I had the pleasure waking up Monday morning and having to get dressed and out the door by 9:30 a.m. This after a day at the Square making mad $35 cash, then heading over to a Super Bowl party in Rosalie Alley and being subjected to a rapist-turned-Jesus freak quarterback and two Eminem commercials, then winning a Super Bowl “squares game” with one damn square at $5. I thought I was toast when I got a five and a one. I mean, really? A five? I kept hollering, “Okay, all I need is two safeties by Pittsburgh and I’m in this thing!” or “If Pittsburgh misses the extra point and then gets a safety, I got this!” or, as it turned out, “I need Pittsburgh to score a touchdown, get the two-point conversion and then I need Green Bay to kick a field, stop Pittsburgh and kneel!” You know that triumphant music they play during the trophy ceremony? That was actually the theme to me collecting my winnings. I also won three paintings from a fellow Jackson Square artist. I now have a bit of a Katie Leese collection going.
Wait, why did I need to be somewhere the next day after consuming oysters, beer and hog? Right, civic affairs! City business! Politicking!
Group: Jackson Square A Dangerous ‘Zoo’
The Jackson Square Task Force was presenting its recommendations to the City’s Governmental Affairs committee and since some of those recommendations involve my mostly unregulated workplace I showed up. A few other artists and I were there.
The chambers were full of Tarot readers, artists, buggy operators and street musicians. Songs were sung, the 1st amendment was said to be violated and the subject of Mule poo was dissected. My main concerns were policing the area between the Cathedral and the park where the benches are, the condition of flagstones around the Square and of course, the law preventing reproductions in the Square.
I told councilpersons Guidry and Palmer I had more to comment but couldn’t squeeze it all into two minutes so I would post it here on The Chicory. I do apologize to them for not having this up before now but I took my wife to The American Sector and ate a very delicious $7 hot dog after the meeting and busied myself with errands after that. All apologies for my tardiness.
Everyone agrees the flagstones are in pitiful shape. Dubious though is the cause. It is maintained that vehicles are causing the damage but there are many areas of the Square where no vehicle could reach where the flagstones are falling apart as well. These being on Decatur street by the front gates and at the corner of St. Peter and Decatur. It should also be noted that on Washington Artillery park and by Cafe du Monde, the same flagstones have been laid and many of those are falling apart with no vehicular traffic. Which to me eliminates vehicles as the sole cause of the broken flagstones.
The recommendations of the Task Force to disallow vehicles in the Square is impractical for events and basic facilitation of the Square’s businesses and interests. The recommendation of increased loading zones around the Square is wonderful but there are great concerns about enforcement. Will vehicles be disallowed and then the zones established or will the zones be established and enforcement instituted first?
Perhaps a simpler resolution would be to better enforce the rules of vehicles on the Square between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. There is a sign on the Square stating vehicles are permitted on the Square between these hours with police permission. Artists could apply for a permit to drive on the Square during these hours from the 8th district and display the permit when on the Square.
Either way, it has never seemed to me to be artist vehicle that are causing the destruction of the flagstones. But natural usage and subsidence. Particularly in the large problem area near the corner of St. Ann and Chartres street. Even if it was vehicles, the large delivery and special event trucks are the more likely culprit.
Interesting to note also is the line from the recommendation at the end of the first full paragraph on page 6 that reads, “Note: The Cathedral has frequent and legitimate needs to allow vehicles to drive on the malls such as funerals and weddings and should be exempt from regulation.” There should be clarification on what constitutes “legitimate” and perhaps even a review process to see if a disabled artists could also be considered having a legitimate need to drive their vehicle onto the Square.
The posted permitted hours on the Square are reasonable and should be maintained over absolute banning of vehicles on the Square (except for the Cathedral). Though blanket permits instead of police escort sounds like a more fitting solution.
I don’t think anyone disagrees about this one. There needs to be better policing of the Square. Particularly, “the benches.” As an artists, one of the best places to set up is directly in front of the Cathedral. It’s beautiful there. I began setting up there and particularly enjoyed the bright setting, the large open space and the large crowds passing by my work. Less enjoyable were the groups gathered on the benches. I have witnessed knife fights, numerous passed out drunks in the middle of the day, loud, vocal curse-word filled arguments, harassments of tourists and their families and shoe shine scams. I have called the police many times and they do respond but going through the dispatch process usually slows things down (the dispatcher always seeming to have better things to do) and by the time the police arrive, the guilty parties have vanished. Often times, the officers working the Square are the first to arrive and they show up because a person literally ran over to them and told them what was happening. I’ve seen some perpetrators apprehended and I’ve seen some get away.
The benches are a very unique area to observe the musicians and essentially people-watch. I don’t set up back there anymore because the environment drives the business away. It could be a nice place for a visitor to take their family away from Bourbon Street.
I often set up on Decatur and am a neutral observer to the daily goings on of the mule drivers. From that vantage point I can see a lot and have for two years and many hours.
I’ve never witnessed much obnoxious behavior from the drivers. They essentially stand in front of their carriages and announce their prices and services over and over again. I am set up there for eight to ten hours a day and it’s not a nuisance to me. So I can’t see how it could bother a tourist to hear it for a few seconds. Tourists who don’t want to take the tour just say “no thanks” and keep walking. Some tourists walk up and down the line listening and eventually pick a carriage. Some tourists have questions about the tour and the drivers oblige them. I can say without hesitation that I have never seen an incident out there between a driver and a tourist as a result of “barking.” I do see an awful lot of happy visitors to the city after their tour.
They also should be free to choose their carriage and their driver. There are different styles of tours and drivers and carriages. Some drivers have more personality than others. Styles vary. Basically, the driver does their tour in a certain fashion and the people on the tour can then either not recommend the driver to their friends and try another one next time or come back the next year with their friends and take the same driver. But the better experience for the visitor to New Orleans is to allow them a choice. It also encourages the drivers to present unique tours.
However, there does need to be a better effort to control the manure. Since the article in the Times-Picayune a few weeks ago, I have seen more attention paid to the issue. Pretending it’s not a problem isn’t any sort of solution. Carriage business owners should be given an opportunity to address the poop within their own companies and if it still persists, move from there. Only problem there is they are denying it’s an issue at all.