Thursday, December 19, 2013

Letter to City Council re: Noise Ordinance Proposal

Since I can't make it to the Council Chambers, because of course, something else was scheduled for this morning and they only JUST announced all this yesterday, I wrote a letter to the Council and hope all of you did too. Most of mine is completely quoted from the Convention and Visitor's Bureau website. Here's what I said:

Dear Council Persons,
I got an email just today about the hearing in Council Chambers tomorrow at 10AM. I cannot be there as I have a previous commitment, but feel that the scheduling of this hearing so quickly during the holiday season was a purposeful decision. With little advance notice given, I believe the hope is that there will be fewer opponents of this ordinance able to attend.

Not only am I outraged by the perception of underhandedness in the pushing forward of this absurd ordinance, but I'm frankly baffled by it.

From the Convention and Visitor's Website:

"A place where centuries old architecture is the backdrop for a culture so invigorating, it'll rouse your spirit. Visit the most fun and authentic city in America, New Orleans."

Under the Nightlife section, same website:
". . . .nightclubs where you can dance the night away. So leave the stress of your everyday life behind, grab a go cup (in New Orleans you can take your drink with you), put on your dancing shoes and get ready to have the time of your life."

Under the Frenchmen Street section, same website:

"It offers an amazing variety of venues styles and music, ranging from traditional jazz to blues to reggae to rock all week long. Many venues along the strip don't even charge a cover! But in true New Orleans fashion, do give a cheer after a great trombone solo and throw a few bucks in the tip jar to show your appreciation.

Frenchmen offers a lively street culture that means the fun spills out from the bars and music venues. Sketch artists and poets line the sidewalks and bluegrass and gypsy jazz pickup bands nestle into the stoops along the strip. Brass bands are commonly found on the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen, and before you know it, you'll be dancing in the streets like a local."

This is the image of New Orleans we sell to the world. This is the actual New Orleans that we street dancing locals recognize as home.

Under this new proposed noise regulation (and forgive me but I have real problems with the word noise used to describe both a jackhammer and a trumpet, for while they both make sounds, one is a tool while the other is an instrument of self expression), if I have musicians in my house, or "nestled" on my stoop, practicing their craft, getting ready for a show, or even a child learning to play drums or tuba or trombone (Trombone Shorty had to learn to play somewhere), I could find myself in violation of this ordinance.

I am not going to go point by point through this ordinance, which by the way, appears to violate the First Amendment as I understand it. I will say, however, that if this proposal is passed, then everything we consider to be our culture, our "authentic" culture, will be in danger. We're busy marketing the very thing that this would wipe out. I don't understand that and never will.

I urge you to toss this ordinance in the trash bin where it belongs and listen to the musicians whose livelihoods could be at stake, listen to the people who are trying to work with you, like MACCNO. If the sound of our city is going to be silenced by a handful of disgruntled but vocal people in various neighborhood associations, then we might as well all trundle off to Dubuque or change the name of our city to Anytown, USA because it will no longer be "authentic" nor will it be New Orleans.

For the record, I live and vote in New Orleans and music is not a criminal enterprise. I'd rather see our police doing actual police work than running around ticketing a pickup band or harassing a bar owner. I am not alone. There are a lot of us watching, and your decisions will be on our minds when next we find ourselves in a voting booth.