CZO Hi Jinx Lagniappe

This is a follow-up on CZO Hi and Lo Jinx. Extra stuff. Lagniappe, in the vernacular.

After the building on Royal Street fell down, the Times-Pic put up a Meg Lousteau video soundbite. There’s a big surprise, right? And they put Prescott Stokes III on it. There’s another. I wonder if VCPORA’s PR oppo asks for Stokes specifically, and if they tell him which profile to favor and how to set the lighting. Or is Prescott just a bit . . . adoring? He is a reporter, so he knows the local players, and that Meg represents particular interests. So where is the offset, some objectivity, or even a little reportorial questioning? If it is down to NOLAscape to supply objectivity, the Fourth Estate is in trouble.

Have a look, if you haven’t seen it:

http://www.nola.com/traffic/index.ssf/2014/10/royal_street_building_collapse.html#incart_river

Ms Meg says it is about enforcement of the rules against long buses and trucks, that there are signs everywhere, and that nobody has gotten a ticket.

What is wrong with that picture?

Everybody agrees that long vehicles that cannot make the turns, jam traffic and pose a risk to buildings and balconies should not be in the French Quarter’s narrow streets. How do you prevent them from entering?

First of all, it is not true that there is adequate signage. If there at all, it is virtually invisible. Gail Cavett, who chairs French Quarter Management District’s Infrastructure committee, is working with the DPW to try to get visible, clear signs installed. Drivers of 53 foot trailers in possession of their senses would not want to go into the FQ if proper warnings were posted, because the narrow one-way streets with parked cars, 90 degree corners and gallery columns make it a time-consuming, accident-prone exercise that slows down your day and loses you money. Even if their company or client said do it, given a legal excuse to say no, most drivers would. Clear information is the first step in dealing with the oversize bus and truck problem, not “enforcement.”

Second, the vibration a truck transmits to the street and foundations is a function of weight, suspension, tire type, weight per square centimeter on the road surface, not vehicle length. Heavy straight trucks well within the 31 foot limit can shiver a building’s timbers good and proper, while a smooth riding road bus yards over the length limit does not. Trash trucks, construction vehicles and machinery shake our buildings all the time, a lot more frequently than oversize vehicles.

The T-P and Prescott Stokes know that VCPORA’s shaky relationship with facts is well documented. They should not have published these statements without checking, let alone made the dubious claim a headline.

Meg Lousteau is smart and well-informed. Is it really credible that there is a disagreement of verifiable fact with Gail Cavett, who has spent months studying the issue? In my experience, although mysteriously a director of FQC, Gail does not play spin games. She draws conclusions logically from facts. As far as I know, Gail’s conclusion that the signage must be improved has been accepted by the FQMD commissioners and so stands as an official finding. I wonder whether Meg wasn’t sneaking in a commercial for NOLA Patrol and lots of youthful eager-beaver ticket-writing code enforcers under Mr. Stokes III’s guard.

Next, a T-P article of much wider importance, which dovetails right to CM Cantrell’s speech at the end of Friday’s Council CZO session:

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/10/new_orleans_tourism_industry_b.html#comments

Wages in the tourism industries are the topic, but the significance is more general. Higher wage industrial jobs have moved to cheaper labor areas, and computers and computer driven automation reduces manpower requirements. Employment shifts to lower wage service and distribution jobs, yet somehow, by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, property prices and rents increase as incomes go down. The article explains why the effects are exaggerated in New Orleans compared to other cities.

Samples:

“The low wages aren’t new, [Laura Tuggle, executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services] said, but expensive housing costs are. “Now we have New Orleans wages and New York rents.” Service industry workers, including those in the tourism world, now see much of their check eaten up by their living costs, she said.”

“The majority of New Orleans residents — about 53 percent, according to the most recent Census data — rent their homes, far above the national average of 36 percent. If homeownership is low, rising property values and rents have the effect of concentrating wealth, Rosenfeld said. “If you are a homeowner, gentrification is great for you. If you rent, it screws you.””

Now let’s lighten up again – or depending on how your sense of irony turns, maybe this is the most tragic of all:

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3790612

A third of Louisiana Republicans – Louisiana Republicans – say they believe that the Federal Katrina response, an international embarrassment, was Obama’s fault – even though it happened three years before he was elected.

