Life, Death and Immortality: Banning Biology

Well, we lost. The smoking ban passed.

Clearly conspiring against satire, speakers on both sides were articulate and sincere. In the good old Sound Ordinance days of 2014, the opposition was reliably dishonest and badly behaved, so press freedom could function properly.

And they will be again. The Sound Ordinance will soon emerge blinking from the dungeons, and we will be bombarded with disinformation and The New Nannyism. The game will be different this time. People know now that the noisiest neighborhood associations are certifiable and conceal their low membership numbers behind self-righteous posturing. A few leaders are disingenuously deceptive; most are probably just deluded by the few. But be careful: CM LaToya with her new Joan-of-Arc banner might be selling silence as hard as smoke-free. Don’t be surprised if you are told that a few million of us are dying from secondhand music.

I digress, but only a bit. The Harpies are trying to insert music and theater issues into the CZO as well. Zoning is as dry as small print and equally littered with traps. Watch out. As Dr Johnson said, Under cover of acrophobia, your wife, Sir, is sonophobic.

Back to business. CMs James Gray and Jason Williams supported amendments that took the police out of the frame, for two good reasons. Response to violent crime should not be compromised by calls to deal with a smoking complaint; and smoking should not become a broken-taillight pretext for pedestrian stops and searches, which could be translated: harassing African American men, with a little impromptu brutality by a cop in the mood to twist the Fourth Amendment out of shape.

Register that. It is important for street crime and the police, soon to be a front page issue.

Amendments were entered to remove most of the outdoors restrictions, such as no smoking within 200 feet of a church, school or playground. CM James Gray had gone out to check just how much of the city is within 200 feet of a supposedly sensitive site. It was a big chunk of the public real estate.

200 feet each side of a church? Did separation of church and state get lost in the cloud of secondhand smoke? Does a churchy ectoplasm drift over its property line to get spiritually soiled by secondhand smoke across the street? How about no Bible-thumping within two hundred feet of a bar? That would get those annoying Mardi Gras missionaries off Bourbon Street. I hope CM Gray got this one kicked out.

Mr Albin Guillot, who got a hard ride in NOLAscape last week for an inadvertent comic turn gave a rousing speech in favor of the ban with a special place in the cockles of his warm heart for musicians. A bit like an audition for King Lear, but he got a good round of applause. I even joined in. It sounded sincere and was well done, so credit where due.

Ploy alert: signs are accumulating that sentimental solicitude for musicians is a new Hoodie tactic to hook their squelch policies to the nanny fad. Be careful.

Harrah’s intends to renegotiate its arrangements with the city to share its anticipated losses with the people that imposed the ban. I guess that complies with US economic rules. Smaller businesses just have to struggle through on the general framework of law, regulation and rubbish, but a high cap enterprise like Harrah’s works on contracts of mutual expectation with the government, and exercise of dollar power. The Shock Doctrine suggests: keep an eye on your property tax bill.

Now the Gnomes of NOLAscape venture into the shadows.

>> Life and death.

If you do not currently fit in one of those two categories, you may not be interested. Look for alternative states in Dante.

What does it mean to “save lives”? What is this really about?

Dr King of the CDC said 50,000 people a year die of passive smoke. Madame CM Cantrell wrote that 2.5 million people have died of passive smoke since 1964, which looks like 50,000 times 50 years. It’s on the CDC web site, so it must be true, right? Our government would not deceive us, would it?

Why 1964? Because it is 50 years, so the multiplication gives us a nice round number?

The number of deaths a year must be a function of average life expectancy and population, with variations because population is a moving target. In 2010, the population was 308,745,538. Deaths were 2,468,435, or 0.8%. Average life expectancy here was 78.7 years, so the average dead person was born around 1932, when the US population was 124.000,000. The deaths were almost 2.0% of that number, so a bit high. Death rate is the result of a fairly complex mixture of ages and causes. CDC data include age bands and analysis by sex and a sampling of “races.” In 2010, 574,743 of the deaths, or 23.3%, were due to cancers. If 50,000 deaths were caused by passive smoking that would mean this one cause equals 8.7% of all cancer fatalities. Not all smoking-related illness is cancer, and not all cancer is smoking related, so this an interesting indicator more than a statistically defensible analysis – but it still makes me suspicious. Does second-hand smoke actually cause the problem, or is it the proximate cause affecting someone with a sensitivity to irritants, such that if smoke did not affect them, something else, perhaps another atmospheric carcinogen, would? I want a few second opinions.

