In a recent post, the anti-noise groups claim to pro-music.

photo of No Noise sign

The planned press conference on the steps of City Hall didn't tke place earlier this week, but a coalition of neighborhood associations have released what they call "Seven Essential Items" for a New Orleans noise ordinance. In the announcement posted at NoiseNola.wordpress.com, coalition chair Nathan Chapman is quoted as saying:

A noise regulation system that is fair and functional is actually pro music. It protects the health and hearing of our musicians and it allows a higher quality, more enjoyable listening experience.

It's one thing to want to limit noise in New Orleans, but to claim to be pro-music? Are members of the coalition asking us to believe that when residents complained about noise at neighborhood venues, that they were doing so on behalf of the poor musicians? That when Quarter residents who live near Bourbon Street complain, that they're worried about the sad tourists from Wichita who'd enjoy the version of "Mustang Sally" so much more if the PA were only quieter?

Elsewhere in the post, Val Exnicios, president of Algiers Neighborhood Presidents Council, said, “As New Orleanians, music is part of our DNA. We respect the spontaneity of a secondline [sic] and treasure our homegrown musicians. But serious musicians, event organizers and club owners work hard to reward us with wonderful melodies at sensible times with proper volumes, because their talent depends on being able to hear." Is Exnicios saying "Music" = "wonderful melodies," and the other stuff - rock, hip-hop, everything else - is noise? Maybe, but the overall language sounds more like that of someone who's speaking in platitudes, someone for whom music is part of an abstract sense of civic pride rather than a genuine part of his social and personal life. That's all speculation since I don't know Exnicios, but the simple equation of music and melody sets off all kinds of red flags.

It's certainly possible to love music and dislike noise, but those holding that position should recognize that the people affected by their campaign are those who make the music they love. Is this a version of hate the sin/love the sinner? When they claim to be the pro-music dog in this hunt, the proposal sounds phony and invites suspicion that it's part of a larger, nefarious plot.

Some of the proposals are problematic, particularly the provision for public notification and comment before granting Mayoralty permits that allow live entertainment. The whole of New Orleans has a vested interest in live music, particularly in smaller venues. In those spaces, the city offers an intimate musical experience that doesn't happen elsewhere, and it's fair to wonder if, left to their own devices, any neighborhood would allow another live music venue. It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to conceive of Carrollton residents supporting Jimmy's as long as it was located near The Howlin' Wolf. Putting decisions that affect the city's life blood in the hands of the neighborhoods could hurt all of us while the residents protect their property values. 

The announcement has some upsides, though. For supporters of live music, the terms of the discussion have been set. If taken at their word, opponents aren't against music; they're against volume. Figure out how to address volume and you stop the complaints. The other lesson addresses tactics. While supporters of live music have fought the city and filled Facebook with gotcha irony and invective, the anti-noise activists quietly made political allies, all of whom are connected to their council people. In short, the anti-noise forces have a much better ground game than the live music activists because they're far better focused on their goals and how to achieve them.

These Seven Essential Items underscores the downfall of potential downfall of Mayor Landrieu's administration's preferred Coordinator-in-Chief posture. Instead of framing the conversation and establishing certain basics - live music is first among equals, for instance - it gets parties to the table or lets  them work out their own disputes. So far, that often means the more politically savvy roll their opponents, even against what's in the city's best interests.