This may give us some insight into how our FQ neighborhood association spokes-folk stand up at council and on TV and radio shows and proudly make statements that have no common ground with reality, and somehow get credibility. This poll suggests that a significant percentage of Louisianans believe anything, if it fits what they want to hear. Would that imply that our council members and the City Planning Commission are so credulous? Probably not, but they may count on the fact that a substantial chunk of their constituencies are to encourage them to sometimes choose accommodation over truth.

“Swamp gas,” I hear one of the gnomes muttering.

If we loop this back to the first piece, it suggests that exaggerated popular credulity should impose more responsibility for fact checking on the local media, and they should be especially careful when publishing statements by people with a record of attempting to manufacture consent out of whole cloth.

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CZO Hi and Lo Jinx

While the Gnomes of NOLAscape (new recruits to the cause) are mulling over the exact text to review last week’s shifty, complex and subtle NOLA Patrol council meeting, which they say requires philosophical appreciation through a cracked Hegelian lens (they are still deciding who to piss off most, and first) I sidled into Friday’s special CZO meeting. And it was good for some fun and surprises, too.

No surprises about the outcome. A unanimous Yea on first reading was a done deal. The Council believes – or at least President Head does – that the best way to deal with a flawed ordinance is to adopt it. Then you can tinker with it better. Maybe you can even collect some fines while you you fine-tune it. Some of the commenters were unconvinced. They seemed to think this is something like saying the way to repair a flat tire is to drive around on it some more.

It was a lovely autumn day. I just wanted to stay mellow and watch the show.

But the comments – they just inspire wonder. Some were virulently against 75 foot high buildings, and a few in favor of them. I am with the pro faction, mostly a Ms Hamnet of Bywater Neighborhood Association. I don’t get the height phobia myself. I like different heights and an interesting skyline, but I am sure most are sincere, and they live there, so I guess they will work it out.

I don’t think all the comments are sincere, though. Carol Gniady, FQC’s new hit lady, had a list of heights for the riverfront, including 40 feet for Holy Cross. What does Holy Cross have to do with FQC? When is the last time any of them have been there? Can they find it on a map? Is there a sub-rosa Hoodie network brewing? The Five Families of downtown, hawking each other’s rotten fish? Holy Cross may be obliged to reciprocate by banning music.

The outstanding comment was on urban farming, factual, informative, grounded in science and experience. And the Council appreciated it, especially Ms Stacy Head! So you see, no matter what I say, she ain’t all bad.

One guy was amusingly smug. He told the council members to hold neighborhood meetings. I guess they had never thought of that. Then he told us that he had two buildings at 2700 Royal that were very nice, so he was a very fine fellow, while the 24 hour Mardi Gras Zone market next door was “inappropriate.” I think he just wanted us to know that this popular store was not as virtuous as he is.

But then – inevitable, isn’t it? – there came the Hoodie Platoon, like Colonel Hathi’s March through the Perdido Jungle, trunk to tail with loud bleats on big honks.

Neighborhood clubs should be a great idea. Citizen democracy. Local action for positive change. Somehow the most intrusive, probably most influential ones got infected with a virus of negativity in an ethical web of some of the worst of destructive classism. As Lisa Suarez of Faubourg Marigny Improvement said in this session, “Citizens Against Everything.”

Possibly inspired by some of the intense anti-virus work going on right now, the Gnomes of NOLA are working on a cure. They say some Hoodies may be returned to the community one day.

There were signs that one neighborhood association must be okay. A woman speaking for Neighbors First for Bywater explained that it was started by breakaways from Bywater Neighborhood Association. Explaining why they left, she trotted out some Republican-sounding stuff, so genuinely awful that we got a clear message that BNA must be pretty good. They had the good sense not to join VCPORA’s “7 Essentials” scam.

It was not all Hood and gloom, though. In a brief, rational presentation, Ethan Ellestad of MaCCNO pointed out that the CZO draft will prevent live music in traditional music areas, notably Rampart Street.