An up-to-date statistic that the current annual death toll from tobacco is 480,000. That puts claimed deaths from passive smoking over 10.0%. Sorry, ban people – I don’t believe it. If someone knows how to verify the 50,000 claim, please let me know.

The population in 1964 was 192,000,000, so growth to 2013 is just over 65%. How come passive smoking death stays flat at 50,000? Does smoking decrease exactly offset population increase?
If new public health missions like smoking bans and maybe future bans of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, GM crops (over Monsanto’s dead body), gluten, carbohydrates, protein, caffeine, puffer fish and whatever else can be banned; speed limits are reduced to 40 and yellow lines everywhere, so drivers are even less attentive than now; jaywalking is banned (another Cantrell issue); factories and extractionist polluters are finally forced to take care of their waste, and fracking toxicity is addressed, what is going to happen?

Another recent statistic is that 6 people per day die of alcohol poisoning. Why not ban drinking in bars, while council is still excited? Oh wait – that didn’t work out so well last time, did it?

Where are the 50,000 or 250,000 saved from death every year going to be? Scuba diving in Cozumel? Playing five-a-side in Barcelona? Heading for immortality? What am I missing? A certain percentage of the people are going to die every year and every day. From armed robbery, cop shooting, getting beaten to death in overcrowded prisons, domestic abuse, football injuries, “natural causes,” old age, a long list of diseases and imperial wars, a few million of us are going down every year.

A quote from Time magazine today:

Another analysis of studies found that when people walk just 1-74 minutes a week, they have a 19% reduced risk of death, compared to the most sedentary people.

This is common-or-garden journalese, and of course ridiculous. Pace the finest reasoning of David Hume and Karl Popper on the impossibility of reaching the level of Truth through inductive reasoning, as far as we know, every complex organism dies. Even if you walk, eat only Japanese food and join the right church, terrestrial immortality will elude you.

Journalistic standards in science writing are pretty low. Legislators passing laws to restrict liberty should be more careful. Whose liberty are they restricting? This is not like the Hobby Lobby injustice, where the Supremes gave the right to a family that follows a cult to restrict the liberty of thousands of others. This is council restricting the liberty not only of businesses, but of individuals. Even if they are right, by using the deceptive language of “saving lives” with unspecified outcomes, they are not living up to a high governmental standard, which really should be more careful than Time magazine.

The most dangerous effects of smoking are direct, on the smoker, not the bystander. Our new smoking ban does not stop people smoking. Some of the people it is designed to protect, such as employees of businesses that permit customers to smoke, are also smokers themselves. If we project the current trend forward, in about 5 years maybe 100 bars would still allow smoking indoors. So what really would have been the difference between the ban by statute and the ban by social evolution? My guess without an actuary on the case: statistical zero. But never mind: virtue has been served. LaToya of Arc’s banner flies high. The banning army celebrated victory, saying with a big win under their belts, they can now sally forth to convert the heathen in other Southern cities.

Some of the people behind the ban initiative feel this issue very personally, so they will think me insensitive to their great faith. In this instance, I really do not want to offend. Few are insensitive to their personal pain, but many don’t believe in their faith that this ban would have prevented it.

Personally, I will benefit from the ban. I don’t like smoky atmosphere in bars or anywhere. But this was the wrong issue at the wrong time. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I see at least as much faith as science in it. It has the whiff of a gambit in a political program whose objective is to make us look modern and squeaky and quiet, like Denver or Portland, but without the marijuana. Louisiana will still want to sustain the War on Drugs so it carries idiotically on having the highest incarceration rate and percentage of people marginalized by the criminal justice machine in the civilized world.

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The Smoking Game

Views expressed here may not reflect the opinions of the editor.
However, that does not prevent their being true

In a few hours, the City Council meeting will start that will embed another step in LaToya Cantrell’s progress to civic sainthood, as she keeps us alive and safe, protected from other people’s cigarettes.

Not from getting shot and robbed, though. Some might think, let’s try to take care of that first, before creating new, unnecessary crimes.

