Unsound Ordinance

On Thursday, City Council rammed through the “first reading” of a scurrilous draft Sound Ordinance with impossibly low decibel limits recommended by a questionable audiometrician paid by VCPORA’s Prerogative Tendency, overriding the levels recommended by the city’s own consultant, Dave Woolworth.

Their objective can only be to deepen even further a complaint-driven entertainment anti-culture where the deep pockets of the VCPORA gentry and their leader and attack litigator Stuart H. Smith can dominate.

When they use these unrealistically low sound levels to justify lawsuits and to try to get police shut-downs, the well-funded noise factories of Bourbon Street will come out okay. They can either pay the fine, pacify the enforcers, or hire effective attorneys to back the process into a corner with constitutional challenges which the local court can’t handle and the Supremes won’t be bothered with, so the cases sit in limbo like Bleak House.

But smaller, newer venues, events and street bands, where some new music might emerge – they won’t be able to come close to affording it. The gentrifiers’ suppression will take hold. Venues will have to either shut down the music, or get driven out of business. Perhaps it is the city establishment’s strategy: to leave us with just tourist music and a few big names in big sites, with no sense that they are strangling the future. And for what? Increasing the radius of the comfort zone for a few property owners claiming special privilege.

Just as bad: Kristin Palmer, CM for District C which includes the FQ, Marigny and Bywater, who might have been closest to understanding this, and was main sponsor of the Woolworth study, has decided not to run for re-election. District C, which includes the French Quarter and the Marigny, will be handed over to Jackie Clarkson in the spring – the unreliable matriarch and dragon of the council, or some might say, the scourge of music that ain’t tourist theme park stuff, who has exhausted all the intentions of term limits, now finding another way to hold on and help maintain the iron grip of our own Bayou-based one percent.

The elections are coming up. To keep New Orleans alive and fun, we need to act, or the cold, bony hand of privilege will extend its grip even further into the cultural life of your city.


Sounds in trouble

Troubled Sounds


Bob Freilich / 22 December 2013



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Ditch the ‘7 Essentials’!

Dear Downtown Neighborhood Associations, VCPORA, FQC and FMIA

 Why not take the opportunity offered by the Woolworth report to step up and help the City? Don’t be afraid. It will help your neighborhoods, too.

Give up your combative approach to sound management. Lose the mean-spirited “7 Essentials.” Set your social lens to a wider angle. Participate in a real process of improvement instead of digging in for another sad round of the same-old. You will find people ready to work with you for a better New Orleans.

 VCPORA, Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association and “HeartheNOLAmusic” published a sound control manifesto last year, “7 Essential Items to make New Orleans Noise Ordinance Fair and Functional.”  They have pushed it like a religious tract in a battle against the City and its citizens, demanding tougher enforcement of out-of-date regulations. Their guerrilla assault on live music has included lawsuits, op-ed pieces, PR, secret meetings and political influence. They have a big arsenal.

Sponsors of the “7 Essentials” say they are really great music lovers who just want to get everything right. That is not how it has been playing out, and if they really mean it, the first thing they should do is ditch this awful manifesto. It is belligerent, unrealistic and classist, the product of a seriously bad attitude. If ever actually used as a basis for an ordinance, it would lead to more “noise” and conflict, not less.

There are better solutions available now. MaCCNO generated a humane, forward looking guideline for a sound management ordinance they could support, and on August 19th Dave Woolworth presented an excellent comprehensive review of the City’s soundscape with more detailed recommendations for improvement in statute and enforcement.

To be fair to VCPORA, even their own enforcement plan for music clubs who leak too much sound does not follow the “7 Essentials.” Their real program is much better than this unlovely thing, so why continue to endorse it?

Nevertheless, at City Council’s HHNC committee meeting on August 19th, three people from the residents’ associations publicly defended “7 Essentials.” Why?

Have a read of it, then let’s unpick it, then discuss.


7 Essential Items to make New Orleans Noise Ordinance fair and functional

1. Establishments that offer live entertainment must take reasonable measures to assure compliance with the requirements of the noise ordinance. Such measures include, but are not limited to, developing and implementing a sound control program and documenting sound level measurements to be kept on file at the premises.

2. Appoint a full time person who will have the authority and affirmative duty to administer and enforce the ordinances, and who shall have the full backing of NOPD and Health Department, and who shall establish and maintain a publicly accessible (via interactive website) centralized record-keeping system to track complaints, enforcement and compliance efforts.

3. Amend ordinance to clarify that all measurements of sound emanating from private or public property in all zoning districts will be taken at the property line of the source of the sound.

4. In order to impose penalties that will deter repeat offenses for abuse of sound ordinance standards, pass state legislation to allow higher or unlimited fines. In the absence of this legislation, consider other deterrents such as limited operating hours or complete shut down of the offending establishment.

5. Make significant revisions to the Mayoralty permitting process to ensure advance public notification and opportunities for public comment prior to granting a mayoralty permit authorizing a sound-producing land-use to the requesting establishment.

6. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Return decibel levels in Vieux Carré Commercial (VCC) and Vieux Carré Residential (VCR) districts to the following levels which existed in 1997 in the French Quarter and which still currently exist in the Marigny.

VCR: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 60 Lmax 70; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 55 Lmax 60.

VCC: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 65 Lmax 75; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 60 Lmax 65

7. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Enforce a maximum of 85 Lmax in the VCE for sound protruding into the public space. This maximum helps ensure that citizens and involuntary listeners won’t be exposed to sound beyond acceptable industrial levels. Also, maintain ambient as the standard in the VCE but use as “db level 10 above ambient noise level, not to exceed Lmax 85 db.”

Now let’s see what this is really about.

Establishments that offer live entertainment must take reasonable measures to assure compliance with the requirements of the noise ordinance. Such measures include, but are not limited to, developing and implementing a sound control program and documenting sound level measurements to be kept on file at the premises.

Spokesmen for the associations supporting the “7 Essentials” criticized the Woolworth report for what they considered recommendation for a new ordinance to replace the existing one. I guess they had changed their minds, because unless I am reading it too fast, the existing ordinance does not include a requirement for establishments offering either live or recorded music to have a formal self-monitoring program, so the “7 Essentials” would require a new ordinance or a carefully written amendment for point 1.

