Through Councilwoman Palmer, whose district includes the French Quarter, Landrieu has proposed an ordinance for the mall that would: 1) mandate “clear lanes;” and, 2) provide “closing times” between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to persons “stopping, standing, or loitering.”
Both parts of the proposed ordinance are problematic, but the latter is blatantly unconstitutional.
The "clear lanes" portion would prevent people from effectively setting up as street musicians and other forms of performer because the crowds that would potentially gather to enjoy this taste of New Orleans culture would be prohibited from forming despite the fact that these crowds do NOT impede vehicular traffic the way that Mardi Gras and JazzFest crowds do.
The "closure times" do nothing to prevent vagrancy and ultimately may prove harmful in the summer to local businesses who are protected by the presence of the tarot card readers who are often out to late hours because of tourism.
So why is Landrieu doing this? The conventional wisdom is that he wants to “clean up” Jackson Square in advance of the Superbowl, and thus the primary goal here is to keep the homeless out, or rather the bums and the gutter-punks. Some people earnestly believe that this is a noble goal. However, this ordinance will not just impact those groups. It will also impinge on the tarot card readers, the street performers and the artists. Street performers will have little to no room to perform under the “clear lanes” rule, and the artists and tarot readers who often set up early or run late will risk being hassled. The ordinance is a shotgun blast masquerading as a scalpel.
Ultimately it will harm the very city that it is SUPPOSED to be protecting. Tourists COME to New Orleans for its unique culture and this ordinance strikes at the heart of that culture.
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