The entertainment, bar and restaurant industry is already beleaguered by zombie attacks from the proto-fascist tendency in neighborhood associationdom attempting to weaponize zoning to suck the oxygen out of urban life by importing the tract house mentality into a pre-zoning city. (I think I saw the covert affairs section of that spreading virus moving into action last night. That will be another story,when I get some details in a row.)

Have you been watching any of the Smoke Show? It’s fun. Not the ban itself; banning things is rarely a pretty sight, no matter how you dress it up. Introduced as if science, the banning game quickly devolved into belief systems and fandoms, like a religion or a team sport.

The Cynic says LaToya Cantrell is building a political brand on lifestyle issues. Hitching her mules to an environmental health bandwagon. The perception if not the reality of public preventive healthcare. The tyranny of public health, in a quote by Jacob Sullum, a scientific anti-nanny. For votes? Influence? Saint LaToya protects me. Love your nanny.

How does Saint LaToya sound to you? Think it will catch on?

I don’t like smoking much, but between a bar room with a few cigarettes on the go and a clique of local politicians intent on banning stuff, I have to look real close to see which is the greater long-term danger.

Secondhand smoke is good for getting headlines. Good arguments can be made on both sides. People are interested. Dangers and terrors can be threatened, and as loyal Americans, we are Pavlovian with respect to any threat, real or invented. The council chamber is filling up with voters for CM Cantrell’s “Town Halls.” The Cantrell brand is on the rise!

There have been two so far. The first one started with a panel arranged in the form of a stacked deck. Ms Cantrell had lined up six or seven anti-smoke specialists who front non-profits. Not even a pretense of balance: no scientifically qualified person questioning the secondary smoke research and statistics had a place on the intro panel. Cantrell and co-sponsor Susan Guidry were selling the ban.

The experts told us that our life expectancy was nasty, brutal and short, should we take the high-risk decision to have some drinks in a bar where people smoked cigarettes, or spend some time in a casino. They emphasize employees more than customers, because they spend more time there, but it is clear they are out to save all of us, whether we want to be saved or not.

There are qualified people who question the secondhand smoke studies. They should have been represented, and a comprehensive debate would have included a qualified statistician with no axe to grind to unpick the claims, and a political anthropologist to discuss how politicians picking up a habit of banning things may be a hazard to social health that might offset secondary cigarette smoke clearance.

The public speakers’ parade in both sessions was a joy to behold. I didn’t count them, but in the first Town Hall, most seemed to favor of the ban. People in favor of banning stuff generally have that Joan of Arc look and turn out more.

There were so many that Ms Cantrell limited the speaking time to a minute, except, of course, for John Moore, first speaker, always congenial, generally in cheerful agreement with leading council members, always allowed as much time as he wants.

“I am an ex-smoker,” became a familiar opening statement. What does that have to do with the price of plums? Is this a Cigarettes Anonymous 12 step program? My name is John and I am a Smoker? Everybody over 50 is an ex-smoker. When we were teenagers, everybody wanted to be like James Dean or Natalie Wood, or some Marlboro Man type rolling a cigarette on a horse. Life was getting your hands on your father’s car, and looking cool at smoking without getting caught. Later on, health and fitness took over the cool slot. Now real cigarette junkies are a shrinking minority.

Another comment pattern was even worse: a parent or relatives or friends had never smoked but died of lung cancer. Is this supposed to suggest that second hand smoke killed them? This opening might be be suitable for Oprah, but as evidence for legislation, it is empty. We wander among diesel fumes, car exhaust, industrial emissions, commercial kitchen exhausts – chemicals and particles everywhere. Did cancer not exist before R.J. Reynolds opened in 1875? If the friend or family member’s lung cancer was enabled by an atmospheric carcinogen, did it come from smoke in the air of a bar or casino? If not, it is not relevant to the proposed ban.

We could sympathize with musicians who said playing, especially wind instruments and vocals, in a smoky atmosphere made them feel sick and weakened their performance. We heard similar stories from a casino dealer from Colorado, who said there was a very notable improvement in her health and state of mind when they banned smoking. But wait a minute – first speaker was John Moore. He is chairman of the Musicians Union. Has his organization said, Our members may not be required to play in a smoky atmosphere? All smoking must cease 30 minutes before a performance and may not resume until finished. How about bands and individual musicians? They could try it. They could apply pressure. They could ask for more money if they have to risk smoke. Combat pay. There are a lot of things to try before you ask Council to ban something for everybody. If trumpet and saxophone players get hooked on St Cantrell as guardian angel, they should not be surprised if the Perdido Chorus tell you soon that you are going to get arrested or fined if you play louder than 70dB, or you can’t use amplified instruments so you have to get your harps and lutes out.

Many people argued that e-cigarettes, a new industry which seems to reduce the carcinogenic substances a smoker takes in, should not be banned. I found the “vapers'” information interesting, because it tends to confirm my observation from when I quit smoking many years ago – that the habit is more behavioral than chemical. Breathing straddles voluntary and involuntary behavior. A breathing habit goes deep. Smoking is a breathing habit. I suspect that is why e-cigs are more effective than nicotine patches and pills, and why cigarette smoking trumped chewing tobacco.

We heard speakers arguing for business and individual choice.

As the meetings went on, people started to cheer and applaud one side or the other. With one or two minute speaking times and cheers going up, the rhythm was more like a basketball game than a Council meeting. Ms LaToya’s ban was turning into a team sport. She must have been basking in it. Headlines and votes.

My sympathies are generally with the libertarians saying even if there is some risk, let social evolution and the behavioral market take care of it, because they are working, but I found myself applauding good shots from both sides.

The forceful rhetoric of Ms Elizabeth Stella was the high point of public input in both sessions. Stella is the smokin’ star. In the second session, she opened with, “A bar is not a health club, and alcohol is not a health beverage. If health is what you are after, go to Whole Foods and get a carrot juice!”

She pointed out that a ban would reduce business revenues, therefore municipal tax take, when the city already claims to be cash-strapped. “And who is going to make that up? I doubt these anti-smoking bozos will,” she said, taking in the room with a gesture and a hawk’s gaze, “because they don’t look like they could make change for a quarter!”

That got a good laugh and a round of applause. Stella returned to her seat, which by chance was next to Susan and Albin Guillot, familiar as one of the more pompous double-acts of French Quarter Citizens, an organization in the Louis Gohmert wing of political discourse.

Having said that, however, their recently appointed Exec, Carol Gniady, turned in her best performance so far with a well composed, well-delivered paean against all that is unhealthy and unholy in our air. Great rhythm and flow. I imagine she had a Haydn cello concerto playing in the background as she wrote it. Maybe Meg Lousteau is helping her learn how to turn the task of overcoming organizational kookiness into leadership.

But I digress.

As Ms Stella sat down, les Guillots were working themselves into a bit of a twitch. Resembling nothing more than a brace of angry hens scolding at Ms Stella, they stood up and with indignant looks cribbed from a supporting actress in a Jane Austen movie, flounced off to other seats. I managed to catch up with Ms Stella in the hall. “What happened?” I asked. (Note the reportorial professionalism in that direct question.) “Why did those two stomp off?”

“They didn’t appreciate being called bozos,” she replied, with her usual volume and force.

While I think they could make change for plenty of quarters, it is charming that the Guillots took “bozos” personally. I think many of our citoyens fortunate enough not to belong to French Quarter Citizens or VCPORA might agree with their seeing reflections of themselves in Stella’s epithet.

Is this a suitable moment to toss in a few nuggets? Public health, Bloomberg-style, is coming to Council this season. Grab hold of your giant Coke.

The Sound Ordinance is coming back. CM Cantrell has already announced her intention of grabbing the wheel. In fact, some of the cynics among us – remember this is the Cynic’s Analysis of the smoking ban – wonder whether the deciding vote that back-burnered what we called the Woolworth Amendment last year, which by memory was Cantrell’s, might not really have been intended to put it to sleep so she could resurrect it and fold the future of live music into her 2015 plans. It was Kristin Gisleson-Palmer’s project, but she was leaving council. It was a high profile issue – why should an ambitious pol not grab it? A quick stab in the back, and you’re in front of the pack. Council rap.

A committee of City Hall-niks has already quietly selected their consultant for this year, unless right-thinking folk who don’t want New Orleans railroaded into imitating Omaha can block it – not Dave Woolworth, a musician and highly qualified audiologist, but Monica Hammer, an environmental health writer with a speciality in sound damage. Whoever unleashed one of these people on the New Orleans music scene really should be considered for exile. We will get to pick this apart soon and put it under the forensic lens, and I do not think the innards are going to be pretty.

Back to the sufficient-unto-the-day issue: pro-ban people say that businesses will not be harmed by a ban. That is not true. They may re-balance in the longer term with some winners and losers, and no statistically significant change overall, but there will be costs. Some businesses and people will be hurt. I lived in London when the smoking ban came into force. Sure, the Brits have not stopped drinking loads of beer, but local pubs lost custom and some had to close. It was hard to identify the exact contribution because other trends were at work, but bans are not free.

Quite a few speakers in the second session were employees of Harrah’s, worried about loss of revenue, loss of earnings, reduced tips. One manager was very clear. He said, pro-ban organizations can claim there is no loss, but at the very least we will be sending smokers who are playing a game or a slot machine away from what they are doing to go out for a smoke. Bar owners here in New Orleans know that smokers will take a go-cup, go out for a smoke, and they are unlikely to come back in. Of course, there may be a gain from that as well, as you get new customers who wandered off from another bar. But it throws a random element into management and customer service.


Do we need a new crime?
We have a real crime wave in the city, and not enough NOPD, so people feel unsafe. The word is getting out. People are anxious. Potential visitors are deciding to go elsewhere, or skip Mardi Gras this year. Business on Bourbon Street and other central destinations is down.

We have plenty of real crimes out in the street without inventing new ones.

Other cities have bans
So what?

The reason people visit New Orleans, and that many of us live here, is because it is different.

New Orleans has been letting its difference erode. Quite noticeable since the flood, but it started before. Key areas of the city are effectively under an Anglo army of occupation. French Quarter neighborhood associations VCPORA and FQC (and new clubs hooking up) are units of their political wing. You can see them at work, eroding the Caribbean character and history of the city at every opportunity, trying to preserve their little patch as a “quaint” relic of a colonial history they don’t understand, pretending New Orleans was like Virginia or Charleston. It wasn’t. It was French and Spanish. The Governor of Louisiana reported to the Governor General in Havana, not the King of England. Orders and appointments came from Madrid, not from Westminster. The Creoles tried to keep the Americans on the upriver side of Canal, but they infiltrated Downtown, and with a self-appointed trusteeship or the Caribbean architecture, instead of adapting to the culture, they re-wrote it. Their current MO, grafting suburbia onto the urban roots, with segregation zoning and sitcom mores in a gentrification/re-urbanization movement while turning key areas of the city into retirement homes, should be outlawed as an offense to the spiritual tout ensemble, That is a public health issue we could get behind.

New Orleanians visit cities that are much more sorted out, where the infrastructure works better, where the corruption is less in-your-face, where the streets are smoother, the wages are higher, there are far fewer blighted properties and pit bulls. But they come back, and they are relieved to be home. They expend time and energy fighting off the snarks and harpies and killjoys of neighborhood associations and political structures with a tradition of insidious corruption that would silence the city for a campaign contribution, suck the fun and freedom out of us to protect their petty little patch and brief authority.

Why? Anglo-America can get boring, and the army of occupation here is boring. Visitors and New Orleanians returning from California are happy to hear the music again, loud and soft, but in the street. They are happy that the bars have hardly any fusty old Puritanical rules, telling them when to open, when to close, whether you can drink an alcoholic beverage in the street. They are happy to visit or be back in what the Army of Occupation has left them of the old Caribbean city.

But there is plenty of boring stuff right here in River City. People trying to ban ordinary legal activities – or activities that never needed to be illegal. Council Members who like banning things. Neighborhood associations assembling a few like-minded busybodies to tell everybody else what to do, how to live, what the city has to be like, and when you see through their coded language, who is going to be allowed to live in their neighborhood.

Is banning the way to do it?
No. Nobody advocates smoking. Both sides know it is going to go away. The question is, how do you do it right? We really know how, because it has been done.

Everybody used to smoke on airplanes, in any seat. The mood turned against smoke everywhere, and they made smoking and no-smoking areas. They strengthened the ventilation systems, The smoking sections grew smaller, and then they were gone.

Similar scenarios played out in restaurants and hotels. Smoking had gone too far. People were lighting up post-prandial cigars while other were being served ice cream and strawberries. Voluntarily and by limited ordinance there was a rebalancing. By the time smoking was no longer permitted in restaurants, smokers were used to it.

Stopping smoking in the workplace began to seem logical. Open plan was more common, smoking less, so smokers had to go out. It is not an unmixed blessing. Businesses lose some employee time as they take off for outdoors smoking breaks. But they accept it now.

Cigarette smoking has gone down over time, from 45% to about 20%, by a combination of piecemeal, trial-and-error policies that worked. Shock tactics are not necessary.

Is it possible that the ban advocates are trying to validate their crusade and lift political careers by getting their law in before the problem fizzles away?

Employees’ health and comfort
Employees, and entertainers like musicians, like customers and bar owners, can be part of the deciding “market.” If they do not want to work in a smoky environment, they can say so. They can encourage other employees to say so. They can get a different job. They can join a union and get the union to say so. They can be part of the process.

My friends who own businesses are likely to disagree, but in the current state of play, with high accumulating profits and falling wages in real terms, it is time for unions to come back. Reagan and Thatcher redressed a balance, but like the Big Bang ib banking, it went over the mark. Employees should be getting their cowed unions to stand up, not depend on a capricious council.

Bands who don’t like smoking can refuse to play in a smoky bar. They can insist that there is no smoking at least during the time they play. John Moore said he is against smoking. As head of the Musicians Union, he could get in the bars’ faces a bit. The interplay of the individual preferences of players, servers, customers and managers will bring change in a healthier way.

Anyway, there you go. Smoking is no good. Handing your power over to LaToya Cantrell is worse. And if you don’t believe it about smoking, I suspect you may be in for a harsh lesson when music comes under attack again..

I wish it were not the case. Ms LaToya is a skillful politician, and the only CM that brought up a real Quality of Life issue – rising rents and falling real wages and the need for change in housing. Wouldn’t it be fine to see her building her takeoff runway on issues about enabling and liberation, not restriction and banning. But between you and me – don’t look like it’s going to happen.

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FQMD 2015

This is suspiciously like a report. If I could grasp the notion of “deadline,” some people on the Times-Pic might think I was trying to take their jobs. So I gave it a few days, to try to stay in the essay and satire zone.

Why should you care? French Quarter Management District seems local, but its reach is wider than the name suggests. About 4,000 people live in the District’s catchment area, over 7,000 work there, over 9 million visit it,. Its rules, restrictions and cranky neighborhood associations affect thousands more, such as market traders and transport and taxi drivers. As a state mandated organization, FQMD is required to be open and transparent. As one way to oppose the disfiguring culture wars of the well-organized minority of residents who want to silence the city, get involved with FQMD. Residents have a voice in the organization, not equitably distributed, but the Hoodie tendency has not been allowed to take over – yet.

Monday was first meeting of the French Quarter Management District Commissioners under leadership of new chairman Steve Pettus. I was a fan of Robert Watters’ leadership, and like many others, considered it a great shame that his last several months had to be partly spoiled by the bylaws fuss started by the two Ugly Sister residents’ groups, VCPORA and FQC, who were unfortunately given two seats on the board instead of one, which would be more appropriate. They persuaded Senator Ed Murray, enabler and sponsor of FQMD, to agree to their campaign, which was almost certainly intended to disable the organization, which they see as a rival to unbridled Harpy power. Somehow I can’t believe that Murray really agrees with them. I suspect he gives in to get them out of the room. If he gets them away quick enough, an Alka-Seltzer and a cold splash might sort him out to meet the rest of the day. Maybe Edwin Murray will write his memoirs one day, and we will find out.

The bylaw agitation and protracted argument were a total waste of time. Total. FQMD’s enabling legislation combined with sensible management – something the Harpy covens might have difficulty understanding – provided all the framework needed. But you know their MO: block, shrink, obstruct, spoil, undermine. Owen Courrèges called them killjoys, but they are worse than that. The unhistorical preservationists are a moral black hole, a risk to the health of the city. As long as I have been watching them, they have done not one single thing, not even tried, to improve anything for anybody. To make anything better, brighter or happier. To contribute to anything outside of themselves. Composing bylaws blew a month or two’s work, and now they can get their paralegals and interns fine-toothing the text for ways to mosquito around, annoy and disrupt.

I was ready to be disappointed, but in fact, the new chairman did a great job and promises to be a person to respect.

There were committee reports. Gail Cavett and Bob Simms overlapped on infrastructure and security. They intersect in several areas, especially lighting, and Bob Simms, while head of security, has also given a lot of time and work to Infrastructure. Gail gave a detailed and informed presentation about the damage done by big trucks, which should not be in the small streets. Commissioner Lary Hesdorffer, director of the VCC, contributed some real knowledge of the causes of vibration, a fairly complex interaction of speed, weight, weight per square inch, motors and street condition. Apparently, we do not have sound, simple laws and signage to keep inappropriate vehicles out, or to control and regulate some of the ones that can operate in the space.

That legislative blank spot is a mystery. Except in extremely rare cases, even the drivers of the tractor-trailers don’t want to be there. They stumble in, following GPS directions, then can’t get out. The GPS map providers say they cannot mark a restricted area because there is not a proper law! Why not? Council passes a pile of ordinances every month, some of which are irredeemably silly. Why can’t they find a simple form of words to help trucks pulling containers and 53′ trailers stay out of streets where they can’t maneuver without damaging buildings and sidewalks?

Bob Simms reviewed the crime stats. It looks real: violent crimes against people are significantly up from last year. He said he wants to hand over chairmanship of the Security Task Force. That is a shame. It is unlikely that anyone will bring the dedication, intensity and professionalism to that committee that Bob has over the past few years. I don’t always agree with STF’s conclusions, but Bob’s leadership has always been superb.

Enough of all this flattery. Back to NOLAscape’s home turf, the negative. A creature of – sorry, director of – one of the Harpy covens, and a director of North Rampart Main Street, Inc. (a catastrophe for separate discussion) Ms Susan Klein is chairman of an FQMD committee called Vision. Vision’s vision was – drum roll – parking permits for residents, and 30 minute parking limit for non-residents. Furthermore, to qualify for a resident’s permit, you would have to be registered to vote from a French Quarter address. What about French Quarter residents not registered because US law does not permit resident aliens to vote where they live, despite property, taxes and community participation? Tough. That is this committee’s Vision for New Orleans: convenient privilege for us, limitation for all others. That is the summary of the Vision committee’s recent work.

Vision’s mandate is supposed to be the longer term and the wider angle. The future. I tried, I really did, to imagine anything more small-minded, petty, privilege-favoring and exclusionary that anyone could slide under the term Vision than parking preference. I couldn’t. And at the end of her piece, Ms Klein interjected a message from North Rampart Main Street, Inc., her other hobby. She wants trucks barred from North Rampart Street. Not only the interior of the French Quarter, but from this part of the through corridor from outer Chalmette to the CBD. Send them up to Claiborne and Robertson or the I-10. Look up the history, if you are not aware of it, of how the comparatively wealthy, white haute bourgeoisie of the FQ got the elevated highway out of their area, their oh so historic gem, not to be canceled, but out to the twilight zone across Rampart and St. Claude, the wilderness where the politically powerless African American community lost a great street to the shadow of an ugly road.

I am thinking of petitioning Council or the State to disenfranchise and dissolve North Rampart Main Street, Inc. North Rampart Street is a New Orleans street, not a fiefdom of the FQ’s squelch class, trying to render its commerce terminally dull in their own image. Maybe somebody out there near the levers of power will want to get their cold dead hands off stuff where their message of boredom should have no sway. Invent a game on the model of Monopoly called Zoning, that they can play in their homes with little plastic streets and buildings. They can keep score and declare themselves the winners, without affecting the lives of real people.

To his great credit, Steve Pettus suggested that it sounded out of order, and mentioned a circular email to the commissioners sent by Susan Guillot, who I think may now be President of French Quarter Citizens. At least part of its contents was her urging the Commissioners to impose a rule that members of FQMD committees and task forces had to be residents or involved in the constituent businesses. To his everlasting credit, earning many credits for entry to heaven, Chairman Steve said that he was viscerally opposed to any such idea. FQMD is about being inclusive, open, public; not exclusionary, and should be able to draw on the talents, abilities and contribution of anyone interested enough to participate.

