After about three hours of passionate and sometimes pointless pontificating by both the public and the politicians, the Lafayette City-Parish Council Tuesday voted in favor of an ordinance that prohibits open alcohol containers downtown and on the Simcoe and McKinley strips. The law exempts certain city-sanctioned events like Mardi Gras, Downtown Alive!, ArtWalk and Festival International.
The so-called “go cup ordinance” passed by a 5-4 margin, with Councilmen Purvis Morrison (District 1), Jay Castille (2) Sam Dore (6), Don Bertrand (7) and Keith Patin (8) voting in favor; Councilmen Brandon Shelvin (3), Kenneth Boudreaux (4), Jared Bellard (5) and William Theriot (9) opposed the measure. The ordinance was voted down in September by the same margin. The difference Tuesday was Morrison, elected in October to be Scott’s next mayor, who changed his mind and voted “aye.”
In what would be a prelude to a cavalcade of downtown residents, business owners and other interested parties addressing the council during the public comment portion, Police Chief Jim Craft defended the ordinance both on constitutional and public-safety grounds: “Courts have ruled that communities can set standards and have certain standards. School zones — you can’t have a firearm in a school zone,” Craft reminded the council. “We do designate certain areas where we have special enforcement rules. ...Communities do it in certain areas at certain times.”
But Craft generally used the soft sell in pressing his case, emphasizing that opposition to the ordinance was not tantamount to opposition to law and order. “It’s back to the drawing board for us if it doesn’t pass,” he acknowledged matter-of-factly.
There was, to the chagrin of those awaiting a vote on the measure, the anticipated, drawn-out litany of allusions to threats to Louisiana culture and “it’s not really a problem” that have bedraggled the debate heretofore. Surprisingly, the most articulate opposition from the public came from attorneys Bill Goode and Kirk Piccione, both of whom have offices downtown.
The former argued that there are already laws that address the problems the go cup ordinance seeks to remedy: “Think about the practical consequence of this. All the laws on the books would take care of any of the situations.” The latter was a champion of individual rights: “Whenever there’s a problem we pass a new prohibition, we put in place another restriction. When people commit crimes with guns we say, ‘Let’s take away guns from everybody.’” (The jury is sequestered in deliberations regarding whether “we” say that, but the counselor’s rhetorical gifts are much admired.)
Others, including fellow downtown attorney Richard Broussard, alluded to the sense of existential and physical jeopardy citizens feel when strolling the gauntlet of Jefferson Street on weekend evenings, clumps of young men aggregated in imposing gaggles, blocking the sidewalks, testosterone steaming from their pores.
Arguably the most compelling argument in favor of the ordinance came from downtown restaurateur and former interim City-Parish Councilwoman Michele Ezell, who spoke in favor of a balance of economic interests downtown, including bars, but noted that the perception of downtown Lafayette has changed in recent years due to the growing problem of crowds that hang out and drink but do not patronize the bars.
“The dynamics of our little district have changed,” Ezell told the council. “It’s clear when we clean up in the morning that some of this activity is not generated by the bars. When I pick up a bottle of Wild Turkey, I can’t think of a bar that sells bottles of Wild Turkey.”
By the time the public comment portion wound to a thankful conclusion, councilmen Boudreaux and Shelvin, opponents of the ordinance from the outset (Shelvin’s District 2 encompasses downtown), spoke passionately about the disparity in priorities by law enforcement. Each represents districts with crime problems that far outpace those of downtown, yet each feels his district is given incommensurate attention by police. Both councilmen suggested, without saying, that race – downtown Lafayette especially has become an increasingly attractive party destination for blacks – may play a role in the perceived urgency of the ordinance.
“This is what Lafayette is resorting to – removing a group of people from a particular area because they’re not wanted,” Boudreaux opined following the public comment portion of the meeting. “Some say this isn’t about race. I hope that’s true.”
Councilman Bertrand, an ardent supporter of the ordinance who was instrumental in reanimating it after its September demise, is credited with the best line of the meeting: “I suggest that Rome is burning and no one smells the smoke.”
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.