Monday, June 21, 2010
About a week ago (June 17th) I wrote to Kristin Palmer regarding the sudden enforcement of the curfew on street music. Her public statement at that time was a verbal shrug. "The ordinance is as it stands." That letter is available, here. What follows is her response to me, and my answer. I post these only to keep interested parties informed, offer complete transparency regarding my actions, words and bad manners, and allow others to accurately monitor the same from her. Except the bad manners. It's easier being nice when you don't really commit to anything. And I don't have to worry about running for office. I'm usually in mine, hiding under the desk, anyway. Anyway, here goes: Cm Kristin Gisleson Palmer June 20 at 5:33pm Hi David, to follow is the statement that I am sharing with all of those concerned with the noise ordinance, Please be patient, we are working as hard as we can to find a solution to all those impacted. New Orleans is the Cultural Capital of the World, and we have an obligation to protect and support the very things that make our culture so authentic. It is possible for musicians, residents and businesses to co-exist in the French Quarter and across our city. It requires having ordinances that make sense, that are clearly communicated to the public and that are properly enforced. I will work with the Landrieu administration, my fellow City Councilmembers and the New Orleans Police Department to review the quality of life ordinances to ensure that they best serve the needs of our community. I will continue to fight for the sustainability of the French Quarter, one of the main economic drivers of the city. In order to sustain a rich culture in an extremely fragile area, there must be smart regulation that is fairly enforced. My response to Ms Palmer, of about an hour ago, June 21st, 2010: Dear Ms Palmer; That's a great form letter, filled with wonderful superlatives and a resounding & emphatic "hooray' for the French Quarter. It's also very late in the game, and mostly repeating what many letters have been telling you all week. I know you're new at this, however. It takes time to get the momentum of the street in to one's life. There are many constituents in your district that are not property owners, members of neighborhood associations, or affiliated with some collective group, be it non-profit or clergy oriented. They are actually the majority of your voters & supporters. Many of these people work in the service industry, or in support of it, and a great deal of them are musicians, artists & writers who maintain their day to day lives through these jobs. They, like much of the City of New Orleans, rely on tourism and "the sustainability of the French Quarter, one of the main economic drivers of the city." The efforts of some, like the French Quarter Citizens Association, to shut down street art & music, not only ignores the equal & valued opinions of this majority, but seeks to remove the source of much of their income, as well as a truly rare & beautiful aspect of life here, found nowhere else in the country. Where then, would we find our bartenders, cooks, bus boys & bar backs, bicycle delivery people, grocery workers,retail shop attendants, etc? Literally hundreds of these people live & work in the specific neighborhoods of District C BECAUSE they can support themselves with these jobs and pursue their true calling in the same neighborhoods. Besides losing tourist trade over these issues, one must realize that many returned New Orleanians might move to Atlanta or Austin should they find their options closing here. It certainly happens now, and more than I'd like to admit. The French Quarter Citizens Association has this as it's Mission Statement: "To preserve the quality of life in the Vieux Carré neighborhood, to preserve its historical character and architecture, and to work with other organizations to focus attention on the problems confronting our neighborhood." When their president appeared on TV, saying that 'street musicians' were a deterrent to "those who live here or want to live here" I believe that mission statement was violated. There have been street musicians and street artists in New Orleans for over a hundred years. The idea that they should be done away with for "those who live here or want to live here" is ridiculous. If someone wants to live here, the concept of changing the very nature of our lives to accommodate them puts us all into the service industry, as their Disney Characters, happily waving as they change our neighborhoods in to the image they had back home in Nebraska. It means we are to be bought & sold. I know their money speaks loudly. Please be aware that the same people who marched on City Hall, 5,000 strong, speak loudly, too. In all fairness, it would seem a simple task to plot out specific areas for street music, just as Jackson Square has done for artists, myself included, at one time. Royal Street, from The Square to Canal street, is prime location for street music, without bothering any street level homes. The same is true of Bourbon, from Conti to Canal, Decatur from Margueritaville to Esplanade, and Frenchman, from Decatur to Royal Street. Please take this idea, or one like it, into consideration, as you meet with Mayor Landrieu for these discussions. Obviously we face greater emergencies right now, but with the loss of seafood and oil industry work, tourism is about all we have left. To eliminate such tourist friendly activities would seem like shooting ones self in the foot. In closing, please be aware that we're counting on you. Some proactive contact, like seeing what it is your Constituency values, might lend itself to that, rather than responding to smaller organized groups who control money & property. I'm guessing few of them tend bar, wash dishes or cook a mean blackened red fish for a living. And those things matter a great deal, here. A very great deal, indeed. Lord David Marigny New Orleans cc: everybody
