Something really fun dropped into the in-box last night.
A friend sent me a copy of View, the VCPORA newsletter, of September 2007.
The title is the obvious pun on Vieux Carré, the twee name for the French Quarter the clubs like to use. It sounds more authentic. ‘Vieux’ in French sounds like ‘view’. Get it? In New Orleans Anglo-frog, it has morphed into ‘voo,’ but okay. VCPORA’s emphasis on the French version unsuccessfully disguises the final destruction of New Orleans Creole culture that the Anglo-hoodies and their revisionist idea of history are presiding over. Post-Civil War brute politics accelerated the Creole exodus. Having occupied their territory physically, these uptight myopics are burying the last of its culture.
The newsletter is a bit creepy. It was only 2007, which most of us consider part of the 21st century, but it is weirdly old-fashioned and unctuously self congratulatory. VCPORAn nabobs mention each other and their favorite politicians. “Our gratitude to Argon Robicheaux, loyal butt buddy and coke connection, for his tireless labors on behalf of quaint signage and horse posts.” They give themselves credit for all sorts of things. I found myself looking for the part where they first recorded Elvis and coached Brando how to do the Stella scene in Streetcar.
Something jumped off the page in the first article. Let’s have a recap, to build the suspense.
Remember the T-shirt Shop Sagas? The Twitch Hunt and follow-up articles on the Riverview injustice.)
In September last year, VCPORA’s Meg Lousteau did a show-and-tell about the scourge of insufficiently quaint shops in the Historic Gem. Stacy Head and Kristin Palmer got quite flushed. Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, CM for Wonderland, cried, “Off with their heads!” They stopped short of issuing assault weapons to Meg’s gang and sending them out on a spree, but they laid a scare on Jared Munster’s Safety and Permits, who sent inspector Devra Goldstein out on T-shirt patrol to get some shops into the dock and Munster off the hook.
Meg set the dogs of war (mostly pugs and poodles) on T-shirt and souvenir businesses in the French Quarter. Shops selling harmless merchandise, T-shirts and souvenirs, to the visitors the city assiduously courts to come and enjoy the city, then occasionally turns on like a dog with emotional confusion, biting the hand that feeds it.
VCPORA is a resentment accumulator. From time to time, indignation builds up a head and bursts like a boil into litigious pus. They have turned bugging people into a way of life, with legal and PR assets ready to hose malodorous gunk all over City Hall and selected victims.
Who do they think they are, these upstarts, these . . . foreigners. Opening shops We Do Not Like. Don’t they know Who We Are? They are not People Like Us. Selling stuff people want in the Historical Gem!
And it is against the law! Against THE LAW! Okay, it’s a VCPORA law pushed through with the help of a few compliant CMs. But a law is a law! Isn’t it?
They managed to catch Riverview, a boutique, in their dragnet, a thoroughly preventable and then correctable piece of dumbassery of the civil service sort.
There was a lot of publicity about the Riverview case, here, on WWL radio, in mainstream papers, on TV. In April, the self-appointed Righteous of the Voo Carray who had ratted Riverview out, Goldstein and lawyer Michael Martin knew to a certainty that proprietor Ed Azemas should not be in this, but VCPORA applied its standard Teflon morality: We are not responsible. There is nothing we can do.
Sure there was! You could have behaved with normal human decency. The top table and every rank and file member and fellow traveler associated with the Old Squares could have said, “Riverview has been caught up in this in error. Please let Ed off the hook; we apologize to him and to the BZA for the inconvenience and expense.” They could have insisted that Michael Martin, representing them in the cases, say that to the BZA in session, on the record. After six Kafka-esque months, Ed and Riverview were finally allowed off the merry go round this week, but VCPORA never found the courage to make a public statement.
Whatever the supine law says, VCPORA will never get off the Nolascape hook. They push bad ideas and bogus cases all the time, but Riverview is different – a small business, operating only a month and still financially fragile when they got on its case. VCPORA has put a stain on its moral history forever by failing to speak out against an injustice to an individual person which they contributed to.
T-shirt detective Devra seems to have said that the five T-shirts were “illegal merchandise.” – bit of hearsay here, but that tough red judge above is over at City Hall frowning at Michael Martin, so we should be safe. This seems to be a concept in S&P: T-shirts are “illegal merchandise.” I can’t find any support for that notion in the zoning ordinance, but that is what Devra told Ed and Jared Munster once told me. Jared Munster has a PhD, so he must be right. A recording of her conversation with Azemas suggests strongly to my suspicious ears that Ms Goldstein had been instructed to keep that charge in place, no matter what. “Conditionally guilty”, she said. Great way to run a law – the cops get to declare their victim guilty.
Looping back to the fun, from the View’s lead article:
On July 6, Governor Blanco signed into law two bills authored by Senator Ed Murray: Act No. 263 strengthens compliance with Vieux Carré zoning regulations by providing that the period for taking action against illegal use begins when the relevant city agency is notified of a violation.
That was July 6, 2007. The start date of this law is July 6, 2007.
Act No. 263 amends existing law (LSA-R.S. 9:5625(G)) to provide that the period for enforcing zoning ordinances in the Vieux Carré begins only when the properly authorized city agency receives written notice of the zoning violation.
Before, the clock started ticking with the first act constituting the commission of the zoning violation. Thus, the window for stopping an illegal use of a Vieux Carré property could close before the City, or VCPORA, FQC, or anybody, knew there was a zoning violation. Act No. 263’s provision that actual written notice to the proper city agency triggers the enforcement period will help prevent legalization of illegal use by stealth.
Act No. 263 is expected to bolster compliance with the zoning ordinances applicable to the Vieux Carré. It is not, however, retroactive: it applies only from August 15, 2007, the effective date of the Act.
Firing up my reading skills and memory, I connected this dot to what Michael Martin, esq, representing VCPORA in the T-shirt assault, has been repeating frequently: non-conforming use could only become legal under the ten year grandfather clause from the first written notice to the zoning authority of non-conforming use. A very questionable bit of legislation, unlikely to withstand a serious challenge, but while it is standing, it is obvious that it could not be retro-active. It says so in the law, and VCPORA’s own vanity newsletter confirms that they know it. Not retroactive means this law can never be applied to a case of non-conforming use starting before the second half of 2007. And it could not be applied to a non-conforming use case starting after July 6, 2007 until July 7th 2017, because the subject would not have reached the ten year grandfather legitimation. In other words, the law Martin is citing does not apply. To anything.
So Michael Martin’s argument is not only wrong, it is impossible. Act 263 could not possibly apply to any of the appellants, or indeed anyone else.
Well, maybe Michael Martin, esq is just doing his best for his client, whose aesthetic sensibilities have been wounded by the sight of shirts and souvenirs in their club’s Historic Gem. I am sure you can see why it is a good thing for them to put a couple of hundred people out of work to preserve the tender feelings of those pugs and poodles. And that is Mr Martin’s lawyerly duty, right? Fight his client’s corner.
Let’s just look a little closer. Another friend literate in the law sent me this:
Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct
Rule 3.3. Candor Toward the Tribunal
(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly:
(1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer;
(2) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel;
3.3(2) sounds like the lawyer should not cite law to the tribunal that he knows to be inapplicable.
So claiming that a rule created July 6, 2007 applies to shops opened and operating many years earlier – which Michael Martin, esq., acting for VCPORA, has been doing frequently in the course of the Great T-shirt Persecution of 2014 – is . . . what? Misunderstanding? Ignorance? Intentional deception?
So we encounter the Hannah axiom again: misinformed or misleading. Which is it this time? Martin is not looking too Perry Mason in these cases, but he is a real lawyer. The year 2007 and not retroactive are not hard to understand. We’re stuck with attempting to mislead, which 3.3(2) says is unprofessional conduct.
Could that venerable institution, VCPORA, possibly be complicit in intentionally misleading a tribunal? Can we even imagine such a thing? Please limit your replies and lists to one ream of paper, single-spaced.
If this is Martin’s best shot, you would think the BZA would just dismiss VCPORA’s objections and grant the 14 appellants their status. Maybe Justin Schmidt, acting for the T-shirt shops, with the BZA quietly complicit, is stretching it, forcing the city to produce or back down on records going back to the 1970s and 80s, so he can get his clients off this hook forever.
If this impossible argument was all that Martin came to the tribunal with, the whole soap opera has been frivolous and irresponsible. VCPORA should have to pay the tribunal’s equivalent of court costs for wasting its time, and VCPORA and Safety and Permits should both have to compensate the appellants for legal costs in connection with defense against ungrounded challenges
Is there an authority with the power to instruct VCPORA that its standard MO of stirring up city authorities against people and businesses through compliant council members or other political allies, then stepping back and claiming they have no responsibility, is over, done, played out? A way to make them take responsibility for costs, like a normal plaintiff? They are running games without consequences. End it.
I wonder if a lawyer with a sense of adventure might consider a class action against VCPORA/FQC for the last ten or so years of malicious, largely frivolous lawsuits against restaurants, bars, retailers and others. They may not have enough in the bank, but forced sale of their office buildings would be nice.
VCPORA and its little sister, FQC passed three strikes years ago.
But let’s not be too hard on them. They throw some Absolutely Fabulous parties for charity and just generally improving the tone. We managed to get some sneaky video footage of this year’s: