Dirty, Dirty New Orleans – An Open Letter to Latoya Cantrell

As many of you are aware, New Orleans issued a smoking ban in the city that started at midnight on April 22nd, 2015. The ban prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos and was later amended, at the insistence of many on July 23rd.
Here’s what the law says:

No smoking in the following Indoor facilities:

• Bars
• Restaurants
• Casinos and other gambling facilities
• Hotels and motels
• Workplaces Schools (preschool to post-secondary)
• Private Clubs Common areas of multi-unit housing, including apartment complexes and condos
• Buildings and vehicles owned, leased, occupied, or operated by the City or State Prisons and other correctional facilities
• Most other public places (enclosed by two or more walls/barriers), including: hospitals, nursing homes, public buses and street cars, retail stores, and retail service businesses

Indoor smoking is permitted at the following and with these qualifications:

• Private homes and vehicles
• Private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, when requested by all occupants in writing
• Tobacco businesses
• Electronic smoking device businesses (vape shops)
• Cigar bars legally operating on or before 12/31/14 or with a pending application to operate as of 3/6/15 that is ultimately approved by City Council. However, smoking is limited to cigars.
• Hookah bars legally operating on or before 12/31/14. However, smoking is limited to hookahs. Convention facilities during Mardi Gras Balls
Outdoor smoking is banned at the following:
• Workplaces, such as construction sites
• In and within 5 feet of Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Plaza on Loyola Avenue
• In and within 5 feet of Lafayette Square
• Sports arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters, and recreational areas with playground equipment, except during concerts, fairs, farmers markets, festivals, and parades In bleachers and grandstands for use by spectators at sporting events
• State law: Smoking prohibited within 25 feet of public entrances and wheelchair ramps of office buildings owned by the State
• State law: Smoking prohibited within 200 feet of entrances, exits, and outdoor areas of elementary and secondary schools
These ordinances were enacted for 2 reasons: to improve public health by eliminating second hand smoke, as well as reduce tobacco use and to clean up the city. You see, New Orleans has a bit of a tidiness issue.

Bourbon Street looking pretty normal

Bourbon Street looking pretty normal

Rated in 2012 by Travel & Leisure magazine as the 2nd dirtiest city in the U.S., you cannot help but notice the tidiness issue of the city. Litter and debris are everywhere, even in some of the tonier sections of town like the Garden District, you see garbage strewn about, and huge potholes. It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. It all looks like it just happened a few weeks ago. Now I know that New Orleans likes to show off its more unkempt image, feeling that this adds to the flavor of the city. The grittiness of New Orleans is a part of its charm, or so they say. I say that grittiness is a Mardi Gras masque not quite hiding what really is going on.
A walk down Bourbon Street is a lesson in debauchery. The sites are pretty bad. The smells are even worse. The smell of vomit, urine, feces – both human and animal pervades the street and assaults the nostrils. Everyone we spoke to who had gone to Bourbon Street said the same thing – yuk!

 

Now, walking on Bourbon Street, once you’ve suppressed the urge to vomit yourself, is a dangerous thing. Jimmie & I went down there with our friend, Brian Berk, owner of Mancave Cigar Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As we walked down Bourbon Street, both of the guys were gawking at the array of semi-nude women lining the entryways to clubs such as Larry Flint’s “Barely Legal” and “Hustler” adult entertainment clubs. To be honest, there were more strip clubs on Bourbon Street then there were jazz clubs. If you have strip clubs, then can hookers be far behind? No, of course not. As we walked down Bourbon, at one point, Brian put his arm around my shoulder, partially to protect me. As he did so, a woman came up to us and asked him if he and his lovely wife would like to have a threesome with her. I immediately said I wasn’t his wife and my husband was just behind us, to which she said, well, how about a fourway? Brian told her to leave us alone.

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The Daytime Strippers on Bourbon Street

 

Ok, so that’s Bourbon Street. Maybe I am just too old for it now or I don’t appreciate it. What about the rest of the city? Homelessness is rampant in New Orleans, with large groups living under the I-10 overpasses or in abandoned buildings. According to city statistics, there are approximately 6500 people living on the streets in the downtown area. The homeless move about the city, begging for money, some rather aggressively. Jimmie and I stopped for breakfast at a quaint eatery on St. Charles Avenue, in the Garden District. We decided our first day to eat outdoors, mostly because Jimmie was enjoying a stogie. As we ate, a homeless woman asked us for some money. We ignored her. She still stood there, hand out, and getting impatient. When Jimmie asked her to move along, she became belligerent. She said she had every right to stand right there and who did we think we were to tell her to move along. It was a bit unnerving at 9am on a sunny, hot Saturday morning. New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, acknowledges the homelessness problem, and has a plan in place to eliminate homelessness from New Orleans in 10 years.

Sleeping in a doorway outside Jackson Square, NOLA

Sleeping in a doorway outside Jackson Square, NOLA

 

So, the French Quarter ain’t so quaint. The city smells bad and is badly littered and pot-holed. There are lots of homeless panhandlers everywhere. BUT – there is always great entertainment and food, right? I mean, this city is known for its hospitality, right? Well, we had a hard time encountering genuine Southern hospitality. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING closes exactly on time, if not just a bit early.Here are some examples that we personally encountered:

• We went to dinner rather late because we had picked a friend up from the airport. He really wanted some authentic New Orleans cuisine, so we went directly to the French Quarter. By the time we found parking, and then got to the restaurant that was recommended to us, it was 9:30pm. The restaurant’s hours on the door said that they closed at 10pm, so we thought we were OK. But, they stop seating customers at 9pm, so we were turned away. They had no desire to seat us whatsoever, and we were told quite in a matter of fact way, “We do not seat patrons after 9pm because we close at 10pm.” Just to contrast that, my daughter is in Washington D.C. this week with friends. They wanted to eat at a nice restaurant in the Capital area, so called to make reservations. The restaurant closes at 10pm but they were given a 9:45pm reservation, were seated & had a lovely meal although they left the restaurant about 11pm.
• We had gone to the Cigar Bash, and arrived back at the hotel at about 9:50pm. I was still a bit peckish, and wanted something sweet. We went over the hotel’s restaurant and ordered a cookie with some ice cream. The waitress put in the order, then went back to the kitchen. She came out and said that the cook had already cleaned up & closed the kitchen, so she couldn’t fill our order, even though there was no cooking involved. She said that the kitchen closed at 10pm, but that the cook had already locked everything up. We were out of luck.
• The convention closed at 5pm. The air conditioner was turned off, the lights darkened and announcements made continually. They also lock all the bathrooms just before 5, so if you needed to use a bathroom on your way out, you just had to hold it.

 

103637459-new-orleans-police-motorcycle-is-seen-as-revelers-walk.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeThe city is also plagued with crime. New Orleans was the 2011 “Murder Capital” of the United States. Murder isn’t the only crime happening here. During the week that the IPCPR took place, there were 543 reported crimes. These include assaults, theft, robberies, fraud, murder, sex crimes, car jackings, and petty larcenies. Reading the Major Offense logs is frightening at best:

 

#22831-15 Agg. Battery (Cutting) Unit 211A 0746 hours 3006 Monroe Street P/O Tusa Victim: Male, 3/9/68 Arrested subject: Ruffin, Robert, B/M, 3/17/66 Gist: The arrested subject approached the victim armed with a knife cutting him several times. Victim was transported to a nearby hospital and suspect was arrested on scene without incident. ***********************************************************************

#G-23483-15 34S/Agg. Battery (Shooting) Unit 683B 20:13 hours 1931 Annunciation St P/O Vanderhorst Victim: Male, 7/10/07 Gist: Two black males were walking in front of the location when a blue SUV pulled up and the occupants started shooting. One of the bullets went through the front wall and struck the victim. The victim was taken to a local hospital by private conveyance. ************************************************************************

#G-23596-15 64G/Armed Robbery (Gun) Unit 533C 22:12 5036 N. Rampart St. P/O Lauer Victim: Male, 10/8/67 Gist: The victim was unlocking his door when he was approached by two black males from behind. The perpetrator produced a handgun and ordered the victim inside his residence. Several items were taken and the perpetrators fled. **********************************************************************

Page 2 of 2 THIRD PLATOON #G-23724-15 20F/Traffic Fatality Unit 3715 00:31 hours S. Carrollton/Tulane Ave. P/O Ellis Victim: Male Gist: Victim was on a motorcycle when his front wheel lodged into a basket that was in the middle lane. The victim struck a concrete guard rail and expired on the scene. ************************************************************************

#G-23772-15 64G/Armed Robbery (Gun) Unit 449C 01:19 hours Eliza St./Whitney Ave. P/O Clark Victim: Female, 1/14/65 Gist: The victim, a cab driver, picked up an unknown black male at 5699 Tullis Drive. When they reached the intersection, the subject produced a handgun and demanded the victim’s money. The victim complied and the perpetrator fled with $60.00.

This is just an excerpt of the log from 7am, July 18th to 7am July 19th. There was only 1 day when the convention took place that it didn’t read like this, and it was the log for July 21st. There was only 1 report on the log that day. Speaking with many people who attended the ICPCR, we heard stories about being robbed at gunpoint to being drugged with ruffies and rolled for all their money. When the later victims of this last incident went to the police to report the crime, they were told that it happens twice a night in New Orleans and it was highly unlikely that they would ever catch the assailants. REALLY?? ISN’T THAT WHAT THE POLICE ARE SUPPOST TO DO???? But the NOPD really stands for “Not Our Problem, Dude” not the New Orleans Police Department.
So, LaToya Cantrell, if you would really like to clean up New Orleans, how about starting with the police department’s attitude? The crime? The in-hospitality? The potholes? The homeless? The dirty, littered street? The Porn & Smut on the most famous street in New Orleans? The hookers?
I think that smoking and second-hand smoke are, by far, the lowest thing on the list.

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