Sobering Center

A proposed “sobering center” could hold 20 beds and serve up to 80 people a day. Police or EMS would deliver a person to the center, where staff perform a triage to determine their care. People can only enter the center if they don’t have any warrants and if they’re not facing other charges related to police placing them into their custody. Otherwise, the center is pitched as a way to prevent people from entering the criminal justice system.

The open-area space would separate men and women with a wall between it. If people need additional detox treatment, Odyssey House would connect them to a medically supported detox program.

Following a tour of the proposed space last week, Moreno tweeted that “it’s critical to explore creating a sobering center” in New Orleans. “This type of tool could save us [New Orleans Police Department] manpower hours while preventing unnecessary ER/jail use.

Royal Mule Team

One of the trueisms about living in the Quarter ( and different from even the experiences of our “almost-residents” aka storekeepers or other business owners)  is the scads of information that one gets from popping out on the sidewalk dozens or more times  in one day, observing the activities or even while still back in your space, hearing them happen and perhaps noting the time in the back of your mind while you put laundry in the washer before any commerce is even beginning. Those activities include workers arriving at dawn and standing in front of your door soberly assessing current tip levels; delivery trucks huffing and puffing outside from 5:30 am on, pulling cases of items out (which ramps up especially in mid-week);  knowing the tour guides who do their work with respect and gusto and those who do not;  separating the good hustlers from the dangerous ones and much more. One other  is learning the names and company of the sanitation crews and the identification of who actually works versus those who just walk and swipe at the ground once in a  while. One of the good ones is Royal Carriages. In case you didn’t know, all of the carriage companies are supposed to take their turn in the Quarter, cleaning up after their mules; however most do not bother. The one company that is consistent and conscientious is Royal Carriages.

Recently, they had an open house at their stables in the Marigny where they invited the locals via social media to see what was up and offered some free food and drink and music. I went by and was impressed by the cleanliness and attention they paid to their space. So when I saw the cleaner out on the cart today and that he was stopped right in front of my door, I thanked him for his work and we had a short chat.  His name is Roger and he is proud of his company and told me that the mules there get 4 months off per year and the place is kept “spotlessly”clean. He was as cheery of a worker as the modern world has and I am glad to have him around and to have a name to assign to his face.

The workers and residents of the Quarter acknowledge each other’s dependency on the other. We share a pride in our place and a willingness to play the hosts to the city’s millions of visitors. Royal Mule Carriages illustrates that truth.


French Quarter safety plan could include cameras that can spot guns through clothing 

This idea is so messed.

Potential constitutional problems as the FQ surveillance plan could include cameras that could detect guns and other objects under clothing.

“I think that this is a violation of people’s constitutional rights, and I cannot imagine that the public will accept that,” Esman said. “It really defies common sense because it presumes that everybody carrying a weapon is going to use it for an improper purpose, and that’s just not the case.”

There are significant questions about how police would use the information gleaned from the cameras and whether that information would be enough justification to search those believed to have weapons, Esman said. That’s particularly true if they would be set up on a public street, where standards are different than requiring people to go through metal detectors or body scanners at airports.”

Cameras that can spot guns through layers of clothing — using infrared or similar technologies — may be included in sweeping new security measures for Bourbon Street to be proposed.

French Quarter safety plan could include cameras that can spot guns through clothing | State Politics |

My take on this take on Jane Jacobs and New Orleans

Post in The Lens by urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz:


My response:

I always appreciate Roberta’s take on things, even though I think that she (and The Lens) sometimes rely on a narrative that is preservation precious, meaning it focuses on historic corridors and “worthy” buildings over a real housing criticism. Her exultation over the neighborhood corridor boom is a bit odd when in New Orleans, neighborhood mom and pops simply never went away but instead brought back after the levee breaks whiter and trendier than before.
Maybe the real issue is the feeling I often have that too many people still have a vision in their head of a return to the halcyon days of Main Street America, circa 1950, and expect city hall to deliver us a version of that, even though our lives and shopping have changed completely. That thinking limits the potential of old corridors and gives tacit approval to keep them empty until someone can redevelop them as before rather than re-imagining storefronts as low-income rental units or as rooms for unhoused population or shared workspaces or (gasp) even green space where buildings were before.

However, Roberta was spot on in her early assessment of the new hospital zone – about it being a developers boondoggle and about offering those jokers retail leases at ground floor and not about a better hospital than Charity.  That one of its aims wasto kill the street retail of Canal Street of one type by moving it to Tulane and likely make the old street filled with very exclusive shops and hotels- that is already coming to pass.
She is right about the code busting happening at City Hall: the new CZO is a joke. A form-based approach to zoning would be much more appropriate to our city than what we got.
The argument about streetcars is sort of lame, as the Rampart line going to Poland was stymied by the railroad and not by local policy or willingness, and the lack of public transportation is a deep and long problem that is not changed by that type of investment that involves streetcars which are clearly for the visitor.

Of course I am annoyed by her ignoring the French Quarter, my neighborhood, which is still a neighborhood and pound for pound the most active, diverse and mixed use area in the city in any 24-hour period; yes we have millions of visitors in our midst, but also have a somewhat steady population since K (and the changes correlate to the Orleans Parish census), more residents than the Marigny, or Bayou St. John or some other areas. We got our problems and some of them like development (or an overemphasis on festival culture!) are getting worse like every other area, but don’t dismiss us just ‘cuz that is the “supernative” thing to do when talking about New Orleans!

Since she was a many-times return visitor who then bought a home (although I think she may have since sold it) I am surprised at her toss off of the short-term rental issue. It seems to me it requires a thoughtful approach by thinkers like her, as she must know that it has allowed many homeowners to keep their house here and to do repairs and new residents to decide where to buy, and so when used well by principal homeowners, this system can be a boon.

But let’s give her writing the credit it is due: “Jacobs did not try to dictate how things ought to be; she wasn’t prescriptive..Local wisdom, she found, is where the best ideas for change take root. They don’t come from political leaders, planning professionals, developers or credentialed experts.” This is so right and because it is what I try to do in my work, I am glad to see it written so beautifully and simply.


(another response I posted the same day to a VCPORA story in the Advocate on lower population in the Quarter since 2000):

First, according to the Data Center, the numerical changes in our FQ neighborhood correlate to the dip in the entire parish. Second, those changes have a lot to do with the love affair planners and neighborhood associations have with encouraging massive single home renovations over incentivizing real mixed use. And the resident and business associations allowing heavy trucks in by just paying a small fee, actively discouraging bike or scooter parking, allowing film and festival culture to take over our area constantly are part of the problem residents have to overcome. Here are some things associations can do right now to swing the pendulum the other way: work to incentivize rent controlled apartments by offering tax breaks to those homeowners who have little used property (including upper floors of commercial buildings, especially on Chartres, Decatur and Canal), walk to find and fine those who hang key boxes on their gate that indicate illegal STR units, create a citizen reporting app to allow FT residents to file complaints immediately and directly about code violations and stop focusing on tshirt shop raids and instead focus on adding amenities that residents care about.

How Tacky T-shirts Became Contraband in New Orleans –

I like some of this tacky stuff and also like the welcoming attitude for our millions of tourists of having many kinds of shops.I do think some of the shopkeepers could try a little harder to find a new niche, rather than crowding more of the same on doorways and on racks with nuclear-level lit interiors and blasting Cajun music across the Quarter. HOWEVER, I agree with a friend of mine interviewed recently in this blog who think incentives and marketing assistance to find new niches may work better than a crackdown, especially one that seems uneven in its focus on certain retailers.
This article makes some very good points here although I might suggest that the author’s comment about “there is little reason to believe they will be replaced by wine cellars or art galleries” is a light slap and one that has no basis in reality, as art galleries do exist in the Quarter, as well as some of our city’s finest antique stores. The culture of our city includes those things and just as some of our loveliest restaurants and best bookstores are found in our city center, those others can and will be found here too.

While a small store owner like Azemas would have to carefully calculate the number of New Orleans Saints shirts he could display in his storefront window when the Saints kick-off their first home game this September, large nearby retailers such as Walgreen’s or H&M can stock rack after rack of New Orleans themed gear without any fear of crossing the 35 percent threshold.

Certainly, no one wants to live in a city overrun with tacky tourists shops, but as the residential population of the French Quarter shrinks, souvenirs are a retailer’s safest bet. Even if opponents of t-shirt shops succeed in getting a few shut down on Bourbon street, there is little reason to believe they will be replaced by wine cellars or art galleries.

Some charge that the attack on t-shirt shops is really an attempt to sanitize the French Quarter and push poor and middle-class people out. Many of the stores are owned by Asian immigrants, and they cater to lower- and middle-class tourists. As an example of zoning enforcement being applied unequally, business owners point to new shop Fleurty Girl. The locally-owned, upscale t-shirt boutique opened a French Quarter location after the 2011 ordinance went into effect—without any major objection from the VCPORA.


The Memphis bridge

Just returned to my Crescent City from the Blues city, a wonderful visit. It was my 7th or 8th trip and most of them were reached by taking the City of New Orleans train there and back.
I like Memphis. I like Southern places where food is central, the air is humid and music flows around and between everything. I like those places because the white assimilated American does not always lead the culture and because of that, old informal ties are often remembered and valued. When I say that last bit to people, they look at me with a doubtful look, and often with some irritation. But it is significant that the South remains conflicted AND multi-cultural. The history of our country is not one story and the South has always known that. Known it and embraced it even with the understanding that many of its own stories are horrific.
To live in Southern cities is to be always dealing with the history of how we all arrived here and attempting to pair that with figuring out how we are all to live together moving forward.
Many white Americans remain obsessed with our arrival only (the version taught) and the narrative of “Manifest Destiny.” Let me be clear-I’m not asking white Americans to apologize for all of the world’s woes or to forget the wonderful things many have done. But to ignore the shared history is what keeps us from fixing it.
White Southerners (especially) will shake their head and say, ” Aren’t we over this race issue yet?” and usually talk about loss of jobs among white people or legislation passed decades ago meant to correct the issue. Although blatant individual racism is less visible, it still exists and institutional racism remains and has even expanded in some arenas. So no, we’re NOT over this race issue yet.

