Future Carnival seasons could contain fewer parades in an effort to “create a safer parading atmosphere,” under new rules passed recently by the New Orleans City Council.
The latest changes follow about a half-dozen rules changes approved before the 2014 Carnival celebration. The earlier amendments to the ordinance governing Carnival included provisions banning spectators from roping off any portion of a neutral ground, street or sidewalk along a parade route; placing ladders, tents or grills within 6 feet of a curb during a parade; and positioning a portable toilet on public property along a parade route without written permission from the city.
Those changes mostly impacted spectators. The more recent rules are focused on parading organizations.
Both sets of changes are intended to improve safety during the Carnival season, said former Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, who introduced the ordinances along with Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. The newer regulations had the support of all of the city’s parading organizations, Clarkson said.
“This is about safety. Things were getting out of hand,” Clarkson said. “The parades were getting too long. They were getting too late. We were getting requests from first responders to please make changes.”
Under the revised ordinance, the city will issue no more than 30 parade permits each Carnival season, four fewer than in the past. However, any organization granted a permit in the prior Carnival season will be able to hold onto its permit if it meets all requirements. Thus, the number of parades will be reduced only gradually and by attrition. As current organizations drop out, they will simply not be replaced until the number hits 30.
Meanwhile, no more than two permits can be issued for night parades on the same date, but again with a grandfather clause exempting organizations that paraded on the corresponding night in the prior year.
The maximum number of trucks in the two parades following Rex has been reduced. The Elks Krewe of Orleanians now can have no more than 120 trucks, down from 150. The Crescent City parade can have no more than 60 trucks, down from 75.
The number of floats allowed in a single parade has been increased from 27 to 45 “pull units,” defined in the ordinance as a single tractor or mule pulling a float or a tandem float. The minimum number of floats still is 14.
Parade organizations also will be required to provide each float with a “unique, sequential Arabic number” corresponding with its order in the parade, ending the practice of labeling some floats with letters and others with numbers or Roman numerals.
The rules also establish a minimum number of marching bands for each parade, determined by its number of floats. Parades with 14 to 27 pull units must have at least seven marching bands. Those with 28 to 36 pull units must have at least 10. The biggest parades must have at least 14. The previous rules required that parades of all sizes have no less than seven bands.
The new ordinance leaves the rescheduling of rained-out parades to the mayor. There previously had been a schedule dictating when each parade would run if it had to be rescheduled because of bad weather.
“This is because we ended up with five parades one night until 1 o’clock in the morning, at which time there is no safety and no security,” Clarkson said. “We have to start getting a little more serious about this.”
Added to the ordinance were the terms “pull unit,” a single tractor or mule pulling a float or tandem float; “marching band,” an officially sanctioned middle, junior, high school, college, military or university band with no fewer than 30 musicians; and “night parade,” any parade beginning at or later than 5:15 p.m.
The definition of “tandem float” was revised to mean “two or more floats, attached to one another and pulled by a single pull unit.”
The ordinance also establishes the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council, made up of representatives from each Carnival organization that paraded the previous year, as a committee that reports directly to the mayor. The body, among other things, will consider applications from prospective Carnival krewes and make recommendations to the mayor about whether a permit should be granted.
Violating any of the provisions now carries a $500 fine; the amount of the fine had not been specified in the former law.
The changes were approved 6-0 at the council’s April 24 meeting, with Councilwoman Stacy Head absent.
A third and final set of revisions, related to permit fees and fire safety, is expected to be introduced in coming months.