FQMD 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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He’s back!

 

Nathan’s back! Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

A sound ordinance op-ed in the Advocate. What’s going on? Has VCPORA sent Brylski out schmoozing the poor Advocate? Or has Chapman’s agency been placing ads in it, so they owe him one? Or is something happening in sound management politics and we haven’t got a sneak copy of the memo yet?

If you haven’t seen it, consider a quick read of it now, then pop back.

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/opinion/9287744-171/guest-commentary-sound-effort-could

I’m worried. Nathan played personal respect on us, like a big trump card. So is NOLAscape on the wrong side of the proper etiquette rules? Are the new rules going to be, we can fiddle facts and meaning, if we do it with respect? We can let truth slide, but we have to watch our Ps and Qs.

New Orleans has high humidity and flood insurance, therefore we must show public respect to everyone, no matter what bent levers of influence they try to use, or what bunk they pass as facts? Misinformation, misleading – now they are all worthy of personal respect.

Guess we have to downgrade Aristophanes, Voltaire, Swift, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Spitting Image, Lewis Black, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Hicks, Bill Maher, Sacha Baron-Cohen – you know, the people that help us keep our mental canoe afloat through the gales of pompous dementia from power junkies and the human brain’s capacity to lose itself down a canyon of BS.

No, no, no. Or should I say, No, no, no, Sir. Stuff your charades of gentility. The tradition of no respect is sacred. It saves us. And sometimes it saves us from Nathan. For instance, when he seems to be giving himself some credit for the dBC component of the Woolworth-based ordinance, a big input from Dave, which our Nathan – with respect, of course, and in the best possible taste and with personal respect – fought and denounced at every turn. Nathan – sorry; Mr Chapman – in addition to afflicting us with the awful “7 Essentials,” spoke against the original Woolworth report, boycotted the FQMD process, campaigned against the amendment he boasts about to the Key West guy as if it were his own, and contributed to its eventual scuppering by agreeing with Clarkson’s and his VCPORAn colleagues’ lunatic concatenation of “unconstitutional” and “citywide,” which they hooked up with some deliberate lies to try to torpedo the amendment in a cynical, intentionally misleading campaign e-blasted out after Sharonda Williams had explained to them and their legal prey-bird Justin Winch, that their alarm-mongering claims were wrong.

Fast-forward to what we hear happening now: Bourbon Street operators had been ready to try the Woolworth plan. Dial this down a little, pull that back, see what happens. But when Nathan and his friends mangled the process with a BS storm, possibly confusing old Jackie even more in the process, they thought: Fuck it. Trying to work with these fools is a waste of time. Let it float free again, and call the lawyer. I wonder if earnest folk like Nathan played right into plans and expectations of Stuart H. and Meg: carry on with crap regulation and bad law. Then we can keep on suing everybody, running our own game. See who runs out of money first.

Is personal respect really the way to defend ourselves against this kind of corkscrew Newthink? Or would Nathan’s politeness really be deference to intentional mischief?

The 7 Essentials – with all due respect, gimme a break. The 20 “neighborhoods” – help. Clubs that name themselves after the neighborhood they live in, where five people show up and vote for something they don’t understand – that ain’t no neighborhood. That’s just five old nerds grumbling. Warehouse District was a star coalition name: one guy, all alone, without telling anyone at all even in his unincorporated neighborhood outfit, voted the whole neighborhood onto Nathan’s list. And Na . . . – sorry, Mr Chapman – didn’t want to take it off even when the truth went public.

To merit respect, shouldn’t one have to swear off this stuff? Maybe Old Square frauds are so used to it, they may not even notice themselves doing it, but still: what comes first, truth and honor, or being nice? Guess the Hoodie tendency is sticking with the superficial.

“Divisively in the media.” Show me. Every journalist with any sense in New Orleans wanted to see the good amendment, which Chapman and his groupies opposed, passed, done, dusted and change the subject. Technically, you can say “divisive” any time about American media, where the ridiculous media journalism of “balance” gives a couple of talking heads equal time on whether the earth is flat. No, everybody with enough IQ points to find Bourbon Street on a sunny day knew that the Woolworth amendment was a good starting baseline. Divisive were the usual cranks, crackpots and cokeheads who try to keep New Orleans under a gloomy grey cloud instead of out where life happens.

Listen, Neighborhoodies: you want respect? The city of New Orleans and the normal sane people of the world want honesty and an end, and I mean END, to the boring arrogance, pomposity, expectation of privilege and frivolous lawsuits wafting out of the Vieux bloody Carré. Stop all that now. Throw all the diseased beliefs and the people that drive them overboard. Recant, and atone publicly. “We do renounce him, and all his works.” You know the routine. It’s from The Godfather. And then maybe we can revisit the respect issue.

——–

I have a friend that reminds me a bit of Nathan. Soapy Sam, we call him. He belongs to a politically dorky “Neighborhood” association as well. Well, he knew a guy who knew a guy who was a reporter in Glasgow, who wanted to call Soapy for an interview, because they were having a lot of trouble with noise in Glasgow. They have trouble with everything in Glasgow. Well, they have been spared the second amendment and the NRA, so the weekend death toll is lower, but Saturday nights are pretty rough.

