It’s kicking into fall festival season, and as usual, there are too many things to do every weekend. Couple that with football season and there’s certainly never a dull moment.
Sitting and looking out of my Frenchmen Street corner window, I see a much-changed street scene than I viewed 20 years ago. First of all, there are many more music venues, and also more bars. The street is much busier than it ever was, even during the day. There’s actually foot traffic during day.
Obviously this area is extremely hot: About half the block between Chartres and Royal is being auctioned (sealed bids are due on October 24 to acquire the properties). This includes the so-called “Trash Palace,” the Art Market, all the properties between Royal and Chartres, and the attached property on Chartres Street in this real estate parcel. Will it be possible to create another entertainment zone here? Remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t doubt it.
But here’s the rub: the city has a very difficult time keeping the peace and monitoring Frenchmen Street. The crowds and the associated rowdiness, drunks and shenanigans are hard to keep in check, especially since we don’t have an adequate police presence here. Who knows what could happen if more restaurants, bars and entertainment venues open in the future? This is a real issue.
As St. Claude Avenue also adds more and more entertainment, we can also probably anticipate similar law enforcement and/or safety issues there.
So here’s what gets me about the way New Orleans operates. The right hand never seems to know what the left hand is doing. First, there’s too little communication between city departments (i.e., NOPD, Mayor’s Office, Office of Cultural Economy, Zoning & Permitting, Health & Safety, etc.). There is no coordination to create, decide and enforce policy that requires cooperation and knowledge from all of these disparate groups. This is why we desperately need a person or small department that’s an information and enforcement hub to coordinate policies and enforcement for our “night time” economy (see my blog online on creating a “Night Mayor” for New Orleans).
Second—it’s very hard to get like-minded businesses or non-profits to work together to achieve a common goal. Win-win partnerships work. They can be businesses, public/private, or non-profit/private sector. The participants just have to commit to working together; too many people in New Orleans jealously protect their turf.
And third, businesses whose bottom line produces the most money should be required to give back to their communities concomitantly. I know I’m going to be castigated for this, but whatever: sports teams make a lot of money. Yes, they do entertain the city; they bring in tourists, build community spirit, and also have charities that give to specific causes—but they also get a lot of monetary concessions to stay here and I can guarantee you that their bottom line is extremely profitable. If the hospitality industry is now obligated to help to support the city’s infrastructure, then maybe sports teams should be obligated as well.