"Don't Trash DAT!" is New Orleans' new anti-littering slogan, and it was introduced Nov. 14 at Basin Street Station, the visitors' center near the French Quarter. Many of the city's top tourism leaders joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the kickoff of the campaign, which will be a cornerstone in the city's preparation for a particularly busy 18 months of high-profile events, including the Sugar Bowl and BCS National Championship (January 2012), the NCAA Final Four (March-April 2012) and, of course, the February 2013 Super Bowl. The program is funded by the BP settlement, a portion of which was set aside to boost tourism in affected areas.
The campaign, Landrieu said, is coming with a crackdown on quality-of-life violators in the French Quarter. Graffiti tagging in the historic district will now be prosecuted as a felony rather than as a misdemeanor under a new state law authored by state Rep. Juan LaFonta. "I have instructed (NOPD) Chief (Ronal) Serpas to enforce all laws on the books," Landrieu said, mentioning parking on the sidewalk and not "cleaning up outside your establishment" as two things that no longer will be tolerated in the often-messy Vieux Carre.
"We in New Orleans have a tendency to throw things on the ground," Landrieu added dryly.
District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes the French Quarter, said that of the 8 million visitors who came to New Orleans last year, 84 percent visited the French Quarter. Palmer says the city needs to eliminate graffiti, crime and trash "to make it a reflection of us as a people." Landrieu noted that Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant would make sure the Quarter has more city-owned trashcans in high-traffic areas.
Others on hand included Darryl Berger, head of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation; Bill McCreary, a Starwood Hotels executive and chairman of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau; Kurt Weigel, head of the Downtown Development District; and Justin Augustine, vice-president of Veolia Transportation, which runs the Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
Scott Hutcheson, the mayor's point man on the cultural economy, said the "Don't Trash DAT!" slogan soon would appear on buses and streetcars, as well as on bumper stickers and in a series of public service announcements.
Landrieu also encouraged people to "say something" if they see a neighbor littering. "Say you're having a crawfish party on the lakefront," he said. "Don't leave it all there. Take your stuff home with you." — Kevin Allman