It’s the time of year when I turn my attention to the zany, madcap antics of the satirical parade Krewe du Vieux. KdV is an umbrella organization made up of sub-krewes who design and execute our own floats and costumes. You may recall that I belong to the Krewe of Spank. In 2014, Spank’s theme was Welcome to Dizneylandrieu. It was our masterpiece wherein we mocked our pompous Mayor for encouraging the gentrification sweeping New Orleans post-Katrina. We called him Mitchey Mayor and marched as Mitchketeers. It’s a small fucking world, after all. Long before our take on the Gentrified Kingdom, locals bridled at attempts to transform the French Quarter-indeed the city itself-into Disneyland on the Bayou. Here we go again.
This time the theme is “security” in response to sporadic violent crimes in the tourist belt. Mayor Landrieu has announced a sweeping plan that could transform parts of the city into a 21st surveillance state:
An unprecedented number of electronic eyes will soon be deployed throughout New Orleans, watching over 20 different neighborhoods, tracking vehicles to assist police as they search for suspects and scanning French Quarter revelers to look for hidden weapons.
The massive security deployment, part of a $40 million crime-prevention plan unveiled Monday, includes pumping public and private video feeds into a centralized New Orleans Police Department command center that will be monitored around the clock.
“Here’s the first thing I want everyone to know: When you go on Bourbon Street now, everything you do will be seen,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.
While no closing times will be imposed, bars across the city will be required to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. to discourage patrons from spilling outside, and an early morning spraying of Bourbon Street will further discourage revelry there.
Here we go again. This scheme is an overreaction to bad press every time some jerk with a gun and no impulse control loses their shit after getting shitfaced drunk. That’s almost always the nature of crime in the Quarter. It’s the hardest type of crime to predict, deter, or prevent. In lieu of any meaningful attempts to deal with gun violence, there will be 24-hour surveillance of people getting hammered and doing stupid shit on Bourbon Street.
There’s so much drunken malakatude on Bourbon Street that separating the dangerous assholes from garden variety assholes is a job best performed by foot patrols. The city is already full of “crime cameras” that do not work, why are we to believe that this will be any different? It’s called throwing money at a problem to counter bad publicity. $40 million is a lot of scratch, y’all.
The Mayor attempted to defuse criticism of this misbegotten scheme by extending the surveillance net to other “hot spots” around the city. That’s unlikely to work. Plans like this come down the pike every so often, and city government is all talk and no enforcement. It’s another in a long series of publicity stunts aimed at making white people feel safe in a majority African-American city. Short-term solutions rarely solve long-term problems, but what really matters is that tourists feel safer. #Sarcasm. In short, it’s an expensive PR stunt as opposed to a serious crime prevention proposal.
For many locals, the most controversial part of the plan is the bit about bars having to shut their doors at 3 AM. There are several bars within a 2 block radius of Adrastos World HQ, they keep their doors open all night, and we hear nary a peep. 24-hour bars may sound odd to some of you, but it’s part of the city’s culture. The only reason they should have to shut their doors is if they’re bothering the neighbors. Besides, there’s no longer smoking in bars (something I support) so smokers are going to spill on to the sidewalk in any event. Is the city planning to send inspectors out in the wee hours to enforce this scheme? I am dubious.
Here’s the deal: I’m not much of a bar person nowadays. I have poor hearing so I have difficulty following conversation in a loud barroom. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the vibrant bar culture of New Orleans. The Mayor apparently does not. He’s beginning to remind me of H.L. Mencken’s line about puritanism: “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
You cannot save a city by denying its very essence and turning it into a sanitized version of itself. Welcome back to Mitchey Mayor’s Gentrified Kingdom: