NEW ORLEANS - You could have to follow some new rules at Mardi Gras parades this year, or be fined.
A city council committee unanimously agreed to changes that the Mayor's office is calling common sense safety rules.
The proposed changes to Mardi Gras ordinances will affect both parade-goers and parade throwers.
There will be no more stopping or parking on St. Charles Avenue or Napoleon Avenue parade routes, on the opposite side of the parade, two hours before and two hours after the parade.
To prevent fire, there could be new rules for krewe generators. Flambeaux carriers have to be 18 years old and their stickman can only manage 15 carriers at a time.
There are changes to floats' electrical systems, safety exits, rider straps and other nuts and bolts mechanics.
No riders will be allowed on the outside of vehicles that are not convertibles. While throwbacks to riders is already illegal, now you could be fined $250 if you are caught.
BBQ grills, ladders, chairs, tents and the like, can not be in the street or intersections, and must be at least six feet back on the neutral ground. This will help make enforcement easier.
Port-o-lets can't be on public property with out permission and no exploding snap pops can be sold by vendors. The committee says they scare police and parade horses. All of these changes, they say, are for public safety, so first responders can do their jobs.
"This happened to be the EMT trying to get through that street with someone with a heart attack in the next neighborhood and they could not get across the neutral ground. You'd have to see that with your own eyes to know how horrifying it is and that's what this is all about," said Council President Jackie Clarkson, recalling what she saw one time while in a parade.
Only one resident showed up at the public meeting, but with another concern, the safety of people going to and from the parade route because so many street lights are out.
"Sunday, my wife and I and a friend drove from Lee Circle all the way up to South Carrollton. We counted over 240 street lights that are out. If we don't have lighting, I don't think we ought to have parades. I'm that serious about the issue. Not only do we have tripping and falling hazards, we have criminal hazards as well. Uptown in the last six months, there's been probably more muggings than there has been in the 20 years that I've lived here," said John Martin, who lives uptown.
All of the councilwomen on the committee agreed about lighting problems and say they have system-wide changes in the works that will take time and millions of dollars.
But for Mardi Gras, they plan to have temporary lighting in some areas as they did last year.
The full council will vote on these proposed ordinance changes on January 23. The fire and float safety changes will be voted on at the February 6 council meeting.