Editor’s note: New Orleans is being shafted on Rampart by the usual suspects, the Dementors of Downtown. There is an entity called North Rampart Main Street, Inc. A public interest corporation or some such – the details don’t matter. The mission is supposed to be to regenerate North Rampart, a commercial corridor and entertainment zone before there was zoning. So why are there no entertainment bars there now, in a traditional entertainment zone? Just read the list of directors, advisors, trustees and worthies: the same crowd of life-extinguishers that is making the French Quarter increasingly boring. The bores have seized North Rampart as a tribute subsidiary of the residential FQ, which it should not be. North Rampart is a commercial corridor and should serve everybody, not just the local nabobs working the One True Religion, permanently increasing house prices, and subjecting all of New Orleans life to the deathly code of garden party respectability. They call themselves Preservationists, while waging a relentless war of attrition on real tradition.

So boring are they making the French Quarter, while the rest of the city pays no attention and Council Members line up at the Kool Aid stand, that the permanent floating rowdy party of Bourbon Street looks better every day. I can’t get under the hood of North Rampart, Inc. yet but look it over yourself, and then look at the businesses on this urban commercial corridor. Shops. Local services. Quiet businesses. Why has North Rampart been allowed into the stranglehold of the same people that as members of VCPORA and FQC are sucking the oxygen out of the FQ’s air?

That is why we need Habana Cafe on Rampart at Esplanade: break that bony grip. Open up North Rampart. It belongs to the city, not the old crows of the lower Quarter. I want to see North Rampart live. I am going to find out the possibility of having North Rampart Main disenfranchised. Maybe I can engage SmithStag to sue it for me. $32 million might be about the right number.

Ethan said that the CZO must do more to protect neighborhood music venues from vigilante lawsuits by individuals exploiting loopholes in clumsily written old ordinances. Sounds right. Responsible zoning would prevent the malicious lawsuits run by the two FQ neighborhood abnormalities and their Dementor in Chief.

Later on came a doozie from the dark side, if you can call it a side rather than a spinning dingbat act.

Coco Garrett, President of French Quarter Citizens, comes to the lectern. She announces what an important person she is, then, as a NOLA Patrolman might say, proceeds to tell us that live music should not be allowed in the French Quarter, because it disturbs the residential Quality of Life – amen! Praised be its name – and even the tourist experience, says M’lady Garrett. There is too much music and not enough residents, and what visitors remember of New Orleans is not how many times they threw up on Bourbon Street, but the wonderful architecture and the great experience of being invited in to people’s homes, like hers.

I love it! This is what we go to council sessions for! Ms Garrett is a hardcore Hoodie, but a bit . . . guileless. This throwing-up thing is one of their dumber mantras. An article in the catechism of the Hood cult is that young people up to 25 or 30 and possibly all Bourbon Street visitors throw up all the time. SS himself wrote that if tourism expands because of the hotel levy’s contribution to visitor marketing, drunken 18 to 25 year olds will invade the residential areas, throwing up everywhere.

But President Garrett gives us a new stanza to the hymn: she sets her house against vomiting as a memorable experience. She thinks her house is better than throwing up. She came to City Council to tell us that.

People don’t really visit New Orleans for music and Bourbon Street and the Big Easy mythology, or Saints’ games, or the great Uptown palazzi or the Lower Garden mansions and Magazine Street, Creole or Cajun food, or great restaurants or po’boys or cemeteries or voodoo or beignets, Ms Garrett implies. They come to see her friends’ houses. I guess the 20,000 or 25,000 people who end up in Bourbon every day wandered in accidentally, while they were trying to find French Quarter Citizens.

So that’s our essential FQC takeaway for today. The President’s gracious home is more memorable than vomiting.

Are the FQers getting crazier, more dishonest, more shameless? Is Hoodism a degenerative ailment?

Am I the only one that gets a bit fed up of French Quarter nuts bleating about its fragile beauty? Why not just take care of it right, instead of that annoying whine all the time? One house fell down on the residential end of Royal Street this week. Just collapsed. Not where the music and entertainment are. Not where the bars are, and the chicken shops and daiquiris and T-shirts. They take care of their properties. Out on precious Royal, where the Old Dears and the Auntie Loops play. They incorporated to defend the built environment in 1938, when business boosters wanted to rip the place down for a rat’s nest, and they stopped it. Good work. And now they would have a whole traditional building more to look after if they dealt with that, instead of devoting their lives to cranky causes like finding sneaky ways to suppress music. Like zoning.