Some bartenders from Bourbon Street had moved to Glasgow and started music bars on one street. They turned up the amps to try to be heard over the general commotion.

Most of the interview was language difficulties. A bit like us at City Hall. Fergus’s Glaswegian and Soapy’s Louisiana trying to interpenetrate in search of meaning. The interview took about three hours, but we’ll edit down to essentials.

“Hey, Bourbon’s supposed to be really great, righ’? I wanna get down there.”

“Oh, no it’s much too loud. It’s horrible. Respectable women and Tim Laughlin can hardly walk down it any more.”

“Tha’s nae wha’ I hear. Anyway, what’s all this about “personal respect”? What are you asking for, puffballs? What happens if you get on Jeremy Paxman? He’ll have your eyes out of your head. Or Ali Gee gets on your case? You’re lucky George Carlin is dead. Are you guys just soft or what?”

“No, but you know, it’s not a big city, and, well, there are just not than many of us. You know . . . US. (Soapy winked, but you can’t see that over the phone.) And if you run into Mrs. Landry at Wholefoods, well, it could be very embarrassing.”

“Okay, well look. My mate said you made up a lot of bullshit to try to beat their amendment in the Council. Is that okay in New Orleans, or maybe kinda shitty? Don’t you expect to catch a lot of grief for crap like tha’?”

“Well, I think we just have to be nice.”

“Listen, Soap – is it okay if I call you Soap? – how do you work the council members?”

“Well, you know, we call it political benefit. But that can be a lot of things. Some of them, we just spin a story. Others, they need a deal.”

“Do you ever just give them some money?”

“Oh, no! That would be wrong. There are campaign contributions, of course. But sometimes we already gave them, so you have to call in the chit. Mostly we let the lawyer do that. It’s his money, anyway.”

“Do ye ever get caught?”

“Well, I think it’s all legal here now. We’ve had some court cases . . . ”

“Listen, Soap, I’ll call you back. I want to talk to my editor, see how this Personal Respect idea goes over. I’ll call you back if I don’t get fired.”

—————

But enough low mockery! Let’s have some respect! Because the lightly hidden main thing of this latest Chapman manifesto is that he says: everybody got crazy. Now that is a big, big breakthrough for an initiated, anointed, inducted, Kool-Aid addicted Hoodie. This is like deprogramming a Scientologist. What if Nathan Chapman, ex-pres and stalwart, gets turned out of Rampart Street for an honesty leak? We need to take the lonely exile to our bosom. Can we get charitable status for an Adopt-a-Hoodie program? We should have an 800 number for bewildered exiles to call.

He would have to pipe down about those health issues they pulled up for their campaign, though. They are forgetting they pulled that stuff out as weapon against good law, not a reason for it. Bars are not hosing 90+ dB sound into neighbors’ homes, and people walking Bourbon Street don’t stay in one place for eight hours five days a week, so OSHA is not an issue in this law. If you want to address that issue, you need to load up a new crusade. And you are unlikely to get any sympathy on Bourbon Street.

Maybe we can even call time out in the caucus race, pass the damn’ ordinance, which is probably tired of us by now, and find something of importance to fight about. All the issues more important than how a bar plays or what kind of shirts a shop sells. Which is to say: all issues.

Me, I’m sticking with Spitting Image, no respect and George Carlin. Watch this instead of listening to Nathan. Or me.

http://youtu.be/QPcRQubF8cY

Or have another spin of Lou Ludwig’s Let’s all hate on the hipsters.

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A Letter to Senator Murray and Representative Moreno – 2

This is another letter sent by an interested citizen to Senator Ed Murray and Representative Helena Moreno about VCPORA’s latest attempt to undermine FQMD.

In case anyone has forgotten, it was FQMD that sponsored Dave Woolworth’s public, transparent sound analysis of Bourbon Street. Transparency spooks them. They seem to prefer Star Chamber processes.

Dear Sen. Murray and Rep. Moreno,

There has been extensive discussion over the weekend about proposed or soon to be proposed legislation changing the makeup of the Board of the French Quarter Management District. It is my understanding that these changes are advantageous to VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens.

These organizations have consistently refused to provide their membership list or even a membership number. Many members of VCPORA do not reside in the French Quarter. The sliver of residents these groups represent are already over represented on the Board of FQMD, and there are many other residents of the French Quarter on the Board. This small group of residents is extremely well organized and function in a zombie like manner when commands are issued, so I suspect you are hearing from them on this issue. Do not be mislead to think those statements are actually individual beliefs. The similarity of the emails should be your first tip off that they are cut and paste robots at work.

As a private citizen and member of the Facilitation Committee of MaCCNO (Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans), I participated in the FQMD Government Committee process of drafting a functional sound ordinance based on science. Great care was taken to get it right. It was already in the works when I got aboard, and I worked with them for about a year. VCPORA introduced legislation through Stacy Head in an attempt to derail the process. This instigated a very large musician protest at City Hall. That bad legislation was withdrawn, and VCPORA and FQC completely removed themselves from the FQMD discussion of an ordinance that would work for all stakeholders. I would hesitate to give more influence to people who are reluctant to participate in a constructive manner.

