battle. The sound ordinance revision went down. Thunk. Goodbye.

At least we hope so. The way the legal sausage machine ground this one out, it could re-surface with a new name. Keep vigilant.

At best, it was one battle. That misguided, simplistic proposal was not the enemy. It was just evidence of the enemy. VCPORA people say I am too confrontational. Should I say, the opposition?

I don’t think so. Opposition suggests that the other team is playing by the same rules. Has that been the case?

VCPORA and the few others following its lead tried to power their simplistic interpretations of soundscape issues through Council, and if we do not keep a very beady eye on them, they will try it again. Let me run this by again: the enemy is not the piece of paper. The enemy is people. Not just any people. People who are prepared to twist the legislative process to get their own way.

If you did not hear the discussion on the Angela Hill program on WWL Radio today, check out the podcast. http://audio.wwl.com/search?q=Noise.

One of Nathan Chapman’s opening statements should concern us all: “the Council has asked us to consider . . . .”

Why? Why is the Council asking VCPORA particularly to go back to its little drawing board and generally try to elbow its way to the front of the process again? They just made a hash of it. They promoted a bad bill. Their “Seven Essentials” placard-style reduction of a complex process to some unpleasant little slogans offended thousands of people. The bill they helped craft outraged tens of thousands. VCPORA should be in the penalty box, not asked to dust itself off and begin to annoy everyone again.

Unless it never happened in the way Nathan Chapman suggests. We do find – ahem – credibility issues in the VCPORite approach.

On the side of those who had favored the amendment was an all-VCPORA cast: Nathan Chapman, VCPORA activist, and Meg Lousteau, VCPORA’s exec. Then Angela allowed a call-in from “Carol” without mentioning that the Carol on the line was President of VCPORA. The rest of the panel was Chris Young, whose law firm represents many French Quarter entertainment businesses, and Robert Watters, owner of several FQ businesses, articulate, influential chairman of the French Quarter Management District, the state-mandated body whose mission is redevelopment of the FQ by finding common ground between businesses and residents. Dave Woolworth, Council’s sound consultant, joined in by phone for part of the discussion.

An important group omitted was the musicians who provide the entertainment. Angela could easily have had one of the MaCCNO group or perhaps Glen David Andrews on to represent one of the frontline stakeholder communities. But okay –

You have to listen closely to Nathan Chapman. A leading player in the sneaky progress of the unlamented, currently deceased amendment, Nathan has some wonderfully guileless moments. He was charged with pushing his and VCPORA’s agenda onto the council by running it quietly around the outside of the French Quarter businesses, and I could add, around the musicians and the people of New Orleans. He and Meg objected: they had met the business organizations. Robert Watters said that was correct, but the businesses did not like his Seven Essentials or the ordinance drafts, and did not sign on to his plan. And then the VCPORites pushed their agenda onto the council by running it quietly around the outside . . . .

Then you have to connect a couple of dots. Chapman stated he does not want any more meetings or seminars with people who don’t want to do anything, who stand on status quo.  Get it? The gentry have had enough.

What Nathan actually did was admit that since the businesses, business associations, almost every musician in the city and virtually every resident who read them thought his Essentials and the proposed amendment were not much good, instead of being prepared to debate, adjust, modify, compromise or fight for them, he simply tried to sneak around the edges and wriggle through the cracks. Bypass everybody to bulldoze his program through to a Council ally and get his way. The VCPORA way.

Another Chapmanism was good fun if you have been following the history. Robert Watters was pointing out that Chapman’s “Coalition of 20” included several groups who had explicitly withdrawn and one or two who don’t exist. A legitimate credibility issue concerning Chapman’s and VCPORA’s conduct in this process. Chapman quickly interrupted: “I think we are getting too much into the weeds here.” And the program cut for a break. I was a bit surprised that Angela Hill let it pass. It is her program, not Chapman’s.

Calling the kind of game Chapman, VCPORA and Stuart H. Smith operating behind them, where the weeds are really thick and high, anti-democratic is an insult to anti-democratic people. It is an insult to everyone in this city, except one narrow constituency. VCPORA reveals a truly disheartening vision of how legislative business can be done here.

Stay awake, people. Get on your CM’s case hard if they run any legislation this way, not just sound management. You want to consider getting very medieval on Stacy Head particularly, influential vice President of Council and co-chairman of Housing and Human Needs, the committee dealing with the sound bills. Stacy Head says she is in favor of a good bill, and I do believe her. But she is playing ball with this crowd and backing junk. I don’t know why. Stacy is a smart lady. She should be seeing more clearly where these guys want to go and how they are trying to do it. She can do better than this. Election is coming up. You know what to do if she doesn’t.

Chapman and VCPORA suffered a knockdown, but they are rebounding and will be trying to grab the wheel on this again. Don’t let them. The businesses and business organizations, hundreds of musicians and about 300,000 people have seen what they were trying to do, and should not let them get away with it again. Let’s stay awake and keep an eye on them.

What I don’t quite get yet is why the Council let them do it. They must have known what the Neighborhoodies were up to. Why did they go along with it? Why did they let it get this far? Do they not really understand the sound issues? Or do they just habitually give in to pressure from the FQ gentry? They must have known that if it went the slightest bit off the rails, there would be a big, loud price to pay. I am asking them, and waiting for a good answer.

Please follow and like us:

The Neighborhoodies

Look, Nathan’s back! That was quick.

Nathan Chapman, a longtime French Quarter resident who led a multiple-neighborhood coalition that supported the original ordinance, turned his attention to the next task at hand.

“We’re about to all go to work on Bourbon Street,” Chapman said. “Certainly it has its own unique problems, and it’s important enough to all of us that it’s worthy of having its own discussion.”

The Advocate, Alex Rawls, 17 Jan 2014tt

Do you think he noticed that the big raucous second line in City Hall was to celebrate the death and burial of the dreary amendment he had sponsored, and claims to have partly written?

Thursday evening Nathan was letting a little glimmer of honest regret peek through the self-justification, as the miserable amendment he supported bit the dust, to the cheers of the public he declared “confused,” and Friday here he is on sound bite patrol, popping right back up like a Joe Palooka punching bag.

But the personal attacks. Oh, those personal attacks, those divisive, confusing personal attacks.

Nathan was reminding us of Corleone’s First Law: It’s only bidnis.

But he was forgetting Corleone’s Second Law: “It’s always personal, Sonny.”

They need a post-game over at North Rampart HQ. VCPORA President Carol Allen should get the Noise Ordinance offensive team to grasp: when you take a year trying to sneak an ugly agenda around the major stakeholders because you know they would fight it hard; when you politick with the council in the dark against the interests of almost everyone; when you don’t or can’t come to grips with the science and complexity of your own issue; when you waste the time of thousands, and they become angry at you and your gang, your ever so respectable advocacy gang – get ready for some personal, man. You ain’t getting out of this with a little smile and a limp handshake. You have pissed off a lot of people. A soundbite rebound line won’t get you off the hook.

How much money went up in smoke because the in-group neighborhood associations never cared to get this done right, just wanted to tiptoe a bad law by the sleeping city? Maybe the council staffers can estimate the cost.

Maybe the Neighborhoodies and their guardian Dementor should have to reimburse the city for the price of their attempted mugging. If the Coalition of 20 is as strong and representative as they want us to believe, they shouldn’t have too much trouble coming up with the money. .

The council said they will just work on Bourbon Street while their wounds heal. Still reeling about from his defeat, Nathan is dealing himself in.  I wonder whether it may be Council’s code for: give the Associations a sandbox to play in to keep them busy for a while. And tell them not to tease the wildlife.

Either way, the Neigborhoodies won’t get away with the same tricks this time. Real people are awake to the game. They will demand good law and good management that works for New Orleans. If the Downtown Pseudocracy comes back with another rendition of the same-old, we will put it down, fast.

They messed up this time, but after a decent interval, I think people will be generous and include them in the discussion, if they take a respectful seat at the table. But real people are warier now. The Association types won’t get away with pulling their hoods up and turning the legislative process into a hidden ball play.

 

Please follow and like us:

Nathan Chapman’s Sign-Off Statement

On Thursday, January 16, 2014, Nathan Chapman sent this statement to his mailing list. I do not have the privilege of being on Mr Chapman’s list of favorites, but you can find this kind of thing on the Drudge Report or Rush Limbaugh, so eventually I located a copy.

As chair a 20-organization coalition, I had the privilege of participating in conversations about sound and music across New Orleans. They showed that no matter what neighborhood you’re from, whether resident, musician, or business owner, we have more that unites than divides us.

At some point, the general public became greatly confused in a negative campaign of disinformation and personal attacks. If the volume of the rhetoric had been turned down a bit, we could have heard each other more, and made progress for the entire city.

It’s my understanding that the City Council is going to take a breath and focus first on solutions for the French Quarter. As a resident of the French Quarter trying to help the entire city, I’m agreeable to that. Showing positive results that enhance the residential and music experience can create a model for all of New Orleans.

Let’s start with this chunk out of the middle:

. . . no matter what neighborhood you’re from, whether resident, musician, or business owner, we have more that unites than divides us.

At some point, the general public became greatly confused in a negative campaign of disinformation and personal attacks. If the volume of the rhetoric had been turned down a bit, we could have heard each other more, and made progress for the entire city.”

There are several different ways to bite into that chunk of the apple. Let’s look at the nice bit first: “More . . . unites than divides us.” And then let’s look back eight months or a year. Who was “us”?

The Seven Essentials emerged from a group of members of residential associations. The original group’s efforts were to carry the program out to other residents’ and conservative organizations. As far as we can tell, they did not seek, listen to or modify any of their ideas by communicating positively with musicians, club, bar and restaurant operators, or any noticeable number of the 300,000 or so residents of New Orleans who are not members of neighborhood residents’ or other conservative advocacy groups. Besides speaking among themselves, their outward activities were to support and act as co-plaintiffs in lawsuits against bars for sound violation, for zoning issues, for Mayoralty Permit infractions – anything that would show the entertainment business who was boss; and they exerted their considerable political influence on City Council and officials.

The MaCCNO group noticed their activity, and we should all be grateful. They wrote a program, a generous, inclusive one: let’s work toward a sound ordinance that serves all New Orleanians. Their title and membership is Music and Culture, but their program was explicitly for inclusive benefit.

Do you remember how VCPORA, FQC, Nathan Chapman and Stuart H. Smith responded? I would say, dead silence. They ignored it. They carried on their backstairs politicking, a great Louisiana tradition; they worked on signing up more associations who looked like themselves, who usually represent very narrow tranches of people. Some of these organizations are democratic within themselves, but they are not broadly representative.

MaCCNO struggled for real attention for a long time. VCPORA, FQC, Smith and Chapman have connections, money, advocacy experience, wires into the political power structure, plutocracy and pseudocracy of New Orleans. Who can with a straight face call Chapman’s operation inclusive?

In fact, they paid virtually no attention to anyone questioning or opposing their program until some people – I, for one – got thoroughly fed up of the bullying and bulldozing and began to inject a bit of loud, raucous democracy into the process. I think they call a popular voice in opposition divisive. Sure and it is divisive. And whose fault is that?

So, gentle Reader, what are we now? The divisive, or the confused public?

I am going to count myself among the confused public. At least it sounds more sociable. And over the next few days, we are going to give Mr Chapman – see how respectful and inclusive I am – and the Coalition people a chance to show us how confused we are. Let’s see them instruct us on acoustics. Maybe the fact that they have seemed so vague on the science is because they did not want to confuse us poor public any more than we could handle. But now that we understand who we are, we can handle it.

We will try to find out whether Messrs. Chapman and Furness, who have been proudly telling people that they worked on the amendment which so enraged thousands of people that it has now been withdrawn, can instruct us on sound, or whether we should stick with the Woolworth Report and its recent follow-ups. You know, maybe just because they were written by somebody who knows what he is talking about? They may tell us why they were proud of that document, which every advanced audio engineer and acoustician in the city thinks was so awful that they signed petitions and organized protests and raised a ruckus loud enough that the Downtowners finally had to look around and say, “Uh-oh. This isn’t going so well.” They can tell us why, since they were so inclusive, the French Quarter Management District and the other business organizations of the French Quarter are thoroughly annoyed that Mr Chapman’s groups and the council members tried to end-run this thing around them. They can instruct us on the nature and behavior of sound, and on the VCPORA/FQC definition of “inclusive,” which seem so far to be a bit – unusual.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Please follow and like us:

The Dementor of the Quarter

image

“Dementors . . . glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”
—Remus Lupin to Harry Potter

Worse than a Vampire, the Dementor leaves the shell but destroys the soul.

I may not say who our Dementor might be. We must not say The Name. Too scary. We too might have our souls sued right out of us.

I have checked the Dementor’s blog again – still no retraction of those totally false, defamatory accusations of January 7th. Can you imagine? A magical creature with a blog. Isn’t New Orleans a great place?

Two choices: Dementor Esq., wrote it, in which case he must have thought nobody would dare mess with him – you know, sucking out your soul and all that. Or his little blogside Blackwater, Brylski, wrote it. As a pro PR, she knows she should have checked the facts. Maybe she gave him a discount on that bit.

In the immortal words of Bill Maher, one of them just Made Shit Up.

But I am not going to say the name. Oh no, not me. Too dangerous. The Lawyer of Azkaban . . . .

 

Please follow and like us:

Letter to Council by a Bourbon Street resident

I love this letter, which was just copied to me (by a third party, not Ms Rosenberg).  I do not agree that we would be best served by enforcement of the current ordinance, because it is a mess, too.  It would not be hard to write a much better law, but the current proposal is much worse.  And the people backing it are – to keep the discourse ever so civil, not my usual way – definitely not to be trusted.

 

KIMBERLY WOOTEN ROSENBERG
xxxx Bourbon Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

 

January 15, 2014

Susan G. Guidry

Councilmember, City Council of New Orleans

City Hall, Room 2W80
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112​BY EMAIL
RE:​ORDINANCE CAL. NO. 29,889 IS BAD FOR FRENCH QUARTER RESIDENTS

 

Dear Councilmember Guidry,

Please vote against Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889, the Sound Ordinance Amendments introduced on December 19, 2013.  While the goal of the proposed ordinance is laudable, that goal is no justification for passing a bad ordinance.

I became a French Quarter resident in 1986.  Like most residents of the Quarter, I want: Bourbon Street’s volume turned down; bars throughout the Quarter to obey the maximum permissible sound limits; and late-night pedestrians to lower their raucous voices when walking through the Quarter’s residential and commercial sections.  But I am opposed to Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889.

The proposed ordinance is NOT a good answer to the French Quarter’s noise problem. The Quarter needs enforcement.  Enforcement of existing laws would solve most French Quarter sound complaints.

Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889 drastically lowers day and evening (7 a.m. – 10 p.m.) sound levels in the French Quarter’s residential, commercial and service districts and parks while moving the place of sound measurement to the property line of the source of the sound.  Normal conversation (between a few people) is 65 decibels at 3 feet.  Yet the proposed ordinance would lower the L10 dBA in residential sections to 60 and in commercial and service sections to 65. Why?  What science supports these changes?  What purpose do the changes serve?

Many unintended consequences will result from Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889.

I talk louder than 60 decibels.  Visiting with a friend or having a family dinner in my courtyard (which abuts Governor Nicholls) would violate the proposed sound ordinance because of the double-whammy of lowered sound limits and the change of point of sound measurement.  What is the justification for enacting this radical change?

Is a goal of the ordinance to end courtyard and open-air dining in French Quarter restaurants?  Under the proposed ordinance, lunch next to an open door at Tableau, Hermes’s and Napoleon House and table service in the courtyard of Court of Two Sisters could become a thing of the past because of the lowered sound limits measured at the restaurant’s property line.  For the same reason, drinks in the courtyard of Pat O’Brian’s could become a thing of the past.  The voices of the customers alone would exceed the proposed permissible sound levels for commercial districts.

No deficiency in the existing sound ordinance justifies passing Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889.  It is a draconian ordinance that is bad for New Orleans.  It could destroy the Quarter’s street vitality.  You will best serve the interests of the citizens of New Orleans by shelving Ordinance Cal. No. 29,889 and supporting enforcement of the existing sound ordinance.

Sincerely,

Kim Rosenberg

 

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us: