New Orleans City Council canceled today's Housing and Human Needs committee meeting. That didn't stop a massive crowd, led by a wailing brass band and Glen David Andrews, from blasting inside City Hall. District B councilwoman LaToya Cantrell second lined with the group into City Council chambers, where she handed them the mic and held an open forum.
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) — made up of musicians, bar and venue owners and their advocates — organized a rally at Duncan Plaza outside City Hall as a sort of prelude to the committee meeting, which had on its agenda the controversial draft noise ordinance. Last night, councilmembers canceled the meeting and announced the withdrawal of the tabled ordinance. MACCNO and several hundred others didn't cancel their plans to gather on the grass outside City Hall this morning.
Hannah Kreiger-Benson, who has served as MACCNO spokesperson since the group founded in the wake of music venue closures in 2012, addressed the crowd. "We've often seen these issues around regulation framed in the press and by our opponents as a conflict between musicians and residents. That's not right," she said. "We live here, we work here, we vote here. We are the residents."
"There's still tons more work to be done," she told Gambit. "It's something to keep an eye on going forward."
"We did an incredible thing: we pushed back," said Sue Mobley, MACCNO organizer and Sweet Home New Orleans director.
Speakers took turns approaching the mic, addressing what they feel are restrictive laws that not only prevent them from earning a living but contradict the city's advertising of and reliance on music tourism. Chuck Perkins, owner of Cafe Istanbul, said "the city has always benefited from music, but they've never paid attention to it."
"It's time to stop being scared to go to jail for what's right," said Glen David Andrews. "You got to do Mitch Landrieu what Mitch Landrieu doing to you. ... As long as Queen Jackie (Clarkson) is in District C, we're going to have a fight."
"The thing that got me so upset was they tried to backdoor this deal and slide through a piece of legislation," said Scott Aiges, director of programs and marketing at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. City Council District A candidate Drew Ward and District C candidate Eloise Williams also spoke out again the ordinance.
A band with several trumpets, trombones, guitars, banjos and percussion — all powerfully playing "It Ain't My Fault" — paraded to the City Hall steps and through the glass doors and past security and the front desk. City Hall staff looked on and smiled from the second floor balcony.
Cantrell joined (and danced with) the crowd as it moved down the hall toward City Council chambers. The crowd chanted, "Go get the mayor." Once inside, Cantrell turned on the lights and microphones. "You have a right to be here, and we're going to do our best to accommodate you while you're here," she said, and Andrews called for a "jazz funeral" for the noise ordinance as the band began "A Closer Walk With Thee."
Members in the crowd lined up to the podium to address Cantrell, the sole councilmember at the impromptu meeting, though she said members of Susan Guidry, Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell's office were present. Among those speaking against the noise ordinance were saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick, St. Roch Tavern owner Rob Waguespack, trombonist Chris Miller, Fleur de Tease member Trixie Minx, longtime performer Roselyn Lionheart, WWOZ DJ George Ingmire, and Katrina Porter, daughter of George Porter Jr.
Dan Farmer, a tourist from California, said he visits New Orleans four times a year. "Be careful. You're playing with fire," he warned City Council. "Tourist dollars are here for music."
"They bring money for these people," he added, waving his arm to a packed room of musicians armed with brass instruments in their laps.
“We commend the City Council for withdrawing the proposed Sound Ordinance and looking freshly at this issue. For the past few years we have engaged in substantial dialogue with Councilmembers, musicians, restaurants, club owners, residents and other stakeholders on the issue of sound so that any amendments reflect the unique culture of New Orleans. This culture includes a vibrant music scene and important historic neighborhoods, among many other cultural assets—-and we value them all. Crafting a law that considers a variety of opinions and the realities of a 21st century city is paramount to illustrating our model of transparent and inclusive government.
With the approval of our proposed 2014 budget for the Health Department that included funding provided by the French Market Corporation, we are now in the process of establishing the environmental health liaison positions and ensuring that they have the proper tools, training and policies to improve awareness and provide education around environmental issues, including sound. After a robust education effort among key constituencies, these liaisons will become part of a coordinated effort to enforce the sound ordinance and manage other environmental health concerns. The hiring process is already underway under Civil Service rules.
We believe there can be a consensus document based on inclusion and transparency. We will continue to be a partner in this effort as the Council creates a clear and enforceable ordinance that honors our cultural traditions, respects our neighborhoods, and promotes responsible businesses.”