Their absence aside, a very good set of ordinance recommendations was crafted by FQMD, and the subsequent ordinance was stonewalled by VCPORA at the very last Council meeting of the outgoing term. Since it is apparent to them that they will no longer be able to control the newly installed City Council as their own personal puppets, they are now appealing to the State level in order to exert undue influence. Don’t let them do it.

If there are to be any changes to the make up of the Board, I strongly urge you to consider creating some balance by selecting stakeholders that have been actively opposed to the dirty dealings and oppressive and offensive actions of VCPORA. They have most recently targeted small retail businesses and culture bearers, especially at the grass roots level, and those groups deserve a seat at the table.

The situation with the Sound Ordinance has not played itself out yet. There will be a new ordinance brought before the Council, and some of the actions of VCPORA Puppet Master Attorney Stuart Smith, including attempting to intimidate members of the City Council and FQMD Board, could result in him serving jail time. At this point in time, any politician that sides with this organization is putting their own credibility in jeopardy. I urge you to take the high road on this issue and either leave the FQMD unchanged or to create a position for grass roots level businesses and organizations

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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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Curfew Constitutionality

This article is reprinted with permission of Ashlye Keaton, New Orleans based entertainment attorney and musicians’ advocate, Adjunct Asst. Professor of Law at Tulane, who has worked for years on city sound and music issues.

Going on five years now, the noise ordinance has been an issue that we have been working to resolve. The stimulus for establishing the first working group meeting on July 10, 2010, was the TBC brass band being cited for playing music after 8pm. The response was indeed the establishment of the working group to determine how we could strengthen enforcement of the ordinance and then lift the curfew.

During this process, parties from each perceived “side,” in addition to public officials and staff, have acknowledged that the curfew on musical instruments is unconstitutional. In fact, it arises from a law first established in 1808, which prohibited slaves from playing horns and drums at any place and time other than mayoral designated areas on Sundays, and that’s how Congo Square became a meeting place for musical activity. Over the past 200 years, there have been attempts to overrule this law, including our country’s Civil War. Additionally, civic leaders have moved to remove this discriminatory law and practice over time. Unfortunately, to date, in its current form, first introduced in 1956, this discriminatory law and practice still remains, and the same kind of people are fighting to keep it in place, using the same language, red herring arguments and other tactics that have been employed by the elite for centuries, all in an attempt to stay in power and prevent equal application of civil liberties.

Since the first working group met in 2010, I have encountered less than a handful of individuals who have stated that this law might not be unconstitutional. Those people are driving the VCPORA. Significantly, those same people acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the curfew to the extent that I am prepared to seek declaratory relief against it, because they fear a federal judge will strike the entire ordinance for being unconstitutional, and they are correct.

I have participated in countless meetings and conversations about this ordinance on behalf of the cultural community. In good faith, I have agreed and have proven over time to contribute measures that would strengthen enforcement of the ordinance so that the VCPORA and others would feel comfortable in your repealing a curfew, which the Council does not need their permission to strike.

Just three weeks ago, I met again with leaders of the VCPORA, all who understood that I could and would not endorse their recommendations without them endorsing the curfew lift. Their only concern seemed to be that I was asking for too much and that the city council would not know how to address all our collective concerns together. They were wrong, as the current proposed ordinance does indeed address concerns germane to the cultural community, neighbors and club owners.

By lifting the curfew, the City will ensure that our authenticity is considered and supporting measures that prevent its dilution and export to other geographical areas, where musicians are better compensated. Lifting the curfew sends a signal to our youth that we are committed to ensuring they have a place to carry on the traditions and legacies established by generations before them.

As a homeowner and tax payer in the Lower Garden District, I am paying for the administration of this city wide program, and I support it, but only if it addresses our collective concerns. I do not support funding a city-wide agency exclusively for select residents, backed by a bully-lawyer, who I understand to be facing criminal charges in connection with blackmailing at least one public official, and who seems to enjoy rainmaking lucrative lawsuits while sending individuals to our underfunded prison in connection with alleged sound violations.

The curfew on music is the single cause that generated the response and participation in this conversation of the cultural community. Voting against the proposed ordinance would serve to eliminate all recourse sought by the cultural community and would send a message that their inclusion has amounted to nothing more than theatre guised as justice.

Let’s petition Council to use this carefully considered ordinance as a tool to prove to the cultural community that they support it. Let’s ask them to vote in favor of the ordinance tomorrow. Beyond being the appropriate legal action, it’s the right thing to do.

(c) Ashlye Keaton, 23 April 2014

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Perdido Fest

It was Perdido Fest yesterday. Let’s have one every year.

Kristin Palmer as MC opened the curtain with a message from Stacy Head on why she would not attend. Her intro and commentary are masterpieces of Voodoo pin juggling, a piece of art of the faint-praise school. When Kristin has more time after she leaves council, she would be welcome as a Nolascape contributor. I know our own KGP can be a tough customer. People don’t lightly turn their back on her, but if you don’t give her a round of applause after you hear her opening statement, you missed it: http://cityofno.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1794

Perdido Fest’s first act was Arline Bronzaft, Prof. Emeritus of the Rudy Giuliani School of Streetcraft, expert in Trains, Planes and Automobiles. She spoke first, “by request.” Of whom we know not. Maybe she wanted to get out of here.

