Gambit sat down this afternoon with Brian Furness, president of the French Quarter Citizens, and Tom Bissell, chairman of the group's quality of life committee, to discuss the city's recent decision to start enforcing an old curfew law against brass bands in the district.
Sitting in the French Quarter Citizens' (FQC's) headquarters on North Rampart Street, both Furness (pictured, left) and Bissell (pictured, right) stress that the FQC hasn't intervened with the city or been consulted directly about the new curfew enforcement policy. They also gave Gambit a copy of a press release put out this afternoon by the FQC, stressing that while the FQC's membership "has been silent on the curfew issue," it has "vociferously urged that we actively support a crackdown on noise and other quality of life issues that diminish our neighborhood's vitality and attractiveness as a place to live.
- "We are disappointed that so many have misinterpreted our support for enforcement of the law as somehow anti-musician or anti-French Quarter spirit," the release continues. "We are similarly disappointed that some fail to recognize that key to the French Quarter's authenticity and character is its continuing use as a place to live — the French Quarter is not Disneyland."
- “We haven’t heard from our members on the specific issue of the curfew, and we’ve not intervened with the city or the police authorities with respect to the curfew itself,” says Furness, asked about the curfew against brass bands. “We have always taken a strong position on the enforcement of the noise ordinance, or should I say the non-enforcement of the noise ordinance, with particular reference to the noise from Bourbon Street music establishments but elsewhere in the French Quarter as well, because noise is one of the issues that our members raise most often and most vividly, most vociferously.”
- As well as the curfew against street musicians, both Furness and Bissell say that they would favor more vigorous enforcement of the noise ordinances against bars on Bourbon Street too. And they mentioned other noise issues, like unmuffled motorcycles, idling refrigerated trucks, as well as people driving through the quarter with loud stereos playing from their cars.
"It gets everybody upset," says Bissell, about the car stereo issue.
So are the French Quarter Citizens in favor of the 8pm curfew for brass bands as it is currently being enforced? “We’re probably for enforcement of all the ordinances," says Bissell. "Some ordinances are not well written and probably need to be rewritten. We think our councilwoman, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, is rewriting the noise ordinance, and we expect that to be a much more comprehensive ordinance.”
- Would the French Quarter Citizens approve of the 8pm curfew for brass bands if the ordinances were to be rewritten? Furness would say only that the rewrite "will be a good opportunity to look at all of the issues that are involved in all of the quality of life ordinances."
- Both Furness and Bissell say that noise is just part of the issue of quality of life for French Quarter residents and that "for years we’ve been raising the problems that quality of life ordinances have simply not been consistently and vigorously enforced."
- “What we find is that both the Judge and the District Attorney don’t find quality of life ordinances to be something...worth enforcing," says Bissell. "It is something that causes us to be a museum here in the French Quarter. If we don’t have quality of life, people will move. People will leave.”
- Neither Furness nor Bissell had seen the 10,000 member Facebook group that has been set up to protest the enforcement of the curfew law against brass bands. People in the group are saying that tourists come to the French Quarter for the bands and the atmosphere that those bands create. Is that something that Bissell and Furness can sympathize with, or do they feel that perhaps some of the concerns of the residents are more important?
- “I think we can certainly sympathize," says Furness. "We can understand their point of view, we certainly hear it a great deal…but I think what makes the French Quarter truly unique and authentic is the fact that people actually live here. The music is one part of that. But the fact that this is a living neighborhood, a neighborhood that’s passionate about its architecture, its quality of life, and that I think is something we very much need to protect.”
The FQC's press release also mentioned an interview conducted with a local TV station, last Friday. "We recorded about 15 minutes of material, of which about 10 seconds was actually used," wrote Furness, after writing that he wanted to "set the record straight regarding French Quarter Citizens' position."
Here is the 10 minute uncut video of Gambit's interview with the FQC: