(Credit and huge appreciation for the title of this post goes to phenomenal New Orleanian Mari Kornhauser.)
(Note: If you are not familiar with the proposed “New Orleans Hospitality Zone District,” please see New Orleanians: If you’re not disgusted by the proposed Hospitality District, then you’re not paying attention.)
Approximately 20 people from New Orleans (predominately from the French Quarter, but also the Faubourg Tremé and the Faubourg Marigny) traveled to the Louisiana State Capitol Building today to represent the citizens’ opposition to the proposed Hospitality District (the special legislative district’s management structure) and the hospitality zone that it would control. (There were also a few people present today whom I didn’t know personally; other affected neighborhoods may have been represented as well.)
I am pleased to report that I personally collected and handed in a stack of at least a dozen opposition speaker comment cards; even more were submitted directly by those in attendance. And although we didn’t get the opportunity to address the committee today, those who were in attendance were clearly willing to go the distance.
It is also known that approximately 40 people wrote personal and individual emails (not form letters) expressing opposition to this act of legislation. It is entirely possible that more emails were sent (these are simply the ones that a particular neighborhood association also received as the result of being included an addressee). This was characterized by someone who is more familiar than myself with this kind of effort as a “bombardment.”
It is believed that these factors contributed significantly to LA State Senator Edwin R. Murray (District 4) deciding to request that LA SB 573 (the “parent bill” for this matter) be temporarily postponed until next week (it was withdrawn from consideration as a part of today’s agenda). However, the Local & Municipal Affairs Committee members also expressed interest in reviewing this matter via a “special meeting” — as a result, it is unclear how or when the next hearing regarding this matter will occur.
On a positive note, it is also believed that Sen. Murray is going to make the effort to bring “all concerned parties” to the table before this goes in front of the committee again. If that becomes the primary reason for additional delay in the formal consideration of this matter, then it’s a good thing.
It is my impression that, had we not shown up today, it might have resulted in dire consequences — this act of legislation might well have been pushed though without significant opposition.
Two things I learned or had reaffirmed absolutely today: there is real power in simply showing up, and every expression of opinion matters (whether in-person, via email, or by phone).
I am willing to personally bet cold, hard cash that, the next time this matter comes before the Local & Municipal Affairs Committee, those who support this measure will have a more substantial in-person presence. The simple truth is that the tourism and hospitality industries have money to throw at this, while average Jane and Joe Citizens have limited time and resources.
If we are going to have the best chance of defeating this act of legislation (if it isn’t revised to a less detrimental/ possibly more acceptable version), it’s going to boil down to this: individuals must make a personal decision to invest themselves.
As very few amongst those who oppose this matter have the luxury of a flexible schedule, I propose the following: If you care about this issue and can’t go to Baton Rouge personally to suit the rescheduling by our Legislature — and many can’t, that’s just a fact of life — then you had better take ten minutes to write and send a damned email explaining why you oppose the creation of the proposed Hospitality District, or pick up your phone and take the time to call our legislators and give ‘em a piece of your mind.
Get involved — every person who throws in matters. We are a community — not a commodity. And it’s up to us, the citizens, to remind everyone involved of this simple truth.
Please stay tuned — more specific information will be made available as soon as it becomes known (including the scheduling of local public meetings or a new hearing date, or information about revisions to the bills included in this act of legislation).