Let’s have a dream. A transformation happens, a Perdido Putney Swope. A council is elected that cares for actual tradition, not rose-tinted Hoodie reproductions of it, And they really listen to the musicians and artists, and historians, and people who know what the streets were like, and give their voices suitable weight in matters CZO and BZA. And they work out little regions – “overlays” – where the reactionary respectability mafias may preach their garden party morality, and have anti-music soirees, and ban things, especially live music and living culture. Hoodie reservations may be no more than two blocks square, and there must be at least one mile between each reservation. No parades will go through them. The only street noises allowed are fire engines and ambulances to remove the moribund and make room for the merely geriatric. Reproduction is not permitted. No schools, no playgrounds. No children’s voices must disturb the scowling quiet of the Killjoy Zones. They may launch $32 million lawsuits against anybody within their enclaves, but not outside, where real people live.

And NOLAscape could say: Clarkson’s bumptious failed circus has finally been sent to Perdition (not Perdido) by a Council without fear.

Scuttering back to reality, we have to admit that a lot of FQ and Frenchmen music now is just imitation. NOLA tribute bands. But even musicians have to make a living, and if the oppressive philistinism afflicting both downtown and neighborhoods would just shut up for a couple of decades, creativity might creep back into that rough garden. Green shoots and all that. And live entertainment might take root in the neighborhoods, and kids might grow up with creative native music around their streets.

FQ crackpottery is not the surprise, though. Lunatic statements are what I expect from the noble Citizens.

The surprise is, I agreed deeply with LaToya Cantrell. CM Cantrell has been under suspicion since she turned against the sound ordinance improvement at Clarkson’s Last Stand. Since then, she has not done herself any good by taking up causes restricting individual choice and freedom for petty and unnecessary reasons. like a jaywalking ordinance, and now she has a smoking ban simmering in her cauldron.

But this afternoon CM Cantrell said, and said well, that this CZO has to fulfill objectives set out by the Master Plan, and it looks like it is not. Go, Cantrell! (at least for this).

“As we evaluate the CZO we must not forget the Master Plan and its promise of sustainability, opportunity and livability.” Then she underlined affordability, so I will too. She contrasted the steep rises in rents and the almost nonexistent salary increases for most people, so that the percentage of income spent on housing had hugely increased for most families, leaving less disposable income for other necessities and . . . I think we are bumping up against real quality of life here, not the T-shirt and mule dropping concerns that the spoiled sisterhoods of the FQ say destroy theirs. Here is quality of life that like the problem of just staying alive here for some people would in a sane world take precedence over the petty, personal and class issues of the upscale neighborhood clubbers who always manage to dominate these meetings. Then Ms Cantrell brought in flood danger, house elevation, flood mitigation. That sounds like Quality of Life to me! Having a life is the prerequisite to enhancing its quality.

This was one of Ms. Cantrell’s finest hours. She was speaking for the two hundred thousand or so citizens who do not come to City Hall to seek to have their particular interests valued over others’, who probably have no idea such a meeting is happening – whom the City Council’s first job should be to serve.

I would suggest listening to the original on the video – it is right at the end. It was so good, NOLAscape is going to give her a break, or even a prize, as soon as those unnecessary personal restriction ordinances are defeated. Imagine – real QoL in our very own City Council. A proud moment.

Some of the worst things in the CZO are truly stupid, shortsighted, pandering rules against music. “Non-amplified.” What are they thinking of? Have you heard a keyboard without amplification? No sound. Banning amplification limits content, which the Supreme Court, even the mad Roberts court, says is unconstitutional. Banning music in courtyards is demented, just throwing a little blue blankie to Peter Yokum and Stuart Smith, cranks who would not be given the time of day by a strong council.

Why are they doing it anyway? How much nagging from the Smith-driven Old Squares minuet troupe did it take? LaToya Cantrell is looking like the hope of the city. Pay attention to her. Support her input, on behalf of real Quality of Life, meaning the ability to eat and have shelter, and the ability to make and consume art. Protect her from the Dementors, who may see her statement as heresy, and who knows what more mischief their voodoo can do.