I had Googled her up the day before. Her area of study is mostly the environmental commotion that pervades New York. Subways, elevated trains, taxis, horn-honking showdowns, crowds. Her big claim to fame is pretty cool. She discovered that in a school next to the El, the kids on the train side of the building got lower scores than the kids on the quieter side. She helped the school sort that out, and now all the kids get the same scores. Cool, but . . . she wouldn’t be so tone deaf as to triangulate from that to Bourbon Street, would she? She must have some other good stuff in reserve.

Well, not so much, it turned out. She opened by saying there was no need of a long introduction, because we could check her out on Google. Then she gave us the long introduction anyway – qualifications, accomplishments, what a privilege it was for us to have her here. Phase two was a dissection of the amendment, pointing out that she did not like the writer’s placement of the words “sound” and “noise.” On this account, she suggested that the ordinance be withdrawn for further study, by her. Actually, if the drafters agree with her about the two terms, they can fix it in about ten minutes. Then came some stuff about hearing damage and death by music. That’s an old VCPORA saw; no matter how many times they are told that it is irrelevant to this bill, they can’t stop. I guess it makes them feel good. They do like to feel virtuous, even when dropping a card while trying to deal off the bottom of the deck.

Ms Bronzaft suggested that the draft amendment should be tabled for further work, at which she would be glad to help the City of New Orleans get everything lined up like New York, and helpfully pointed out that visitor numbers to New York had not reduced since their decibel laws were introduced. Since very few people go to New York to visit Bourbon Street, that sounds off the mark. If any do, they should probably have a word with their travel agent. A big point that Bronzaft skated around is that nobody is in Bourbon Street against their will. Visitors to Bourbon Street go there for the high volume music, intentionally, eagerly.

In nearly every sentence, Bronzaft emphasized the words “I” and “my.” Bit of an eye-roller, that. Were we supposed to be impressed? Of course, she pissed off pretty much everyone in the room, and should consider herself lucky Kristin Palmer didn’t have a brick handy to bounce off her head. Technically, some of her stuff was probably quite good – but totally irrelevant. Unless perhaps she knows of a secret plan to build an elevated train and a school on Bourbon Street.

Next up was David Freedman of WWOZ. Everybody seems impressed by Dave Freedman, especially Dave Freedman. Personally, I don’t get it, but I guess I am just not properly attuned to my cultural icons. He needed lots of minutes, and wanted the minutes he spent talking about how many minutes he needed subtracted from the minutes he wanted.

Notwithstanding my lack of reflex respect, his first few sentences were tough and good. Who needs an expert from New York? And VCPORA and their boring lawyer are pests. Had he sat down then, he would have merited a round of applause. At least from me, although CM Palmer glowers ominously when I do that. Unfortunately for the audience, he did another ten minutes or so of rambling, rather pompously phrased philosophy, mostly irrelevant to the subjects at hand: dB levels on Bourbon and side streets, the constitutional questions around the curfew, and the creation of a trained sound management team.

Then came people who did not want enough time to run for President. Hannah Kreiger-Benson for MaCCNO and Kim Rosenberg to introduce FQMD’s report and comments. FQMD is a big and exceptionally fair-minded presence in this. I hope the Council does not lose sight of this in the storm of political static that is bound to assault the senses over the next few days.

The star was Earl Bernhardt, owner of the Tropical Isle bars and the Grapevine restaurant, a great contributor to the international attraction Bourbon Street is today. Earl spoke simply about the efforts of his businesses to comply with the rules, while still making sure they fulfilled customers’ expectations. And he mentioned that he has been under attack, or let’s say, under annoyance, by Nathan Chapman and VCPORA for several decades, which must be like trying to build your business with a couple of Chihuahuas snapping at your ankles.

The message is: pass a fair law, and the music venue operators will work with you. Pass a dim VCPORA law, and they will not – cannot – comply. A legal wrangle will start. Everybody will lose but the lawyers. And who is the city’s main music crank? Why yes, a hyperactive lawyer. To quote Mary Howell, a serious lawyer, if you want a law like this to work, you need buy-in from the players. Resistance and draconian enforcement will not cut it.

Then Chapman. The ankle snapper in chief. Never ceases to amaze. Kristin smiled comfortingly, saying he had been painted with a bad brush. Is that me? Nice little me? Is Nolascape a bad brush? Just because I don’t think presumption, velvet-coated arrogance and persistent mendacity merit respect. Neither do a lot of other people; they just don’t like to go public with it. The Chapman show today says he was personally promised by the CMs that Woolworth would be just one expert voice, on even footing with their expert. I challenge him to produce serious evidence of that. Woolworth was engaged by the city to do a big job, and he brought it in big. I am sure in other contexts he does fine work, but here, Arno Bommer is Smith’s paid trial witness, who states all the letters behind his name, and then tells us Smith’s preferred numbers. Irrelevant is too kind a word. Don’t even have to get the bad brush out.

Then Nathan goes on about Bourbon Street a bit. Can anybody out there tell me why it is any of his business? Then tell me why VCPORA presumes standing in the pompous way he expresses it. Why does Council even listen to them? I do not see why VCPORA has anything to say about Bourbon Street. It does not fit their fictional storybook picture of a French Quarter of preserved residences, fashion boutiques, art galleries, antiques and chandeliers. Got it. Nobody cares. Now go away.

