Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Take On The 2015 Post-Mardi Gras Forum

The annual post-Mardi Gras forum was held tonight at the Mardi Gras Inc office at 2200 Dolman here in Soulard. This forum is held every year following the Mardi Gras season on the same day that the MGI Board of Directors meets. The forum is announced on multiple flyers that are hung on your door throughout the season, at the Soulard Restoration Group General Membership meeting and on The forum serves as a great opportunity for residents and other concerned citizens to get together with the MGI folks to talk about what went right and what went wrong during the recently completed Carnival season.

When I first started going to these forums, they were typically lightly attended. In the last couple years, attendance has grown a bit, which is a good thing. Considering the number of people who seem to have opinions on the event, it's still pretty lightly attended. Some good points are usually brought up at the forum in between the regular bitching you'd expect.

I'll try to hit the main points I heard tonight and say a little about each of them.

Why Doesn't MGI Communicate More With Neighbors Throughout The Year

This is an interesting issue to bring us. Mardi Gras, Inc, is made up of representatives from groups representing residents and business owners in Soulard and neighboring Kosciusko. The board was originally set up like this back in 1999/2000 so that residents and business owners in the neighborhood would always be ultimately in charge of how the event was run. MGI board members only serve at the pleasure of the groups they represent. These board members are at the monthly meeting of the organization that represents the neighbors (Soulard Restoration Group) and the business owners (Soulard Business Association). If you want to know what is going on, ask them. They represent you. If you want your representatives to start speaking at your meetings, typing something up for the SRG Blaster or Next Door, ask them to. If you aren't a member of one of the groups represented on the MGI board then you have only yourself to blame.

I will admit that it would be nice if the board minutes were posted monthly online for all to see. I spoke with a board member after the meeting and I am working on getting copies of the monthly minutes to post on this site as they are approved.

The Southern Comfort Stages Are Causing Issues

Tim Lorson, the Executive Director of Mardi Gras, Inc., addressed this by saying that he brought this exact issue up to the MGI board right before this forum. Crowds gathered around these stages seem to have been a cause of vandalism and excessive trash at 9th & Russell. Lorson said he is meeting with the Southern Comfort folks soon and will be asking them to either have a plan to address these issues or the stages will be going away. Another issue was the choice of music being played by these DJs. Lorson said while he won't be giving them a playlist or anything because in his words, "no one would come if I chose the music", he will be asking them to lower the volume, cease blaring vulgar language and possibly play a wider variety of music.

Lorson seems to have a handle of this one. I know of at least one bar owner, who is a woman you don't want to mess with, who personally let one of these DJs know that he needed to "quit that shit" or she would pull the plug herself. I'm not really sure what the person asking this question wanted as an answer because nothing Tim said seemed to be good enough for him. The resident did say that he hadn't been out of his house on Grand Parade Day in about 6 years, so not sure if a suitable response existed. (Correction: The resident actually said he hasn't left his house unattended in six years)

Bottles And Cans Being Consumed, Security Guards Not Seeming To Care

On Grand Parade Day, barricades are set up at each entrance to the neighborhood and security guards are positioned at each. Dumpsters are also dropped at each entrance. The security guards in the yellow jackets are there to inform people that cans, bottles and backpacks are not allowed. The security guards do what they can to keep these things out, but they can't get everything. It is emphasized at each Police roll call that these items are not allowed and officers are told to have these things thrown away if they see them. Neither gas stations in the neighborhood nor beer stands are allowed to sell cans or bottles. Many of those that you do see come from either people sneaking them in or from houses where the beer is already stored prior to GPD. Next year, be sure to remind your neighbors to have a couple sleeves of plastic cups so that no cans leave their houses. Cans and bottles are often discarded on our streets and could possibly be used as weapons.

Lorson said that he will reiterate to the security teams the need to do as much as possible to keep these things out of the Red Zone. He reminded folks that on GPD you are advised to call the MGI office at 314-771-5110 so that it can be addressed. In the event of an emergency, you should of course call 9-1-1.

Can Something To Be Done To Remind People That Soulard Is A Neighborhood?

Lorson addressed this by saying that all of the major radio networks in the area broadcast PSAs saying just that during the Mardi Gras season. In every television spot done in association with Mardi Gras this is also stressed. Someone suggested that some banners be hung in the neighborhood reminding people of this as well. I know Mayor Slay routinely tweets out this exact message during the Carnival season.

The bottom line is "You Can't Fix Stupid". Everyone that comes down to Soulard knows this is a neighborhood, even the douche canoes. I highly doubt a banner is going to stop someone from doing something stupid on Grand Parade Day. If it makes some people feel better then I'm all for doing it, but I don't have high hopes of it helping much.

Why Didn't More People Know About This Forum?

Like the earlier issue of communication, this one is a curious one. It was brought up in the context of "there aren't more people at this meeting so clearly you didn't promote it enough". The meeting is talked about in the flyers that get hung on your door throughout the season. I don't know how you could get any more direct than that. You don't read things that get hung on your door? That's not anyone else's problem. Seems to be like you don't care enough. The meeting has also been on the front page of for at least a week. Again, it seems to me like if someone cared enough about having their concerns heard, they would check out the website and see that. As a kicker, the forum information was posted on Next Door, the very communication tool people talked about using earlier for better communication.

This is just a quick recap of the forum and some things to think about. I think Mardi Gras, Inc puts on a great event and does some great work. They aren't perfect and that's one of the reasons they have this forum so, that they get the feedback they need to improve year after year.

I would encourage each and every neighbor who has an interest to make a point to come to this event next year. An awesome group of neighbors came to the forum tonight because they had seen some of the opinions posted on Next Door and had heard about this event in previous years. The filled the front row and the forum and their sole purpose of being there was to talk about how appreciative they are of the event and the work that goes into putting it on.

Did I get something wrong? Did I miss something? Let's hear it.