(On condition she dumps those silly, unnecessary restrictions of personal liberty.)

And support any Council Member who has the courage to discard the whole of the VCPORA/FQC agenda. All of it. Every self-serving, death-serving word, banning and suppressing and limiting and undermining. Get rid of it all. Tell them they should have saved the building that collapsed, not spent their years sniping at what they don’t even understand.

And here is a project if somebody can get some politicians together with the courage for systemic inquiry, not just tinkering. The CZO is chipping away at the Master Plan, but before the Master Plan was a city that grew up without zoning. The effect of zoning for residential advocates is segregation of various kinds, and protection of rising house prices. That shouldd not be the driving force of a city.

Put a big question mark over the whole concept of zoning. You will find that you are not the only one who thinks that the whole agenda of segregational zoning, overlays, plot sizes, banning this and forbidding that, is fundamentally flawed and damaging American cities everywhere. Except Houston. The lone holdout. Houston repeatedly rejects the notion of a zoning code, and somehow gets by.

New Orleans got a couple of hundred years under its belt without exclusionary zoning. It could blow off the CZO and do another couple of centuries.

 

 

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Patrolling NOLA Patrol

I was imagining harsh retaliation for Council President Stacy Head’s unattractive, disrespectful attempt to squelch Chris Young speaking on behalf of FQBL, a business organization which had been prepared to subsidize added security in the Bourbon Street area with more than $500,000 annually until the city got its police problem straightened out, in yesterday’s Council discussion of the controversial NOLA Patrol. What would Jon Stewart do? What would Andy Borowitz do? How would ISIS handle it?

Imagine my embarrassment when I received the email below from William Khan of the Khan family’s group of tourism-oriented businesses.  Instead of fire, brimstone and ridicule for that silly faction of Council and its supporters, here was reason, justice and thoughtful critique.

So I took the NOLAscape Way of Justice: I asked William if he would permit us to publish his reasoned essay while I worked on cranking up the voltage on NOLAscape’s most primitive Abu Ghraib-approved torture generator to the level the occasion demanded.

 

Let me say that my businesses comply with all rules and regulations. We love the architecture, people, and culture of the quarter (we’re part of it too).

But the history of the French Quarter seems to overwhelmingly consist of selective enforcement, vague laws, unequal protection, and lack of due process of law. Lastly, the number one threat to quality of life is being robbed, raped, or killed. When businesses, residents, and tourists are concerned about being violently robbed, raped, or murdered, do we really want them worrying about having too many signs or having the wrong paint on their building/residence?

I will repeat my original concerns with the NOLA Patrol program:

1. Parking is already a nightmare in the French Quarter, and of course this is to be expected in the most heavily populated and narrowest part of the city. The existing meter maids in the Quarter do a fair job of ticketing violators and ensuring cars are not parked in such a way to impede pedestrian flow or endanger the public. Generating revenue for the city should be a side benefit of meter maids, not their prime focus. If the ticketing and towing of illegally parked cars are currently being done at a fair level, what is the purpose of adding even more meter maids (via the NOLA Patrols) to the quarter unless it is to use residents, businesses, and workers of the quarter as an ATM?

2. More meter maids (via NOLA Patrols) will make the quarter absolutely miserable for service-industry workers and supplier trucks. The hotels, restaurants, bars, and other employers of the quarter are having a dreadful time finding qualified workers, and parking does not need to be made more expensive or troublesome for our hardworking waiters, salespeople, and deliverymen. It’s getting to the point where it is more attractive for a capable salesperson or waiter to work in more suburban areas of the metro area rather than deal with the hassles and rougher (at times) crowd of the quarter.

3. I am assuming that the NOLA Patrol will focus more of its efforts at night when much of the crime and safety issues arise. Ironically, the NOLA Patrol cannot do anything directly about arresting, detaining, or preventing criminals and their associates. So what are they going to focus on?

