A noise ordinance for New Orleanians
This response to recent sound ordinance proposals for the city of New Orleans was drafted by MaCCNO (The Music & Culture Coalition of New Orleans) in conjunction with Sweet Home New Orleans. It is intended for everyone and anyone with a vested interest in our city's culture and economy who do not want important decisions about New Orleans made by a few well-financed and well-connected property owners in the French Quarter.
A NOISE ORDINANCE FOR ALL NEW ORLEANIANS
INTRODUCTION: The Music and Cultural Coalition of New Orleans, a community group composed of musicians, cultural workers, residents, and business owners, offer the following principals for a noise ordinance that works for all New Orleanians. Such a policy must be crafted in consultation with musicians, cultural workers, community groups, residents, business owners, and professional sound scientists, and given ample public hearing.
PREAMBLE: Music and performance are the spirit of our city and they drive our local economy. Live music draws millions of tourists to the city every year, attracts new residents, and enhances real estate values in neighborhoods of cultural and musical vibrancy. A comprehensive noise ordinance that threatens the distinctiveness of New Orleans threatens our quality of life, the long-term economic growth of the city, and the everyday ability of thousands of our residents to earn an income. For New Orleanians, quality of life includes recognizing the interests of performers, residents (both owners and renters), businesses, cultural groups, and visitors in a manner that honors our cultural workers and the traditions -- new and old -- that are our most important asset.
LOCALIZED DECISION MAKING: While a citywide noise ordinance provides necessary coherence, blanket regulations are inappropriate. Regulations should be appropriate to the individual character and soundscapes of the city's diverse neighborhoods and communities. Such policies should be created and enforced with the input of residents, neighborhood associations, businesses, and performers.
MEDIATION NOT CRIMINALIZATION: Noise complaints should lead to a formalized mediation process with the involvement of concerned residents, cultural groups, affected musicians and cultural workers, and local businesses. Criminalizing live music is neither a good neighbor policy nor a good economic policy in a city that thrives on the availability and diversity of music.
PROFESSIONAL ENFORCEMENT AND EDUCATION: New Orleans needs a dedicated office directed with handling noise complaints that is both accessible and accountable. This office must be tasked with providing outreach to residents, businesses, and cultural workers about rules and regulations.
CLARITY OF STREET PERFORMANCE TIMES: Hours of performance and sound levels for street musicians and other performers need to be regulated, but these regulations should not threaten New Orleans' reputation as a city that nurtures music, performance, and cultural innovation. Regulation on street performance must be crafted in consultation with performers themselves as well as residents and businesses. Once determined, hours and levels should be clearly posted on streets and online.
HONORING TRADITION AND INNOVATION: Traditional cultural practices including but not limited to Jazz Funerals, Second Lines, street performers and performance, Mardi Gras Indian practices, parades, and gatherings should be explicitly encouraged and protected in the language of any final ordinance.
Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and advocates for the cultural workforce. Click here for his performance schedule. He writes MAC-Notes for NolaVie. Email him with your comments about cultural issues, particularly in the music world, at [email protected]