NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The city of New Orleans must scale back its plans for a "clean zone" where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl week, a federal judge said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt's temporary restraining order says the city can only enforce the limits in an area near the Superdome, where the game will be played Feb. 3. The city had also planned to enforce the rules in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.
The judge's ruling comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an activist and a street preacher. They claimed a new city ordinance and a code enforcement guide trample on their free speech rights and limit their activities leading up to the title game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
The ACLU asserts New Orleans adopted the new policies at the behest of the National Football League.
"The NFL asked them to do a whole bunch of things, including this," said ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman.
Esman said other Super Bowl host cities have enforced similar rules in recent years, but they have never been challenged in court before.
Engelhardt's order says the plaintiffs showed a "likelihood of success" in arguing that enforcing a broader "clean zone" is impermissible under the First Amendment. He scheduled a meeting Monday with lawyers for the city and ACLU to discuss the latter's request for a preliminary injunction.
"It's wonderful that the judge recognizes the city doesn't have a right to curtail speech throughout a large chunk of the city," Esman said.
The city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas are named as defendants in the suit.
"We disagree with the ACLU's characterization of the Clean Zone," said Ryan Berni, spokesman for the mayor. "The Clean Zone addresses issues such as signage, outdoor vending and erecting structures and tents that the City already permits. It is an additional temporary designation that seeks to protect the quality of life for residents and assists businesses in thriving during the Super Bowl. The City and other cities nationwide have instituted 'clean zones' for similar major events."
New Orleans planned for its measure to take effect on the morning of Jan. 28 and end on the evening of Feb. 5.
The ordinance, passed last month, says banners, flags and signs aren't allowed in the "clean zone" without the authorization of the city or the NFL. The content of any temporary signs approved by the city must consist of at least 60 percent Super Bowl or NFL branding. The guide, meanwhile, says no signs will be permitted unless the applicant is an NFL sponsor, the suit says.
The plaintiffs are Tara Jill Ciccarone, an Occupy NOLA member, and Troy Bohn, pastor of a religious congregation that regularly preaches on Bourbon Street.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.