4. For better or for worse, the French Quarter is a different animal at night. People in the quarter at night are generally not there to appreciate the architecture and history. They are there at night to shop, eat, and relax. Businesses and workers adapt to the changed dynamic of the quarter at night. They may bend some obscure rule regarding business signs, barking (i.e. solicitation of customers), or lighting. Businesses are going to be the target of the NOLA Patrol at night when there is nothing for them to do (i.e. they can’t arrest people and they can’t contain crowds), and the businesses are not the ones that have made the quarter dangerous or dirty at night!

5. Do the restaurants, bars, and nightclubs really want to deal with code enforcement at night? Is code enforcement in the French Quarter really the biggest problem?

6. What safeguards are there to ensure that the NOLA Patrol does not get hijacked by the VCPORA types to punish and harass businesses like the music venues, t-shirt shops, tour guides (remember Malachi Hull?), street performers, street musicians, and other stakeholders of the cultural economy?

7. Did you forget about the increased fines (i.e. $1000) for 2nd and 3rd violations? NOLA Patrol will have an incentive to write recurring and repeated tickets.

8. Restaurants (especially the more mass-market restaurants such as those along Bourbon Street and Iberville Street) already generate a lot of trash; this is to be expected for the restaurants that have higher volume. Are they going to be cited left and right by the NOLA Patrol for littering? If they are cited for littering excessively, how do you think that is going to affect their workers?

(C) William Khan, October 2014

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French Quarter Management Reshuffle

If you don’t live in the French Quarter, you may think French Quarter Management District is just another local affair, probably dominated by the same scolds who try to block new restaurants, clubs and bars, shut down music, harass T-shirt shops they do not think are sufficiently fashionable, and generally function as a boil on the butt of progress.

It is really quite the opposite. FQMD helps to link its area to the rest of the city. The Management District is a “subdivision” of the state government, largely created by Senator Edwin Murray, probably (although of course he cannot say so publicly) to inject an organization of sanity, clarity, representation and sound structure into the rabid pseudo-preservationist stew the Old Square had become. The clique who call themselves “the residents” were loudly thumping some very quirky tubs, and achieving penetration into some even more peculiar Councils (present incarnation excepted, of course).

FQMD’s territory runs from the river to the lake side of North Rampart, from the center line of Canal to the Marigny side of Esplanade. That rectangle is like a crossroads or keystone of the city. There are about 4,000 residents, plus or minus a few hundred, depending on how you count the condos. There are more than 7,000 employees, including the very large number engaged in various aspects of the many entertainment and tourist-oriented businesses. That number probably does not include the many musicians, dancers, actors and other entertainers, who are self-employed contractors. It may not include many of the French Market operators, who may be proprietary businesses, and it may not include many people whose daily business takes them in and out of the area, from taxi drivers to visiting businessmen to people attending or operating conventions.

In fact, you should not stop at the borders of Orleans Parish. Commuters and businesses from the a North Shore, Metairie, St Bernard and others interact with the FQ every day or every week. The classic residents’ clubs, VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens, are advocates for a certain tranche of French Quarter re-urbanization society, generally acting against the interests of commercial and service activity in defense of privileges they see as matter of right granted with the deeds to their houses or apartments. If you hear them speak at Council or zoning, you might get the impression that they have the deed on the whole area, and it is being invaded by armed gypsies.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the number of people who have an interest in FQMD’s patch exceeds 100,000 – not counting visitors, which would increase the bench by about nine million.

FQMD’s purpose is to create an organized forum for resolution of differences between various French Quarter constituencies – residents, bars, hotels, restaurants, and public sector corporations like North Rampart Main Street.

Senator Murray had the right idea. Instead of squabbling, representatives of a spectrum of interests can come together in a transparent, structured representative parliament, with committees studying projects and problems, providing reports and recommendations to the main board, who then provide considered representations and recommendations to municipal and state governments and legislatures. It’s a good plan.

But not perfect. It is representative, but not always democratic. For the most part, that is okay. There is no particular reason why the French Quarter and Canal Street hotels should be democratic. They appoint a representative, and it is up to them how they select him or her and how they expect to be involved in his choices once appointed.

This breaks down for the residents’ interests, though. The FQMD enabling statute gives a commissioner’s post to VCPORA and another to French Quarter Citizens. These are not business nor trade organizations. They represent individuals. They claim to represent “the residents,” but their total memberships only amount to a minority, and they do not appear to be democratic within themselves. They are rather secretive, but they seem to be managed by boards of directors who are in turn directed by even smaller subgroups of activist officers. Members tell me they are rarely if ever asked for input for anything, except membership fees and contributions. As far as they know, the president or the officers make the decisions, plan and execute the advocacy, and generally run the show without reference to the rank and file – if those words can be used for the members of elitist organizations like French Quarter Citizens for the Preservation of Quality of Life – since shortened to French Quarter Citizens, but the original name gives a rather clearer idea of what they understand the meaning of Preservation to be.

The problem is compounded by the fact that VCPORA and FQC are intertwined and intentionally aligned. It would be deceptive to think of them as two different groups. They are more like two styles or local chapters of one party, who between them can claim less than ten percent of the resident population in their combined constituency.

In fact, Mr Smith, who provides pro bono legal representation and support to both of them, and gets very tough on such underlings as presidents and directors when they do not comply with his wishes, wrote in a brutal, rude, intended dressing-down to the President of FQC (1):

“Never before has FQC broke ranks with VCPORA. It is critical that the residents of the Quarter speak with one voice on significant issues. Failure to do so completely undermines our effectiveness.”

“I also think that the previous discussions with VCPORA about a merger should resume. We need one organization to speak for everyone, or two organizations who are joined at the hip as we historically have been.”

As much as the officers and directors of VCPORA and FQC may try to deny it, Smith pulls the levers on the two organizations. He probably does not have to expose his control very often, because they make sure not to cross him, but when he does, it can get ugly. In May of 2013, he got the members of FQC so foaming at the mouth that the staid gentry, anti-noise as they are, started screaming at some of their directors in meetings. Ah, thereby hangs a telenovela. Maybe a good serial for Halloween, or El Dia de los Muertes.

Mr Smith has extensive experience of controlling these organizations. Members say his law firm wrote the bylaws for both. Lets be clear about what he says:

Historically, the two clubs speak with one voice. In other words, they represent one single point of view. They are not independent.
They are so twinned that he calls them “joined at the hip.” A queasy metaphor, but we know what he means: lockstep. Inseparable. One unit with two heads.
They are so united that they discussed merger.

The bottom line is that French Quarter residents are not properly represented in the French Quarter Management District.
Why didn’t the two neighborhood associations merge?

Only a renegade would answer. Fortunately, there are quite a few relieved renegades who, sickened by Smith’s brutality and the cringing, vulgar servility of his sycophants that turned against their own co-members in a slavering imitation of their Svengali, resigned from French Quarter Citizens and stepped out into the free air. Some never want to see the inside of a neighborhood organization again, equating them more with a Turkish prison than a citizens’ group. Some have launched or joined French Quarter Advocates, a neighborhood association whose principles, mission and bylaws preclude the snarling, negative nastiness that many people think of as the trademark of the Siamese Twins of Royal Street.

They didn’t merge because they would get only one vote.

One vote is what they should have. Undemocratic and representing only a minority of residents, probably less than ten percent, mostly of one type or class, they commandeer unmerited influence by outwardly pretending to be two independent clubs.

French Quarter Advocates did not exist when Senator Murray and the State Legislature set up the composition of the board, and probably lacking time and interest to dig around in neighborhood association machinations, the legislators were probably not aware of how the clubs have set themselves up as providers of two votes for Smith. But now that FQA is growing fast, and represents residents and others who do not want to bludgeon their way to outsize influence by false claims, misinformation and vigilante lawsuits, it is time to amend the appointment of Commissioners.

VCPORA/FQC should have at most one seat – if not simply disqualification for the mischief they have been getting up to for the past several years – and one of their seats should be re-assigned to French Quarter Advocates, so the patently false claim that there is “one voice” of the 4,000 French Quarter residents, who are more diverse than the scolding voice of VCPORA would lead you to believe, can be laid to rest. A Voodoo funeral in Pirate’s Alley would be appropriate, with smuggled rum to drink and splash on a flammable papier-maché coffin of false claims.

Petition, anyone?

 

(1) Email, Smith to Linda Malin, 17 May 2013.

 

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