This “Essential” omits a glaring problem in New Orleans loud sound control: non-music venues playing loud recorded music. Everyone agrees that a significant sound assault comes from daiquiri and T-Shirt shops in the FQ blaring loud music from outside speakers. The sponsors of the 7 Essentials are so intent on controlling and humbling entertainment bars that they give some of the highest volume offenders a pass. It is not simply an oversight; an amendment for recorded music was proposed; they rejected it.

Appoint a full time person who will have the authority and affirmative duty to administer and enforce the ordinances, and who shall have the full backing of NOPD and Health Department, and who shall establish and maintain a publicly accessible (via interactive website) centralized record-keeping system to track complaints, enforcement and compliance efforts.

The Pit Bull tone again reveals the mind-set of its composers – us and them, the responsible v. the riffraff. Tone deaf and awful.

Now they have decided to oppose a new ordinance, but this full-time person or office does not exist in the current ordinance, so new legislation would be required to establish the office. Instead of defending and contradicting the “7 Essentials” mantra in the same sentence, why not just ditch this sour old tract and get behind Dave Woolworth and others to improve things for the whole city?

Amend ordinance to clarify that all measurements of sound emanating from private or public property in all zoning districts will be taken at the property line of the source of the sound.

The existing ordinance suggests 25 feet from property line. Loudness diminishes with distance. The diminution varies with tone. Other things affect readings – trees, buildings, etc. So this “Essential” is intended to force yet lower limits, when one of the management problems is that they are already unrealistically low.

In order to impose penalties that will deter repeat offenses for abuse of sound ordinance standards, pass state legislation to allow higher or unlimited fines. In the absence of this legislation, consider other deterrents such as limited operating hours or complete shut down of the offending establishment.

If anything motivated me to get involved in sound ordinance politics, it was this hideous paragraph. State legislation. Of course! Send it up to the Republicans – they will know how to deal with this rabble! Unlimited fines! For the crime of the volume knob being a bit high, or perhaps needing better sound management in the entertainment site – death! Shut down! Unlimited penalty!

And don’t forget, this would leave every T-Shirt and daiquiri shop on Bourbon standing. A single complainer might wreck Le Bon Temps Roule’s business when Soul Rebels played on a Thursday night to a joyous audience of hundreds, but those loudspeakers out-louding each other on Bourbon – untouched. (Out-louding: new coinage by Tim Laughlin at HHNC meeting.)

I had difficulty believing that the organizations were shameless enough to include this ugly statement as one of their Essentials, and even more astonished that when they took this program to other neighborhood associations, they were not booed out of the room. I really hope some of them have the decency to be ashamed of themselves in private.

Make significant revisions to the Mayoralty permitting process to ensure advance public notification and opportunities for public comment prior to granting a mayoralty permit authorizing a sound-producing land-use to the requesting establishment.

I am not a legislator, so I may be missing something, but let’s consider: if a change of land use is involved, isn’t this a zoning issue? If a change of land use is not involved, and there were a successful, working sound ordinance, with well-formed criteria and agreed parameters, why would the Mayor’s office need to go to a kind of public hearing to apply the regulation? The real meaning here is that the neighborhood associations want the power to block or shut down any business that employs entertainment.

(Would pertain only to French Quarter) Return decibel levels in Vieux Carré Commercial (VCC) and Vieux Carré Residential (VCR) districts to the following levels which existed in 1997 in the French Quarter and which still currently exist in the Marigny.

VCR: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 60 Lmax 70; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 55 Lmax 60.
VCC: 7 am – 10 pm – L10 65 Lmax 75; 10 pm – 7 am – L10 60 Lmax 65.

I believe as does Dave Woolworth and almost everybody that these limits are unrealistically low, therefore would lead to persistent violation. It would amount to trying to put live entertainment venues out of business while leaving other businesses with 200 watt speakers standing.

But much more important than my opinion or theirs, the details need to be worked out by technicians working with legislators and local people. A proper Essential for a legislative proposal would be to seek a scientific and fair framework for setting up appropriate levels, including a mechanism for modification in the event changes become temporarily or permanently desirable. Is the purpose of legislation to improve, or just turn back the clock?

(Would pertain only to French Quarter) Enforce a maximum of 85 Lmax in the VCE for sound protruding into the public space. This maximum helps ensure that citizens and involuntary listeners won’t be exposed to sound beyond acceptable industrial levels. Also, maintain ambient as the standard in the VCE but use as “db level 10 above ambient noise level, not to exceed Lmax 85 db.”

Once again, this level of detail is premature, but the differences from the Woolworth report in this one are not very large. Resolution should be possible.

The ambient criterion has never worked and never will. The final decision of correct levels should not be in the diktat of VCPORA or the other residents’ organizations, but should take into account the needs and interests of all the stakeholders and their neighbors, working with qualified technicians and in consultation with the office that would have to enforce it.

To get this process done right, a sincere request to the members of VCPORA, FQC, FMIA and other associations allied with them: throw this ugly, divisive document out. Join with groups of good will such as MaCCNO and other supporters of the Woolworth report to understand an ecological approach to good sound management in the interests of the whole city.

You may have to suspend or escape the influence of some of your hard-line activists. They are driving the neighborhood associations to unnecessary confrontation with musicians, legitimate businesses who want to be good neighbors in mixed use areas, the citizens of New Orleans and the city government.

The “7 Essentials” are not essential — they are just bad.

Think about it.


MaCCNO: maccno.com; info@maccno.com
Oxford Acoustics: www.oxfordacoustics.com; info@oxfordacoustics.com

Bob Freilich
September 2013



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ALERT! Downtown Noiseniks creating secret vocabulary!

[Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language, 1946

Noise and sound are early casualties.

Word watchers are maintaining vigil to prevent a fall from VCPORA’s fragile grip on current reality into an Orwellian abyss.

In his attempted rebuttal of the Woolworth report on August 19th, Arno Bommer, decibel mercenary for VCPORA, its allies and hopefuls sprinkled noise and noise pollution around his PowerPoints like scientistic confetti.

In the context of music, noise is a perception. Heavy Metal is noise to me, and that has very little to do with the volume. But millions call it music, so I don’t try to have it banned.

Noise can have fixed, objective meanings. Visual noise in digital photography is a specific, value neutral noun. Not in this context.

When the Downtown Audiophobic Society slips noise into sentences where sound would be the correct word, well – spin and twist are to be expected in the Property Prerogative’s routine.

Arno Bommer, though, cannot get a pass on this. Bommer identified as an expert with extra-special qualifications. “Hearthemusic’s” summary called his presentation a peer review. He used the language and symbols of science to make his points. Smith wrote: Arno has “unimpeachable qualifications which establish that he has no conflicts of interest.” With a badge that big and well polished, he should use basic words more carefully.

Bommer does not misuse basic vocabulary in technical reports for SmithStag to use in court. So what is going on here? Is Arno Bommer a player or an expert without conflict of interest? Is the appropriate language for presentations to City Council different than to a judge?

His opponent was generous, saying Arno had a lot to prepare very quickly. In fact, he had written a longer, more careful critique to VCPORA four days before, in which he did not make the same errors.

One powerpoint example was pure spin:

“The primary purpose of a noise ordinance is to protect people from noise.” (Italics mine)

That is just too cute and sloppy at the same time. You might get away with it if we were talking about pile drivers or leaf blowers, not music leakage from clubs. Nobody pays a door charge to listen to a leaf blower.

In fact, one of the key missions of a new New Orleans sound ordinance must be to protect the music industry from the complaining classes.

People come to New Orleans from all over the world because they know music thrives here, in the clubs, in the streets, everywhere. Organically, alive, not bottled up in theme parks like Nashville.

The City and a lot of people are trying to find the right balance. Corrupting language itself for Noisenik propaganda is not the right way.

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Noise Zombies

First posted 10 September 2013

In the interest of conciliation and understanding between the group called the “Culture Bearers” and the ones called the “Residents”, I ask one question.

Well, maybe more than one.

The FQZ Parade

The FQZ Parade

The terms are pretty clumsy, right? What is a “Culture Bearer?” I get the image of a high priest slowly carrying a precious, delicate wooden box labeled “Culture” around an altar. The box is small but heavy, because it’s full of stuff. If you open the lid, you don’t know what will pop out. The Berlin Philharmonic, the Last Supper, a last minute band tuning up at the Circle Bar. A performance artist, a fire-eater, a trombone, Mel Brooks, the full cast of Swan Lake.

And the “Residents.” What’s that about? Pretty much everybody lives somewhere. And Residents might also be singers or dancers or at least go to the movies once in a while.

Maybe we should call them the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Might be a problem though. I know who the Bad Guys are, but they won’t agree. That proves they are the bad guys.

Anyway, moving right along: one of the fun subjects in New Orleans now is the work on “noise.” The word goes in quotes because in this context noise means a negative perception, so there are two problems: one is noise, meaning what people don’t like; the other is sound, which is carried by physical waves that cause the ear and other organs to do something which is perceived by a brain and called sound, noise, music or other things, presumably by the operator of the brain.

Some people make the sounds, others receive it. For a certain time, because sometimes they change places. The sound category causing the current drama is music. Pile drivers, leaf blowers and things like that, pretty much everybody agrees they don’t like it, but we are stuck with it, so just control the time.

NOLA music/noise problems have been complaint-driven. The ordinance has flaws. It is not enforced consistently or fairly, partly because the law needs remodeling, partly because police funding is down, health department funding is down, the decibel meters need a service, the sergeant was busy that night, the complainer is that same guy that complains about that same bar three times a week . . . .

I was going to ask one question, wasn’t I? Anybody remember what it was?

Let’s see: the “Residents” are the complaining class. Residents’ associations organized complaining into a movement. A teacup to have a storm in. But some of the members are well-heeled, well-connected capable folks, so you know how it goes: arm-twisting, ear-bending, web sites, consultants, audio engineers, law suits. They started a special organization called “HeartheNOLAmusic” and a web site called “Hear the Music Stop the Noise.”

A leading public face of the organization is Nathan Chapman, a velvety diplomatic advertising agency director. His Eminence grise and power source is Stuart H. Smith, prominent lawyer and general tough cookie. His gladiator is Arno Bommer, sound tech swordsman for the audiophobes. (I don’t think they like being called that, so ssshhh!) Another torchbearer for “Hearthewhatever” is Lorelei Dickey Cropley of the Marigny, sometime plaintiff, sometimes, as on August 19th, spokesman for Chairman Smith.

They are the bad guys. Some of the bad guys.

The City Council, especially Kristin Palmer, took the subject seriously. While “Hearthe . . . ” and Smith and Chapman and the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, and VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens worked with Arno Bommer to come up with a set of demands, CM Palmer commissioned somebody who really knew what he was doing to study the city and write a plan that respected the needs of all stakeholders. His name is Dave Woolworth. It took a lot of time and work, but he did it.

“Stop the Music’s” set of demands came out first, of course, because it was just a crude statement of what everybody in New Orleans should have to live with because the activist members of the downtown neighborhood associations liked it that way. They told other neighborhood organizations that their plan, called “7 Essential Items to make New Orleans Noise Ordinance fair and functional” – that’s the catchy title, quirky capitalization and all – was good and would fix everything.

But it wasn’t good at all. It was an awful plan, rude, crude, imprecise, arrogant – just generally a messy piece of work. But the homeowners’ associations signed on to it anyway! See the zombie picture above? That’s the homeowners’ associations getting behind “7 Essential Items.”

Why? I don’t know. Some of them don’t even have music bars in their districts, or they already shut them down on some other pretext. Did they want to get their pictures taken with Smith and Chapman and Miz Lorelei? There are some aspects of human behavior you just can’t get.

Then Dave Woolworth finished his report and presented it to Council and the City and you know what – it was really good. Many of us were surprised at how good.

But on the day, at the presentation, on August 19th, Arno Bommer and Lorelei Cropley and Nathan Chapman stood up to put it down, and Citizen Smith – I heard he was away in Paris or Australia – zapped in a critical piece putting it down. Rather sarcastically, really, which is great for me; opens up the playground.

Now this is a strange knee-jerk sort of thing. Why would they do that? Well, maybe they didn’t understand it. But you know – they are all very educated people who depend on reading and writing to make their livings, and in some of their cases, that is a very substantial living indeed. They know Woolworth’s study is far, far better than their crude, angry, classist, narrow-interest “7 Essential Items.” So what are they doing?

Big Dog Zombie Wrangler

Big Dog Zombie Wrangler

Maybe the key is . . . Zombie. They just keep going until the big dog vampire tells them to turn or stop. Their minds have been taken over. Remember the last outbreak of Satanical Ritual Abuse (SRA) exploded in the 1980s and went on well into the 90s? It’s not that long ago. We may still be susceptible to mass mental lunatic attacks. Could the French Quarter have contracted Zombie Abuse (ZA)?

Did I ask my one question yet? I don’t think so. Here it is.

Can we help our poor zombie brothers get free of big Drac? There is a great solution on the table in Dave Woolworth’s excellent study and recommendations. Let’s encourage our neighborhood association zombies to break free and join the real people of New Orleans going forward into a civil process focused on arbitration, resolution and improvement, instead of friction, conflict and futility.


Bob Freilich
September 2013

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Sound Ecology

First posted 30 August 2013

Big Chief Tootie Montana

Big Chief Tootie Montana

Dave Woolworth, NOLA City Council’s consultant for recommendations on revision or replacement of the existing Sound Ordinance, presented his report for city council and interested attendees on 19 August.

If I had to characterize it in one word, it would be ecological. Woolworth recognizes and strives to integrate the interests of all stakeholders – bars and clubs, shops and other businesses, residents, musicians, street bands, sound engineers, City Council and the potential enforcement departments, the residents of all New Orleans and even tourists. The soundscapes of the city are contextualized in space and time.

Arno Bommer, acoustic gunslinger for the NIMBY tendency, and Lorelei Dickey Cropley, a Marigny resident and one of the plaintiffs against Mimi’s in the Marigny earlier this year, were prepared with objections on behalf of VCPORA and and the shadowy coalition of property organizations claiming to represent local residents.

Bommer’s riposte starts with health issues, noting that Woolworth’s report underlines health risks believed to result from noise levels. Point of agreement?

Not quite.

Bommer uses health risk to underline the benefit of lower volume limits in support of the demands of French Quarter residents. Woolworth uses them in a serious attempt to find an optimal solution to balancing all the interests in the city. One is adversarial, lightly coated with apparent objectivity. The other is the product of research for beneficial solution to Woolworth’s principal, the City of New Orleans.

Ms Cropley’s statement also cites health risk and property values as points of agreement with the Woolworth report. Well, that gets right to it. The difference is that the Woolworth report, focusing on best overall solution for all people involved, gives less weight to residential property values in a few neighborhoods than the owners of those specific properties do. So in at least one aspect of their argument, the residents’ associations are putting concern for their own money in the scale against the general interest. A fair observer might say: it counts, but how much?

Speaking for VCPORA and ” . . Stop the Noise” as well as the Marigny, presumably, since her statement shares a paragraph or two with Stuart Smith’s blog entry of 20 August, Ms Cropley criticizes Woolworth’s report for wanting to revise the ordinance. But so did ” . . . Stop the Noise’s” “Seven Essentials” – just in the other direction. VCPORA and Marigny Residents had no objection in principle to revision; they just want it their way.

Then comes enforcement. The complaining class has a real warm spot for enforcement. I suggest considering that the reason they want low decibel levels in law is not because they really think the entertainment areas can be kept to them, but because meter tests will almost always validate the complainer. They want to ensure that the clubs and bands will always be in violation of something, so they can stop and penalize them more easily.

I wonder if the residents might be shooting themselves in the foot with this one. If they succeeded in legislating unrealistically low levels, enforcers would be reluctant to act. Conflict, challenge and an atmosphere of corruption will intensify. The city may be reluctant to get into cases of tedious conflict and no outcome. Private lawsuits may be one response, and again, the deeper pocket usually wins. Another undemocratic outcome.

Woolworth’s proposal will lead to better conflict resolution because it is more enforceable.

Then Ms Cropley criticizes Woolworth’s suggestion that the residents modify something in their houses to improve their comfort. Challenge! Stop! Consistent with the residential owners’ lobbying throughout, they do not want to be responsible for any response to their perceived problem within their own private domains. No soundproofing, insulation, double glazing, barriers. Clubs and bands should play “quality live music” and not loud, or pay a fine or lose their music license or shut down. In VCPORA/Smith rules, clubs and bands are by definition the bad guys, unless the resident happens to like them. Complainant rules.

Returning to Arno Bommer’s response (http://noisenola.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/arno-bommer-new-orleans-noise-ordinance-issues/) written as technical advice to VCPORA and French Quarter Residents, he raises technical issues which really require the presence of acousticians so the discussion stays within the lines. The issues may be significant. They should be clarified and evaluated within Dave Woolworth’s broader ecological context, not based on consultancy in the residents’ interests alone.

One however does seem susceptible to critique on logical grounds, the ambient sound benchmark, which sets maximum as 10dB above ambient. As I remember, Mr Bommer himself encountered a significant hitch in determining ambient level as expert witness for at least one legal case. What about crowd noise and conversation? If a bar is silent and the bar across Bourbon is emitting 90 dB, is ambient 90, so then Club A can hit 100 dB? In which case the ambient bar is set at 100 and Club B can escalate to 110? Or do you determine ambient at very quiet time of day, so 10 dB above might be less than the dial tone on a phone? I don’t think we need to be sound specialists to see that the ambient criterion could lead to conflict that eludes resolution.

Since David Woolworth’s report, scuttlebutt suggests that opinion seems to be running against the residential property owners’ campaign to control living culture.

It is increasingly clear that their superficially diplomatic dispatches are a thin velvet glove masking the determined interest of one faction: residential property owners. Their claim to respect other interests rings hollow. I have read them through more than once and what I take away is: property owners’ interests, prerogatives, belief in their right to control.

Suggested action: Let your council member know that Woolworth’s ecological approach not VCPORA/Smith’s adversarial one is the way we want New Orleans to go. Stand up for the city’s living culture. You might mention that you will campaign against your CM next spring if she or he does not commit to the ecological approach, or for them if they do.

VCPORA, French Quarter Citizens and Marigny Residents are influential knights of the shire in District C. We have to give Kristin Palmer and the others a reason to stand against them. A lot of voices from the creative and entertainment communities and their enthusiastic audience can be that support.

Bob Freilich
August 2013

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Who’s the Bully in the Pulpit?

17 August 2013


Catch-up: The people behind a web site called “Hear the Music, Stop the Noise” have been agitating for a revision to the New Orleans “noise ordinance.” Is it an organization, a few individuals or a coalition, as it claims on its web site? The neighborhood organizations who seem to be its active supporters are VCPORA (Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents Association), French Quarter Citizens and Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association. ” . . . Stop the Noise” claims a coalition of 14 organizations but at least one of the other neighborhood groups say they were surprised to find their names on the coalition list, and some of the entities seem frankly to have been created to be on the list.

City Council Member Kristin Palmer has been working on a revised music ordinance, and a report on sound levels prepared by audio technician David Woolworth will be made public on August 19th.

” . . .Stop the Noise,” VCPORA and FQC generally try to appear as if they represent public interest, and that most people in New Orleans are with them. That is not demonstrable. In fact, it is extremely unlikely. There is little reason to believe that the very large number of people who enjoy the music and entertainment opportunities of the lively center of New Orleans care much about the private preferences and prerogatives of the mostly wealthy activists of the Vieux Carré.

Dramatis Personae

Hear the Music Stop the Noise.” Anonymous, but says it is “an umbrella of awareness” supported by a “concerned group of NOLA citizens.” Let’s assign it Corporate Personhood, as endorsed by the Supreme Court. Its web site is http://noisenola.wordpress.com/. Attorney Stuart H. Smith, a sound activist for reasons not easy to pin down, says that he supports it. There are rumors that in fact Attorney Smith or his firm, Smith Stag, engaged a PR firm to design and manage it, but I cannot confirm; maybe you will have a conclusion by the end of the article. I think its intention is for us to understand that ‘ . . .Stop the Noise” is purely a public-spirited movement for the benefit of all New Orleanians.

Along with VCPORA (Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents Association) and FQR (French Quarter Residents), they have encountered a few problems with the anonymity.

MaCCNO. Another corporate person: the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans. MaCCNO is largely a counter-group to ” . . . Stop the Noise.” Their web site is reasonable, conciliatory, solution orientated. Their stated objective is modest: ensure that the members of the culture economy of New Orleans are taken fully into consideration in the preparation and discussion of any sound ordinance.

Some, probably the majority, of MaCCNO members believe that with rational, friendly discussion with the folks in the neighborhood organizations who back ” . . . Stop the Noise’s” seven essential proposals, they can resolve the issue collaboratively and present an agreed solution that the council will accept. Others, who tend to be older New Orleans hands, are suspicious of the face value of the anonymous web site. They have seen the political class in action before. They try to look behind the curtain to figure out which cog in the Louisiana wizard machine the noise campaign represents, and how to counter its effects, which they suspect will be pernicious. http://www.neworleansnoise.com/tag/maccno/

Stuart H. Smith, a prominent lawyer focusing on large scale environmental issues, most notably actions against BP and other extractors. I doubt that Mr Smith is going to come off as the hero of this piece, but he seems to make a mint out of translating environmental activism into class action. Hey, if you are going to chase ambulances, BP is the biggest one in town. More power to his elbow; wish I had thought of it.

But Citizen Smith has another life. He has represented clients in a number of actions against bars and clubs on behalf of residents, and he is a leading activist of the property owners’ campaign for a new, more restrictive, more punitive ordinance. His public stance on music volume and his private actions are mutually supportive. Which one leads?

Nathan Chapman, director of the Marketing Center, a consultancy and advertising agency for disability law practices.

It is hard to say who is actually behind the web site, but let’s say I would not be surprised to find that Chapman and Smith set it up.

Peterson Yokum and Polly Elizabeth Anderson. Peter Yokum’s name does not appear in the current open politics of music, but as plaintiff in a number of actions against French Quarter bars (the Balcony Bar, 615 Bourbon Street LLC, Pat O’Briens, the Court of Two Sisters, The Old Opera House) I believe he has a background role in it. Mr Yokum and Ms Anderson live in an amazing house on Toulouse, older than the United States, possibly venerable when Governor Claiborne was sent to govern the culture-changing Anglo Protestant colonization after the Louisiana Purchase, even older when Jean Lafitte and General Andrew Jackson negotiated the terms of the Barataria deal for the Battle of New Orleans on the corner. Peter Yokum’s family has lived in New Orleans forever. His wonderful house is a time warp. Nothing is allowed to change. Only nature may patiently see to decay. This is perhaps the leading example of one of the great tableaux of the New Orleans aesthetic. Peter Yokum is the indispensable citizen, Pat O’Brien and its crowds the barbarian invader.

VCPORA, the Vieux Carré Property Owners and Residents Association, and FQR, French Quarter Residents, two neighborhood groups dedicated to the defense of their vision of the French Quarter’s traditional way of life, possibly imaginary, and the property values of the owners. (That is not a gratuitously snide remark; read their web sites. They are open enough about their intentions.)

Kristin Gisleson Palmer. Council member for District C, which includes the French Palmerhas. Interested in updating the “noise” ordinance. On her own initiative, or under pressure from the influential citizens of VCPORA?

Kermit Ruffins. Can’t go too far with this, but MaCCNO meets at Kermit’s Basin Street bar, the Speakeasy. Mr. Ruffins is of course a famous New Orleans trumpet player and band leader who has had some hard times from the kind of people who complain and get things shut down, so let’s say that he has given MaCCNO his good wishes in their attempted defense against ” . . . Stop the Noise.”

Hannah Kreiger-Benson is “facilitator” of MaCCNO. Made up of musicians and others involved in or interested in continued cultural freedom in New Orleans, a MaCCNO meeting can occasionally look like a well-intentioned herd of cats. Diplomatic, alert, intelligent, young, purposeful, Hannah keeps the interruptions under control and the discussion on track.

Who the hell am I? Good question. Not a musician or club owner, only recently moved to New Orleans. Not a Vieux Carré property owner. Why do I care? Who cares what I think? Better state my interest: I came across ” . . .Stop the Noise” in the course of trying to learn what is going on here, the processes of governance, change, gentrification, demographics – the past, present and future of New Orleans. I compared the velvet language of the “. . . Stop the Noise” web site to the activities of its principal activists, and was suspicious.

Am I seeing bullying sheathed by diplomacy? Privilege and property against aspiration?

Before we poke into the current contretemps, let’s take a look at the history of complaint about music in New Orleans.

Cultures of Complaint

We know how venerable the tradition of live and street music is in New Orleans. In 1814, General Andrew Jackson was concerned that the citizens were too laid back about the British approaching and the coming Battle of New Orleans. His local colleagues – perhaps even Jean Lafitte, who he had appointed as an aide – helped him understand Creole culture: he organized a parade! Military bands marched around the Place d’Armes and through the streets. The people came out to watch. to clap, dance and follow the soldiers. Job done! The citizens were fired up and ready, cheerleaders for the Americans against the British.

But the counter-spirit of complaint and suppression was never far behind.

My principle reference for this section are the excellent articles “Music v. Noise,” “The Band is Always there and it is always playing,” and “Defining New Orleans Music” by Matt Sakakeeny, professor of music at Tulane, published in “Louisiana Cultural Vistas.” I can’t recommend them highly enough. If you are interested in this subject, look them up on Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.


