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.
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.
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=
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