In New Orleans politics, there are a few sacred cow constituencies that elected and appointed officials should navigate with extreme caution.  There are the St. Charles Avenue multi-millionaires, the well-to-do Lakeview property owners, and then there’s arguably the most powerful of them all: the French Quarter and preservationist brigade.  District C Councilman Freddie King recently flexed on the latter Goliath, which is an economic engine not only for his district but for the entire state. Freddie King: Slingshot Fired, Ricochet Likely

King is a first term councilman who has been described by Gambit as “risk averse”. He recently introduced an ordinance that would temporarily ease enforcement of building and code violations in the Quarter.  If passed the ordinance would neuter the powers of the Vieux Carre Commission (VCC). The VCC is an all-powerful regulatory agency established in 1921 to regulate all things French Quarter. King supposedly was responding to complaints of a dozen or so business owners. They claim to have been hampered post the COVID 19 shutdown,  by fines and other citations, in addition to being denied certain permits. King emphasized that wanted to act as a “broker” and achieve reasonable compromises.

Freddie King: Slingshot Fired, Ricochet Likely

A casual visit to the VCC link on the city’s website puts in clear context the vast extent of the agency’s power, outlined in the state constitution and the City Charter.  The Vieux Carre Foundation is a private funding organization that  publishes a 200 plus page book. The book contains hundreds of photos and drawings of what is allowed and not allowed in the Quarter. It even details exterior paint colors and other minute details that most property owners can decide for themselves.

New Orleans City Councilman Freddie King

King’s intentions were to help a handful of business owners. Perhaps he should have considered that the Quarter has approximately 2,000 property owners and about 3,000 buildings. To do business in the Quarter is to, essentially, forfeit almost all authority over what your building can look like.  Conformity is priority for preservationists, individuality shunned. That’s what you buy into or inherit in the Quarter, and challenges can be futile. A dozen complainers might as well be none.

Freddie King: Slingshot Fired, Ricochet Likely

Predictably, within a week or so of strong opposition from preservationists and  Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office, King regrouped his thoughts. As reported in Gambit, King will “use a planned Community Development Meeting at the end of June as a way to solicit complaints and concerns from the public, businesses, homeowners and other stakeholders. He will then present those problems to a task force made up of representatives of the city’s various regulatory bodies, neighborhood associations and others tasked with creating a set of concrete policy recommendations by the beginning of August.” If you understand what that jargon means, enlighten us, please.

Freddie King, who hails from Algiers, was victorious in a December 2021 runoff election for District C. In that race, he received endorsements from several African American elected officials including the mayor. But the Quarter property owners did not enter any viable challenger. Hopefully, King will ultimately broker compromises between the struggling business owners in the Quarter and the deep-pocketed Philistine preservationists. If not, a true Goliath may arise from the Vieux Carre before the next District C council election rolls around.  

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