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
It is a scene imagined in minds across the Globe; an evening stroll, deciding to taste the foods indigenous to the city, distracted by the beauty of the ancient architecture, and listening to the sounds of jazz, played on the very street corners... until now. Mayor Mitch Landrieu ran for office on a platform of, among other things, "preserving our local culture". Many an eyebrow was raised when he chose Ronal Sherpas as our new Police Superintendent, after a 'nation wide search' that promised to chose from 85 of the country's "best & brightest", as Serpas is not only former NOPD, but third generation NOPD and his father was apparently Mayor Moon Landrieu's driver for a time. As New Orleans struggles through a new wave of horrible press (thanks, BP), the HBO program, 'Treme' keeps us barely seen positively in the Eyes of America. For the most part, anyway. People see themselves as imagined in the first paragraph, walking through a renewed French Quarter, surrounded by food, drink & music. Now Mayor "Preserve our Local Culture" Landrieu & Chief "Law & Order" Serpas have taken on the Real Enemy; Street Musicians. Local ordinances, rarely used, have allowed the NOPD to shut down street musicians performing on Bourbon Street, from Canal to St Ann, at 8pm. There is another, equally ridiculous ordinance, allowing them to do the same to the brass & acoustic Jazz Bands that play at the corner of Frenchman Street & Chartres, a spot long known for it's free music. It's over at 8pm, well before the parade of tourists and local listeners hit Frenchman for their nightly stroll. Under these current conditions, Louis Armstrong's career might never have been launched. I try to imagine a city, it's culture based on silence after 8pm, side walks clear of both musicians and those who would make a living from the crowds they draw; bartenders, cooks, busboys, waiters, and the myriad delivery people who help to service the dwindling tourist trade. Just who would be left to stroll there? Tourists who have dreamed all their lives of Quiet Time in the Big Silence? Imagine with me, as you fly in to Curfew International Airport, and quietly take a cab to Keep It Down Park, famous for the noisy Congo rhythms, no longer allowed past 8pm... Sorry. This antiseptic version of the Stepford Quarter is too horrible for my mind's eye to behold. There is a flicker of further madness in all of this. There are city ordinances provided to allow the constant use of power tools, compressors, leaf blowers, jack hammers and agricultural equipment from 7 in the morning until ten at night, starting a full two hours before music can begin, and running a full two hours later. In what insane nightmare standard does this become allowed to stand? Is crime in the 8th district so fully under control that NOPD cruisers have nothing better to do? As warned, Serpas' penchant for focusing on minor crimes to raise his stats is well under way. Perhaps burying his head in the COMSTAT room, he cannot hear the oppressive silence forced upon our streets by such persnickety police work. God help those carrying a trombone and forgetting to put on their seat belt. The Tower of Punishment surely waits. At a time when the State of Louisiana is wrestling with White House over it's oil platform closures, saying that without fishing, there is only that & tourism to support so many, why is the Mayor of New Orleans shutting down jazz on the street, possibly THE oldest tradition we cherish & hold dear? While the NOPD undergoes Federal Investigation on never-before-seen levels, why is the new Chief of Police using vital officer time & energy to shut down brass bands and acoustic street musicians? Banning street amplifiers after 8pm I could understand, but banjo's & trumpets? This is seriously ludicrous, if there is such a thing. I have been sent sections of blogs, with commenters there, claiming to be NOPD or Ex-NOPD, voicing their "strong disapproval" of the way they are portrayed on HBO's 'Treme'. Some have called for all off duty NOPD security to stage a walk-off, others for the officers on duty to "forget" to respond to this particular entity. I have even read some that call for the removal of all street musicians who "got what they deserved" on the HBO program. I cannot say if these commenters are actually NOPD or not. I can say that I know where the Buck Stops. And now, so will you. Please, let those who "govern" at City Hall know what you think. It is, after all, our city, and it is they, not us, who serve at our discretion. Mayor's Office Phone: 504-658-4900 Police Chief Serpas NOPDChief@cityofno.com Quality of Life Officer for 8th District Ofc. Roger Jones, 8th Dist PD firstname.lastname@example.org 504-301-7667 Arnie Fielkow/City Council Counselor at Large email@example.com 504-658-1060 Jackie Clarkson/City Council Vice President firstname.lastname@example.org 504-658-1070 Kristin Palmer/District C Council Member email@example.com (District 8 is her district) The silence you hear is the End of an Era: Music on the Streets of New Orleans.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Today, a Skylark flew into the Skull Club & couldn't find it's way out, no matter how many windows I opened. After a few hours, other Skylarks came singing at the window, and took him home. No one got paid, elected, rewarded or portrayed in a Movie of the Week. Word up, Humans. This is how it really works.