Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The Letter of the Law
My recent inquiries into the ordinances covering Art Galleries, the Sale of Art, Parade Permits, and the like have revealed a complex, almost byzantine, collection of verbiage. Which is to say, in plain English, it's a mess. I can honestly report that Scott Hutcheson, the Mayor's 'point man on cultural affairs', agrees with me on this, and has made an ongoing effort, since we began a dialogue, of ferreting out what, exactly, applies. As a f'r instance, I found a simple city ordinance that makes it illegal for any car to be parked in the same spot for 24 hours or more. Picture with me, if you will, residents of Uptown New Orleans, stricken with the flu, braving a rainy February morning to go move their cars, like New Yorkers must do, or face tickets, fines, towing or whatever. The recently recited ordinances on Parading are equally maddening; "A parade is considered any type of planned movement, procession (or) motorcade where you're moving persons vehicles or animals on the city streets," Bourgeois said. "If it's a group of friends that are walking, they should be utilizing the sidewalks and following all traffic laws." So, if your Aunt Fanny & her best friend drive separate cars to your house, and follow you, in yours, to the next stop, you'll need a parade permit. It certainly qualifies as a 'procession'. And those kids walking home after school, all over the street? Illegal. Totally illegal. A daily crime spree. Of course, the new hipster bicycle tour groups in the Marigny/Bywater are repeat offenders, and the group Segway Riders? Super Villians, one & all. Bourgeois went on to say that "the parading permits are easy to get and cost about $200." Apparently, he's out of the loop on that, too. "for the Original Pigeontown Steppers Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Henry started parading on Easter 14 years ago. In 2005, the last time the club paraded, the NOPD charged them just $1,200 to escort the parade." But, oh, wait... Why have they stopped parading since 2005? "...the security bill for $7,560 from the New Orleans Police Department." Also alarming is that one must appear in person at the police district involved to apply for this permit. Considering the questionable temperament of the 5th District, and it's recent 'pay back' response at the Ark, for the Eris Parade meltdown, how fair can this really be? The term 'Selective Enforcement' comes to my mind. I've mentioned before that the horrible mess on St Charles Avenue Neutral ground during this years Mardi Gras parades went on unchecked, even during the pursuit & arrest of those responsible for a stabbing & two shootings. Nobody was maced, pepper sprayed, tased or beaten with batons. Even though the Endemyon parade crowds allegedly blocked off entire blocks, telling other parade watchers they had to 'walk around' areas secured with tents and rope fences. Somehow, this was tolerated. Then there's the basic, day to day stuff... This Face Book picture, from Fat Tuesday, shows us Cm Kristin Palmer (second from right) and her friends, all in costume, enjoying an open bottle of champagne, right out on the street. Local ordinances clearly state: "It shall be unlawful for any person to carry or drink from any opened glass container in or on any public street, sidewalk, park or public right-of-way in the area bounded by the upriver side of Canal Street, the lakeside of Rampart Street, the downriver side of Esplanade Avenue and the Mississippi River." Yet here they are, plain as day, and unmolested by any sort of authority figure. One would think that our City Council Members would be up on these things, particularly one who promised to "look in to" the banning of brass bands after 8pm in the French Quarter, also stating that the 'ordinance is currently on the books and will be enforced'. Really? And just what KIND of cake shall we eat, your highness? The obvious and repeated infractions by the police, themselves, are too many to count. Living with them next door for almost two years, I saw repeated events of them driving up one way streets the wrong way, in their PRIVATE VEHICLES, & OFF DUTY, as it was easier & shorter than going around the block. Of course, I'm sure all of us have felt this way. And it's just as sure that we'd be stopped & ticketed for doing so, may even enjoying an illegal afternoon vehicle search. There have been many times when I've ridden my bicycle past the corner of Burgundy & Mandeville, to see an NOPD cruiser sitting completely blocking the crosswalk, as the officers attached to it sit happily at their table enjoying their coffee & snacks. The personal automobile shown here belongs to one of the 5th District cops and is illegally parked, yet unmolested in any way. It may well have been there for over 24 hours, as well. Witnesses feared coming forward in this horrible crime. Other instances of unmarked patrol cars running red lights to get first in line at Rally's, and the endless stream of them that wafts through the illegal left turn on St Claude from Franklin avenue, are disturbing enough, as they flaunt a sense of lawlessness by the NOPD, but one of my dear friends was also arrested and taken to OPP for this same left turn offense. By now I think you see my point. These laws are both arbitrary & vague, and certainly being enforced selectively, as the Blue Nile vs Endemyon Neutral ground comparison points out. Further more, there is a Class War here, in which the authorities who enforce these laws, and the City Council who enact these measures, are somehow above them. There is a trend, in America these days, to celebrate celebrity, relieve the wealthy & powerful of obligation, and pile these heavy burdens on the backs of the working families and individuals who find themselves not clearly represented by this corrupt system. Now this trend is hitting New Orleans, again. This time it comes not as an egomaniacal Mayor, openly ranting into news cameras, but in the sheep's clothing of New Administration, Law & Order, and a Brighter Tomorrow. Don't be fooled again. Unless the current administration can carry their share of the municipal code, as we are made to do, and clarify these laws, so as to make them the same across the board, and finally, police itself first, so that these blatant special privileges are either removed or shared, we are bound, as all societies are, to find ourselves torn apart by a system best left behind in the feudal days of Nobles & Serfs. We, the Citizens of New Orleans, deserve, and pay for, our rights & privileges, thereby creating the salaries of those who drive us to this yolk of obedience. As it stands today, I, for one, want my money back.