After qualifying for the Feb. 1 city elections ended last week, LaToya Cantrell is the only member of the New Orleans City Council without a re-election battle on her hands. With her first full four-year term ahead of her, Cantrell said this week that she can give all her focus to her priorities — blight and housing issues, crime and public safety, and, most immediately, revisions to the city’s Mardi Gras parade rules. Staying focused
One of the biggest divides in this year’s contests may be candidates supported by the mayor or not, and last year in last year’s special election to the District B seat, Mitch Landrieu endorsed one of Cantrell’s opponents, Dana Kaplan. This year, even before qualifying, Landrieu said he would be supporting Cantrell, however, and no one else emerged to challenge her.
While it may be difficult to imagine Mardi Gras floats navigating around the cranes and construction fences that dominate an ever-growing swath of Napoleon Avenue, officials say the site should be secure in time for the coming year’s parades to pass without disruption. As the construction zone grows past St. Charles Avenue in the next year, however, Carnival season in 2015 is expected to bring some changes. Napoleon Avenue is directly in the middle of a five-year, two-phase project to install a major new drainage canal from South Claiborne Avenue to Constance Street (part of a much larger project to reduce flooding from rainstorms that will install similar canals on Jefferson and Louisiana). The $55 million segment from Claiborne to Carondolet began in late 2011, and preparations for the $38 million Carondolet-to-Constance phase recently began with the clearing of crepe myrtles from the neutral ground.
The changes to the laws surrounding Mardi Gras parades that some New Orleans residents have sought for years may soon become a reality, as City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell prepares to release a sweeping set of recommendations based on months of input from neighbors. Cantrell took office just before the 2013 Mardi Gras parade season began, and was quickly inundated with concerns from District B residents about various aspects of them. Barely two weeks after the final parade of 2013 had rolled down St. Charles Avenue, Cantrell pledged to begin studying what permanent changes could improve the event for the future, and she began fielding ideas from residents along the route soon afterward. On Saturday, Cantrell met with many of those same leaders again to discuss a first draft of her findings.
It has taken a year — 362 days, to be exact, since a devastating fire following Hurricane Isaac — but landmark St. Charles Avenue bar Fat Harry’s reopened its kitchen Friday in preparation for a grand reopening party on Sunday. Fat Harry’s opened in 1971, and current owner Debbie Huling began working there a few years later. She and her husband bought the bar in the 1980s, and over the years it became firmly established as a prime gathering point for the university crowd, neighborhood locals and Mardi Gras parade-watchers. After Hurricane Isaac passed, Fat Harry’s was one of the first businesses to reopen while much of Uptown remained without power until the morning of Sept.
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who has been spearheading a review of the city’s Mardi Gras ordinances, said she is open to exploring the idea of changing the parade schedule to include routes other than St. Charles Avenue, according to a report by Monica Hernandez of our partners at WWL-TV. “It’s maybe reaching out to other neighborhoods to see who is interested in taking on the load,” Cantrell said. “Again, you don’t want to make those decisions that will involve and have an impact on neighborhoods without engaging them in the discussion.”
With more Mardi Gras krewes moving to the St. Charles Avenue route, a series of proposals would return the celebration to its neighborhood routes by “bolstering an alternative major parade route in Mid-City, working with Jefferson and the other parishes to coordinate regional parade schedules, adjusting regulations to allow neighborhoods to hold much smaller Mardi Gras Krewe processions, and encouraging those neighborhoods to form ‘Krewes of their own’, something between marching clubs and small float processions,” according to a recent article by Christoper Tidmore for the Louisiana Weekly. Jefferson Parish officials would be enthusiastic about having a night or two more focused on their parades, Tidmore writes, suggesting that they might help with some Orleans Parish parade-route enforcement on other nights in exchange, a potentially attractive option as the multi-million dollar bill for the federal NOPD consent decree looms.
The proposals may be timely, as City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell spends the year brainstorming potential changes to the city’s Mardi Gras ordinances.
When the Krewe of Freret rolls in 2014, New Orleanians will see the return of a parading group that has been absent from the Uptown route since the 1990s. What they may not see, however, is strands of ubiquitous plastic Mardi Gras beads. While the krewe hasn’t come to a final decision, co-captain Bobby Hjortsberg told members of The New Freret business and property owners association on Monday that they are strongly considering a ban on plastic beads, instead favoring more unique, locally-made (and locally-purchased) throws that people may find more desirable. The beads are made in China and have little benefit to the economy of New Orleans, Hjortsberg said, and many local parade-goers don’t even bother to pick them up or take them home any more. “We just don’t want to be part of more waste,” Hjortsberg said.
The reborn Krewe of Freret has received NOPD permission to roll on St. Charles Avenue during the 2014 Mardi Gras celebrations, and now only needs the City Council to add them to the calendar, krewe leaders announced. For details, see the following email from krewe co-captain Robert Hjortsberg:
We are excited to announce The Krewe of Freret has BEEN APPROVED BY NOPD to ROLL down St. Charles Avenue Saturday February 22, 2014!!! We could not be more ecstatic about this news and we want to thank each and every one of you who helped us get this done.
Like the krewes of Choctaw and Cleopatra this past year, the Krewe of Alla will relocate next year from its home for the past few decades on the Westbank to the Uptown parade route in an effort to retain members, according to a report by our partners at WWL-TV.
The Krewe of Alla — which this year paraded 24 floats through Gretna but takes its name from an abbreviation of Algiers, La. — needs 200 paid riders by June 1 or it will seek to move to the Uptown route, according to a report by our partners at WWL-TV. The all-male krewe was founded in 1932 and “traditionally presents the largest parade on the West Bank,” according to Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide.