New Orleans IS Different from the rest of the state

Aimee Freeman (our LA Dist 98 rep) HB 372 would have increased fines for bad apple developers (who we know best from their doubles-to-dorms activities). She presented it to the Committee of Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs at the State Capitol on Thursday morning (May 13), joined by Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. It would authorize the City of New Orleans to impose a daily penalty for building code and zoning violations (for residential structures only)—and for working/demolition/occupancy without a permit. It was deferred for another term. Below is Keith’s excellent letter in response to what we hear all too often: ignorance and resentment from elected officials outside New Orleans. Be SURE to watch the video, starting at minute 9:00, to see Aimee and Joe G, and the hostile questions and responses to their statements. <> <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>Sent: Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 1:47:58 PM CDTSubject: HB 372: New Orleans is different, whether you like it or not
Senator Luneau:

I was shocked to watch, at the link below, you and other committee members complain about having to help the City of New Orleans deal with scofflaws who brazenly violate zoning laws and refuse to remove their illegal constructions.  Whether you like it or not, New Orleans is a unique city.   Walker Percy once remarked that if aliens abducted you and then put you back in the US, you would only know where you were if they dropped you in San Francisco, New York, or New Orleans.  New Orleans takes in millions of tourists every year, and is on the same A-list as Manhattan, Miami Beach, and San Francisco.  It is the birthplace of jazz, and many other forms of music have prospered here. Many writers, actors, and other celebrities, either born here or attracted by the creative atmosphere of the city, have lived here – Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Brad Pitt, John Goodman, Trent Reznor, Tennessee Williams, Lil Wayne, William Faulkner, James Carville, Wendell Pierce, Anne Rice, just to start, and young creative people move here on almost a daily basis. The City is home to several universities and major corporations, and is a major seaport and railroad connection. Because of its historic heritage, because it has miraculously managed to retain whole intact historic neighborhoods full of homes, large and small,  in architectural styles unseen anywhere else on the planet, and because it is a center of culinary invention, whose chefs are known world-wide, many visitors want to stay here — often in our neighborhoods in short term rentals.  

Because people from all over the world want to visit, live, work and create  in New Orleans, there is a high demand for housing, not only for wealthy celebrities and tourists, but also for the people who will cook for them, run the streetcars for them, and clean up the streets after they leave, not to mention those of us who haven’t given up our day jobs.  Running a City with that many tourists and long term visitors is a complex task.  Older houses need constant renovation. Parking needs to be regulated. Alcohol and food safety regulations need to be enforced.   Streets need to be fixed, and water, drainage and sanitation have to be provided.  The big bucks that can be made in in historic neighborhoods attract the best contractors and operators, who follow regulations and obtain and comply with permits, and unfortunately, also attract the worst, who illegally convert residential housing into rentals for tourists and other short term visitors, driving up housing costs for the rest of us.  Often, these violations are not discovered until the work is complete. If told to remove illegal constructions, the bad apples often ignore regulators.

To suggest that Louisiana should have one-size-fits-all state statutes regulating maximum penalties for zoning violations is to ignore the differences between New Orleans and much of the rest of the state. If  the legislature doesn’t want to adjust state law through local and special amendment to allow the City to do what it needs to do to effectively regulate construction because legislators see it as New Orleans asking to be treated “special,” then perhaps you should just set New Orleans and the rest of the municipalities in the state free, by removing many of the state laws limiting local autonomy, including caps on local government’s ability to set fines. We know what works for us, and I imagine the rest of the local governments feel the same.

The problems that Councilmember Giarrusso and Rep Freeman presented are real problems that currently –right now, today– affect me and many other New Orleanians. If lobbyists have problems with the proposed changes, they should be made to make their objection in open hearings, not by whispering in the ears of legislators.

I am profoundly disappointed to see this innocuous legislation shunted off for another term because too many thin-skinned legislators get their egos bruised by having to make the effort to understand the unique problems confronting the City of New Orleans. If your children have different needs and desires, do you force them to fit the same mold?  Do you complain about or celebrate their differences and eccentricities? Once again, the legislature has shown us why Louisiana is last in almost everything, controlled by petty jealousies and lacking in reason, charity, and understanding.


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. It’s a great letter, and says what we all know is truth.

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