The music started in the Creole and slave cultures. The word “Creole” has a history. Back then in Louisiana it just meant the people of French and Spanish ancestry and culture who were born in the Americas. The slaves had Congo Square, a movable location where they played instruments modeled on African originals and danced to African music and rhythms. After the Louisiana Purchase, the new masters of the territory brought increased anxiety about slave revolt. The way of the American states was to maintain division, not community. In an early instance of the security state, a police regulation of 1808 stated that slaves could meet for music only on Sundays, and only in the place designated by the mayor, “under penalty of ten lashes for every slave delinquent.” In 1817 the penalty was increased to 20 lashes, and the slaves’ dancing was required to end by sunset. By 1845, hours were restricted to 4.00 PM to 6.30 PM, slaves were required to have written permission from their master, and eight policemen were assigned to control the event and ensure that the dances did not offend public decency. In 1856, the city council simply made it illegal for a slave to beat a drum, blow a horn or sound a trumpet in New Orleans, and so the music was gone from Congo Square. From Jerah Johnson, Congo Square in New Orleans, “What slaves valued as music, Anglo-Americans increasingly disparaged as noise that must be silenced to maintain order.”

After the Civil War in the Jim Crow period, racist magazines showed cartoons of horrified whites reacting to African American bands. There are no recordings of this period, but we can be fairly sure that what they were playing was a predecessor to the jazz that New Orleans is so proud of now. So proud that civic developers are in discussion with Opryland of Nashville to build a theme park of jazz on South Rampart, a project which will surely generate a trough of money and has little chance to be anything but ridiculous. If successful, it may murder the music it claims to honor by rendering it forever artificial – a virulent form of suppression.

At the turn of the century, music was played in brothels. Bordellos for white customers generally had piano music. Bordellos for black customers had dance bands. Canal Street v. Franklin Street. One type was frequently raided.

Jazz was emerging as segregation and the politics of race were being defined. What was noise and what was music? In the ear of the beholder, and evolving, we have to conclude.

StoryvilleAlderman Sidney Story set up the famed Storyville (he didn’t call it that) by legislation in 1897, in order to limit and control prostitution. Strangely enough, in accord with the law of unintended consequences, jazz flourished in Storyville, until 1917, when US Secretary of War Newton D. Baker had it shut down. Young soldiers staging here for the war needed to go and die with a “moral and intellectual armor for their protection overseas” with which prostitution and jazz were inconsistent. Prostitution, of course, did not disappear. It just went underground and spread out. Juke joints and speakeasies opened and closed. The war ended, prohibition came and probably increased the consumption of alcohol. In the 1930s, the city decided to build public housing in the area of Storyville, the Iberville Projects. While tearing down decayed and blighted properties, they also razed some of the finest old mansions in the city. Progress can be a wonderful thing.

Fast forward to 1962: Jim Garrison, DA on the make, takes to raiding imageBourbon Street burlesque and strip joints. Was his mission to improve the morals of the city, or to make himself a reputation as a crusader? Garrison went on to bring the only case ever prosecuted for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and was eventually awarded a role in Oliver Stone’s JFK, so I suppose it worked for him. A lot of people lost their jobs and their living, and Bourbon Street quickly became sleazier than ever because it could not sustain the higher margin sex industry. A nice example of control.

Coming back to the current conflict, we hear anecdotally two legends of recent musical history, difficult to reconcile. In one, it all used to be so much better. The volumes were never so high as now, Amplification did not exist. The city loved its musicians, and the musicians loved the city.

Musicians who played here in the 90s tell a different story. There were more clubs, they say, and they were full. Bands were playing interesting music, trying new things out, and the clubs were raided all the time. Live music bars in Treme were shut down one after another. Now, some of the musicians say, clubs are contained and limited and localized. French Quarter bars are on the tourist trail, and the club owners now tell the bands what they have to play to try to get that tourist dollar.

Frenchmen Street has moved from new and experimental, the street for New Orleans people and the hipper visitors, to at least in part another commercial folklore hustle. And now the new and latest wave of suppression has launched actions not only against Bourbon Street — where it has had virtually no effect — but against smaller outlying bars and street players. If any creative culture of music is still here, those are the areas where it can ripen and flourish, because the central districts are too expensive. The bars are money businesses and will not take risks.

The takeaway: complaining is not original. Suppression has been a boring accompaniment to exuberant music at least since Bonaparte walked off, counting the 15 mil he got from Jefferson, and the Anglos started the process of colonization, still a bit sketchy in parts.

Back to MaCCNO and “Hear the Music Stop the Noise”

Most of us know the history of New Orleans music, at least the outlines. We have had a quick look at the history of anti-music. Moral of the story so far: whatever the justification stated, behind the reasons given, there is always another agenda. Whether the reason given is public decency, musical taste, your health and hearing — keep asking questions. From fear of slave revolt to the tortuous complex of awful emotions that nourish racism, to political careerism, there has always been an unstated agenda. Keep asking questions until you find all of the motivation. There has always been something that the banners and suppressors do not want to say.

I haven’t asked enough questions yet, but enough to think that the altruistic professions of “. . . Stop the Noise” are smokescreen.

When Stuart Smith, representing Peter Yokum, wanted to get an injunction against Pat O’Brien’s, he put a sound technician on Mr Yokum’s back balcony on St Patrick’s day. Pat O Brien’s is the most famous Irish bar this side of the Channel. Picking St Patrick’s may be crafty tactics for Yokum v. Pat O’Brien. It has nothing do to do with public interest. Pat O’Brien’s will have hundreds if not thousands of visitors enjoying St Patrick’s day. Mr Yokum may be home alone, or have a few guests.

” . . .Stop the Noise,” Mr Smith and the neighborhood organizations do not use Mr Yokum’s cases in their ordinance lobbying. Peter Yokum does not seem to be a member of the neighborhood groups. Is the reason possibly that the cases would reveal one of the underlying principles which “. . . Stop the Noise” only want seen in its velvet glove: this battle is about the privileges and prerogatives of residential owners?

That’s not completely bad. A French Quarter too controlled by the new gentility would be sterile. It would turn into an Edwardian folklore zone. A French quarter without residents would turn into a sterile entertainment zone, unless it got some stimulating businesses like Aldermen Sidney Story had to work with, which would require more legal adjustment than the noise ordinance, it could become plastic, Disneyland, as Opryland’s jazz zone on South Rampart will surely be. To avoid these outcomes, the debate needs to be open and honest, so the issue can be discussed rationally. Political disguise is turning this into just another City Hall hidden-ball political game. That way of dealing with the city’s cultural future has produced muddled and unpleasant results for 210 years.