Nope. He’s still there. Back to a bit of boring stuff about bar staff, which has nothing to do with this bill. If they are concerned about that, they could propose a bill that did address it, but they would be even more irrelevant in that area. They would be wise to clam up and let Bethany Bultman and specialists of her choice take care of it. Then he introduces their new objection, that it is not just about Bourbon. The curfew sneaked in, and decriminalization – which, allow me to remind ol’ Honest Nate, everybody including Himself knew was a principal tenet of the revision for the past year at least, including any VCPORAn with the attention span to read the Woolworth and FQMD reports.

Another speaker whose name was hard to catch, French-Cole possibly, antagonized by something Kristin Palmer said, spoke angrily but simply and soundly: stop those people trying to mess up what New Orleans has built and is famous for. Just stop it. Let it live and breathe. Hear hear!

Then Bob Simms wrapping up, which is good, since Bob is most reasonable of us all. He reminded us that Woolworth’s methodology is monumental, landmark and will be a new reference point in music zone management, and one of his achievements is bringing the C scale bass-heavy measurement into the equation.

He suggested respect for Mr Bernhardt’s statement, which is key, because what has happened in the evolution of this process, and what must now really be given prominent recognition, is that the Bourbon Street operators are now much more reasonable than the Citizens Council. Oops – I mean the “preservationist” clubs.

But all good parties must end, except maybe Bourbon Street, and after an excellent summing up, in which she finally – I have been waiting for it – put a stake through the heart of the Hoodie-and-Head sponsored December amendment, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, CM of Sound, kicked us all out to make room for the firemen.

(c) Robert Freilich, 2014

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Krewe of Kleweless

What a party. Were you there? Council’s HHNC Committee had a public comment session on the Sound Ordinance amendment, as part of endorsing it for Council vote Thursday. Or is it the Noise Ordinance amendment? It is so confusing . . . . I think I have to check with New York.

But first, sports fans, before we stick a dull scalpel into The Proceedings, let’s have some fun disembowelling a little rag shot out by VCPORA right after the meeting, then posted to the Hear the Noise web site.  That is generally a sign that it is a Brylski product. It must have been written before, ready to shoot out, because it fails to note clear statements made at council. Or maybe they just ignore the proceedings and use their standard rule of engagement in the Sound Wars – never give in to facts! VCPORA is above the truth! Determination with Dopiness! Onward into oblivion!

It came under a nice VCPORA logo in the first email I saw, then posted here: http://noisenola.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/alert-troubling-non-bourbon-street-issues-added-to-sound-ordinance/#comments and alerted to its mailing list. Before the body decays totally, here is a medical examiner’s report.

1. Citywide, the ordinance removes time restrictions (also known as the “curfew”) on street performers. The Woolworth study and public debate was overwhelmingly about bars and businesses. People concerned about street performances had no warning that language would be included in this ordinance. Such a change needs to be considered and discussed by the public in its own process and ordinance.

This paragraph is strangely, probably unintentionally, correct but spun to make you think it is a fault of today’s amendment. As clearly and succinctly noted by Theresa Becher of the City Attorney’s office and Stacy Head’s message, the curfew as written in 1956 has constitutional issues. Therefore it cannot properly be used to exercise anyone’s “rights as a citizen.” The amendment is used as the opportunity to remove the wrong language and now it “needs to be considered and discussed . . . In its own process . . . ”

Correct – but that validates the amendment! (What do you think – they don’t understand it, or just spinnin’ and fibbin’?) No one, or as good as, thinks a 19 piece amateur rowdy brass band should be blasting away at 1.00 AM, as happened this week in the Marigny. It was not stopped earlier because the curfew’s constitutional question mark interferes with enforcement.

Now we have to find a fair, legal way to address this issue.

2. Citywide, the ordinance will remove even malicious sound violations out of Municipal Court. An adjudication officer cannot issue an arrest warrant or send the police to locate someone who fails to show up for a hearing. Police officers will no longer be able to arrest a recalcitrant violator who refuses to turn it down after repeated violations.

No, ‘fraid not. As Theresa Becher and Stacy Head clearly said, police authority is in the Charter and cannot be removed by an ordinance of this type. Police power to deal with a violation that steps over a line into criminal is unabridged.

3. Citywide, it eliminates citizens’ right to go to court to seek injunctive relief when the sound ordinance is violated. In a city that often lacks resources for enforcement, to take away citizens’ rights to use the courts is very, very scary. For many, it has been the only remedy.

They must have found this one deep in the bottom of their Halloween pumpkin. Give it a microsecond’s thought: can a sound management ordinance amendment alter the basis of civil law? Of course not. Immunity from suit would require very explicit language, and would almost certainly be struck down by the first magistrate it came before.

Suing music bars has not been the only remedy for many. It has been a course of choice for a very few. In fact, almost entirely for one. The plaintiffs in the sound suits have been mostly stooges or straw men enabling VCPORA’s patron the Dementorish tortmeister to harass music venues he doesn’t like. Rescued and escaped French Quarter Citizen ex-cultists tell us that last year club officers discovered 15 lawsuits that they were plaintiffs in – fifteen! – that the plaintiff’s attorney had not bothered to inform them about. Apparently the law firm just used VCPORA and FQC as general purpose plaintiffs, exposing officers and board to legal liability without a paddle, so to speak.

