K-Doe and the Golden Rule

I miss K-Doe, I really do.

I really miss Antoinette. I always had such admiration for her. She took Ernie, lifted him up, straightened him out and made him a real star, while at the same time she contributed to the community.  Antoinette was truly the Empress of the Universe. K-Doe is even a bigger star after he and Miss Antoinette passed away. He lives on in (sort of) a corporeal form in the K-Doe statue. His memory and veneration is such that he’s the subject of the Congo Square poster for the Jazz Fest this year (note the photo of me and “K-Doe” sitting together at the Jazz Fest press conference.)

Jan and Ernie, enjoying the sunshine at the Jazz Fest press conference.

You can’t help but smile when you see him, still (somewhat) here, after being deal for almost 13 years. Wonder if the statue he’ll be interviewed in the Grandstand this year?

The noise ordinance issue continues to confound and raise the ire of residents, businesses and musicians alike in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, especially on Frenchmen Street.

Supposedly, Councilmembers Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer were to introduce a revised ordinance (again) to the City Council for study. Palmer is serving her last few weeks in office, but has been involved in this issue almost since she was elected to the Council. I believe they want o make an impact before the council welcomes its new members on May 5.

To add another political level to the process (and to his credit), Mayor Mitch Landrieu has convened a series of small meetings with stakeholders (residents, businesses, bands, cultural representatives, bands and business and resident organizations) to try to get a good handle on what needs to be done to build a consensus for a sturdy ordinance that has a chance for enforcement.

The rhetoric on both sides (music community vs. VCPORA) ballooned into a march on City Hall, and the revelation that the attorney who’s filed most of the lawsuits against French Quarter clubs made questionable and potentially threatening comments to Ms. Palmer and to Robert Watters, the head of the French Quarter Management District.

Hopefully, now, cooler heads will prevail, and Landrieu—who has been a mediator for decades—can help further the process.

While I personally have staunchly stood up for musicians and culture-bearers in this issue, I have repeatedly said that there has to be some common ground we can agree on, and an ordinance can be developed. But there must be a consensus among everyone, if possible. Even more important, there has to be a plan to adequately enforce any laws that come out of this process.

The development of the ordinance is an extremely complex matter. But if nothing else, the real reason it needs to exist (and to be enforced) is that some people and businesses just are not courteous to their neighbors. This includes the clubs on Bourbon who allow music that’s so loud it creates a nuisance for other businesses and residents, as well as a brass band that plays on Frenchmen that’s also so loud as to close nearby businesses down.

If life and people acted civilly towards each other, and used the “Golden Rule” in their dealings—well, we wouldn’t have these problems, would we? The rogue Bourbon Street folk would turn it down; the brass band would too, and we could all live and work together in this great city.

Here are a few steps that should be taken:

  1. The City Council should heed the work performed by David Woolworth and use his recommendations in any ordinance that’s proposed.
  2. There should be reasonable limits set up, maybe even on a block-by-block basis so that there’s no “blanket” requirements for the city. Setting one limit in an area is just not feasible.
  3. The “enforcement arm” must be  created and its efforts should be consistent (most recently the Health Department is supposed to be hiring people to monitor sound problems and to mediate these issues, rather than the police).
  4. The city should provide tax incentives to venues that encourage them to install and maintain serious sound-blocking acoustics in their clubs.
  5. Curfews should be removed for musicians, but there should be decibel limitations on how loud they can play during certain times of the day or night.
  6. Signage should be installed throughout the entertainment zones that notify every one of the limitations on times and decibel levels that are acceptable. This seems like a no-brainer to me.
  7. There should be a mediation arm on the city level to address complaints and violations regarding sound violations.

Of course, all residents need to be kind to each other, to understand that our musical culture is an integral part of what makes New Orleans, New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu has rightfully asserted that, when all is said and done, it’s all about money. What would Bourbon Street look like today if it still hosted the kind of music that’s now found on Frenchmen Street? One of the big issues amongst Frenchmen Street businesses is that they do not want Frenchmen to become another Bourbon, with blasting cover bands, T-shirt shops, strip clubs and “huge ass beers.” I think that’s definitely the right attitude. There’s money to be made from tourists who like that sort of thing—and let’s face it: many places on Bourbon pander to that caliber of tourist.

If there’s money to be made when a business operator who doesn’t really care about the culture and the city, and only cares about a quick buck  is allowed to break the law, then we have problems.  More follow. It’s a domino effect.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to incentivize real live local music throughout the city? If you could make more profit from presenting local music rather than opening another T-shirt shop, wouldn’t that be fabulous? Where would the city be then? Better off?

Yes, it’s complicated. But I think real results will come through getting together one-on-one, talking to our neighbors, relating to their issues, leaving out the inflammatory lawsuits, and discussing ways we can solve our problems amicably.

Golden Rule, y’all.



  • Curious

    Jan, the brass band you’re speaking of often plays loud enough that they can be heard two to three blocks away (so imagine how loud they are if you’re inside at Yuki or Three Muses and can’t hear the groups there very well), they get crowds who block the streets (causing traffic congestion), and they definitely play later than they’re legally allowed to (meaning those people watching aren’t in at the Frenchmen St. clubs). I won’t even get into the fact that they’re not that good, but overcompensate for their sloppiness by volume, and the tourists don’t seem to know any better. You surely know all of this, but the question is why this is able to keep going on? We don’t need a new sound ordinance to keep them in check.