The introductory ordinance banning open containers from downtown Lafayette and elsewhere passed unanimously Tuesday night at the City-Parish Council meeting. It’s unclear, however, how the measure will fare when it’s voted on as a final ordinance; it was voted on Tuesday in globo, meaning the council voted on the "go cup" ordinance and 11 other ordinances at once. But unlike two weeks ago when the ordinance failed on a 5-4 vote and the majority of residents who addressed the council did so in opposition to the measure, councilmen on Tuesday heard mainly from downtown business owners who support the ordinance.
Supporters of the ordinance included Jaci Russo, owner of a marketing/branding firm; Cathy Webre, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority; Thomas Guilbeau, an attorney whose firm is located on Jefferson Street; Julie Calzone, an ad agency owner; and Acadiana Center for the Arts Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann, among others.
“When I come to work Friday morning, Saturday morning, Sunday morning, there is quite a bit of litter from the go cups, but I think that’s a very small detail,” Russo told the council. “When we look at the open alcohol ordinance, what I see it doing first and foremost is preventing the bums who hang out in the park all day drinking, from being able to do that anymore. There are no rules right now that give police the power to move those people on, and at times there will be 13, 14, 15 men, and occasionally women, sitting in the park drinking alcohol in the middle of the day. And that really keeps families from using this asset that is a taxpayer public park.”
Russo also referred to what police have characterized as “trunk drinkers” — people who drive downtown with alcohol, which they consume on the sidewalks without ever patronizing the bars. Supporters of the go cup ban argue that the prohibition would significantly reduce this population, thereby addressing the overall problem of large, unruly crowds on weekends.
Hector LaSala, an architecture professor at UL who has editorialized eloquently in The Daily Advertiser on the need for embracing smart growth principles in our urban core, characterized the revitalization of downtown Lafayette as “halfway there,” and suggested that downtown Lafayette becoming a Bourbon Street, which it closely resembles after midnight on weekends, isn’t what the community envisioned more than a decade ago when the revitalization effort began.
“Vibrant downtowns, which is our goal, have clubs and bars,” LaSala acknowledged. “But they also have retail, offices and more especially housing. And as long as our downtown is known as just party town, I think that we are basically preventing the downtown [from becoming] what actually all the effort has been about — to make it a full-time, 24/7 place where people of all ages can live, play, shop and have a great community to live in.”
“Are any of us going to move out or take our businesses out if you don’t pass this ordinance? No. But I do think what happens is, more residents will not come to the district, more people will not come to the district, more businesses will not come to the district,” said Calzone, who also lives downtown. “And the perception is, the situation we have downtown on some nights, on weekend nights, really does create a negative impact for the district. So again, it’s not the cure-all, it’s not the panacea. But it’s an important first step in helping us do what we need to do in the downtown area.”
The council did hear from a few residents opposed to the ordinance, some of whom used a “slippery slope” argument: First we ban go cups. What’s next? One asked rhetorically whether a ban on open containers could lead us to a “police state.” Others enshrined go cups among the pantheon of cultural touchstones that make Acadiana unique.
“I feel like my rights are under attack,” observed Jacob White, a 20-something resident who opposes the proposed ban. “Now I can’t carry my drink. What’s next? Now I can’t use my cell phone when I’m on the sidewalk? I don’t know. I just find this to be an assault.”
District 1 Councilman Purvis Morrison took exception with information provided to The Independent from a source who said Morrison is now in favor of the ordinance. (He was one of the five-member majority that voted against the ordinance two weeks ago.) “It’s not a done deal to say that I’m supporting the ordinance or not supporting the ordinance,” Morrison said.
The public comment portion devoted to the go cup ordinance took the better part of an hour and a half. Council Chairman Jay Castille was evidently so ready for the meeting to conclude, he accidentally gavelled its adjournment before the council voted.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.