A New Orleans City Council committee is recommending a ban on roping off areas of the neutral ground during parades be added to a list of changes to the city’s Mardi Gras laws, they said Tuesday morning.
During a hearing on the new laws before the City Council Economic Development and Special Projects committee on Tuesday, Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said she would like to see language added to the ordinance prohibiting people from appropriating areas of the neutral ground during parades.
“It shall be prohibited to use ropes or other similar items to create a barricade or otherwise obstruct passage along public property, unless otherwise specifically authorized,” will be added to the new ordinance, based on a 3-0 vote by Cantrell and City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Jackie Clarkson.
The full ordinance will be discussed by the City Council on Jan. 23.
Other elements of the ordinance include a requirement that ladders be kept six feet back from the curb, and not fastened together in any way. No personal property can be in intersections, and no “snap pops” can be sold during parades.
The snap pops, city staffers said, startle and distract police officers who are specifically assigned to look for guns on the parade route.
One controversial provision — a ban on unwrapped toilet paper throws, most prominent during the Krewe of Tucks parade — has already been removed from the ordinance. Cantrell said it is still under consideration, however, because of the challenges that masses of it pose to the city sanitation workers — but she is holding off for this year because Tucks already bought their throws.
The council is also looking to place a limit on the weight and size of throws, to prevent dangerous objects from being thrown from floats, but they have yet to decide on an objective standard for that, said Natalie Mitchell of Clarkson’s office.
The New Orleans Fire Department also requested a formal ban on refueling float generators on the parade route. Chief Tim McConnell said this is already against the rules in practice, but that it should be codified into the law.
Too dark for parades?
Only one member of the public spoke during the hearing. John Martin, a St. Charles Avenue resident, praised the work that has gone into the new ordinance but said he is concerned about the lack of lighting on St. Charles. Thousands of people walk the length of St. Charles to get to and from parades at night, he said, but so many lights are currently out that they will have to walk through the dark.
“If we don’t have lighting, I don’t think we ought to have parades,” Martin said. “Not only do we have tripping and falling hazards, we have criminal hazards.”
Cantrell said she is currently working with city officials to ensure temporary lighting is installed along the route in time for parades, because current plans call for streetcar and utility construction to continue through 2016. Waiting that long to re-light St. Charles Avenue is “unacceptable,” Cantrell said.
Eric Granderson of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office said officials are drafting a six-to-10-year, long-term plan to replace every streetlight in the city with a unit that will be under warranty for 10 years. Clarkson said she wants to ensure that plan has been brought to the City Council prior to Mardi Gras.
To read our live coverage of Tuesday’s meeting, see below.