Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Orleans is One Big Stage Redux

After Kermit Ruffins' meeting on Wednesday, someone who rarely writes took to the keyboard and sent me the piece below. It gave me an idea: Why don't I open up my blog for a week and have guest posters from the community give us their ideas on the subject of permits and City Hall. Not just a list of complaints but what they would like to see. I'm asking performers, lawyers, business owners, and yes, eventually, even City Hall to write a post which will be posted here on New Orleans Slate unedited.

If you have a suggestion for a guest poster, or want to be one yourself, email me at I'd like to have a new post every day. I can't guarantee yours will be posted, but am hoping that there are so many ideas for positive change that all will make it up here. I will also be posting all the links from the articles written last week. Some of the reporters got some things wrong, but the articles need to be in one place for folks to see easily. I hope to have that list ready by Tuesday, but as anyone who knows me knows, it'll probably be Wednesday.

At any rate, I am soliciting guest posts. This one, by David Kern, came to me unsolicited and I want to thank him for sparking the idea of guest posters on this topic, and the passion he felt about this very important issue that overrode his abhorrence of keyboards to put this together.

On Wednesday, September 26, 2012, a meeting was called by Kermit Ruffins, the man who, in the calling of this meeting, has become the de facto face of new Orleans music.
“I got real pissed and I called a meeting,” said Ruffins. The source of his anger is the sudden arbitrary and aggressive crack-down on musicians and music venues by New Orleans City Hall and the Mayor's office. 
Answering the call, about 200 (although I've seen numbers ranging from 100 on up) musicians, club owners, lawyers, and music loving citizens converged on Kermit's Treme Speakeasy on Basin Street.
Before leaving the stage, Ruffins said he would like to hold meetings every Wednesday which would culminate in a march on City Hall on the 24th of October, an idea which was met with instant and unanimous support.
There are three things that can be done immediately to blunt City Hall's attack on our culture. 
The first is to completely dismantle the “six month clause” which Councilwoman Stacey Head has cleverly manipulated, making it incumbent upon the club owners to prove there has not ever been a six month lapse in entertainment at their respective establishments. (One club owner said, “If you buy a business it might take MORE than six months to renovate it, so we're behind the 8 ball from the beginning.”) It is unenforceable, unconstitutional, and must go away.

Second, we need to force a moratorium on the capricious enforcement of any ordinances pertaining to any kind of public performance or special event. 
And third, we need the city to respect the “grandfathering”of entertainment venues. 
This is a single cause with many voices, and it is imperative that those many voices be channeled into one clear and cohesive one. Musicians, by their nature are not herd animals, so how this might be done, or whom this voice might be, remains to be seen. But this movement, this cause must not be allowed to collapse upon itself due to petty political infighting. This is what City Hall would most like to see. A united front is an absolute must. 
The old saying “you can't fight city hall” is defeatist bullshit. United, we can fight city hall and we can prevail. City Hall is nothing more than a cabal of lawyers and their minions. Guess what? We have lawyers too. Granted, ours may end up working for free, but they are working on the side of the angels. 
And City Hall has ordinance, dating back to 1952. Well, we have culture and tradition, dating back to when that first luckless Frenchman stepped off the boat. And we have the power of Jazz, Blues, Rock-and-Roll and Gospel, all children born of this city, behind us. If we unite, we will prevail, and our song will not be silenced.