Nadine Ramsey is a tyrant. Films condition us to expect storm clouds, ominous music and the sound of troops to proceed basic social freedoms being extinguished. History teaches that real tyranny is more subtle.
Tyranny is when officials refuse to do their electorate’s bidding and then satisfy their own interests under the color of law.
Adopting the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance was a triumph. It seemed developers, business owners and neighborhood groups had found common ground after years of public debate. The result: a culturally appropriate blend of livable streets with local shops and restaurants versus high-rise developments and booze emporiums for rowdy visitors.
Ramsey — and others — began secretly crafting major amendments with bar and alcohol lobbyists before the CZO was even on the books. Ramsey introduced these amendments on the day of the vote with no opportunity for public comment. She disregarded residents’ rights in favor of a few people who profit from tourists and cater to the leisure class.
Far more than “tweaks,” her self-serving changes to the CZO will hasten our slide from national historic treasure to beer-soaked party central.
Equally appalling is the fact that Ramsey refused to take questions from her constituents about her position on the CZO at her own town-hall style meetings. These were held across her district a few days before she offered her backroom deals as law. All meetings were attended by citizens groups that demanded to know her position, and she arrogantly refused to discuss it.
Her amendments let restaurants become bars and nightclubs and make all restaurants package liquor stores. She allows developers on both riverbanks to build jarringly out-of-scale luxury high rises flanked by parking lots. These types of radical changes are the very issues that the citizens groups demanded be discussed.
New Orleans residents have an innate sense of cultural preservation. Passionate citizens have lively debates about the direction their city will move. These debates tell our elected officials how we want them to act. Refusing to discuss issues with constituents while crafting secret zoning amendments that benefit a few developers and booze merchants shows where Ramsey’s interests reside.
We must demand our leaders’ pledge to protect what makes us … “US” — our unique quality of life and the architectural gems found in our mixed-income, low-rise residential streets.
The fate of Ramsey’s proposals is now in the council’s hands.
Eric C. Walton