Why should we worry? New Orleans has always overcome. At least until now. Richard Campanella, the city’s most popular historian of local evolution, seems sanguine. In entertaining narratives about gentrification and entertainment history, he shows that social movements, economic disruption and political chicanery are always pushing things around the board, but we are still here. The city survives.

He is right. We are here. Mr Campanella has all the qualifications and I have none, but I am going to demur anyway. Yes, New Orleans is still here, but is it as good as it might have been with a little less damage done? With fewer planters, gangsters, politicians on the razzle kicking the pieces around the chess board for short term and personal gain? Russia survived Stalin, too. The US survived McCarthy. Doesn’t mean they were positive experiences for their countries.

Speak to the musicians who have created New Orleans entertainment since the 1970s. You may not get an optimistic picture of what is happening now, what they think the future holds

This year, five neighbors of Mimi’s in the Marigny grouped together to attack the bar for music. Chief warrior for the residents – yes! Stuart H. Smith. Mimi’s had done something I think was pretty dumb. Friday nights was DJ Soul Sister, recorded music at huge volume, sometimes on until 5.00 AM (or so they say. I wasn’t there). But the bar’s zoning was not right. They were vulnerable. They had to compromise — but apparently didn’t, so Attorney Smith was able to win quickly and thoroughly: no more music at Mimi’s.

There is that disconnect again. Mimi’s hosted live music, too. Soul Sister was not the only event. Mimi’s is not a Bourbon Street tourist trap. It is a neighborhood favorite with a substantial local attendance. And Smith knows better than any of us that the zoning law he used to force Mimi’s surrender is really a dead letter.

“New Orleans’ zoning ordinance dates from the 1970s and is unsuitable for a 21st-century city.”

Does that sound like a combative op-ed, arming for a battle against the Council? It’s not. It is from the City’s own web site!

If the public, altruistic claims of “. . .Stop the Noise” and the Marigny residents organization were to be taken seriously, Citizen Smith should not be silencing Mimi’s for the increased comfort of five people. He should have been sitting down with the management and property owners (Smith himself fought the case in Louisiana Supreme Court that made the landlord responsible for acts of the tenant) to say: Soul Sister until 5.00 AM is too much. Chill that, jack back the volume a notch, stop at say 1.00 AM, and we will help you get the zoning variance you need. Become an example of the music culture we need to keep Marigny and the FQ healthy mixed use areas. But that is not what he did. Again, Smith championed the prerogative of residential property owners to shut down music and entertainment for their own private interests.

I have debated this a bit in a public forum, the Times-Picayune. It is interesting that some people say Mimi’s is just wrong because they broke the law. They do not follow the tracks of Smith Stag LLC fighting cases through to appeal, and then if they lose on appeal, going to the Supreme Court, saying flat out: the law is wrong. Law is flexible when you know how to work it. The current zoning law is on death row. There was a way to deal with the Mimi’s case that would have corresponded with the altruistic claims of “. . . Stop the Noise”, VCPORA and FQR. Compromise and balance, however, are not the goals Lawyer Smith sought. Shut it down! On behalf of residential property owners, shut the music down.

Decibel Levels

The “Seven Essentials” that ” . . .Stop the Noise” propose as the basis for a new control ordinance contain much that the fair-minded citizen should object to. Requirements for bars to take sound readings all night and keep decibel records – another cost and another piece of bureaucracy for the police or the sheriff to check and record and enforce – all on behalf of those residents. A requirement for the police to employ sound technicians to go around and check sound readings and take their own. Committees of residents to oversee the mayor’s office’s issuance of event licenses. In other words, each application for every second line and school band would have to go through a hearing where “interested” residents could make a federal case out of it. Can you hear the law of unintended consequences sharpening up the cutlery?

Even worse may be the decibel level claims. Banners and suppressors can always make numbers sound reasonable. Scientific, even. Don’t accept it at face value. For measuring music, dBA is broad-brush and a blunt instrument that can lead to more selective abuse than reasonable entertainment management.

I am not an acoustic technician, but here is my amateur take. Decibels are a logarithmic scale. Every ten dB increase approximately doubles the volume. The damage level of sound is commonly taken as 120 dB. Some rock concerts reach it.

Some of the Seven Essentials proposals intend to enforce 60 dB in some environments. 60 dB is not half the volume of 120. 110 is half the volume of 120. Follow the progression: I get 60 dB as approximately 1/64 of 120 dB.

Hotpoint claims its basic model 24 inch front load dishwasher runs quietly, so that your kitchen is always peaceful – and it is rated at 64 dB!

“. . . Stop the Noise” says they are looking for balance, but in some areas and times want to impose a limit lower than a Hotpoint domestic dishwasher.

Decibel A levels for music management are a kind of factoid. They have a scientific look, but it is not real, and they will be abused. What will happen if a limit unrealistically low is imposed on Frenchmen, Royal or Bourbon Street? No sane person will enforce it, except perhaps when one of the worthy burghers of the Quarter needs quiet. Perhaps a family gathering, or a bereavement, or a business meeting. No problem: call the police! The bar on the corner is louder than my dishwasher. Everybody go home. Close the doors. Her Ladyship would like to take a nap now.

But of course, all the music may be herded into the Opryland jazz theme park by then. Storyville without the fun. Actors dressed up in Satchmo costumes . . . No, that’s another article . . . .

