City surveillance camera plan dead
After months of debate over a requirement for businesses that sell alcohol to install a surveillance camera that streams into a law enforcement monitoring center, the New Orleans City Council has dropped the proposal at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.
The 22-page ordinance proposed a series of changes to how businesses apply for liquor licenses, but a few sentences within that proposed ordinance were requirements for alcohol beverage outlets (ABOs) to install a street-facing camera to pipe into the recently opened Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, under the watch of the city's Office of Homeland Security and shared with the New Orleans Police Department, FBI and other law enforcement partners.
In a statement to Gambit, Landrieu's press secretary Craig Belden said the ordinance "will require more discussion and careful consideration by the next Council and administration."
At-Large Councilmember Stacy Head introduced a replacement bill that would move the issuance of liquor licenses from the Finance Department to the city's One Stop program in the Department of Safety and Permits. Along with the deleted surveillance requirement, the new version also removes a section that gives the mayor's office, NOPD superintendent or chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board authority to revoke a license, and it removes a section allowing a written complaint or petition from five or more residents within a half-mile to serve as grounds for revocation or suspension of an alcohol permit.
The Council's Governmental Affairs Committee will discuss Head's revised ordinance at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 29.
Landrieu announced plans for an expanded surveillance plan — including license plate readers and cameras in "hotspots" in neighborhoods across the city — in January 2017, as part of a $40 million public safety plan with the state and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. City officials unveiled the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center on Rampart Street in November.
The Office of the Independent Police Monitor, the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) and the ACLU of Louisiana, among others, criticized the proposal. At a January 2018 press conference highlighting crime-fighting efforts through last year, Landrieu repeated his assertion that an expanded surveillance network doesn't infringe on Fourth Amendment protections, and that "people in the city of New Orleans can expect that what they do will be seen."
Last week, MaCCNO warned that the city will still be able to add surveillance requirements through punitive measures within the ABC Board. On March 20, the board ordered two bars to install cameras that stream into the monitoring center as part of a consent agreement to keep their liquor licenses.
Quote of the week
"A Great Dane-sized whiz down the leg of every taxpayer." — The ever-quotable Sen. John Neely Kennedy, describing the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill being debated in Congress last week in order to avoid a government shutdown. In what may have been a nod to the Who Dat nation, Kennedy added that "everyone involved in this process ought to put a bag over their heads."
Strip club cap fails in
3-4 City Council vote
A proposal to cap the number of strip clubs on Bourbon Street's seven-block entertainment stretch has failed. Defeat of the proposal is a victory for dancers who have been squeezed out of jobs following recent raids and another blow to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's wide-ranging public safety plan. The New Orleans City Council failed to pass the cap by a vote of 3 to 4 at its March 22 meeting, following years of study and debate at City Hall and several raids of Bourbon Street clubs.
At-Large Councilmember Stacy Head proposed limiting the number of strip clubs to 12 on Bourbon Street's Vieux Carre Entertainment (VCE) District, after the City Planning Commission's (CPC) rejection of a "hard cap" on the number of clubs on the street in favor of a "soft cap" of 14 clubs. The CPC's "soft cap" called for operators to apply for a conditional use to open a club if the cap had been met.
Head said her motion was "merely a land use matter" to reduce congestion of an "intense use" in the district. City Council President Jason Williams said despite the legitimate efforts to create legislation "in a vacuum" over the last several years, the raids (which he called "a complete waste of time") are now inextricably linked to the issue of a club cap.
January raids of Bourbon Street clubs by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and the New Orleans Police Department followed City Hall's years-long attempt to scrub Bourbon Street, from Landrieu's $40 million public safety plan calling for a "rebranding" of the French Quarter" to ordinances placing age limits on dancers and officials linking club workers to trafficking and other crimes.
An interim zoning district that puts a moratorium on new clubs in the French Quarter is set to expire.
Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, whose District C covers the French Quarter, voted against the cap, along with Williams, District D Councilman Jared Brossett and District E Councilman James Gray.
Mayor-elect and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell supported a cap, though she initially supported the "soft cap" of 14 before Head clarified that her motion was for a 12-club cap. District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry also supported the cap.
The mayor's publicity
tour rolls on
Fresh from an appearance with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, Mayor Mitch Landrieu barnstormed national media last week to promote his new memoir, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.
Landrieu appeared on ABC's This Week, CBS This Morning, NPR's All Things Considered and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and had a fawning profile in POLITICO, which mused about his presidential timber and described him as a "white Southern liberal who loves wrestling and musical theater, and looks like he could blend right in at a Trump rally." As of press time, he was scheduled to appear on the March 23 episode of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.
Main Library to close
for two weeks
New Orleans Public Library's (NOPL's) Main Library will close to the public from April 15 through April 29 to complete renovation work on its first floor. While work on a renovation is already in progress, the library will close to finish improvements that include a new layout and flooring, better lighting and some extra computers and furniture. The revamp is expected to help make more efficient use of the existing space, NOPL marketing director John Marc Sharpe told Gambit. All other NOPL branches will be open during the renovation.