James Gill: Sit back, relax and enjoy watching Sidney Torres IV and his 'rock-star good looks' _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Sidney Torres shows the phone app he uses to observe his pilot project for off-duty police details Friday May 1, 2015.

New Orleans needs more people like Sidney Torres IV.

When he has a beef, he takes out a full-page newspaper ad. Other citizens should be encouraged to conduct their public debates in such a civilized fashion.

If Torres does not wish for more people like him, it can only be because he does not think the Lord could do it twice. The somewhat unoriginal burden of the ad that ran in these pages Sunday was that Sidney knows best.

Torres does not suffer from a lack of self-esteem, and it is no wonder. When his company was in charge of French Quarter trash collections, the streets smelled lemony and he pranced around amid adoring throngs. Whenever he read about himself in a newspaper, he would be reminded that he possesses “rock-star good looks.”

Then, after some lowlife invaded his ritzy digs on Esplanade Avenue, he ponied up $300,000 last March for off-duty New Orleans cops to patrol the Quarter in those glorified golf carts called Utility Task Vehicles, which he would track by GPS on his cellphone. Citizens could summon the officers by mobile app.

Torres was still keeping tabs a few months later, after the French Quarter Management District took over the patrols and picked up the tab. Bob Simms, head of the Management District’s Public Safety Task Force, said that Torres would still dispatch film crews to where he knew cops could be found fighting crime in their Polaris Rangers.

Torres had inspired Fox to develop a show about what the Hollywood Reporter called an “enigmatic tech billionaire” whose private patrols rescue a bankrupt city from chaos.

Then one day, Torres gazed at his cellphone screen and was horrified by what he saw — nothing. Simms had changed out the GPS system.

Torres can still monitor calls that come in through the mobile app, which he developed, but pronounced himself “furious” at being otherwise out of the loop.

“They basically took the technology, the creation of what I’ve designed and built, and then started trying to put it into a system that’s broken,” he said.

It is obvious from the new ad that he has not calmed down yet. It comes, we are informed, “from the desk of Sidney Torres IV” and does indeed read like the work of a wooden top.

It is comprehensible only to readers already familiar with the saga, blasting Simms without identifying him and surely mystifying many readers with such bald assertions as “names on the payroll must be checked against GPS data in the app, not the vehicle.”

Underneath it all, Torres’ point is simple one. When he ran the show, it was woe betide any malingerer.

He proves his point with a photograph of a uniformed cop he caught sitting at the bar in Molly’s. The people in charge now, however, are not such dedicated snoopers and are failing to ensure that the cops earn their $50 an hour.

Opposite the picture of the cop goofing off is one of a fellow with a flowing mane who gazes at the camera with aplomb. Readers plowing through the ad soon realize this is not a rock star, but Torres, who, we are reminded, has “developed successful businesses in the past and employed hundreds of people.”

Thus, the patrols were much more efficient when he ran and paid for them. Simms and the NOPD brass now in control would be fired “if this were a business.”

Simms concedes that he is not so much of a martinet as Torres. Simms said in a press interview that he is unfazed if an officer should stop for five minutes at a coffee shop, say, whereas Torres would have hit the roof. Still, Simms said, “We should all be forever grateful to Sidney for making this happen.”

That was a couple of weeks before the ad appeared saying that Simms should be fired, which may have taken the edge off his gratitude and led him to the conclusion that one Sidney Torres IV is enough.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.