Another day, another ordinance. It seems the laissez-faire attitude New Orleanians love to boast about is slowly chipped away daily, mainly by residents (new and old) who complain about one thing or another. The music is too loud. The parade grounds are too crowded. The bike lanes are a menace. The bar is too close to a neighborhood. The go cups are causing issues. On and on.
Recently, an ordinance was proposed against the brightly colored, attention-grabbing party buses that rock back and forth with the weight of their intoxicated patrons. The proposal is to limit party buses to major thoroughfares instead of slowly rolling through neighborhoods where – in New Orleans East, mainly – they pick up residents at their homes.
Now, understandably these buses are not for everyone and certainly not for the faint of heart. Revelers spill mixed drinks out of Solo cups as they cling to the sides or railings when the bus makes sharp turns while every suspension ring is utilized as the bus rocks back and forth with the weight of its contents. They cruise down streets from the East to the 7th Ward to Treme to Broad and all around.
You hear them before you see them, but they do provide a spectacle. They are a modern version of cultural expression and are now being condemned as their predecessors. The crazier part is that this ordinance is proposed by Cyndi Nguyen, the District E Councilwoman from New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward. As the complaints center around the buses that originate in her area, it seems targeted mainly toward African-American party buses, different than other – or “traditional” – limousine-type party buses with mainly Caucasian partiers that have closed windows. These are the open-air converted school buses, and sometimes simple trailers hitched up to pick-ups.
The argument brought against the buses is that they create havoc by driving through residential neighborhoods to pick up clients before heading out. Then, as they drive throughout the city they stop at busy locations or become a nuisance as the people on board wave to strangers outside their “fun zone.”
These complaints, however, are missing a crucial part of the business model. Not everyone can afford to take taxis to a pick-up/drop-off location, and not everyone will take taxis after drinking regardless of drinking and driving laws. Providing door-to-door service is crucial. New Orleans does a brilliant job of embracing different communities, yet it’s consistently pushing creators of culture further and further away from the city center.
In a city where we have to endure the double-decker buses slowing traffic on Esplanade, and copious numbers of blue bikes whizzing down narrow streets, it seems ludicrous that the same amount of respect isn’t given to local businesses who cater to local customers. It may not be a blatant attack on African-American businesses either, but in a city that works hard to sculpt an image suitable for tourism dollars, it’s hard to justify yet another ordinance on non-tourism entities.
The point to New Orleans is that it celebrates life. Celebration can take many forms. Whether it is from your community or not, whether it is your style or not, the ability to express yourself through music, business, and nightlife should be protected in our city.