To address some of that lack of awareness, Memphis seems to be a good place to start. Its a place where the North and West can be introduced to the narratives of the South and therefore their own national history. Two places to begin are the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) and the Stax Museum.
As hopefully everyone knows, the NCRM is located at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. It has been built around the motel and even includes the boarding house that the killer stayed.
The museum is a magnificent recounting of the 20th century civil rights movement for African-Americans. It has incredible detailed exhibits for each piece and for the major figures. At the end, you walk between the two rooms that King and his colleagues stayed in and stand quite near to where King was standing when he was killed. You’ll weep throughout. You’ll learn.
Here’s a few things I learned:
About the Highlander Folk School, founded in 1932 in Monteagle TN. This school was instrumental in training generations of organizers.
More information about CORE, (which I had long admired.) This group started the Freedom Rides, later taken up by many others including Students for Non-Violent Coordination (SNCC)
That in 1965 Stokely Carmichael signed up 600 voters in McComb MS, a very dangerous time and place to be doing that work.
That although African- Americans were 42% of the Mississippi population in 1960, only 6% were registered to vote.
That Bogalusa LA, reputed to have more KKK members than any other city began the Deacons for Defense and Justice as a white “self-defense league and soon had more than 50 chapters. (I’d like to know how many Tea party members it now claims)….
That somehow after forcing the sanitation workers to strike in Memphis (which leads to them asking MLK to come to assist them in April of 1968), the strike was quickly settled 15 days after the assassination.
That MLK was always eloquent on how economic disparities were at the base of the civil rights movement.
That the divisions of the movement became quite apparent on James Meredith’s attempted march from Memphis to Jackson, because movements splinter when tactics become more important than the goals.

It should be necessary for every American child to go through this museum. It would be a good place for all Americans to start to link their own family and cultural history to those events in the South and realize how each of us connect through them.
After you leave the main museum, you travel across the street to the boarding house where the killer Ray, stayed. Also impressively done, it resists obsessing over the motivation of the man, because a) how can we know it and b) his story was not an unique one. Instead, after showing you the facts of Ray’s time there (and a very good analysis of the many conspiracy theories) it takes you through a timeline of other political assassinations, and unfortunately, a too-short view of some of the current work being done to address inequalities.
Speaking of inequalities, the protest outside by Jacqueline Smith (24 years and 9 months and counting) is ongoing. She was the last resident of the Lorraine motel and has vowed to never leave. She has gentrification language on her sign and speaks calmly and openly to those who approach her when they approach her that way.

We did that museum first and the next day, did the Stax museum. Stax (or Soulsville USA) was the home of one of the great music artist rosters in the 1950s through the 1970s and was a place that celebrated the joyful, romantic music that is soul. This, my second visit was even better than the first. I went with 2 friends who have impressive knowledge and collections of music and yet this was their first time at the museum, so to see it with them was fun.The staff was wonderful and mostly young and African-American; one of the young woman spent some time with us sharing how she came to work at Stax (after remembering volunteer time as a child cleaning the empty lot where Stax had been and where the museum is again) and the sense of pride and ownership was evident in her demeanor.
The documentary at the beginning of the tour covers how the assassination of King changed everything at Stax; no longer could black and white musicians and writers work side by side. The pain and sadness at the turn of events is evident on all of the faces in the movie, yet all Stax alumni clearly returned at some point and claimed their shared history with the building of the museum, the charter school and music academy. That the school and the academy are already operating (the museum only opened in 2003) is another example of how our good and bad history try to share purpose in the South.
Here’s an example of not having shared history; before my first visit there, I had never heard of Wattstax, the soul festival Stax threw in LA in 1972 to benefit Watts community groups. Over 125,000 African-Americans came together to dance and celebrate with the Stax family without any of the incidents such as the police had predicted. I’ve read dozens of articles and books on 1960s history and like everyone, have seen copious amounts of Woodstock coverage, but had never come across the Wattstax story. It takes time and openness to learn the hidden history of your own time.

Our shared history therefore to me resembles a faded, torn and re-sewn quilt. Full of pieces that don’t fit together perfectly or with designs that might clash but do still need to remain together.
And if you go to Memphis first, you might then begin to understand the pieces that represent New Orleans, Jackson, Birmingham, Greensboro and so on.
Take the time.