Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Plan B

There was a special meeting of the City Commission last night at Old City Hall. I was going to go, but decided to instead watch it on our local government channel, Comcast Channel 19. Come six o'clock, I flipped over to that channel and -- what? -- it's not on! I don't know what the criterion is for deciding whether to broadcast a meeting or not.

I might have gotten dressed and gone on down to attend the meeting, but what was on the agenda wasn't critical enough to give up my evening with Janet. We had The Mask of Zorro in from NetFlix to watch.

There were two items on the agenda that I had a particular interest in. Not a vital interest, but of enough interest that I would have liked to have heard the discussion. The first was a vote by the Commissioners on whether to terminate the City's contract with Historic Tours of America to transport cruise ship passengers from the outer mole pier into town. That contract pays HTA $529,000 a year to provide the service, which works out to about $1.30 per passenger. The contract runs until December of 2006. The objection that some have is that HTA is paid by the City to deliver these passengers (and crew) to its own facilities downtown. Some other merchants consider this as giving HTA an unfair advantage and would like to give visitors an opportunity to get off the shuttles at other places in town.

As a practical matter, the City is locked into the contract until its termination next year. And, since no preparations have been made for an alternative, there really isn't enough time before December of this year to furnish that vital service. In the end, Commissioners voted to NOT terminate the contract. I'm hoping that the City will consider alternatives and be prepared to negotiate with others who might wish to offer the City a better deal beginning in 2007. I've discussed an alternative with some friends that we believe could work. It would be in harmony with our ideas for the Truman Waterfront Park, and could offer more in economic benefits to the Bahama Village Community which is being left out of the plans for the Park.

The other agenda item (it also passed) is the City's contract with the organizers of Fantasy Fest. I read the contract, and I see some holes in it. The City Attorney was going to ask for Commission permission to fix some of the things in the contract before it got executed. I hope that he did. One of the things I noted was a simple technical error in the language that could have made the Fantasy Zone part of the Resolution unenforceable. The other was the absence of a good definition of exactly what the Fantasy Zone is. Certain activities allowed in the so-called Fantasy Zone could then spill over into residential neighborhoods without a legal basis to stop them.

Sometimes you just have to rely on governments to do the right thing. When they don't ... well, ask the citizens of New Orleans what can happen.

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