Why I'll Tune In To New Orleans City Council Tomorrow (& You Should Too)

Cover “The Mascot,” November 15, 1890. Cartoon by F. Bildestein

If you’re the sort of person who is inclined to livestream the proceedings of a city council meeting—and I am—you might want to tune in tomorrow (Oct. 24) at 11am EST here.
That’s when the New Orleans city council will vote on a final draft of the city’s revised Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
Here’s why I’ve become that sort of person:
• Here‘s my recent post with some background on the implications for the city’s indigenous jazz culture.
• And here‘s an Open Letter from David Freedman, General Manager of the city’s flagship radio station, WWOZ-FM, containing  “fourteen questions about the consequences of that Ordinance for live music in New Orleans.”
• Here‘s some relevant background from the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO).
• And here‘s one practical illustration of what’s at stake.
Now, if you also happen to the be sort of person who will be in Washington, DC for the Future of Music Coalition’s Future of Music Policy Summit 2014, please join me on Oct. 27, as I delve more deeply into these and related issues:

“The Fight for New Orleans Jazz Culture, and What It Means”
A frank and open conversation about the tensions between the city of New Orleans and its celebrated indigenous music culture, the current activism surrounding new cultural policy, and the implications for other American cities. Journalist and critic Larry Blumenfeld, who writes for The Wall Street Journal and has delved deeply into this subject, will interview David Freedman, general manager of WWOZ-FM and Ashlye Keaton, entertainment attorney and educator (both cofounders of the and Bernie Cook, Director of Film and Media Studies, Georgetown University.
Includes an open forum for questions and ideas.
Mon., Oct. 27: Salon C in the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center,
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm.

Marking Time, and Making Time For Smart Cultural Policy, in New Orleans

Cover “The Mascot,” November 15, 1890. Cartoon by F. Bildestein

My son Sam turned six today. We’ll make a big deal out of it in our family, reflecting on remarkable growth that began in trauma (four weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit) and dreaming about his future.
Next Friday will mark nine years since the floods in New Orleans caused by the levee breaches that followed Hurricane Katrina. I suspect some locals will celebrate or conduct solemn ceremonies, while others entirely ignore the date. I doubt much national media will pay attention. I know there will be a big wave of coverage (mine included) next year, when that particular trauma turns ten: We tend to reflect most around round numbers.
I’ve been ambivalent toward these anniversaries based on my experience. I recall during the first anniversary of the flood, one Lower Ninth Ward family stood by and watched as an anchorwoman held her microphone in front of their devastated home: “The producer said he doesn’t want us in the picture,” the father told me, holding his baby in his arms. Point being: Pay close attention to—don’t ignore—the lives represented by each house destroyed and rebuilt or not, every neighborhood that comes back or doesn’t. (For what it’s worth, here are my accounts of August 29 in New Orleans, from 2007 and 2010.)
The conversations—often battles—of nine years ago concerning what would get rebuilt and wouldn’t and who would return and wouldn’t has in large part now given way to debates—and, again, battles—over the shape and character of a “new” New Orleans.
Those of us who remember the green dots on maps issued in January 2006 by then-mayor C. Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission—targeting certain hard-hit areas of New Orleans as future park space—know that the future of New Orleans, and the city’s character, has a lot to do with how its spaces are zoned and used. Amid the panic and fury of alarmed residents whose neighborhoods had been overlaid with those green dots, and who expected to return and to rebuild, that 2006 map quickly met its demise. Yet many of its ominous implications have played out anyway through obstacles to rebuilding and land-grabs.
On August 26, three days before the anniversary of the 2005 disaster, the New Orleans City Planning Commission will begin a series of public hearings regarding a Draft Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
According to the Planning Commission’s website:

New Orleans’ zoning ordinance no longer meets the needs of the city today and is an obstacle to creating the city of the future. The 1970s zoning ordinance—unsuitable for a 21st-century city—has been amended so many times and overlaid with so many changes that it is extremely difficult to understand and riddled with inconsistencies.

Public hearings on the CZO are scheduled for August 26, as well as September 2 and 9. Written comments must be received by 5pm, Monday, September 1, 2014. (For details, look here.)
What does all this have to do with culture?
A great deal. Continue reading “Marking Time, and Making Time For Smart Cultural Policy, in New Orleans”