4. Citywide, it eliminates an important role of the police. Even with the new (positive) sound-related role for The Department of Health, the police must still maintain a role. The Dept of Health can never be as responsive to time-sensitive situations. The following deleted words should be restored in Section 66-137 Administration 3) “Execute other necessary action, including but not limited to, variance and permit review, and institute necessary proceedings to [“PROSECUTE OR ENJOIN” is deleted] adjudicate violators of the noise control ordinance.”

False. Pretty similar to no. 2, don’t you think? One of them is padding to make the case look bigger. Again, the City Attorney has assured Council and us in public session that this is not true, and could not be true, because an ordinary ordinance cannot abrogate or supersede the Charter. A full video of the session can be seen on Council’s web site, if you would like to check.

5. In VCE-1 (near House of Blues) the ordinance proposes the badly flawed system now used on Bourbon Street, but for another part of the Quarter. The 10 dBA above ambient or 60 dBA whichever is HIGHER (as opposed to lower) means there is no maximum. The use of “higher” created “sound wars” on Bourbon.

Let’s get real. VCPORA is either stupid, or thinks you are. The amendment to table 1 inserts VCE-1 into the table as a separate line to the existing one, which says all VCE areas, using exactly the same language as the original. I am not sure why the drafters wanted a separate line for VCE-1, but it changes nothing.

Here is the text in the original table 1:

10 decibels above the ambient noise level; or 60 decibels, whichever is higher.

Here is the text of the amendment:

10 decibels above the ambient noise level; or 60 decibels, whichever is higher.

If you can spot the difference please write urgently to Ms Brylski of the Krewe of Kleweless to congratulate her for finally making a true statement. This amendment is about VCE, not VCE-1.  What the Table 1 line does is not change anything for VCE-1.

Brylski, Lawyer Smith’s trusty if clumsy flack, also wrote a circular letter to nola.com praising them, actually praising them, for Richard Rainey’s kackhanded reporting of yesterdays session. In feeble exculpation we could say, he probably did not really know what was going on, since he had not covered the process. Between his report, and Prescott Stokes’ free commercial for Inspector Lousteau last week, we might wonder whether the Times-Pic isn’t creeping into VCPORA’s corner. They should think about it. VCPORA and FQC are badly busted brands. Their current owners and duplicitous spokesmen have bent their moral compasses way out of shape, hopefully irreparably, so New Orleans can soon be rid of this old clown car. Under cover of preservationism, they launch all sorts of nasty attacks on citizens and businesses. I suspect they are pretty rusty on real preservation, since they practice so little of it. Their purpose now is harassment and suing, mostly of things we all like.

This is the Bourbon Street amendment. One of its functions will be to protect one of New Orleans’ greatest industries from attack by “preservationist” piranha fish. Make sure all the Council and the administration know that you support it.

(c) Bob Freilich 2014

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The Law Zapper

Behold the Lord High Executioner
A personage of noble rank and title —
A dignified and potent officer,
Whose functions are particularly vital!
Defer, defer,
To the Lord High Executioner!
Defer, defer,
To the noble Lord, to the noble Lord,
To the Lord High Executioner!

Tomorrow at the Housing and Human Needs Committee at Council Hall, and then Thursday at the regular Council meeting, a lot of fun, as we used to say, will be had by all.

The game that will be afoot is just the usual contest between Light and Darkness, heroes trying to save us and the forces of evil trying to end the world as we know it. Same old. Civilization will be destroyed, or virtue will overcome. We’ll know by Thursday afternoon.

The specific issue, in case you have been in Miami for the past few months, is the sound ordinance revision, phase one: Bourbon Street. Many wanted to see city-wide revision last year, but our civic-minded, public-spirited French Quarter preservationist cliquemeisters decided to interfere with a Compleat Toolkit of sleaze, and somehow shoehorned into Council a ridiculous bill which ignored all the good work Dave Woolworth had done, and would have precipitated an avalanche of lawsuits and countersuits and the kind of generally ugly, rancid environment of conflict that they seem to thrive on, when not dreaming of a decorous Sunday stroll down Royal Street with a parasol, window shopping for chandeliers. Massive protest binned that bit of coarse-ground tripe, and a healthy process began again, focused on Bourbon Street only. A tight space, dominated by music venues. Probably the most complex, knotty urban social soundscape in the country, if not the world. And arguably New Orleans’ most well-known feature and attraction.

Dave Woolworth did it, with the support of French Quarter Management District, backed by Council. It looks like a landmark job of research, whose methodology will probably now become the new reference system for how to do this in cities with music districts everywhere.

The process was bitterly, if limply, opposed by the Dementor’s disciples. The transparent scientific process, the careful administration of FQMD, all the people who attended meetings and followed the progress of Woolworth’s work, the thousands of us who have read the recommendations and the draft amendment – we were getting it wrong. Without attending, our Hooded brethren knew better. Faith, you see. When it is time for us to know what works and what we want, VCPORA will tell us what it is.

