Jackson Square needs maintenance and patrolling, not superficial ordinances.

Under a new ordinance proposed by City Council President Kristin Gisleson Palmer at the request of Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu, people would be allowed to walk through the Jackson Square pedestrian mall (the open space surrounding the fenced-in square itself) from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM daily, but it would become illegal to stop, stand, or loiter during that period of time.

NFL Football Season Kick Off Parade on 9/9/10. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

After the nationally televised NFL extravaganza kick off concert event in Jackson Square highlighting the New Orleans Saints’ home opening game on Sept. 9, 2010, the 22-member Jackson Square Task Force was convened to address a myriad of community concerns. A report of this group’s recommendations was presented to City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee on 2/7/11, including the following:

…Jackson Square is not a frozen piece of history.  Instead, it’s a vibrant residential, commercial and tourist hub that is under increasing pressure because of its popularity.  As citizens of New Orleans, we have an obligation to act as stewards of our urban and architectural heritage, particularly those of great significance.  It was in this spirit that Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer convened representatives of the area’s residential, business, institutional, municipal, and religious communities, so that we could come together to discuss ways to protect and preserve this space.

The carefully deliberated recommendations include designating a Special Events Point Person, assigning dedicated round-the-clock security, implementing consistent maintenance activity, and improving sanitation by designating a single entity to be responsible for that task.

In total, the group made 15 recommendations almost two years ago; to date, only one has been implemented (banning vehicles from the pedestrian mall). While the proposed ordinance may superficially address some of the concerns cited, an ineffectual closure of the pedestrian mall for a few hours’ time each day was not among the recommendations.

Smoke from the marsh fire in New Orleans East resulted in an eerily deserted Jackson Square at 2:00 PM on 8/30/11. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

If “tourism is ‘a perception-driven business’,”as stated by Landrieu spokesperson Ryan Berni, why is our city’s administration refusing to implement genuine and visible improvements to enhance Jackson Square? Why do the most recent actions by our elected officials instead suggest what could be described as being a conscious effort to create a “Constitution-free” zone in the French Quarter?

Sunset over Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral as viewed from a balcony of the Lower Pontalba Building on 10/15/10. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

Last month, the American Planning Association named Jackson Square as one of the nation’s 10 great public spaces for 2012. Attempting to ban loitering at Jackson Square for a period of four hours daily will not preserve “its timeless design, historic and cultural significance, and views that encompass some of New Orleans’ rich architectural heritage.”

Mayor Landrieu and City Council, is this really the best that you can do?
Please focus on providing much-needed services (sanitation, maintenance, and security) that will improve the quality of visiting our city’s historic heart instead of proposing ordinances predestined for (wholly avoidable) legal challenges.

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Update 11/29/12 The Governmental Affairs Committee is presently tentatively scheduled to meet at 10:00 AM on Monday, December 3, 2012, at City Hall’s City Council Chambers, 1300 Perdido Street. It is believed at this time that the two ordinances regarding Jackson Square will be discussed and considered at this meeting. Voting regarding these ordinances could occur at any subsequent City Council Regular Meeting; the next is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, 2012. For additional information, please see the New Orleans City Council Calendar.

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Update 11/30/12Good News: Proposed ordinances re: Jackson Square’s pedestrian mall to be withdrawn

15 thoughts on “Jackson Square needs maintenance and patrolling, not superficial ordinances.

  1. Pingback: Two ordinances affecting Jackson Square up for vote on Monday, 12/3/12 « NOLAFemmes

  2. For those who would like to read the proposed ordinance in question, it begins on page 3 of this Google Docs PDF file link: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1P2RjkTD966S3VlRlZRTlNYN1k

    For those who would like more information about the constitutional issues associated with the proposed ordinance, please read Owen Courreges’ “‘Cleaning up’ your Constitutional rights in Jackson Square”

    And for those who would like to learn more about the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case of City of Chicago v. Jesus Morales, et. al., that established anti-loitering laws of this sort as being overtly unconstitutional:

    The ACLU noted in this case that the “…loitering law gave the police powers to arbitrarily select people for arrest and punishment” and argued that “…such laws are likely to be enforced in a discriminatory manner and tend to trap people engaged in wholly innocent conduct.”

    Further, when speaking for the Supreme Court majority in finding the ordinance unconstitutional and unenforceable, Justice John Paul Stevens held that “…the freedom to loiter for innocent purposes is part of the ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

  3. Pingback: Help Occupy NOLA Support Keeping Jackson Square open 24/7 « Occupy New Orleans

  4. Pingback: The Occupation | Help Occupy NOLA Support Keeping Jackson Square open 24/7

  5. Thank you for your insightful commentary on this matter! As a long time resident and former long time worker in Jackson Square, it’s always with a mingled sense of foreboding and “here we go again” whenever City Council proposes one of these things. It’s frustrating, too, because they have created a divisive situation in which some performers are given special treatment and others are considered “undesirables”, thus splitting people emotionally who should be working together.

    Most reasonable people who use the square to entertain tourists – as well as the people who live in the Pontalba apartments – can agree on some of the major problems that occur in the Square. Violent fights between gangs of homeless people, sadly, are a huge part of the issue. The decimated services provided to the homeless and mentally ill in this city have created a crisis situation for not only those down and out themselves, but for those of us who have to encounter the problems the population creates. Unfortunately City Council seems to be unable to respond to these problems in any meaningful way, instead choosing measures like shutting down sites where the homeless congregate (what, in hopes they will just dry up and blow away if they can’t sleep under a bridge?).

    No one wants the constant fighting and littering that goes on in Jackson Square. But punishing people trying to make a living is not the way to fix the problem.

  6. Propose minimal fee fines passed by majority public vote and additional doubling or tripleing these fines to police or security as a hiring policywill keep these sorts of abusive law enforcing thugs in check. The fact that its proven and banned by the highest court in the country tells clearly that what most law enforcements can’t seem to want to aacceptaccepttotounderstand…making their wages based on abusement of power understand the repercussions oaf

  7. Sorry for the ending typo errors. It was the comment box not able to allow for extra commentary. Here’s what is a truth…cops abuse their hirement oath in order to stay employed and get an easy ride through abusing arrest powers to have tax payers pay for that abusement and to have themseles (cops) still be on the wage roll. Lets have them be a accountable by fining them a fee of $100.00 each time a judge throws out the case. Lets have the judge know to carry a clear message straight from the top country court to the smsllest court in the country and every single law enforcing agency or company. The people are the power and the highest court is the msjority

  8. Cont. From last post comment…the people are the power and the majority is the voice and decision being expressed by the highest court in this nation. Those who are not following that voice are abusing the minority and the majority. Them who do that should not deserve or expect wages paid for their abusement. It is e clearly wrong for the majority and the minority to be taxed for such negligent power given abusement. If they are angry over these

  9. Insights of mine and the majority then let them stick it up their asses ass they’ve been doing it to us in general for too too long. Enough is enough….innocent people being treated unfairly hass got to stop

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