Pants Down, Hood On

“White Space” was about crypto-racism. This morning something popped into my inbox that doesn’t even bother with the racial codes.

It’s just out there. It shows us a part of White Space that we might call Bottom Feeder Space, occupied by the French Quarter residentialists with their drawers down, trying on a pointy hat.

Most of us are aware of neighborhood associations that have gone off the rails. They are not really neighborhood associations, because they do not represent the diversity of the area, just groups of broadly similar people bent on several kinds of control. The most conspicuous of the genre that I know are Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, French Quarter Citizens, and the leader, VCPORA or Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents.

The last two have been busted by the document a few of us received. One of their weapons is a veil of respectability. They pretend to be devoted to the well-being of their neighborhoods and historical preservation. NOLAscape has been saying for a while that what they most avidly preserve is their own petty power, that their ideas of history do not resemble the real process but a snapshot Photoshopped to justify whatever their current mission of mischief is.

This document confirms the utter moral bankruptcy behind the facade of respectability they use to justify their positions. It shows that their focus is on extending their political influence throughout the city, from the French Quarter to the riverfront neighborhoods including the West bank and into the departments of municipal government. They are actively trying to unseat at least one member of City Council. Their objective, this document indicates, is not to win power for Republicans or Democrats, but for White candidates at the expense of Black.

Let’s walk through it. .

The email is an informal report from lobbyist and political hustler Cheron Brylski to the panjandrums of VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens. It is reproduced in full below for reference.

Remember a few weeks ago Carol Gniady of French Quarter Citizens strongly objected to council having any truck with Chris Young, because he was a lobbyist? Carol is one of the addressees of Brylski’s stuff, so as well as being a kind of small-bore lobbyist herself, her organization is also a client of a lobbyist and political fixer. The old pot and kettle story. So if their attempt to gain some moral high ground that day got any traction with you, you want to walk it back.

When Chris Young speaks at Council, he states clearly the name of the organization he represents. There is directness and transparency. He is a lawyer, but for legislation, not litigation.

Cheron Brylski, however, acting for VCPORA/FQC, stays in the shadows. Chief spokesmen and leader of the clubs, effective leader of all the coalitions, is Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of VCPORA. The clubs are secretive, but as far as we can make out, Meg leads on goal-setting, strategy, clarifying the talking points, assigning the speaking roles. Brylski is an adviser, a shadow consigliere..

In the memo, Brylski refers to Ms Gniady as Carol G., almost certainly to distinguish her from Carol Allen, ex-President of VCPORA, now implanted in the Preservation Resource Centre, dragging this respectable organization into the political muck-bucket of her former colleagues, sadly staining the legacy of Patty Gay and the real preservationist organization she has led for 40 years. When the PRC wakes up to what is being done to it by the bottom feeders of White Space, it may take them years to get their reputation cleaned up.

Brylski opens: “sorry this took me so long. . . . . This is what I think we decided:”

Her statements, conclusion and opinions are not unsolicited input. The email is a report and summary of conclusions the addressees have worked on together. I want to emphasize that, because VCPORA may try to save themselves by throwing Brylski under the bus, claiming the memo was unsolicited and they have no responsibility. Don’t let them get away with it.

From the memo:

LEGISLATIVE RACES:
“There are no plans to try to influence the westbank races where Troy Carter and Gary Carter could potentially win seats. However, residents may be donating services to Skip Gallagher to help his effort even though it appears the vote counts are not favorable for a white candidate in that district.” [Emphasis mine.]

So a group pretending to devotion to preservation of the “fragile” French Quarter is interested in deepening white power across the river.

The IRS may be interested in how an organization claiming exempt status for its devotion to historical preservation in the French Quarter is involved in power-brokering over the bridge. They have outed themselves as political hustlers. The preservationist pretensions are holed at the waterline. Their only reason for staying out of Westbank politics this election season is clear: they want to back a White candidate, but political savvy tells them their man won’t win.

How are you feeling at this point? A bit queasy? Don’t blame you.

Don’t whitewash it. Don’t make excuses. Cheron Brylski is showing us exactly what these people are. Some of you will think, Well, that’s okay, and join them in the moral dead zone. For you others, I hope the vast majority – think what it must look like, smell like, down in the pit of decomposition of indecency these nice folks inhabit.

AIR RIGHTS.
I am waiting for more information to understand the issue, but in view of this note, Council President Jason Williams may need to cancel some meetings and give some thought to the company he keeps.

NADINE RAMSEY
This section is the treasure trove. CM Ramsey is driving the French Quarter trolls nuts. They so much miss their long time mole in government, self-centered, addled old Jackie Clarkson, who would do their bidding with no questions beyond the unspoken, “What’s in it for me?”

“Meg will continue to investigate votes and support for the mayoral substitute amendment to the current NR “barestaurant” proposal. She and Carol G. will continue to feel out LaToya, who is increasingly concerned about voting with the “whites” on the Council.”

I wonder how CM LaToya Cantrell feels about being felt out, especially about the “whites.” Sounds pretty creepy to me. I was hoping to get a reaction from Ms Cantrell before this went up. Maybe next time. This isn’t over.

What’s going on with the Mayor’s office? They mention Ryan Berni. Are they working him to get the Mayor to send in an admin bill to replace CM Ramsey’s restaurant amendments? Hope not. They are sound technical bills. They just need passing. Any fine tuning can be done in Ramsey’s shop. The Harpy clubs are trying to turn them into a City Hall Benghazi – a non-issue to attack Ramsey with. The White Residentialist Party is not attacking Ramsey because of the amendments; they are blowing them out of proportion as a weapon to undermine her.

The “whites” on the Council are Stacy Head and Susan Guidry. They tend to support every sort of restrictive rubbish that the über-controlling residentialists try to inflict on the city to inhibit alcohol sales, music and new buildings. They especially hate music. When you drill down, music and alcohol usually turn out to be a crypto-racial issues as well. Three years of fuss about Habana Café at Esplanade and North Rampart were essentially about White Space, in code.

This week, Guidry finally gave up on a proposal backed by Keith Hardie, a VCPORA ally, the leading anti-alcohol, anti-music would-be Cromwellian regulator of Uptown, for Maple Street to secede from the CZO and have restaurant and bar businesses bend the knee to the rule of the local residents’ club.

If Ryan Berni really is supporting the FQ Harpy covens, this leak may be enough to get him to cut them off. Landrieu is probably canny enough to instruct him to close that door and leave management of the amendments in Ramsey’s office, where it belongs.

The other five Council Members tend to support greater clarity, simplicity, objectivity and freedom, with more regard for people and their needs over strict application and interpretation of ordinance. “We are a nation of laws,” says Stacy Head in Council, not infrequently. But New Orleans City Council is not the nation. It is a small legislative body dealing with laws sponsored by the likes of VCPORA/FQC and the unspeakable Clarkson, as well as a few predecessors who did jail time for their political programs.

In his finer moments, Council President Jason Williams directs our attention back toward the primary purpose of laws: the well-being of people.

VCPORA doesn’t like that. They liked the Clarkson era – whiter, more corrupt, prioritizing property over people, crazy and embarrassing.

It is not clear whether they are saying that CM Cantrell considers Head and Guidry the “whites” or that is just Brylsk/VCPORA/FQC’s way of sorting things. My limited experience of Ms Cantrell is, Meg and Carol may be in for a long lot of feeling out, and still won’t know how she will vote until she pushes the button. But look – they gotta try, right? I mean, White is White. Right?

Although I would suspect – hope – that their relationship with LaToya Cantrell is now in the gutter and will stay there forever after this. Ms Cantrell is very politically savvy in the ways of New Orleans. The smart play would be to cut all ties with these people.

“we have until October 1 to get the media strategy with Chief Woodfork going. He has had a favorable read from Fraternal Order of Police but is still awaiting a board endorsement. He knows this needs to come asap and he is trying to get them to act sooner rather than later (they normally do endorsements at their board meeting which is end of the month). He does not want me to engage Dr. Denise Shervington or other social workers in the testimony. He says he doesn’t buy into those philosophies. I feel it would be helpful if Meg or Carol G called him and updated him as to the legislative timetable, to support what I have told him and try to encourage him to move faster on the FOP endorsement. Without that endorsement, we can’t move on the radio campaign.” [Emphasis mine.]

Chief Woodfork must be former Police Chief Warren Woodfork, and Denise Shervington may be Dr. Denese Shervington, a prominent doctor and professor of public mental health at Tulane. Hard to say just what is going on here. Shall we guess? VCPORA/FQC want some prominent people of color to endorse their latest anti-alcohol/anti-music/anti-Ramsey campaign. If it is just the FQ clubs, Head and Guidry against the rest of Council, it might look like a Black v. White issue. That does not fit the New Codes. Get the Black head of the Fraternal Order of Police on board, and maybe a prominent doctor, and Alley-Oop: we are democratic and representative.

So Brylski, the aspiring Karl Rove of the White Ladies of the French Quarter, wants to run a radio campaign to gather support for this month’s anti-Ramsey drive, but the Black v. White divide in Council is becoming too noticeable. They need a respected Black face to shill for them.
The fallout from this memo should be enough to convince both of them to stay clear of VCPORA and its followers.

Still in NADINE RAMSEY:

“The hotel issue was also postponed but we are unclear as to Nadine’s mindset. It does appear we have more hope to get favorable support in court than before the Council as our votes continue to dwindle and the Ramsey coalition gains strength.”

Could this be the height variance for the proposed resurrection of the Astor Hotel at 100 Royal Street? Maybe; they usually have a hotel to object to.

Of interest here is what Brylski highlights: they use the civil court as a political tool. When they fail politically, they try to get a civil court judge to override the democratic process.

“Unclear as to Nadine’s mindset.” That is exactly what we, the real people of New Orleans, want to see. They must be bugging Nadine’s office for a commitment, and she ain’t saying. Some days you just want to give Nadine Ramsey a big hug. Quite unsuitable for a judge and council member, but still . . . .

“In the meantime, we all believe the grassroots campaign about Nadine will resume soon.”

So our little clutch of confessed snobs, with their now exposed White agenda, want to bring an Algiers’ women’s movement into alignment with their own? I hope the women of Algiers know better. Even the enemy of my enemy can be a step too far.

BUILDING HEIGHTS
“This is in the courts and probably will continue to be in the courts rather than in press. We are seeking information from Assessor about who owns all riverfront property on east and westbank re the proposed sites.”

Another confirmation, if we needed one, that VCPORA/FQC consider abuse of civil court a weapon to try to counteract political failure. For them, the judicial process, supposedly intended for redress of injustice, is just another tool of municipal leverage.

FMIA and Lisa Suarez have a pending case for a restraining order against the Riverfront Overlay. Phase one, requesting a Temporary Restraining Order against the Riverside Overlay, has already been kicked. The case was ill-conceived and ill-prepared. The City Attorneys and Bob Rivers, Executive Director of the City Planning Council, shredded it in an entertaining few hours. The next case for a permanent restraining order is likely to go down even quicker. Unless VCPORA has another case working, they should start looking for a stronger ally than Lisa Suarez and FMIA.

BLACK SPOKESPERSONS
“We still lack one and none identified. Eric Anthony Johnson still interested but no one has reached out to him to interview him. No others id’d at this moment.”