Galileo had to put up with people like this. In fact, as a thought experiment, think where science and civilization would be today if everyone had joined VCPORA in 1625.

Here is what we can expect to see, hear and suffer this week from the cultists and their Lord High Dementor.

They will be telling everyone that they represent “The Residents.” They do not, of course. They represent their own little out-of-date special interest clubs. In the words of Her Ladyship the Executive Director, ” . . . private, mission-driven . . . ”

They – well he – you know: Him – has brought down an environmental psychologist from New York, an expert from the technocratic wing of the Giuliani administration, Arline Bronzaft. You can look her up on the internet and see her on YouTube. Her area of expertise is environmental noise – trains and planes, the general heavy industrial commotion of New York. I have no doubt she has done great work to help schools and all sorts of good things. What it will have to do with Bourbon Street and other music areas, where people go not only voluntarily but eagerly to revel in the sound – we’ll see. My prediction: Ms Bronzaft is a serious expert in a related but different field, and New York’s process for music has just been superseded by the Woolworth methodology. We can even predict that soon New York’s sound team will be coming here to study the Bourbon solution. Hoodie club folks are most comfortable in a dream of the past; for the rest of us, Bronzaft’s relevance will have to be demonstrated.

VCPORAns throw up OSHA as an objection to pretty much anything Dave Woolworth says. They have been doing this for some time. Completely inapplicable, but they keep going. What do people say about expecting a different outcome? They even tried it in the Mayor’s meetings, but it didn’t fly. It generally just raises a groan now, like Grandpa’s old army joke. They don’t even get it right. In their mythology, OSHA’s first harm level was 85 dB. It is not. The first threshold is 90 dB, with exposure eight hours per day, five days a week. What does that have to do with this ordinance, which is about the sound that comes out of a source, not the sound inside? Well, Nathan Chapman, clown prince of the Dementor Court, came up with an answer: If it is 85 just outside the door, it must be 90 inside! QED! Except this amendment has nothing to do with the inside of bars.

Street music curfew: a real problem. The new amendment has pulled it for reasonable cause: it is a constitutional issue. Lawyers have been ready to take the city to court for it. Rumors say the Mayor or his office requested it out, and that would have been on advice of counsel.

The Hoodies’ response will be: removing the curfew disqualifies the ordinance. People of clearer thought will see that the opposite is the case: it protects the law from invalidation. They will see that the issue of late night intrusive loud sound is still there, and significant. It just has to be resolved another way, not by including a clause that could sink the statute. It is a problem that will not be resolved by this amendment this week. Neither will nuclear proliferation or malaria. I hope they don’t bring those up, or this amendment could be in real trouble.

Preventing law suits. Think I am kidding? No, I assure you. One of the Hoodies’ objections is they think one word in the amendment – adjudicate instead of prosecute, changed because of the virtually universal agreement that sound offenses are to be transferred from criminal to civil, so you don’t get a criminal record for playing a trombone – means they would not be able to sue people. Sounds like superstition, but if correct, that would be pretty good. Their real problem is that with a clear, rational law and sensible sound parameters, you can’t so easily get away with frivolous lawsuits.

Let’s keep it short, because you have to sit back and digest your Easter brunch.

Lawsuits are Jabba the Hutt’s game. That is what he is good at. The Dementoring Tendency want to play with New Orleans life as a video game, and lawsuits are the zapper on their controller. They want you and your city government to hand them the volume knob as well as the little mover and shaker buttons.

Don’t forget: it is your city, not theirs. Just say no. Tell your council member, tell the mayor, turn up at City Hall, hiss and boo and cheer in the right places.

And laugh at them. When you see pompous people presenting ridiculous ideas, just laugh at them. Point and jeer.

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French Quarter Advocates’ Emerging Position on Sound Ordinance

Linda Malin, co-founder of the new French Quarter focused organization French Quarter Advocates.

Since the initial organization meeting of French Quarter Advocates was just one week ago, and the organization is still in the process of being created, I cannot talk for FQA, but can only express my personal opinion. FQA has adopted a policy of listening to all members and acting in accordance with the majority’s preference on issues.

I feel strongly that Mayor Landrieu, a music lover, is seeking the best solution, is dedicated to New Orleans remaining a cradle of new music and will do whatever is best to achieve that objective. As we all know, the Mayor is running a city with extremely limited resources, so he has requested reasoned input from the French Quarter on the sound issue to assist him in his decision-making.

The underlying issue is determining the relative rights of individuals living in a concentrated population. My feeling is that in a highly concentrated community everyone has to forgo the perfect for the practical. The practical usually requires compromise. In the case of music and noise, some have to live with higher sound levels than they may want to, while some have to play their instruments less amplified and within reasonable time periods. I say that as a third generation professional singer/musician – two of my children are fourth generation professional musicians (including one who has been a street musician!). On the other side, as a French Quarter resident I am at times troubled by excessive amplification of music, which can become “noise”.

We are at a crossroad in the process of how people associated with the French Quarter effectively speak on issues affecting the Quarter. How do we find a practical, acceptable solution to the sound issue?