He also said – more heaven credits – it was inappropriate for an officer of a club that nominates a Commissioner to lobby the Commissioners in that way. If the organization had a proposal for the Commission, it should come through their Commissioner – in this case the hapless Brian Furness.

Hapless? you may ask. What is hapless about Brian? He’s okay.

That is the point. Brian is a decent fellow. Apart from the odd conflict of interest, hard to avoid in a small town, he is trying to be an honorable citizen. How did he get caught up in the corrupt engrenage of the residents’ clubs? I guess being an FQMD commissioner is rather cool, but is answering to such awful little covens worth it? It ain’t the Wars of the Roses. You aren’t going to win the throne of England by sneaky little plots. Maybe the chance of a limp handshake with Jindal one day. The right to sidle from compromise to embarrassment to shame with the articulate stupidity class. They can form sentences, and they can manage a narrow self-interest. If they have any ability at all to grasp a wider angle, to see the world beyond what they poke their noses into, I haven’t seen it. Perhaps for them Brian serves as the acceptable face of the moral vacuum. When they come out in the open, other French Quarter Citizens always embarrass themselves, though I doubt they know it. On the positive side, we can imagine how much worse any FQC harpy would be than Brian. Let’s shut up and be grateful for him.

Chairman Pettus says he intends to consolidate and reorganize the committees, with more co-chairing and supervision from the Commissioners. Vision may be folded into another committee, under direction of a chairman with a more inspiring understanding of Vision. On another hand, would more attention from a commissioner have improved Bob Simms’ or Gail Cavett’s work? They are full-size grownups. And on still another hand, Chairman Watters used to come to Government Committee. His input was always sound and valuable – but that was because he was Robert Watters, not because he was an appointed Commissioner.

Kim Rosenberg, an actual Commissioner, effectively chairs Government Committee. In recent months, Government had addressed “doorway nudity.” That was a lot of fun. The issue is the girls who work in the pole and lap dance clubs hanging outside in their work no-clothes, advertising the show. Apparently this is against some rules, but the rules need improvement. The issue behind the words seems to be that people come to visit the Bourbon Street hotels to check them out. Is this a suitable venue for the AGM of the Minnetonka Dental Prosthetic and Notary Association? As they step,out of the lobby into a free flash zone, a husband, thinking his wife must be outraged, might say, regretfully, “I don’t know . . . ” and the wife, who has had to coddle her prudish husband in the dark for years, says, “I don’t know . . . ” and since the FQ has been occupied by Anglo Americans, some of the problem has to be blamed on children. What will happen to a young person from the Plains prematurely subjected to a bikini, or a flash? I shudder to think. Great meetings were had by all. Even Brian, an appointee of the Dementors, said, “So the strippers are going to have to wear more than girls on Pensacols Beach?” Mark Wilson, manager of the Bourbon Orleans, asked, “What about French Maid costumes?” When Kim moved on to short term rentals, I got a bit bored.

Then – back to this week’s Commissioners Meeting – Kim said: We should get back to the sound ordinance. I woke up! Kim reminded the Commissioners that the sound amendments they had recommended in 2014 went to a 3-3 vote in Council because the Council President didn’t show for the bill she co-sponsored. It didn’t end right. It needs to be re-done, properly.

‘Ere we go, Sports Fans! The Residents will stride forth again at their dishonest worst. Maybe they will send a search party out for Nathan Chapman, salesman of silence. Musicians and street performers who normally prefer to forget that government exists will find out that it can nibble away at your liver; some will babble innocently, incoherently and uninformed. Council members will struggle to find out whether their bread is buttered on one side, both or none. FQMD will make a careful, researched recommendation, VCPORA will come out swinging, arm-twisting, blackmailing, night-texting, cyberstalking. Maybe they will bring back Arlene Bronzaft to tell us about the elevated subway in the Bronx, and a pickup brass band can invade the council chamber. The Angela show can recycle last year’s material. Lousteau’s flack can get back to pure fiction instead of ordinary spin. Ah, a fine time will be had by all.

Brian Furness, possibly speaking for FQC, possibly just imagining another vista of frozen BS, said it was premature. Somebody made a motion. Seconded, vote: all in favor, except Brian, who abstained. What does abstain signify? Why not just vote “no,” if no is what you mean? I guess I just don’t understand. I will never be a commissioner.

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