I love this one. I LOVE it. Cheron Brylski, our aspiring local Karl Rove, tells us right straight up front splat in your face that her little clutch of cheap-jack clients are looking for a token Black face, and so far nobody wants to play. A Black Cinderella to smooth the way for the Ugly Sisters. Cheron is telling you what others have been saying: We are an unrepresentative little parade of white snobs, articulate but of narrow, limited intelligence, drumming the same boring martial beat at Council week after week, month after month, year after year.

And they are working up a hope that a token African American face will spread their appeal.

I wonder what the pay scale is. What’s the going rate for am African American of repute to shill for these delightful folks? If they find one, they will probably have to be more careful with their code language when he or she is around the clubhouse.

The French Quarter Harpy clubs perform regularly at City Council. The two minute presntations of their leaders and sometimes guests or members are scripted to make us think there is a public interest, that they care about something beyond their own window boxes. Lousteau reasonable, Meadowcroft congenial, Susan Guillot irascible, Albin Guillot histrionic and Carol Gniady – variable. Some seem to believe the script and the cause; some are just mercenaries.

Brylski’s memo shows how they cook the little plots and stir the cauldrons and write the scripts. If you listen to them in Council or interviews and refer back to this glimpse behind the curtain, you can see that where you might expect a little wizard, the center of the performance is really a warm bucket of BS.

They remind me of the Republican psychopathy, as recently seen on CNN and Fox: lack of interest in reality, disregard for facts, lust for power, disinterest in honor or truth, appearance and appeal to the base over substance. But what would the RNC do to the real Rove if he let a memo like this leak?

Okay, that’s my first attempt attempt to shine some bright light on Brylski’s obscene little exposure of some of the tricks her clients, the Respectable Temperance Anti-Music Establishment of the French Quarter, get up to. Below is the whole original text. Have a read, Make up your own mind. And stay tuned. We will be looking at this subject again.

Here is the whole text of the email from Cheron Brylski to the Presidents and Execs of the French Quarter group, Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents Association and French Quarter Citizens. Enjoy.

<><><><><><><><><><><>

 

From: Louisiana <louisiana-bounces@five.pairlist.net> on behalf of cheron brylski via Louisiana <louisiana@five.pairlist.net>
Reply-To: “louisiana-owner@five.pairlist.net” <louisiana-owner@five.pairlist.net>
Date: Friday, September 18, 2015 at 9:44 AM
To: Meg Lousteau <meglousteau@gmail.com>, “carolgniady@icloud.com” <carolgniady@icloud.com>, “patmeadowcroft@aol.com” <patmeadowcroft@aol.com>, “susan@frenchquartercitizens.org” <susan@frenchquartercitizens.org>, “louisiana@five.pairlist.net” <louisiana@five.pairlist.net>
Cc: Cheron Brylski <cbrylski@aol.com>
Subject: [News] summary of meeting

sorry this took me so long. I’ve been in chicago and still am, but finally get to breathe.
This is what I think we decided:

LEGISLATIVE RACES
FQC and VCPORA will do interviews with the Senate Race to replace Ed Murray. There are however no plans for residents to INVEST in any one candidate re a fundraiser. Once the interviews are conducted, it is possible Tony Marino will organize a Meet and Greet for all residents.

There are no plans to try to influence the westbank races where Troy Carter and Gary Carter could potentially win seats. However, residents may be donating services to Skip Gallagher to help his effort even though it appears the vote counts are not favorable for a white candidate in that district. Llourdes Moran has hired Yvonne Mitchell Grubb to be her campaign manager.

TAX MEASURE ON OCTOBER 24 BALLOT
Residents will continue to remind Ryan Berni that a public hearing is supposed to be had on the issue and not act on any resident information campaign until it is clear the other groups (FQBA, BBA, Hotel Motel, etc.) have endorsed the measure.

AIR RIGHTS ISSUE
Meg/Carol are approaching Jason Williams about convening a meeting of impacted neighborhoods.

NADINE RAMSEY
Meg will continue to investigate votes and support for the mayoral substitute amendment to the current NR “barestaurant” proposal. She and Carol G. will continue to feel out LaToya, who is increasingly concerned about voting with the “whites” on the Council. Regardless of where the actual amendment stands, we have until October 1 to get the media strategy with Chief Woodfork going. He has had a favorable read from Fraternal Order of Police but is still awaiting a board endorsement. He knows this needs to come asap and he is trying to get them to act sooner rather than later (they normally do endorsements at their board meeting which is end of the month). He does not want me to engage Dr. Denise Shervington or other social workers in the testimony. He says he doesn’t buy into those philosophies. I feel it would be helpful if Meg or Carol G called him and updated him as to the legislative timetable, to support what I have told him and try to encourage him to move faster on the FOP endorsement. Without that endorsement, we can’t move on the radio campaign.

The hotel issue was also postponed but we are unclear as to Nadine’s mindset. It does appear we have more hope to get favorable support in court than before the Council as our votes continue to dwindle and the Ramsey coalition gains strength.

In the meantime, we all believe the grassroots campaign about Nadine will resume soon. The Legislative races and increasing westbank crime give us opportunities. Additionally, we are trying to identify the women who have persistently opposed Nadine on the gas station issue.

MAPLE STREET IS DEAD
The Keith Hardie issue re Maple Street is dead for time being because Susan doesn’t see a favorable vote anytime soon. Guidry feels her and Head are increasingly isolated as the “whites” who are against development.

BUILDING HEIGHTS
This is in the courts and probably will continue to be in the courts rather than in press. We are seeking information from Assessor about who owns all riverfront property on east and westbank re the proposed sites.

BLACK SPOKESPERSONS
We still lack one and none identified. Eric Anthony Johnson still interested but no one has reached out to him to interview him. No others id’d at this moment.

SUMMARY OF PLANNED ACTION STEPS
1. Followup on town meeting by Ryan Berni re tax issue
2.Interview Senate candidates and hold meet and greet
3.Discuss viability of Mayor’s amendment v. Nadine’s in Oct. 1 vote
4.Encourage Chief Woodfork to move faster or develop alternative to radio plan
5.Encourage focus on Nadine’s actions re westbank, crime and development; keep her on defensive
6. Work to defeat hotel proposal by Nadine planned for Oct. 1

Cheron Brylski
The Brylski Company
3418 Coliseum Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70115
www.brylskicompany.com
(504) 897-6110
FX (504) 897-0778
Cell (504) 460-1468
Louisiana mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit http://five.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/louisiana or send a message to louisiana-owner@five.pairlist.net titled “unsubscribe”

Bob Freilich, 9/18/2015

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Gaslighting

Gaslighting or gas-lighting[1] is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.

Are you interested in the NOLA Patrol? I am trying to kick an addiction to it. Not to what it is supposed to do. Nobody is too sure exactly what that is yet, but all the multiple choice answers are pretty boring, unless you are one of those French Quarter dandies whose bow tie curls up at the sight of a mule dropping or a rude T-shirt. NOLA Patrol is supposed to help relieve VCPORA’s Quality of Life indignation, which builds up like gas and just needs to come out. You can see the result at the Perdido Drama Centre on show days. NOLA Patrol can help the doom-sayers of Downtown express themselves in the form of fines and citations. They will feel so good at tea parties.

I have to dust off my old sausage grinder X-Ray machine from the Sound Ordinance days to see how this particular bowl of boudin is being ground. The usual French Quarter drama queens – sorry, groups – are in the cast. Look for middle aged ladies sneaking around in back passages, going out of the room to take phone calls, significant glances, coded messages – probably not .gov emails this time, due to the Webster effect – small buckets of sleaze measured out with silver spoons, steamy meetings in Rampart Street conference rooms – time-tested NOLA techniques of special-interest political manipulation, all leading to a trivial outcome. Or a dead end.

If there is something like truth in the story, it is elusive. NOLAscape has to look for clues, using specialized instruments like our sausage grinder scope.

Here’s one. At Thursday’s Council session, Meg Lousteau came to the lectern at an undramatic slot in the middle, took less than a minute to say she supports – “fully supports” might have been the political catch phrase – NOLA Patrol. What an excellent thing it will be, she said, with a smile reminiscent of Sylvester the Cat when he thought he had finished off Tweety for good.

Meg is happy. The snail’s on the the thorn. Have we stumbled into the wrong court room? Or has something been covered from public view?

Let’s open the curtain.

Round Two of NOLA Patrol was staged in Council Thursday, admission free, and can be seen any time on the Granicus Home Entertainment Network.

It was more like WWE than boxing though, because the deal had been done and the votes were in place.

Round One three weeks ago was more of a brawl. The votes were supposed to be in place, but the best laid plans . . . so let’s start there.

Council President Stacy Head looked exceptionally tetchy as the Patrol session opened. She usually looks edgy in the new council, without the backing vocals she used to have.

Stacy used to look so happy, fronting a team of Jackie Clarkson, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and occasionally not-quite-trustworthy Kristin Palmer. The Councilettes. Sometimes they had to let veteran Clarkson stand in front, some kind of seniority ritual, but I think Head was pulling the strings. The logic was often entertainingly Through-The-Looking-Glass. Kristin Palmer, a very physical kind of council member, might flash through a series of expressions from eye-rolling to lip-curling, and Susan Guidry – like almost all of us – often looked confused trying to connect the moving dots. And James Gray just kept silent.

Now Stacy is President, but on her own. Williams, Ramsey and Brossett just don’t seem properly deferential. LaToya Cantrell might have signaled a new departure last meeting when she took a detour from the self-indulgent Old Squares QoL-speak and brought people’s attention to real quality of life: flat or falling incomes and steeply rising rents, reducing discretionary disposable income and increasing poverty. Let’s hope she sticks with it. A legal adviser keeps the Council Members from making up rules as they go along, and CM James Gray, in a saner assembly, finds it worth his while to speak now, and when he does, listen, because his is usually the voice of wisdom.

President Stacy has grabbed the agenda. Schedule management seems to be her new power base. Council Clerk Lora Johnson used to manage the sequence and introduce the topics. The CMs discussed, heard argument and public comment if the subject was one of those; vote; next. Now with Ms Head moving ordinances and appeals around the checkerboard, the players are often confused, while Ms Johnson struggles to re-jig the order a few times per session. Is Mme Council President possibly using sequence and timing to show favor to some and put others in their place?

It even led to one of the Strangelove moments that make New Orleans city government fun to watch.

Chris Young, exec director of FQBL, had entered the chamber. I thought I heard Fistful of Dollars playing faintly in the distance.

Somebody, possibly Mrs Johnson, said, “Should we tell the administration that the people are here?” In one of her redeeming moments, Stacy said, “No need. They know. They know everything. They have people here, tweeting . . . .”

Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin duly appeared, with extra weight from police superintendent Harrison, the ink hardly dry on his new appointment.. They took seats at the VIP table inside of the gate, where you have to look up at the Council on their semi-Kafka raised platform. Armed with slides, Kopplin introduced the NOLA Patrol plan, its glories and promise of salvation, supported by Deacon Harrison. You can’t argue with a Power Point.

Forces were lined up for argument: ubiquitous Meg in her usual place on the far right, surrounded by her entourage and ring men, and Mr Young on the left, looking no-nonsense this day.

But when Ambassador Kopplin from the Great State of Landrieu rested his case, President Stacy called for a vote! Tipping your hand, isn’t iit?

And the other CMs actually voted! Then I think it was Ms Johnson reminded them of an extensive public argument lineup, so they had to walk the vote back. Was this performance rehearsed, but the actors were flubbing their lines? Mme President became very brisk, trying, I suspect, either to cover for her faux pas, or heighten the drama if it had been an intentional theatrical gesture.

First to the mic was Ally Conley, saying she cedes her three minutes to Chris Young. Squadron Leader Head, undaunted by the awkward turn barely a minute before, stops her. Pointing out that Ms Conley was an employee of Chris Young’s firm, that would not be allowed. Mr Young would get three minutes.

Fistful of Dollars was getting louder.

Chris Young stood up to approach. President Head calls . . . Meg Lousteau!

The distant strains of Morricone are coming closer.

One of the CMs interrupts. “Chris was first.” Trying to cover the slight, one of them said, smiling, “Chris likes to go first.”

Chris Young represents the French Quarter Business League, an organization of entertainment and bar businesses centered on and around Bourbon Street, who with research and persuasion by the FQ Management District’s Security Task Force chaired by Bob Simms, had agreed to subsidize police details to increase security to the tune of $10,500 a week, or $546,000 annually. Chris had come to Council to make the point that if the administration could find about $1.7 million to enforce minor infractions, why should FQBL pony up such a big chunk of money for extra police the city says it can’t provide, for protection against real crime? Let’s try to achieve some clarity here, because the Bourbon Street businesses are considering whether they should reconsider.

At the three minute mark, President Stacy interrupted. It seemed like she was calling time, but turned out she was saying that she had been advised that Ms Conley’s time cession was in fact the custom, but she did not think it was the intention, so she was going to fix that. All sentient beings in the chamber must immediately have thought of the many times she had allowed VCPORAns who never intended to speak to put in cards and give their three minutes to Meg and to Nathan Chapman, back when he was a regular player in the Perdido Amateur Theatricals. As a color commentator on municipal government as a spectator sport, I am calling the interruption gamesmanship. The procedure referee should have given Head a yellow card.

Wondering whether he was being stopped, Chris was quiet for a few seconds, and (cue Ennio Morricone) President Stacy called Meg Lousteau! Again! The observant could see Kopplin, Jared Brossett and even Jason Williams getting worried. Was Stacy missing that this was not just public kvetch? Chris Young represented an important private security subsidy, that might just go for a walk if she kept disrespecting its contributors?

With some edge in his voice, Chris said, “Don’t you want to hear what we have to say.” That cut through some of the waffle. He wrapped it up in a minute. Kopplin, Harrison and Brossett, realizing that Stacy was dangerously close to doing serious damage, jumped in to smooth feathers. The NOLA Patrol does not compete with police, they said. It is another fund. It does not diminish the City’s police recruiting drive and commitment to increasing fully trained peace officer forces, everything will come up roses . . .

I’m still hearing Fistful of Dollars.

It’s all money. You have some dollars. You can spend them on peanuts or on jelly beans. Cops or kids. Chris Young and the members of FQBL can handle subtraction. More peanuts, less jelly beans. Is the city going to spend all the FQ fund on toy cops while FQBL picks up the tab to cover the city’s default on the necessary higher level security, which had already been paid once in taxes? I suspect Kopplin and Harrison knew that, and they knew that Chris Young knew it, and knew that they knew it.

It wasn’t over.

The done deal was visibly fraying. The guys at the top tables could see it, except maybe  the Prez, still pressing on down the same track.

Meg Lousteau comes to the lectern. This must be serious: tight black skirt, tailored white linen jacket, bright red hair down and silky instead of bunned up. Leaving behind the old schoolmarmish fingernail-and-blackboard manner, her voice was going for the early Lauren Bacall mode, low and soft velvet. Media training or personal? Do we have to invest NOLAscape’s scant resources on a detective?

Meg says, We understand some people’s concerns about police rolls and violent person crime, but the French Quarter is plagued, plagued, I say! by serious mule dropping infractions, T-shirt offenses and restaurant bars. (She did not bring throwing up into it. Digestive issues are Coco Garrett’s and Stuart Smith’s area.) When these things are allowed to go on, says Ms Lousteau, it communicates a lawless atmosphere where Anything Goes. (Don’t change the record. It’s still Fistful of Dollars.)

The Patrol, in this belief system, will have a “scarecrow effect.” Armed crack dealers, coke heads, pickpockets, hustlers, scammers, rapists, assault artists and the general mayhem that can so perk up a dull Saturday night will by avian analogy get the message that Bourbon Street and the FQ just are not so much fun any more and they will move to Detroit. Or see the light, change their ways and join VCPORA. I don’t know. Maybe you had to be there when they worked this out.

More people came up, some against, mostly for. The pro Patrollers were really echoing Meg Lousteau and antis could not have a lot to add to Chris and FQBL, who were holding the public carrot and the stick.

Stacy was trying to get back to the rehearsed plan, which was clearly now cracked and leaking. She was trying to call a vote again, when CM Nadine Ramsey, to what looked like the President’s frustration, stepped in to stop the process and delay the bill to next time. (Was this move prearranged as well?)

CM Stacy, looking like thunder, asked Kopplin what would happen if there was a delay of three weeks. A nice, set piece question. Was this all as spontaneous as they wanted it to look? He said infrastructure repairs could not start, and the Patrol might not be up and running by Mardi Gras. Fortunately, CM Ramsey did not back down. She forced the delay.

Morricone builds to finale.

Act II

Thursday. Enter . . . some of the people.

Word was, the Patrol session was for 2.00 PM. I don’t know how The Word gets around, but that is what everybody knew. Eric Granderson, Hizzonner’s other commando, took the hot seat instead of Andy Kopplin, but not at 2.00.

Mr Granderson informed us of a deal that had been worked out entr’acte, after CM Ramsey had called time on the set piece Chris Young and FQBL had knocked over like a house of cards made from a marked deck.

A compromise: the city would pay for four extra cops on detail for the Bourbon area, and FQBL would match funds for four. Still generous on the part of the Bourbon Street entertainment businesses, I think, considering they (and we) had been taxed for 1,500 police, but there were only a few over 1,000 active. Instead of suing the city, they had agreed to donate additional money to band-aid the problem.

CM Guidry asked good questions.

Q: Where does the money for the city’s four come from?

A: From the FQ fund, the 0.25% of the hotel levy.

Q: So that reduces the amount available for the other purposes. Is it going to come off NOLA Patrol or infrastructure?

A: Not certain yet, but most probably NOLA Patrol.

There was one more substantial piece of information.

Instead of starting at 2.00, NOLA Patrol came up early at Superintendent Harrison’s request, again throwing FQBL out of synch by an unannounced change. Chris Young reminded them that the deal with the city included Eric Granderson reading the terms into the council record, so In view of the fact that the representatives of FQBL had not yet arrived when the ordinance started, he asked for the statement of agreement to be done again.

We then heard that City Attorney Sharonda Williams said the terms of the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement were unsatisfactorily vague. She wanted meetings with the stakeholders to arrive at a more specific description of the Patrol’s authorities.

That is one of the clues to who dumped what into the top of the sausage grinder. Everybody was looking at what the Patrollers are going to do. My suspicion is, nothing much. It’s a boondoggle. They will annoy some businesses. Some of them might get beaten up or shot. If it gets off the ground, it will fizzle out within a few years.

More interesting is how did this idea get here?

ONE. It is slapdash for a real administration bill. If the City had really originated the Patrol plan and cared about it, it would have been thought through, the objective and operational detail would be clearer and the City Attorney would not be saying it can’t fly on this CEA. Somebody was behind this who cared about it more than the Mayor’s office did.

TWO: Who might that be? CM Gray gave us a clue. He said he had to explain to his constituents that the city was not favoring the French Quarter, that they were paying for it with their money, that this is what they said they wanted to do with it, so (shrug). What I heard: (a) Mr Gray doesn’t think this is a very smart way to use the money; and (b) they said. When, how and who? Implication: the “residents” of the French Quarter. Obviously not the businesses – they want real security, not code citations. Who do we know that regularly says they are the residents, even though they clearly are not, and usually manage to get a compliant city government to accept their stuff? Mr Gray’s statement is unlikely to have come just from VCPORA and its FQC cheerleaders coming to the lectern in the public home stretch, purring about scarecrows. Chunks of offal had been going into the sausage grinder before any of us, including normal, non-cult French Quarter residents, even heard of the Patrol plan. And whoever they were – we could never guess – the administration and the council covered for them, and carried water for them. Again.

THREE. What’s in it for the city? CM Brosset and Andy Kopplin told us in Act I. Brossett had asked Kopplin, “What happens to the proceeds of the Patrol?”

“Proceeds?”

Brossett just waited.

“Ah. You mean fines and citations? They go in the general fund.”

CM Brossett understood, but didn’t say any more. Council and the Admin may not always seem like the same team, but they are in the same game.

NOLA Patrol is going to be expected to pay for itself. The penalty money goes in the Mayor’s discretionary pot. So the money pump is: the French Quarter’s share of the hotel levy pays the Patrol and the Patrol’s take pays into the city. French Quarter businesses, try to keep $1.7m in reserve. The city wants it, and if NOLA Patrol comes to life, they may be coming for it. Maybe you can make it tax deductible. Mayor Mitch may be playing more than one card at a time, but one of them is, he puts up with another of VCPORA/FQC’s projects that he does not care much about, and the quid pro quo is, some extra loot in his discretionary accounts.

FOUR. What is the NOLA Patrol really going to do? My prediction: not much. The problem of long trucks and buses that wander into the small streets by accident needs correcting by good signs, not tickets. Car accidents? To do what, exactly? The French Quarter is fender bender territory. Pedestrians wander in the streets. That is an important positive feature. Telling the bars and retailers what they can and cannot do, enforcing VCPORA morality in the entertainment zones? We’ll see. I doubt it. Assist with violent crime and assault? The risk of being beaten up or shot would be pretty high. I don’t think the Attorney will allow it.

The Attorney might disallow a lot or even all of this plan. The CEA might whittle down to a few things, of consequence mostly to the self-appointed fusspots of the Voo Carray The second year that $1.7m or so of their fund money goes to this scout troop instead of infrastructure and security, the real residents, normally passive, are going to start to say, Hey! And this newest boondoggle will start to fizzle out.

Epilogue

It really was a done deal this time. The players had worked out a compromise. Nadine Ramsey was not going to block the vote again, so the comments were editorial. But the interplay, occasional incoherence, silliness and self-satire can be funny. And even a few flashes of insight.

Ethan Ellestad, on behalf of MaCCNO, a musicians’ advocacy organization, expressed concern about the Patrol’s ability to correctly enforce zoning law and the new CZO, which are complex, exercising the minds of people who have been reading them for years. Sounds right to me. Eric Granderson, speaking for the City, replies: zoning is and will continue to be enforced by Safety and Permits, not NOLAPatrol, not police, which will be the Patrol’s supervising department..

