After spending an entire Saturday in the French Quarter, I felt compelled to share my observations. It was a beautiful day, with throngs of tourists occupying seemingly every square inch of real estate. The positive vibe and friendly atmosphere of all these people in various stages of inebriation was undeniable. If having a good time with friendly people is all that is required from a city to be called great, then I wouldn't be writing this letter. But underneath this veneer, there is an ugly reality that needs to addressed by politicians, civic leaders, French Quarter property owners, code enforcement and every citizen.
First, let me say how shocked and angry I became with seeing the number of homeless people sleeping in doorways and lying prostrate on sidewalks and people just walking and stepping around them as if to say this is normal and acceptable. The city will quickly tow your car and bring it to a facility dedicated to housing your car, so why can't the city have a department, on a daily basis, pick up and bring these people to a facility dedicated for that purpose? May I be so naive as to suggest using the towing fees to fund such a facility?
I'm sure there are many reasons why it can't happen, but this is an excuse ineffectual leaders spout when they have no answers to a problem. Another sore point is the physical condition of many of the buildings. Since the city has neglected its responsibility as to code enforcement, landlords should show some civic pride and keep up their historical properties. Fix the rotting door jambs, repair or replace door and window shutters that are falling apart and fix balconies that seem ripe for collapsing.
As a take on a local commercial reminds us, "they don't want to spend their money someone will have to make them." Unfortunately, no one in City Hall is doing the enforcing. Finally, trash is out of control. Surely there's a vaccine that inoculates people to develop a curious habit of depositing trash in proper containers. For these and other problems, I'm sure someone somewhere has the answers, but unless city leadership decides that the French Quarter is worth saving and protecting, I'm afraid the world will discover what I see and what I saw Saturday: "New Orleans is not the city that care forgot but is the city that doesn't care."
Paul Saputo Sr.