Locals get ready for new Mardi Gras rules, regulations

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 11:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 19 at 11:21 PM

Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
Email: ttruong@wwltv.com | Twitter: @thanh412

Along Orleans Avenue you can see the barricades, beads and decorations ready for the parades to roll through Mid-City. 

Residents like Stephanie Smith who live on Orleans probably have the best seat in the house for the likes of Endymion and Bacchus.  She'll be watching high above on her porch.  Smith says when she looks down she hopes new rules passed by the New Orleans City Council will make the neutral ground and parade route less cluttered. 

"I don't like those portalettes out there, and the ladders where the kids are trying to get on, grown people are up there instead.  Nobody can catch anything and do anything," said Smith.

That kind of crowded, congested and constricted feeling is to be expected during Mardi Gras season, but city leaders say they're more concerned with the safety hazards, which items like ladders can present.  At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu laid out the rational for the rule changes. 

"All the rules and regulations are designed to make it easier for everybody to enjoy themselves and to have a safe Mardi Gras.  Ladders, tents, grills must be six feet from the street curb.  If that ladder is on the edge and it falls, the child on top of that ladder will fall in the pathway of a float, that is why that prohibition is in place," said Landrieu.

For a full list of the rules:  www.nola.gov/mardigras

For years, furniture, grills and private toilets were fixtures on the neutral ground and along the various parade routes.  The new rules will basically restrict any private property or furniture that will block public rights of way.  But with tens of thousands of people expected to flood the streets during parades and only finite number of officers, enforcing the new regulations may be difficult.  The math is not lost on those responsible for protecting parades and the people converging on them.  New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas urged anyone planning to participate in the festivities to understand and of course follow the rules. 

"My request to the crowd is think about it.  Don't have the police officer spending time debating with you making the child safe by having the ladder too close to the street.  Please don't spend too much time debating with the police office because you wanted to bring your kitchen furniture, your bedroom furniture out to the neutral ground on Orleans Avenue.  Wouldn't you want your police officers more focused, laser-like focused on the people who are trying to hurt somebody on the parade route or somebody who might foolishly bring a gun to the parade route?" said Serpas. 

Breaking some of the new rules will cost you.  For example, parade goers are prohibited from throwing anything at the floats.  The fine for breaking that rule is $250. 

Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell, who pushed for the rule changes, echoed Serpas' statements.  While there will be 120 officers from the Louisiana State Police on hand to assist the NOPD, Cantrell said personal responsibility will go a long way in making for a good Mardi Gras experience. 

"A lot of this is talking to people and asking them to comply with the law.  If a summons needs to be issued, it will be issued," said the Cantrell.

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