Next, Susan Guillot for French Quarter Citizens. Fascinating. FQC does seem the most easily confused of any neighborhood association. You can almost sympathize with Lawyer Daggett’s instruction to them last year, after its elected board resigned in disgust, to just say what VCPORA says. With a steely gaze, Ms Guillot stated firmly that unlike the previous speaker – Ethan – just because you can’t have 100% of what you ask for doesn’t mean the right option is nothing. This Bayou Confucian pronouncement had absolutely nothing to do with anything anyone had said, especially the previous speaker. Perhaps she had written it in advance, or was reading notes for some other Council session.

French Quarter Citizens, continued Ms Guillot, wants to ensure that the original number of NOLA Patrollers would still be employed. Here we listeners have an arithmetic problem. Granderson had explained the city had to pay for four detail police, the expense to be covered by the hotel levy’s FQ fund, to match FQBL’s contribution. The FQ fund is a finite amount of money. In response to a question from CM Guidry, he had said it would probably reduce the number of NOLA Patrollers by the amount to cover that expense. Is FQC saying they want to add more Patrollers at the expense of infrastructure repair and investment? Or that the city should provide fewer police, which would contradict the new CEA, break the deal with FQBL and cancel crime security? Or do they want the hotels to sell more rooms so there will be more money and more NOLA Patrollers? Am I missing something, or is this another of the entertainments FQC offers since they turned themselves into some kind of a day care center for the bewildered bourgeoisie?

Next their exec, Ms Gniady, repeated that the police provision should not reduce the number of Patrollers. Same arithmetic challenge. Further reducing infrastructure investment would surely arouse most of the real residents to action. The four police details are fixed by the CEA. So what mathematics are they using, FQC’s variable constant? Then, perhaps determined to top Vice President Guillot, she says she is sure the Patrollers could be trained to understand and enforce zoning, thereby contradicting Mr Granderson’s recent statement that zoning will not be in their mission, and letting us know that VCPORA/FQC did expect the Patrol to enforce zoning, so Ellestad’s point was well founded.

Albin Guillot, another Citizen, very entertainingly wanted NOLA Patrol to address rude T-shirts and cyclists violating traffic laws who are rude to him. So one Patrol objective might be nicer cyclists. He might succeed with bikes, but T-shirt texts brush up against the first amendment. Anyway, prudishness is boring. America should just get over it – and to be fair, most people have.

Gail Cavett, came up, also a Citizen but speaking here more as an independent resident and chairman of an FQMD committee. I often wonder how Ms Cavett survives FQC. Well able to deal with facts, think logically and do arithmetic, she might be suspected of witchcraft by the rest of the board. I have to say that Gail reiterated one idea that I think is silly: if the Patrol enforces the little laws, potential perps won’t be tempted to pull out a knife to resolve a dispute. I don’t get that. Do they mean if a Patroller persuades a shop manager to put the less tasteful T-shirts in the back, people will overcome rage? Do streets free of mule manure release one’s better nature? We’ll see.

Gail also said maybe the Patrollers can do something about the gutter punks and their dogs. Until very recently, I would have said, leave them alone. Don’t harass people because they look different. But I have heard too many stories recently of low level assault – stupid challenges, like my pit bull can kill your dog, seriously aggressive panhandling and setting up camp on narrow sidewalks. People suspect, probably with some justification, that the dogs may not have proper shots and carry disease that can transmit to other dogs. Not good.

Then Meg, but nothing original this time, except that Sylvester look. Just practicing, I guess.

Was this Pat Meadowcroft’s first appearance at Council as president of VCPORA? Her maiden speech? Simple, composed, brief, direct. Another plea for quality of life, probably inevitable in the circumstances. I am looking forward to finding out more about the new president.

The Quality of Life moan from some of the FQ residents’ clubs is annoyingly self-indulgent. Many of them retire in the French Quarter, enjoying the re-urbanizing pleasures of the most self-satisfied section of one of the most self-conscious cities in the world.  I think for a city in selfie mode, New Orleans could compare with Jerusalem, Mecca and Qom. They bask in a pink-tinged never-was notion of historical preservation. Let’s hope their boring vision breaks down, and one day life, kids, schools, sport, music, art and fun return.

Perhaps a qualification for insulated Quarterites or indeed any comfortable white folks using the words “Quality of Life” should be lessons sponsored by James Gray, LaToya Cantrell and Nadine Ramsey in what quality of life can look like when your starting point is just life.

Jeremy DeBleux of FQBA very intelligently said, for a pilot program, too large a proportion of the FQ improvement funds were going into the Patrol and not infrastructure improvement. He reminded the meeting that the Patrollers were civil service hires, so scaling back would be harder than scaling up. He suggested no more than 50% to Patrol to start. That is smart.

Has anyone read this far? This is probably the longest ever NOLAscape, and the headline topic one of the most lightweight.

Reprise some conclusions:

> The issues the Patrol is supposed to address are the obsessive concerns of VCPORA/FQC. Why don’t they pay for it, as FQBL is going to support extra police in their area?

> It won’t last, or will transmute into something else. They may help with some gutter punk dogs, but most of their activity will focus on trivia. If they harass businesses over finicky points of code, there will be push back.

> They may never get started. City Attorney Williams’ verdict may finally be: Are you kidding me?

> They may be at risk. Bourbon Street can look like a cheerful street party, but little spots of it can turn nasty very suddenly. The Patrol kids may become targets.

> There is a more important issue at stake here than what the Patrol is going to do, or not. How did this sausage get made? In the T-shirt cases, built on tattle-tale, prevarication and incompetent investigation, that dragged expensively out before the BZA for months; in the lunatic lawsuits against Funky 544 and Antoine’s; in the loud rejection of the foolish sound ordinance that CM Head, carried into council for VCPORA; in the VCC’s progressing of the Habana Café plans – the professionals in municipal government and tens of thousands of people are telling the legislators and the administration that they do not want to live under VCPORA rules, and they do not want VCPORA decisions. But here they are again.

The municipal government that you elect and pay for doesn’t want to listen to the public voice

Other more sober bodies were only cursorily consulted, if at all. French Quarter residents who are not members of the two Old Square clubs were ignored. In some cases, the mayor chose individuals to consult who he decided would represent the public or organizations; not through their decision process, just Landrieu picking who he thought would go along with him, so he could say they represented their consensus, or go back and tell the commissioners what he had decided they should think. And they went along with it because Hizzonner liked it, so they didn’t want to burn a bridge. The real people of the French Quarter and the businesses are getting ripped off by this unnecessary new department. It’s another Hoodie fantasy.

I thought this gang had been back-burnered for a while, and I could forget about them, move on to more interesting things.. But here we go again – the government you elect and pay for following them down a rabbit hole.  But this piece is long enough. Maybe we’ll generalize that tomorrow.

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Getting on Their Case

 

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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.

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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;

http://www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/la/code/LA_CODE.HTM#Rule_3.3%28a%29

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.

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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:

http://youtu.be/alzxOwaA8EQ

 

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Riverview 2: The List of Shame. Plus more.

 

The news about Riverview is like the news about Malaysian Airlines flight 370: no news. We are now searching the Indian Ocean for any sign of a black box that might contain a sign of human decency surviving VCPORA’s moral collapse.

Catch-up: VCPORA sponsored a dragnet of T-shirt shops last September. Meg Lousteau, Exec and general dragon lady of the ex-preservationist club did a show-and-tell at an HHNC committee meeting, identifying about 42 “T-shirt shops” she said were illegal. Some were allegedly operating against a little tangle of not-quite-compatible zoning regs. Meg and Carol Allen had been able to identify, count, note and research some of the history of these shops into a fairly coherent charge sheet, that VCPORA’s lawyers turned into an indictment. The thoroughness of the persecution dossiers contrasted sharply with the retailers’ apparent invisibility to Safety and Permits for the last twenty or so years.

CMs Kristin Palmer, Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell delivered a public roasting to Jared Munster for not having shut down the tourist industry by the day before. At the time, I had some sympathy for the guy. Sadly, though, he has sunk into the moral dead zone with Meg and the rest of VCPORA, taking down a few others with them.

Persecution of a whole retail sector not engaged in under the counter child pornography, dangerous drugs or untraceable automatic weapons for second line shooting, based on aesthetic perception by one clique, is pretty questionable, but VCPORA and its accomplices found a way to lower the game to positively and unmistakably indecent.

They pulled a guy into their sweep who has nothing to do with it, Ed Azemas and his shop, Riverview. How did this happen? Why it’s easy, folks. Carol Allen tells Meg that 535 Decatur “looks like” a T-shirt shop. Meg puts it on a list presented to the last Council, the unlamented Jackie Clarkson Double-Speak Fest, and Safety and Permits. Trying to pacify Meg and maybe stay out of the firing line that SmthStag buys the bullets for, S&P zaps around town, photographing and researching and cross-checking files and comes up with about 13 businesses to charge, A bit of file-sharing with VCPORA, a charge sheet written by SmithStag, their associate Michael L. Martin polishes up his Perry Mason act, et voila, presto we have a show trial.

One big slip-up, and for me this gets a whole lot bigger than Benghazi to a tea party headbanger: Riverview at 535 Decatur. An S&P oppo named Devra Goldstein takes pictures (which show clearly that it is not a T-shirt shop) and slaps up a notice that this shop sells crack imported on a truck full of dead bodies from Ciudad Juarez. There was no evidence, because the evidence itself was no evidence, and as far as I can pick up, she did not really understand the T-shirt ordinance anyway. So back then, S&P had already bent over into ass-kissing mode.

So far, so what? A municipal cock-up. Miscommunication by a clutch of VCPORA-whipped under-motivated nine-to-fivers. What’s new?

What’s new comes on April 29th. Ed Azemas appears on a radio show with Meg Lousteau and Carol Allen. He shows clearly that Riverview is not a “T-shirt” shop and he has been unjustly snagged into their game. It turns out that there was once a T-shirt shop, a shabby, unsuccessful one, at one of the parts of that address. Whatever your feeling about application of the haphazard T-shirt law to that shopkeeper, it (a) no longer existed and (b) had nothing to do with the Riverview fashion shop.

Injustice and false accusation are pretty serious matters, and the facts are easy to check, so let’s let the folks reserve judgment and keep grave expressions on their judgmental mugs for 48 hours, until May 1. By Mayday, everybody with a functioning brain connected with this case knows that the Riverview case is a cockup like a dolphin in a tuna net: let it out.

What do they do? Nothing. Not a peep, not an apology, not a public statement. That means Carol Allen, at stage one; Meg Lousteau, next step in the march of shame; Devra Goldstein, who wrote and photographed the ridiculous “official” accusation; Jared Munster, who as head of department should provide some moral leadership; Michael L. Martin, popping up and down, may it please the court, as some kind of privately inserted prosecutor against the shops, who if he does not know that his client VCPORA and the official accuser have brought a false charge against one of the guys in the dock should have his bar exam re-checked. Pretty soon, some of the BZA members must know it, because it is in the press, on the radio and TV, and getting harder to miss. And I would add, every member of VCPORA and FQC who is aware of this continuing persecution being perpetrated in the name of the club they are paying dues to. Come on, stand up, you guys. How can you let this go on?

Result: not a peep. Not one of these people, not one, so far, has the simple guts to say, We made a mistake. Sorry, Ed. Munster is down a bolt hole somewhere, and La Lousteau won’t even talk to Ed Azemas, which is a signal that legal advice has happened. Pull the manhole cover over your head. Decent behavior not allowed on Rampart Street.

That puts VCPORA deeper into the moral underground than even I thought they would go. They promote bad ideas with a creepy Orwellian thought process. They falsely claim to represent “the residents.” They edit information to mislead intentionally. They claim preservationist credentials as protective coloration for what they call among themselves ‘residents’ quality of life.’ Which translates as, “Naff off, you guys. This patch is our child-free retirement gated community, just waiting for the gate to be delivered.”

Most FQ residents agree that VCPORA is a self-centred little gang and do not want to be considered represented by it. They do not represent anything like a majority, and they are not real preservationists.

Chapter the Second

I went to the 40th anniversary do of the Preservation Resource Center at the Saenger yesterday. There you could see what Preservation really is. At first I thought it was a lot of elderly folks, with gents in white suits. Then I thought: wait a minute. I’m probably older than a lot of them. Just not quite grown up. But the observation wasn’t quite right. Younger people showed up, just a bit later. They probably had to finish work.

The attendance was huge. Hundreds, probably more than a thousand. The Saenger is huge, a superb theatre and magnificent restoration. And the PRC, real preservationists, are a cheerful gang with an honest approach to their mission, able to point to a history, not of complaint and nag and moaning, but of hundreds of positive accomplishments, and they keep doing it. They focus on buildings and houses, and they help people. Imagine that – the real leading urban preservationist group doesn’t try to do people down – it tries to help people who want to buy heritage property to do it up right, renovate well and enjoy a great house. They are a big non-profit. They fight battles to preserve buildings and neighborhoods. Motwani is the devil in their Paradise Lost and they say, You know what: we win some, we lose some, so how about a donation to help us win more? I liked them.

The keynote was Stacy Head. Now, I am not CM Head’s favorite person, so I stand ready for a nice lambast, just to try to keep up a defense. But her speech was fine. She said she was in her last term in Council and in politics, which surprised me, because Perdido Zone gossip is that Stacy is going to run for Mayor. So what’s true? Hard to say. Loads of candidates for executive office spend a year so so saying they are not running, as basic prep for running. So let’s wait for more rumors.

Chapter the Third

I left PRC early and nipped over to a Marigny meeting of concerned citizens against short term rentals. TV vans outside, suggesting Meg Lousteau in the limelight and Brylski earning her crust. This had a large attendance too; being in a church hall, not the Saenger, standing room only. Miles Swanson, FMIA’s President, is speaking as I enter but, yep, there’s Meg, seated center stage ready to pick it up in case Miles said anything off-message. VCPORAns and FQCers had a lot of the front row seats. Nothing like a bit of evening news action to highlight your missionary position.

I was watching and listening. Not a public word. One reason to go to a Meg-centred event is to calibrate your BS meter, so you have to be observant. And I noticed something in the course of this technical task last night: Meg Lousteau is the queen of howling at the moon. The Conductor of Kvetch. It is an interesting talent. She does not offer positive solutions. She does not lead people forward. She embodies VCPORA’s chosen role as moaners-in-chief. She identifies a thing that troubles people, especially property owners protecting investments and “quality of life,” curtain-twitchers reluctant and addicted, and she pokes it with a big hat pin. A nice sharp dart in the latest festering boil on your property value.

Some of the comments were interesting. One from a woman I would have liked to speak to, but she got away. She said, I have had every kind of neighbor, from hookers to people cooking meth in the kitchen. That is what it is like to live in a city like this, so let’s dial down a bit of the exaggerated indignation. Maybe I will get an interview with her one day.

Another guy who commented a lot hit an issue that interests me: weaponizing law. The plague and the addiction of the Smith-era VCPORA/FQC. He said, transient tenants are bad neighbors. His neighborhood is zoned residential. Renters are running a business in a home, so let’s get them with zoning. Let’s get ’em! At the same time, it was pretty clear that if his neighbor sat in his house in front of a screen all day, working as a day trader, writing history books or software, businesses without a lot of coming and going, he would not have said a word. So it is not rule of law that concerns him. It is things that bug him. Then he looks for a law to beat you over the head with. Land of the free, home of the brave, and may Babbitt ride your range until the rising seas wash our sins away.

The TV crews were of the professional variety, with expensive tripods, swiveling from the stage speakers to audience speakers to capture lots of footage to comb for sound bites.

Short-term and transient is too complex an issue to start on now, because we don’t want you to be late for work, but it was clear that this was an early venting occasion. People who have a real concern about this issue, and others who don’t, were letting it hang out. The issue is building up, locally and nationally. Ideas are starting to form. It is the kind of thing that will soon be squeezing interesting venom out of a colorful variety of poisonous snakes, so stay tuned.

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The T-Witch Hunt

Monday 12 May, 10.00 AM, Council Chamber, Palazzo Perdido: next episode of The T-Witch Hunt, live. Admission free.

It is not like a Council committee session or the Supreme Court. The seven members of the Board of Zoning Adjustment maintain dignity throughout the session. The participants on both sides, and the lawyers, will maintain serious mien, discussing grandfathering, technical zoning matters, documents provided or not provided by the city. VCPORAns will huddle with Michael Martin, quarterback for the T-Hunters, while Justin Schmidt, defense coordinator, parries hypotheticals with reality. Witch-hunting may give a whole new meaning to “stake-holders.”

But underneath the surface seethes visceral class warfare. Not Marxian economic class warfare, which we as loyal pledge-allegiance Americans are trained to reject. This is social class warfare, which we Must Never Even Name. It is worse than unconstitutional. It is un-Declaration of Independence. Its name Must Never Be Spoken, but it is alive and kickin’ in French Quarter politics.

Preservationist clubs own and operate the Vieux Carré as an aesthetic franchise since the incorporation of VCPORA as an independent nation in 1938. Teams of PORAn inspectors scan the streets and stands for violators. Civilians who live and work in the French Quarter, which has the same boundaries as the Vieux Carré, persist in the belief that they are in the United States, entitled to constitutional safeguards. Neither is quite right. It’s still going to be New Orleans when the dust settles.

Here are a few highlights flickering in the legal mudpie:

Trading in T-shirts is a criminal enterprise.

VCC-1: T-shirt, novelty, gift and souvenir shops are prohibited:
VCC-2: T-shirt, novelty, gift and souvenir shops are prohibited:
VCS: T-shirt, novelty, gift and souvenir shops are prohibited:
VCE: T-shirt, novelty, gift and souvenir shops are prohibited:
VCE-1: T-shirt, novelty, gift and souvenir shops are prohibited:

See map below for geographical spread of laws to prevent T-shirts corrupting visitors and residents.

FQ zoning map

FQ zoning map

Definitions:

179. T-Shirt. Any garment or article of clothing, including, but not limited to, T-shirts, sweat shirts, tank tops, shirts or scrub shirts, which are designed or intended generally to be worn on or over the chest and containing any communicative verbiage, graphics, or images imprinted or to be imprinted on the garment or article of clothing, exclusive of a garment manufacturer’s mark or logo, exclusive of decorative words and information woven or dyed in the fabric by the manufacturer of the fabric, exclusive of hand stitched, needle work or embroidery, exclusive of tie-dye garments, and exclusive of hand painted or air-brushed garments that contain no communicative verbiage, graphics or images.

168. Souvenir Shop or T-Shirt Shop. Any premises in which the retail sale of T-shirts or souvenirs or both is conducted as a principal use of the premises, or as an adjunct to some other business activity, but which constitutes the primary, or is the major attraction to the premises. For the purposes of this Ordinance, “souvenirs” shall mean items, exclusive of books, magazines or maps, which serve as a token of remembrance of New Orleans and which bear the name of the City or geographic areas or streets thereof or of events associated with New Orleans including but not limited to events such as Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl, or the World’s Fair.

189. T-Shirt Shop. Same as Souvenir Shop.

Summarized by Jared Munster, head of Safety and Permits Department: the operative T-shirt definition for zoning is: if it says New Orleans, it is a banned T-shirt. If it says F*#€ Yo’ M@&#¥ with an illustration of what that looks like in action, you’re cool with his department. If it says New Orleans or Mardi Gras under that, you could be going away for a while.

Now, what I am trying to figure out is, are these T-shirts illegal, or only illegal while being sold in a shop meeting definition 168? We need to ask this because Walgreens and H&M have hundreds of T-shirts with New Orleans on them. So if it is the case that the set of definitions allows large stores to have a T-shirt department which might be bigger than a whole small shop, because the souvenir business is not the principal use of the premises, don’t the words anti-trust, restraint of trade and similar notions start to dance around in your peripheral vision?

Summing up so far: Selling T-shirts and/or souvenirs, which appeal to many tourists, is prohibited in the areas where most tourists go, except by large corporate retailers.

Effect: native or resident New Orleanians cannot legally sell merchandise with the words New Orleans or Mardi Gras. Branches of national chains (Walgreens) or global brands (H&M) can.

Other rules that have been tacked onto the body of T-shirt wisdom say that no T-shirt shop may be within six hundred feet of any other T-shirt shop, and then there is the “grandfather” clause. The 600 feet rule is pretty weird. Is that a backhand way to limit the numbers? Or it a kind of protectionism, to insulate existing shops from competitors? First, zoning says shops are illegal unless they are grandfathered, then they have to be 600 feet apart. But if they are grandfathered, they are where they are. You can’t move them. And the law is trying to say that you can’t open any new ones. So can it mean anything, or is council just messin’ with us?

So that’s the law. Bit of an ass.

Grandfathering has an unsavory history. Grandfather laws originally referred to state laws made in 1898, saying you could only vote if you were able to vote legally in 1867, or could prove descent from someone legally able to vote in 1867. African Americans were not able to vote in the South in 1867, so about two thirds or more of the Black population was disenfranchised.

In land use, the usual current cut-off is ten years. If you have been a T-shirt shop for ten years, you are okay. Less than ten, kiss your investment and jobs good-bye. So if a shop has been open for four years and the souvenir vampires of the Vieux Carré Autonomous Republic get on its case, everybody can be unemployed. But if the shop has been open ten years, there is greater job security, so maybe pay should be lower.

Not only that, says the side acting like prosecution; to start the Grandfather clock, you had to operate under the non-conforming category, in this case T-shirt shop, having advised the enforcing department, for the ten years. Wee problem: the grandfathered shops have been open and trading since before the category “T-shirt shop” existed. Well, then says Mr Martin, they don’t qualify. Shut ’em down. Their grandfathering period starts when they change the category, which of course they can’t do, because the category is illegal. It was added to the CZO in order to declare it illegal. Catch 22. Off with his head.

That’s what we call “black and white” law, says Mr Schmidt. Reality is what counts. If a shop has been selling T-shirts since 1988, then it has been a T-shirt shop for 25 years. It hasn’t become something else because City Planning changed some words. Realists v. creationists.

Judicial precedents permitted “the city” to apply restrictions, but mention that zoning limitations in the VC districts are to enable the city to increase tourism. In these cases the neighborhood busies are explicitly trying to control and reduce tourism.

There is something silly about the tout ensemble of these laws, starting with the idea that souvenirs cannot be sold in the areas where tourists and visitors want to buy them, in a city whose largest single municipal revenue generator is tourism, which has a department of tourism whose mission is to increase visitors from nine to 13 million. I put “the city” in quotes above, because these rules are the tracks of a city at war with itself: VCPORA protecting its “little gem,” fighting off encroachment by those trashy people, you know, them, while tourism-related businesses supply a willing and eager market of visitors who pump in the money that keeps the wheels going ’round.

This little tangle of contradictory restrictions clearly does not constitute a solid body of law. It is a documentary tracing of social class warfare. For a great discussion of this, please read Dr Cannon’s discussion of the subject in The Lens. I will resist the temptation to quote extensively from it, and just suggest you savor it yourself.

Are there too many T-shirt shops, as activist residents claim? (Note activist residents. When polled, most residents disagree with the activists’ cultural policing.) I don’t know. But I think most of us know that banning by subjective judgment of one group is not a great way to decide. The prosecutors will say that it is according to law, but those laws record the subjective judgments of the people using the law. It’s a self-referential circle jerk.

Banning things is a funny way to try to bring about positive change. I think Safety and Permits knew that when they gave all the right licenses to Fleurty Girl’s French Quarter branch T-shirt shop. The permits were granted after the VC-whipped council set up the tricky maze to try to force the others out of business. From what we hear, Fleurty was clear and straight about their business, so they can’t be accused of anything. Good for them – nice shop. Maybe the license staff liked the Fleurty Girl style. Or the Fleurty Girl. But by licensing Fleurty, Safety and Permits has nullified the rules under which they are attacking most of the others. I guess it might be possible to set up a style-based regulatory system, but the current regs ain’t it. If Fleurty Girl, subtitled Everything New Orleans, is good to go, so are the others.

The rules also affect landlords. If a T-shirt shop moves out, is it realistic to expect the property owner to leave the property empty, waiting for an approved business, which might lose money because the rules don’t keep up with current trends and demographics?

Let’s cut VCPORA a little break today. Let’s pretend it’s their birthday or something. Meg Lousteau and Carol Allen have both stood up in council sessions and started presentations with past glories of VCPORA. In broad outline, I agree with them. The French Quarter fell into a state of progressive dilapidation after the Civil War. Many developers said, Knock it down. Who wants to invest millions in fixing up old wooden shacks with bad plumbing? VCPOA’s charismatic first president, Elizebeth Werlein, unleashed holy hell on council, mayor Martin Behrman, on the destroyers and developers, even on the VCC when it seemed bit sleepy. If it was not for Werlein and her commando corps the lake side streets of the Quarter might be strip malls and the river side another CBD.

And the right response is: so what? That history does not excuse bad thinking, dishonesty, thoughtless aggression, lawsuits launched with intent to harass, and the general nuttiness of VCPORA/FQC’s “cultural” activity, which people have been trying to fend off for a few years. Even some of their top-table members know they have a problem with the way some of the powers in the clubs have been driving them, which is wrecking their reputations and will probably require a few years of quiet repair after they shake off the vampire squid. History is important, but Abraham Lincoln does not excuse Bush II’s invasion of Iraq or the NSA. You have to look at the thing itself.

So what we have is crazy rules, subjective selective enforcement, citizen groups attacking people they don’t like, city officials declining to answer questions – a regulatory jambalaya.

Should anybody have their business endangered by this kind of hodgepodge, made up of successive attempts to codify prejudice in legalistic language?

Remember this too: tourism is a huge contributor to the City’s funds. For every dollar of income reduced, the shortfall will be made up. Most likely source: you. Your property tax, sales tax, extra restaurant tax. It’s them, or you.

Unless of course the Vieux Carré citizens who want the authority are willing to pick up the responsibility as well. That would be appropriate, don’t you think? There are a bit less than 4,000 of them so if, between Bourbon bars and tourist shops they manage to reduce municipal revenue say $100,000,000, that would be just $25,000 each. Do you think they will go for it?

I think most of the FQ residents might not like it. They might think the Nation of VIeux Carré and its high priests should pick up the tab. They don’t like to say how many of them there are, but let’s take a shot at 400. That’s $250,000 each. It sounds painful, but they say in some of their communications that their patron Smith is very generous with them.

Of course, there is a better option. I bet you have spotted it by now. Leave Bourbon Street alone, and let the market sort the T-shirts out. It is not the right issue to build imaginary VC flavored Marxism based on imaginary social classes. That stuff is not historic process. It’s just snobbery.

 

 

 

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The Sunday not-so-Funnies

Anyone for Puccini?
Thursday’s council session, this council’s last, was the stuff of a three-act opera in reverse. Flowers, bows and farewells were first, conflict and confusion ruled the end. Working title: Kristin’s Last Stand, or Eclipse in the Afternoon.

One of the motifs will come from Hannah Kreiger-Benson’s comment: “They are either terribly misinformed or wildly misleading, neither of which is acceptable in a group which insists it should participate in crafting policy or law.” Short form: “Misinformed or misleading / That is the question.” Fortinbras will remind us of it, as near the end of the third act, he snaps his fingers for the cleaning crew to enter stage left to clear away the bodies and mule droppings.  Nathan Chapman could play Scarpia, who rarely appears in plays with Fortinbras, but we’ll make it work.

While the orchestra is rehearsing the first performance (Jax Square at midnight) here are some issues to enjoy. Try to pay attention – there may be a test.

The Unconstitutionality Zone
Have you seen the Hoodie propaganda about VCE v. citywide? They filled the council chamber with this non-issue Thursday afternoon. According to them, the ordinance amendment sprung a citywide application on them too fast, and they were having palpitations. The problem was, the curfew provision in the existing ordinance as written in 1954 is vulnerable to a constitutionality challenge, so the administration wants it removed. They inserted a line in the main amendment under consideration to do so.

The concept of constitutionality seemed to be a real brain-teaser. Not only the usual myopic neo-preservationists, but the about-to-be-ex Great and Good, Jackie Clarkson (who brought us the House of Blues, don’t forget) and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. LaToya Cantrell forcefully joined the exes in a possible foreshadowing of things to come. For CHM, constitutionality seemed to be just one of the things she either could not or was unwilling to understand at her last council meeting. Incomprehension, real or feigned, included zoning districts, which seems a bit lame, after she had spent a morning adjudicating planning appeals.

I suspect Ms Hedge-Morrell was being theatrical. Possibly auditioning for a role in the opera. I think it was in the Reagan era when somebody said, it is very hard to get somebody to understand something when his preferred outcome depends on not understanding it. Still, the better farewell would have been to pass the bill. I had begun to like her when she told us she might return to training Thoroughbreds, but the old scorpion-and-frog nature triumphed.

Most of the Hoodie types and the logic-challenged fellow travelers wanted the curfew to be unconstitutional on Bourbon Street, but not on their street.

So what was going on up on the Council bench? After their years as legislators, are they really baffled by the idea of unconstitutional? Are we looking at misinformed or misleading?

Through its three PR fronts, Krewe of Brylskispin, VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens, SmithStag has presented a little catwalk show of nay-sayers to sensible sound policy for New Orleans. I don’t think they are determining the outcome, though; more the distraction while more tangible strings are being pulled to move the puppets around the Punch and Judy show.

They lay out two overlapping parts to the illusion: curfew and “citywide.” “Citywide” has to be in quotes because the way they used it was so distorted as to be meaningless.

While VCPORANs and their Council allies were hand-wringing histrionically about extension of application outside of VCE, several grownups from the administration tried to explain to them the significance of the word “unconstitutional” and the difficulty of justifying one constitution for Bourbon Street and another one for their house. But it didn’t work.

Council’s plan in January was to start with VCE, which is six blocks of Bourbon Street, and when that was done and dusted, deploy the methodology and newly minted sound office into other areas. Good plan. Dave Woolworth and FQMD stuck to it as closely as possible. The items that VCPORA & Friends did not like were not products of the sound analysis process. They were inserted by the City Attorney for technical reasons.

One of their tricks was possibly even more surreal than the constitutionality snag. A line inserted in the amendment for some obscure reason added a line to an existing Table 1, specifying VCE-1 to remain among all the other non-Bourbon VCEs, under the existing rules. VCE-1 is not VCE. They got that right. It is about half a mile away from the center of VCE. The line seems superfluous, but if it has a meaning, it is to make explicit that VCE-1 is not included in VCE, therefore the scope is not expanding. Whatever the significance to the drafter, the line changes nothing at all. How they could associate that no-change line for one small patch with a claim that it expanded the brief to “citywide” comes back to misinformed or misleading, unattractive in a legislative setting. For this one, I’ll call misleading. It is really too simple to misunderstand.

Curfew seemed to signify two things, uncertainly related: strange, funny looking people might bang drums and blow tubas outside our windows all night; and deleting it has citywide effect, not just VCE.

The illogic is so perfect, it is hard to find an entry point. The reason for deleting the flawed text has nothing to do with VCE per se, or any other area. The city attorney’s office says the curfew as written cannot survive a constitutionality challenge, so the text should be deleted, to reduce risk of the whole ordinance including the current amendment being overthrown and the city incurring costs for legal defense and possibly damages for a bit of text they don’t care about. The neat way to do that is stick the deletion in an amendment to the bill.

The voices of unreason, with proud flag-bearer Clarkson at the mic, say, that would have a citywide impact. Yes, say the City Attorneys, Eric Granderson of the administration and CM James Gray, that comes with the meaning of unconstitutional, the kind of word it is. If it is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional everywhere. An unconstitutional thing no longer has a location. It is dead and gone. Trying to make it simple for them, Granderson said, you can’t have a thing be unconstitutional on Bourbon but okay on St Charles. It doesn’t work like that.

I am cynically thinking, had the bill passed with the unconstitutional curfew language, would VCPORA now be suing to bring it down on that account?

Neighborhood association types said they need time to discuss this and were not prepared. But unconstitutionality is not subject to hand-wringing. Text does not get less unconstitutional because a group of civic-minded respectable folk sit around a table trying to get comfortable with a notion they inexplicably found difficult. Not to mention (although some people including CM Susan Guidry did) that nothing prevented them from doing that even with the unsound language removed from the ordinance. It is a legal issue that needed addressing by specialists, not neighborhood do-gooders. That is why we have a city attorney’s office.

Anyway, to me it sounded like whining about it. It can’t really be unconstitutional because that isn’t what I want! Stamp your foot. What happens to people’s minds in these clubs, such that they think everything is subject to their ratification, even if they do not have the logical toolkit to work it out? And the city accepts it.

In CM Palmer’s exposition, supported by the City Attorney, the curfew provision is unconstitutional because it specifies musical instruments. The Supremes have decreed that music is free speech, like speech, so if you are allowed to talk, you are allowed to play an instrument. And speech is allowed amplification, so you can’t say a guitar isn’t. So you have to find language that covers all sound and works out a fair use of shared space.

Clarkson, Bringer of the House of Blues, you may remember, invented a new amendment to the amendment to replace the current curfew text, and temporarily hooked poor Susan Guidry into co-sponsoring it. The text was messy and they were fiddling with it on the fly. The final language was really quite funny. It said after 10.00 PM, no sound emitting devices. Does that include the human mouth and lungs? Rosalyn the Queen of Royal Street tested this during Comments by singing unamplified at high volume. Was she a device or a person? Miz Jackie didn’t seem to get it. In the language of her amendment, it would have been illegal to listen to an iPod with earphones. When this was politely pointed out by the attorneys, Council President Clarkson replied, “Now you are being ridiculous! We know what we meant!” CM Gray pointed out that when writing law that restricts people’s freedom, especially law that might be superfluous anyway, that is not good enough. The law has to say what you mean. I think Mr Gray may be the next Nolascape Hero, after Kristin Palmer. Jackie’s expression said she found that notion an unreasonable burden on legislators. As discussion went on, Ms Guidry realized what she had fallen into and found a way to back out.

Robert Watters pointed out that a curfew that prevents an adult person from playing a song on an instrument when not bothering anybody and causing no disturbance would be an unjustifiable infringement of individual liberty, about as unconstitutional as you can get. Example: fiddling with a kazoo on the bus bench at Esplanade and Claiborne at midnight next to a closed gas station, bothering no one, would be subject to a $500 fine.

In a rather dazzling show of political sleight of hand, Clarkson turned failure or refusal to grasp the “citywide” fallacy into an act of nobility: it would be a betrayal of the city’s trust to vote for a bill that removed unconstitutionality in New Orleans law, because unconstitutionality flows outside the borders of VCE. Wry smiles on the Council bench and in the chamber, as the pros unconsciously signaled appreciation of the trick. It would not do to let people think that constitutionality might be bigger than the House of Blues.

So they retained the tainted wording, and now a lawsuit is likely to be launched against the city within a week. Noble work, Ms C. If we are lucky, Sharonda Williams will concede the case, the risky text will be out by adjudication, and unconstitutional v. locality can go back to being a category error instead of a fake legislative issue. Then this specious argument would not be available in the next round. Alternatively, the city can decide to defend the action, at considerable cost for outside council because Ms Williams has already acknowledged the plaintiff’s case. And they would still lose.

Men of Letters
I wonder if this bugs anyone else or am I alone? Let me know. Every time Smith introduces one of his krewe of kranks, you get a bunch of letters after the name chucked at you. Arline Bronzaft, Arno Bommer, Anthony Tung – before content, letters. Isn’t that just boring? Why would uni degrees validate Tung’s history-free, preservationist-bubble ideas?

Their opponents have plenty of academic letters. Dave Woolworth has a long list of degrees. Ashley Keaton has some lovely letters. Robert Watters has a decent inventory of degrees. Bob Simms must; he is a rocket scientist, but has better manners. You would need an extra page to list the academic qualifications of the Khan family, whose businesses the Vieux Carré Piranha fish and OCD Association is now attacking. For each of these, you can find a hundred others who think more clearly and see farther than Smith’s cranks, but got bored of academics a couple of years earlier, or never liked it much. Free advice to the enemy: it’s a turnoff.

The History Validation
History can inform or be turned into a trick. Speaking on the unconstitutionality of the curfew, Ashlye Keaton said the legal history began in 1808 as regulation of Congo Square. That is rhetorically significant because it links adult curfew to slavery and discrimination. (Kristin Palmer reminded us that CM Clarkson was not on the Council yet at that time, so can deny responsibility.) As the law evolves into present day, the flaw still has to be identified as currently relevant. The current rule is not invalid only because it’s ancestry traces back to 1808.

Carol Allen used history differently. She said that 76 years ago, her predecessor the first president stood before council to protect the FQ from businesses and people who wanted to tear it down. That effort had actually started several decades earlier, but at its incorporation in 1938, VCPOA, as it was known then, when ownership was distinguished from residency, a significant difference at the time, did become a forceful leader in the preservation struggle, among other things. Some of their policies looked like a mixture of moral militancy and forced gentrification bordering on ethnic cleansing to reconstruct the Quarter as it never really was, but okay, we’re here. We are not going to be able to repatriate people from Gentilly to Dauphine Street to re-open the pleasant little brothel her great-granny ran there in the 20’s, or seek out descendants of the guy who ran a floating crap game on upper Royal when Grover Cleveland was elected, to reclaim grandfathered rights of non-conforming legal use.

But Carol seemed to use that history to justify a current activity or statement without addressing the current point. Meg Lousteau did the same thing a couple of months ago. I don’t get that. I can’t justify arguments in favor of the Woolworth report by saying I won the spelling bee in the third grade or my uncle was a horse thief in Odessa. I need to provide applicable reasoning. Carol said that history makes her proud to fight for what she believes in, which is fine, but it doesn’t validate the argument at hand. Remember misinformed or misleading? The five points VCPORA was pushing Thursday had been argued inaccurate here on the 22d, using not a law degree but logic, and definitively by Sharonda Williams the next day. Proven wrong and now known to be wrong, they were still VCPORA’s weapons of choice on the 24th. Is that okay just because you believe your objective has merit, and you can point to accomplishments 76 years ago generally agreed to have merit? To honorably participate in lawcraft, you have to pass the Hannah test: neither being yourself misinformed nor intentionally misleading. Do your homework and be honest. On this criteria, VCPORA may have survived a skirmish Thursday, but no honor in it.

Before we bow out, this,is not easy to say, but I have to: Nathan Chapman’s input Thursday was very skillfully spoken, well constructed and no more logically incorrect than the rest of them working the “citywide” fallacy. I was impressed. And he brought a priceless new gem to the discussion: the former head of the Health Department said the Woolworth Report helped the Devil. A superb and illuminating addition to the process.

Then – last and I am going to get out of here – Kristin Palmer, Nolascape heroine of the week, said this process had led to vilification of the neighborhood associations, and that is abhorrent.

Is it? Nolascape may be the arch-vilifier, but we never post anything here, never, that we know is inaccurate. Polite, gentle? No. No currying favor or access. But no lies. And if we find out something was wrong, we retract and apologize, every time, no exceptions. So now that the City Attorney contradicted all of VCPORA’s five inaccurate scare-fostering points, where is the retraction? Where is the apology? All that brave history, but they just can’t do it.

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Tomorrow Morning redux

“Tomorrow Morning” happened.

Pretty good. Very good, really. CM Kristin Palmer’s summary of the situation and guidance of the meeting was fair, focused and efficient. Dave Woolworth was realistic, factual and practical.

This is no fun at all. Can’t get any jokes out of people doing things right.

Everything seems to be moving right along toward a good outcome of this long and crazy struggle over a subject that has stirred up a lot of adrenaline. We are all waiting to see what the decibel guidelines on Bourbon Street will be. Dave Woolworth is still keeping those cards close to his vest. CM Head wants a draft bill to be read in next week; Dave is to work with the legislative staff to block out the text of a bill while finalizing his dBA and dBC parameters. We know that initial measuring position for middle of the block bars will be the doorways, the measuring standard or algorithm will be Leq and the time per measurement take will be 20 seconds. So much was clear from the FQMD presentations and sound walks. Details still to come for corner properties and courtyards.

We hope Council will continue to follow the Woolworth plan, and not be struck by a Hoodie relapse. I want to trust them. Perhaps we should send them some nice electronic good will cards for encouragement.

Bob Simms was first commenter, essentially summarizing his comment on “Tomorrow Morning” in Nolascape. Subjective perception cannot be completely encapsulated in decibel numbers. Different age and cultural groups perceive things differently. When we see thousands of people enjoying something that we may not ourselves like, let’s think: Is it up to us to legislate their lifestyle? Bourbon Street is a great brand, let’s respect it. Balance and fairness.

Then . . .

Careful sign

Hoodie Alert!

. . . came Nathan Chapman.

The “noise” ordinance process has been so rational, reasonable, educative and scientific for a while, we thought the craziness had gone away. Thought too soon? Was his statement delusional, or could we be underrating a real risk?

I can’t get the hang of Chapman. His “Hear the Noise” coalition fizzled after they got caught playing dirty pool in December and January. I really hoped my prediction was wrong and that he would not try to revive the bad numbers and bizarre claims of special prerogative for preservationists that went down in little sputtering flames in January, amidst public protests and revelations of unsavory goings-on, which had dragged their reputations into tattered disrepute.

Maybe not. Maybe they just went underground to lick their wounds and come out for another go. Was his three minute speech just crazy, or does he know something? Jackie Clarkson losing C seemed a good thing, but Wilma Heaton, a Smith/Chapman accomplice exposed by the infamous “enemies” email, is now deeply inveigled into the Nadine Ramsey team. Keep your powder dry.

The preservationist clubs and Chapman’s “Hear the Noise” subsidiary are neither audio experts nor the lifestyle police, but have somehow convinced themselves and unfortunately some others not only that they have standing in this, but the right to say who does not. Chapman wrote to FQMD in December, warning them to “back off” the sound ordinance. Essentially a self-appointed lobbying group, VCPORA throws its weight around in the city by local political influence; but what does it think gives it standing to issue warnings to a state subdivision? Warnings and threats eventually became some of the Hear the Noise group’s preferred ways of communicating, so maybe Chapman had been caught up in the prevailing mood.

Now follows a deconstruction of three minutes of Nathanism. Please switch off if you feel in danger of being bored stiff.

In a creative intro sentence, he mentioned “common sense improvements” to Bourbon Street. Improvements? Really? All those clubs and bands and discos and the millions of visitors that enjoy them – Chapman and the preservation lobby are going to “improve” them? Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but they are almost all middle aged or older grey-haired white people. So am I.  Are we really the right people to be telling tourists and the operators how to do their thing right?

I think the right word would be suppress, not improve. Make changes to Bourbon Street so it is less unappealing to people who don’t like it, such as himself and any remaining “Hear the Noise” stalwarts.

Then he declared absolute first hand knowledge that FQMD was supposed to be a forum for residents and businesses to work together in areas they agreed on, not issues that divided them, like zoning and sound management, “and we have seen recently why.” Zoning and sound were among the proscribed, he said.

Have we been drinking different Kool Aids? We have just been listening to Dave Woolworth reporting to Council on a program conducted in collaboration with FQMD, which Council proposed or endorsed. Is Chapman telling Council it was invalid? They got it wrong?

What “we have recently seen” is how well FQMD supported Woolworth’s teaching of sound propagation, in a series open to all who wished to attend, with each session video recorded and posted on YouTube. His methodical data gathering process was also public and accessible. Was there something they missed, the dozens of people, some residents, some from businesses, who carefully engaged with this process?

FQMD’s legislative basis does preclude zoning and land use; he got that right. I have little doubt that Chapman was there at the starting line. If it is about the French Quarter, Chapman is a bit like mule droppings on a rainy day – don’t count on it not being underfoot. But he was not the only one present at the creation. Others do not share the memory of either controversial issues or sound issues being out of bounds. Quite the opposite: FQMD was specifically charged to engage with quality of life matters. From a FQMD committee officer:

The FQMD’s statutory purpose declares that, among other things, the FQMD is “to foster quality experiences and quality of life within its boundaries, and to improve commercial and residential vitality. . .” LSA-R.S. 25:797(B). “All powers of the board shall be exercised for the best interest of the district to aid in the improvement of public safety, quality of life, and infrastructure of the district, . . “. LSA-R.S. 25:799(E)(1). The Board has all the powers of a political subdivision of the state. It has no statutory limitations about addressing only non-controversial matters.

