- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A team of New Orleans city health employees will be measuring sound levels this week in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny.

Officials say this is likely a prelude to a revived effort to craft a viable sound ordinance.

Charlotte Parent, director of the Health Department, tells NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune (https://bit.ly/1MIARUY) the Sound Check program will function much like the city’s smoking ban did. It will begin with an education campaign, which will include mailers warning business owners of the risks associated with prolonged exposure to excessive sound.

The ultimate goal, though, is to establish a baseline of what normal sound levels are in New Orleans and to use “scientific evidence as to what the acceptable levels are that will not cause any damage to public health or damage hearing,” she said. Once that has been established, it will likely be incorporated into a proposed sound ordinance currently under consideration by the City Council.

Asked to elaborate on what she meant by “damage to public health,” Parent said that high blood pressure and increased stress due to loss of sleep would be taken into consideration in establishing what an acceptable baseline level of sound is.

This is a key distinction, as the primary drivers behind two recent efforts to craft a strict and enforceable sound ordinance were not musicians or bar staff, who are routinely exposed to sound levels capable of causing hearing damage. Instead, the push came from neighborhood groups who said loud music was harmful to the quality of life and personal wellbeing of their members.

Those efforts were thwarted by musicians and advocates who said an overbearing sound ordinance threatened the livelihoods of those who work in one of the bedrock sectors of the local economy, live music.

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, which was instrumental in defeating the revamped sound ordinance favored by neighborhood groups, expressed cautious support for the initiative. “We’re pleased to see to see that the City’s new ‘Sound Check’ program is launching with a focus on education rather than prosecution, particularly as New Orleans’ current, deeply flawed sound ordinance makes violations a criminal, rather than civil offense,” said Ethan Ellestad, the organization’s director.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com


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