Our next MaCCNO meeting is Wednesday, February 19th, noon, at the Lost Love Lounge, 2529 Dauphine St. PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE IN LOCATION.
Over the past week, journalist Richard Webster, of the Times-Picayune, has illuminated the extent of the backroom scheming undertaken by a small group of wealthy and well-connected residents of the French Quarter to try to push through their version of a noise ordinance for the City of New Orleans. This VCPORA ordinance, which emerged publicly under the cover of the holiday season, has proved indefensible to those who created it. Once the draft became public, it was clearly vastly unpopular and would have had negative repercussions for not only the culture of the city, but also the ability of members of the cultural community to make a living.
Webster’s work has revealed a large degree of collusion between several advocacy groups, a member of the French Market Corporation’s Board of Directors, a PR Firm, staff members of a council members’ office and wealthy environmental lawyer who has filed over a dozen lawsuits intended to shut down music venues. It’s clear there was an attempt to hide this from the public eye—at one point the Chief of Staff for council member Stacy Head is asked to use his private e-mail for further discussion in a clear attempt to avoid making the conversation part of the public record.
This is not how good policy is created, nor are those involved in these back room deals interested in finding real solutions. When it became clear that VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens were not going to be able to control a new, much scaled down process focusing exclusively on Bourbon St., rather than compromise, they withdrew entirely. Millions of visitors each year come to enjoy our music and spend billions of dollars to do so, there are tens of thousands of jobs created by our music and culture, and New Orleans culture has played a central role in defining our recovery and drawing new talent to the city. The backroom dealers aren’t interested in finding solutions that support livable neighborhoods while also supporting the economy, creating jobs, or encouraging growth. Instead, they are interested in using their money and influence to get exactly what they want. This type of thing has gone on far too long in New Orleans, and the time has come for it to stop.
Over the past several years, it has become clear that the City of New Orleans is going to revise the existing sound ordinance, and that’s a good thing. The current law is outdated, unenforceable, and very likely unconstitutional. So the question isn’t IF the ordinance should be updated, but rather HOW. It’s been said many times that New Orleans’ culture is too resilient to disappear, that it will survive any changes to the sound ordinance, and doubtless it will. But survival isn’t good enough. It’s time for the culture of New Orleans to thrive, and for those who produce it to thrive with it. To that end, the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans is calling for a new, inclusive process as the City moves forward in revising the noise ordinance. A working group should be assembled, and must have representation from all groups that would be impacted. It should be made up of one-third residents from throughout the entire city, one third musicians and members of the cultural community, and one third business owners and tourism officials. A list of members for any working group assembled should be publicly available, their findings should have ample public hearing and use the city commissioned report from Oxford Acoustics as a starting point. This approach will ensure that all voices are heard, decisions are made based on science, not emotion, and that concerns are addressed before the ordinance reaches the council floor.
Indeed, a proactive approach to get all stakeholders involved from the beginning should serve as a model for more decisions made by the city, whether they are about sound, zoning, or affordable housing. New Orleans has fought hard to come back since hurricane Katrina, we’ve worked hard to build a stronger and safer city, and the work continues to build a city of expanded opportunity and equity. Without transparency and inclusion, those goals will remain out of reach. We cannot let those groups who are threatened by fair, open processes derail positive changes to our city and our culture. New Orleans deserves better.
True to our predictions, Stuart Smith called for the City Council to fire acoustician Dave Woolworth, who recently had his contract renewed to continue work providing recommendations about the revision of New Orleans’ sound ordinance. According to Smith, Woolworth has ethical conflicts because he worked with and shared a draft of his report with several Bourbon Street bar owners. Smith also calls MaCCNO members ‘vastly uninformed’ and ‘manipulated’. Though Smith is claiming Woolworth had a conflict of interest, he was also one of 5 reviewers of Woolworth’s report, and was also engaged in a number of lawsuits against music venues at the time. Expect more attempts at character assassination from Smith and Cheron Brylski soon.
You can still register to vote in the run off election until February 12th at 4PM. If you have a Louisiana ID, you can register online, if you don’t you need to go to City Hall with a picture ID and proof of residency (a utility bill will suffice). This is going to be an important election for the future of live entertainment in New Orleans, and turn out is expected to be low. Your vote matters!
You only have until February 12th (THIS WEDNESDAY) to register to vote in time for the runoff elections in March. Register online today and make your voice be heard.
Please note that today’s meeting at noon will take place at KERMIT’S MOTHER-IN-LAW LOUNGE.
As you are likely aware, New Orleans held a significant election on Saturday, February 1st. Mayor Landrieu, Councilmember at Large Stacy Head, District A’s Susan Guidry, District B’s Latoya Cantrell and District E’s James Gray all retained their seats, while Jared Brossett was elected in District D. More importantly–at least for the next two months–is the fact that there will be two Council seats holding run-off elections on March 15th. In District C, Jackie Clarkson will face Nadine Ramsey. For a fairly comprehensive look at their views on cultural issues, take a look at VCPORA’s candidate interviews, and for their views on the noise ordinance specifically, take a listen to this portion of Monday’s Angela Hill show. There will also be a run off between Cynthia Hedge Morrell and Jason Williams for the second at large seat. For a good analysis of the their race, check out this piece from the Uptown Messenger. We will be posting more information about their positions on cultural issues on our Facebook group as we receive it. For a complete list of election results, including races for Sheriff, etc., go here.