Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Street Music

The Issue:

Don't Stop the Music (FB)

Gambit: NOPD Enforcing 8pm Curfew (Gambit's been on this story like red beans on rice, including posts reminding us that leaf blowers and lawn mowers have more lenient hours than trumpets, and getting a response from Councilwoman Palmer.)

Let the Street Musicians Play

------------------------Action Item-------------------------

(Emailed to Susan Guidry, Arnie Fielkow, Jackie Clarkson, Kristin Palmer, Ronal Serpas and Roger Jones on 6/16/2010):

Good morning Councilmembers, Mr. Superintendent, and Officer Jones,

I am writing this letter to support New Orleans musicians who play on the streets of the French Quarter and in the Faubourg Marigny. My primary concern involves the New Orleans city ordinances that forbid live music from our streets during certain hours of the day. I would like to see those ordinances overturned or amended to allow New Orleans’ unique musical culture to be protected. My secondary concern involves the enforcement of those ordinances by the NOPD.

Over the last several days, several individuals and groups of musicians, including the To Be Continued (TBC) Brass Band and the Young Fellas Brass Band, have been approached by NOPD officers and told they were in violation of city ordinances because of where and when they were playing music. The most documented interaction took place at the intersection of Bourbon and Canal Streets, where the TBC Brass Band has played for years to the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.

First of all, I would like to express my sincere appreciation towards 8th District Quality of Life officer Roger Jones for both his respectful attitude towards the musicians and the quality of his engagement with the community. Instead of issuing citations immediately, Officer Jones took the time to inform community members of the existing violations of city ordinances; he also provided the community with the exact ordinances that were being violated, so the community would be able to address their amendment in a positive and civic fashion. His actions regarding this matter reflect the best kind of community policing, and I would encourage NOPD to commend him while working to emulate his fine example.

The letter he distributed cited city ordinances including “Sec. 30-1456. Use of Bourbon Street restricted” and “Sec. 66-205. Persons playing musical instruments in public rights of way.” These ordinances create a curfew that disallows musicians from performing based on both their location and the time at which they are playing.

While I understand the need for ordinances such as these, I am at a loss to understand why such ordinances are so restrictive concerning live music being played on these blocks of Bourbon, Canal or Frenchman Streets. These streets, as well as others in the lower French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, are known for both live music and vibrant nightlife.

I have also learned that there may be traffic concerns over the crowds watching musicians play on these streets. To this concern, I remember that these are streets where pedestrians often chose to move from the sidewalk to the street with little impediment, which will cause problems with automobile traffic whether or not musicians are present. If the musicians or the crowds watching them play are not blocking the entrance to a business or residence, I find it difficult to believe that they cause any serious problems in these locations during most hours of the day or night.

Because of this, I believe these ordinances should be overturned or amended to preserve the unique culture of New Orleans and protect the rights of street musicians to play on these streets without such strict time constraints and fear of receiving a civil or criminal citation. I further believe that, if pedestrians interacting with automobiles are a problem on these streets at any hour, the city ordinances should reflect a more restrictive policy towards automobiles than towards musicians and pedestrians. Finally, I hope you will request that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) cease the enforcement of these ordinances while you examine them for elimination or amendment.

Please consider this my position on this matter. I thank you for your time and attention.


Cousin Pat from District A in New Orleans


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