Matt Sakakeeny discussed the subjectivity of music perception in his presentation at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities this summer: http://youtu.be/SaYCBEqyH9U. Even more telling: there was a United States Supreme Court case in 1989, Ward v. Rock against Racism, a celebrity case, with William Kunstler on board for the event. The Court was reviewing an appeals court decision, which it reversed. As I understand the majority decision written by Justice Kennedy, the court said that the city did have the right to impose controls on sound, but not on content. Some of the points discussed are very interesting:

The city considered various solutions to the sound-amplification problem. The idea of a fixed decibel limit for all performers using the bandshell was rejected because the impact on listeners of a single decibel level is not constant, but varies in response to changes in air temperature, foliage, audience size, and like factors. Id., at 31, 220, 285-286. The city also rejected the possibility of employing a sound technician to operate the equipment provided by the various sponsors of bandshell events, because the city’s technician might have had difficulty satisfying the needs of sponsors while operating unfamiliar, and perhaps inadequate, sound equipment. Id.,
A bit further along, Justice Kennedy writes:

Music is one of the oldest forms of human expression. From Plato’s discourse in the Republic to the totalitarian state in our own times, rulers have known its capacity to appeal to the intellect and to the emotions, and have censored musical compositions to serve the needs of the state. See 2 Dialogues of Plato, Republic, bk. 3, pp. 231, 245-248 (B. Jowett transl., 4th ed. 1953) (“Our poets must sing in another and a nobler strain”); Musical Freedom and Why Dictators Fear It, N. Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1981, section 2, p. 1, col. 5; Soviet Schizophrenia toward Stravinsky, N. Y. Times, June 26, 1982, section 1, p. 25, col. 2; Symphonic Voice from China Is Heard Again, N. Y. Times, Oct. 11, 1987, section 2, p. 27, col. 1. The Constitution prohibits any like attempts in our own legal order. Music, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment.

So although it may seem a bit grand in a case about the volume of rock concert in a bandstand in Central Park, Justice Kennedy is telling us: keep a beady eye on the suppressors.

A statement in the Court of Appeals opinion is also significant. A key operating point was reversed by the Supreme Court, but I think in this Justice Kennedy concurs with the appellate judge. The question is: how does the city have the right to regulate music?

“. . . .the method and extent of such regulation must be reasonable, that is, it must be the least intrusive upon the freedom of expression as is reasonably necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose of the regulation.”
Our question has to be: do the Seven Essential Points put forward by ” . . .Stop the Noise”, VCPORA, FQR, Stuart Smith and Nathan Chapman meet this criterion?


Prof Sakakeeny points out that there are areas of overlap and agreement between the proposals of the residential property owners and MaCCNO. That is true. Both agree that there has to be some kind of balance if the FQ, the Marigny and other neighborhoods are to grow successfully as mixed use communities, managed by consensus rather than by lawsuit and political pressure.

The key difference, and it is a huge one, is that “. . .Stop the Noise’s” Seven Essentials set up an ordinance to be run by lawyers in the interests of residential property owners. Musicians, clubs, bands, events and the culture economy hardly exist as living people in their world.

That is not balance.

Example: Each club to be responsible for monitoring decibels. Can you imagine the scenes? Mme Prudhomme calls the cops: Bar X is too loud. Well, the sound specialist is uptown, so the local car responds. “Let’s see your decibel list. Well, it looks okay, but we don’t have one of the machines to check. Better shut down because Princess Diana over the road needs to meditate.” Or they report to the Lady in Question, “Sorry, their decibel list is in order.” “What! This is not acceptable. I will call Sheriff Guzman immediately!” We’re talking soap opera here, music fans.

The “Seven Essential Points” require the police to be invested in this. They are not. They do not want to do it. Unlike New York City in Ward v. Rock against Racism, it is quite clear that our police do not want to spend money for sound measuring equipment or to be responsible for a new boondoggle. And for you and me, are crimes of music against French Quarter residents the ones we want them to worry about? Are we less safe from assault and robbery because the band at Pat O’Brien’s plays a bit more softly?

They want residents’ committees to take over or override the mayor on event permitting. At first shout, that can sound like democratic participation. But it is not. We can all imagine what these will be. A small and probably semi-permanent band of “volunteer” NIMBYs straggles into a hall at an hour inconvenient for at east half the people that should attend. “Where is your parade going, son? Oh, I see. [Thinks: five blocks from my house. Knock yourself out.] Yes, I think that would be fine. Have a wonderful event.”

Or perhaps the route is a bit different. [Right in front of my house! I might not be able to get the car out of the driveway for 10 minutes. No, that route will never do.]

How far in advance might a school have to plan its marching band practice? The kids will have jobs on Wall Street before they get their trombones out on the street.

They ask for unlimited fines for repeat offenders. Unlimited fines! For the crime of music that pushes a decibel meter higher than suits the needs of at least one residential owner. One. Could there be a starker example of the presumption of prerogative?

What the worthy burghers of the Vieux Carré are asking for is not exactly like the 1815 ordinance that raised the punishment to 20 lashes. But who decides – that is very similar. If we could interview the people who might have proposed and voted for that 1815 Congo Square ordinance, don’t you think we would find people that might remind us of Mr Smith, and of Carol Allen, president of VCPORA, Meg Lousteau, chairman of French Quarter Residents, and Alex Vialou, chairman of Faubourg Marigny, of Nathan Chapman? Responsible, affable people. Not easy to connect the one group with ten more lashes, or the other with suppression of art and cultural expression. Respectable neighbors. Solid citizens. Good people.

But not so good that you should give them the right to control the arts in New Orleans.

The club bands of New Orleans are not only a resource for the city — they are exponents of an art form that is more alive and more important for the life and economy of New Orleans than a cocktail party for a new piece at NOMA or a visiting ballet company. And that art form requires an environment to live and grow in. A natural, evolving environment, not a Tennessee theme park. Some of it will be good some will be bad. That is how the great emerges – from fertile ground, from a bit of ferment.

MaCCNO is reasonable. Often too reasonable, in my opinion. I see the well-connected multiple spokespersons of VCPORA, FQR, ” . . . Stop the Noise,” the Smith Stag law firm, Nathan Chapman, all with access, resources and skills, each speaking both independently and in concert with the others, stacked up against MaCCNO, one group of artists trying hard to take the lawyers at face value, trying to believe there is an honest dialogue in this somewhere.

But I fear it just ain’t true. The party of property prerogative does not really want balance. They want control, and they believe they are entitled to it.

The history of individual rights and democracy trying to retain reasonable autonomy against the forces of property and privilege in the United States is that of a long, hard fight, far from over. In the Tea Party’s imaginary Garden of Eden, post-colonial America, you had to be a white male property owner to have the right to vote in most states. Alexander Hamilton favored a wealth qualification because he believed the votes of the indigent could be coerced by their employers or landlords – so his solution was: only the employers and landlords vote!

Now it is a truism that corporate America bypasses voters. The rights of money and property trump the votes of citizens again.

If you do not want property, money and lawyers to control art and music in New Orleans, make it clear and loud to the council member for your district and to Mayor Landrieu that you will not accept suppression by the property owners, and that council members who support VCPORA/Smith’s proposals will lose your vote and your support next year.

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