For confirmation, let’s quote a whole section of the enabling statute:

B. Purpose. The purpose of the district shall be to strengthen the district as a National Historic Landmark, a historic residential district, and a vital component of Louisiana’s tourism industry by investing and reinvesting public funds in the district to aid in the preservation of the district’s architecture, quaint charm, and tout ensemble, to beautify its appearance, to improve public safety, to foster quality experiences and quality of life within its boundaries, and to improve commercial and residential vitality; thereby vastly increasing the quantity of the district’s local, national, and international visitors and full-time residents, as well as to protect and improve the tourism industry and to promote economic development throughout the state.

Please note for this context: to improve commercial and residential vitality and increase the quantity of visitors

In New Orleans, if that doesn’t include sound, I don’t know what does.

Also, just to beat this into the ground, in 2012, FQMD’s Government Committee was instrumental in generating the law that forced outdoor speakers back indoors. Chapman supported that process, which is a clear precedent for the current subject.

I have been going over it all with time-wasting care, and I think “we have seen recently why” must mean the fact that he did not attend. That must be the big price the city paid: no Chapman. Until today.

In fact, the Woolworth program of education and data gathering, with participation of all interested, was more than valid. It was excellent. We all learned a lot about sound science, and saw in person the careful data gathering process employed to get a clear picture of what is happening. We witnessed his serious search for a solution to value all stakeholders.

Chapman complained that VCPORA had not been notified in time about FQMD setting up the education and data collection program with Dave Woolworth, so they, the preservation minded groups, could not participate in defining the methodology. So they quit.

To be thorough, I requested information about the program launch and copies of the announcing emails.

Kim Rosenberg, vice chair of FQMD Government Committee, who set up and facilitated the program, Robert Watters, Chairman of FQMD, and Kristin Palmer, Council member for District C discussed this idea during w/c 2/3. Ms Rosenberg announced to the Government Committee meeting on February 3d that she intended to ask Dave Woolworth to present a program or seminar series, with target start date the 17th. VCPORA’s Government Committee delegate was there. So Chapman, VCPORA and the others all had the information at the same time – possibly even before Dave Woolworth.

There were two weeks between the first announcement and the start date. Do we all remember Chapman’s soundbites about his “recognized expertise” in matters acoustic? I don’t recognize it, but maybe somebody does, so we can’t invalidate the claim completely. Mr Chapman had certainly been working the room on sound politics for well over a year by then. How much time did he need? Two weeks seemed enough for everybody else. I don’t believe there were any complaints from the Mayor’s office, or the Vieux Carré Commission.

FQMD’s voting system normally requires eight for a decision. The board has 13 members, so seven is a simple majority, but they use eight to ensure that representatives of resident and business appointing organizations are on board.

Mr Chapman was on the email list for confirmation of the start date, 17 February. He received that notice at the same time as everyone else, plus or minus an hour (the time it takes to send to the complete mailing list).

What I (and others) are trying to “get” is why he thinks his groups should have had advance knowledge for management input. The two preservationist clubs collaborating on this each have mandated seats on FQMD and the committees. The Mayor only has one. The VCC, the city’s bulletproof FQ preservation police, only has one. I think the private preservationist groups have representation above their actual weight, but the groups themselves do not have management or veto authority over FQMD’s activities. Their representatives are supposed to participate, like the appointed representatives of other groups, not take over, dominate or control. We haven’t heard the Mayor’s office saying that they needed earlier notice than the other members.

Remember that CM Head had said she wanted a good draft on the books in time to be functional for French Quarter Fest. Delay so Chapman, the Dementors and “Hear the Noise” faithful could propose useless options and then have tantrums and claim hostility when rejected was not a realistic option.

Is it possible that their withdrawal was tactical – the plan was to call the process invalid no matter how well it went?

Mr Chapman said that his early meetings with FQMD were “hostile at best, slanderous at worst.” He did not give us details, but we know of two meetings that he might be referring to. One, referenced in the New York Times article, in which he was accompanied by Wilma Heaton, was with Robert Watters and Chris Young. Although Robert Watters is chairman of FQMD, it was not in FQMD session and was not an FQMD meeting. Watters and Young found the Seven Essentials flawed and declined to support the program. Is this hostility? Did they publish something slanderous? I don’t think so.

On another occasion, Chapman presented the Seven Essentials to FQMD Government Committee. They also thought the manifesto was flawed and would not adopt or support it. Is that hostility? Did Government Committee publish a personal attack that we have not seen?

Those meetings took place in 2013. By December, it was clear that Seven Essentials was not getting into law the straight way, and they took up the sausage grinder game. And then disagreement did start to morph into hostility. But that was us out here. The riffraff. Not FQMD.

Then Chapman says he has “good news” and waxes imperious. Smiling, expansive, imperious. He can save us.

When Woolworth’s recommendations are in, before drafting a law, if Council brings everybody together in a meeting with Chapman and his sound guy (Arno Bommer?) they can “negotiate” a solution.

What? Am I hearing right? After having his science-free Seven Essentials rejected by the public, by the Bourbon Street businesses, by FQMD and Oxford Acoustics’ analysis, and then getting caught trying to subvert democratic process by sneaking their legislative sausage grinder up City Hall’s backstairs in December, now, after doing none of the hours of learning work that Government Committee and we camp followers have done these past weeks, Chapman wants 50% weighting to bring back his discredited stuff and ruin the statute by fiddling with Woolworth’s numbers? No, no, no. Stop!

We still do not know whether the queasy disconnect between Chapman in public and the rest of the world’s shared reality comes from living in a peculiar mental dimension, or if he just coolly makes stuff up to support whatever he is trying to ban, reduce, limit, squelch or control that day. I like making fun of it, but here in the home stretch – be vigilant. Seven Essentials advocate Heaton is inside the Ramsey camp, while Chapman supported Clarkson. Or seemed to – a few unkind souls suggested Chapman’s support might have cost Jackie the election. But I think she was able to take care of that herself.

Let’s be careful out there. Meg Lousteau did not take the mic Monday. That could be a good sign. I am anything but a fan of her positions, but Meg is the smarter cookie in this barrel. If she is keeping below the parapet, it might be because she can tell a lost cause from a dead horse.

Keep that big brass band ready for another Perdido Parade.

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Pitchfork Pieces 2

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“Nola Tourism Economy” sent us the link supposed to show Kristin Palmer proposing to set Meg Lousteau up as Sheriff Meg. You can see it in the Comments to the first Pitchfork Pieces. The CM’s comment was tongue in cheek, signaled by a wink and a nod. She was making the point that Mlle. Lousteau and the VCPORA Irregulars are more assiduous in winkling out violators of the FQ’s veneer of gentility than the VCC. In the case in the video, the candidate for Sheriff of the Quarter had discovered that a certain store was selling Saints football stuff instead of Polo by Ralph Lauren, thereby lowering the tone of the Vieux Carré if not the very honor of the Southern Gentleman. No wonder their legal Rottweiler resorts to intimidation. Style counts, right?

The whole section about the shops does have some points of interest. Next chapter.

Still, Kristin Palmer never really replied to my question. I wonder whether she remembered that The Lord Dementor’s instructions included, “I expect you to stop these people who are attacking me personally . . . .” Did she miss a chance?

But don’t despair, Nola Tourism. (Why do people do that? At least Kristin uses her real name.) she may be off the hook on this one, but we’ll find other hooks. The ducking and diving, lies and secrets this little sound ordinance has stirred up should provide material to embarrass and annoy ant dirty pool players still standing for some time yet.

Sausage Grinder Malfunction
Sometimes the Sausage Grinder suddenly jerks into reverse. With a crunch of grinding gears, it becomes a Rumor Mill. Stuff just starts to tumble out of the top instead of glooping out of the front.

On the track of the mysterious Wilma Heaton, we hear (“reliable sources”) that she came to the French Market Corporation with strong “recommendation” from Mr Stuart Smith, who shall go nameless hereafter due to risk of lethal texting. Now, the French Market Corp. manages not only the Market itself but other properties including the prestigious Upper Pontalba apartments on Jackson Square, which are fully occupied and have a long waiting list of applicants. Shortly after Ms Heaton was introduced to her FMC colleagues, we hear that she took the then director, Frank Pizzolato, aside, and passed on instructions: which level Stuart Smith would like an apartment on, how many balconies it should have, and other key information it would be wise for any director who wants to survive in his post to take seriously.

Mr Pizzolato said, If Stuart wants a Pontalba flat, fine. Just put his name on the list.

“I don’t think you understand,” says Wilma. “Stuart doesn’t wait. He wants it now.”

“Sorry,” says Mr Pizzolato. “Can’t do that. There is a procedure. People have been waiting years.”

(This dialogue is a re-enactment. We have not been able to locate a recording.)

Soon after, whaddayaknow, Pizzolato is out, a new guy called Jon Smith is in, irritating the stall holders by all reports, and Frank is suing the FMC for unfair or constructive dismissal, or something like it.

So that gives us some background to Ms. Wilma’s wonderful instruction to Arno Bommer, Smith’s expert witness for matters acoustic, linking Jonathan Harris, head honcho of Stacy Head’s command centre, in a sub-rosa behind-the-arras communications network on behalf of His Intimidating Dementorship. Let’s refresh on that:

“Heaton then instructed Bommer to coordinate directly with Harris and herself using their private email accounts.

“Again, very sensitive time and lots of misinformation out there,” Heaton wrote. “I want you to be a resource for CM Head’s assistance because of your extremely superior qualifications on the subject. We are out of time for 3rd party translation. Enemies are using false issues and fear to try to defeat the sound ordinance.””

“Attorney Stuart Smith Calls on City to Fire Sound Expert”, Richard Webster, nola.com, 2/11/14

So the scenario seems to be, Wilma Heaton (who is she, anyway?) nominally a director of FMC, clearly works for or is associated with Smith in some skullduggerous capacity, and Jonathan Harris is in the chain of command somehow, so seems to be channeling Smithness into Stacy’s office.

“Enemies are using false issues and fear . . . ” suggests that at least some of this lot have come off the rails. (Eggelhofer’s equipment should be able to give us their undoubtedly elevated dX levels.) Fear is probably a fairly rational starting point when dealing with people with this tightly wound mind-set who have titles like Director of the FMC and Chief of Staff; they may have access to levers and pulleys that can f**k with your life. (It’s okay to say that when you use asterisks instead of letters.) It is probably just a lot of petty BS from people feeling important through involvement in small plots and fancied association with the rich and powerful. Not the kind of thing we need infecting city government, is it?

A well-known New Orleans attorney (a proper one, not a sub-Dementor) told me that Wilma’s email to Bommer is sufficient evidence that these folks have used personal emails to conduct city business with intent to conceal it from public view that they can be compelled to render up their personal email accounts, and deleting anything can be a criminal offense.

New Orleans needs a conspiracy teacher. So many of our civic worthies going to prison, and not yet indicted mental wizards are still writing potentially criminal emails to .gov addresses. Really, it’s embarrassing. How can we hold our heads high in Chicago and Dade County with our best and brightest as knack-handed as this?

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