Should not the first step be to adopt a reasonable position and then support it? My thought is that the Woolworth report is the best starting position. I became involved in this issue a year and a half ago when, in one week, I met Dave Woolworth and discussed his views and then was asked, as the new president of another organization, to support the Seven Essentials and met with Nathan Chapman and Carol Allen of VCPORA to discuss that view.

After a few weeks of concentrated discussion with both groups and with Brian Furness, who has spent an enormous amount of time studying the issue, my personal conclusion at that time was that the Woolworth report is the best route to a solution. While I respect Nathan’s views and dedication to the issue, I disagreed with some of his conclusions in the sound issue.

My personal opinion is that supporting FQMD on the sound issue is the best way to support my position that the Woolworth report is the best starting point. FQMD was requested by Councilperson Palmer to develop and support a position on “noise”. Dave has done a professional job in preparing a comprehensive report and recommendation. FQMD has put a great deal of effort into this for almost two years, including holding public hearings. For me, FQMD’S approach is comprehensive and has the best chance of achieving effective results. The Woolworth report recommends sensible, systemic and sustainable solutions, which is FQA’s vision of addressing problem areas.

I very much look forward to discussing this with FQA members and people interested in the issue – which I believe includes everyone.

(c) Linda Malin, April 2014

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Jan Ramsey’s Seven

No, it’s not a new brass band. Jan Ramsey of Offbeat has proposed a new set of guidelines for the next Music/Sound Ordinance:

  1. The City Council should heed the work performed by David Woolworth and use his recommendations in any ordinance that’s proposed.
  2. There should be reasonable limits set up, maybe even on a block-by-block basis so that there’s no “blanket” requirements for the city. Setting one limit in an area is just not feasible.
  3. The “enforcement arm” must be created and its efforts should be consistent (most recently the Health Department is supposed to be hiring people to monitor sound problems and to mediate these issues, rather than the police).
  4. The city should provide tax incentives to venues that encourage them to install and maintain serious sound-blocking acoustics in their clubs.
  5. Curfews should be removed for musicians, but there should be decibel limitations on how loud they can play during certain times of the day or night.
  6. Signage should be installed throughout the entertainment zones that notify every one of the limitations on times and decibel levels that are acceptable. This seems like a no-brainer to me.
  7. There should be a mediation arm on the city level to address complaints and violations regarding sound violations.

http://www.offbeat.com/2014/03/26/k-doe-golden-rule/?utm_source=WB+03+27+14&utm_campaign=WB+03+20+14&utm_medium=email

Conciliatory and fair, don’t you think? Could have come from the  Dalai Lama.’s office. I wonder about soundproofing on Bourbon where, unlike Frenchmen and other areas, the policy is open doors. It wasn’t even the clubs that started it – it was Jim Garrison. But we’ll see. Maybe it will work

Let’s ask the advocacy clubs that have been against the Bourbon way whether they will agree with these commonsense ideas. Jan’s Seven would be great start on a way forward towards peaceful coexistence.

Let’s try – but I am not optimistic. Most of the city and pretty much everybody who has followed the Woolworth process or mastered the Oxford report is in agreement on the next steps, except a few “Hear the Noise” diehards, a very small clique who claim to represent the residents of the Vieux Carré. Most of the real residents deny that, and some get quite angry when they hear it said in public.

What is their real motive, anyway? Their attack on Bourbon Street won’t stop at decibel count. Bourbon Street provides big, vulgar, raucous, fun entertainment for people who come here for that. It just isn’t nice. They are not like us.

Not everybody enjoys Bourbon Street, but there are lots of other things to do, other streets, other bars, other shops. Why the fuss? What would the Respectability Hobbyists say if a spokesman for an association from, say, Simon Bolivar Avenue turned up at City Hall and said his members find Royal Street extremely disturbing and offensive. They cannot afford chandeliers and original hurt. They are symbols of income inequality, and at the very least, the display windows should be unlit and shuttered. It is a pretty direct parallel, just facing the opposite direction. We would all think it was crazy, but even many opponents do not question VCPORA’s right to try to disable Bourbon Street for now, and other clubs soon.

Preservation activists are trying to force souvenir shops to close for catering to Saints and Wrestlemania fans. What if we said, we have too many fine, expensive restaurants serving great food, but average hourly wage earners can’t afford them. The French Quarter is part of our national heritage and should be for everyone, so let’s make some of them shut down, and get in some kebab shops.  Is it different, except for the accepted presumption of class prerogative?

As I delve into these ideas and meet more people, I find that most of us, even most of the French Quarter’s influential elite, enjoy the diversity and variety and evolution. They may not want to trade in their Mercedes and property development for a mini-van and an electric guitar, but they are fine with the people that do, and who bring so much life to the city. When they go out for a drink, it may be to the Monteleone or Brennan’s, not Bourbon Street, but they are happy enough that the people there are enjoying their experience.

Let’s see if the French Quarter Preservationists can say the same. you know who you are, so please re-read Jan Ramsey’s very civil seven point plan and then please let us know: would you be willing to turn away from lifestyle policing and embrace diversity? Give up trying to shut people down and contribute to the future while preserving the best of the past? Commit to preserving the valuable and let life be lived as she is within the architectural environment that you have contributed to?

Look forward to hearing from you.

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