Mardi Gras

Scoot: Banning tandem floats – really?

February 26, 2020 - 12:57 pm

For many – Mardi Gras 2020 was the “best of times,” but for others it was “the worst of times.”

If Mardi Gras 2020 were given an iconic movie title it might be the Clint Eastwood western - “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Crowds through the Mardi Gras season were massive in New Orleans and Metairie. The weather was largely not an issue. But there were tragedies and incidents and knee-jerk decisions that turned Mardi Gras 2020 into a cradle of controversy.

When a parade-goer was killed while apparently trying to cross over the hitch of a tandem float in the Krewe of Nyx last Wednesday night, that led to the immediate cancellation of the parades that night, which included the popular Krewe of Muses.

Saturday night, another parade-goer was killed by a tandem float in the super Krewe of Endymion, and that led the Mayor and NOPD to immediately cancel the parade. Some floats had not even left the point of origin. The cancellation of both parades was accepted by the krewes – but behind the scenes there was much talk about misguided decision to cancel the remainder of Nyx, Muses and Endymion.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s decisions to cancel parades and to immediately ban tandem floats raised questions about the Mayor’s judgment. Everyone can understand that Mayor Cantrell was in a difficult position and often politicians feel the need to make a decision – even if the decision does not address the real issue.

Mayor Cantrell was also placed in the uncomfortable position of making decisions that appeared to show respect for the families of the two individuals that lost their lives while enjoying a Mardi Gras parade.

However – the decision to immediately ban all tandem floats for the remainder of the 2020 Mardi Gras season implied that tandem floats were responsible for the loss of life. Tandem floats have been an integral part of Mardi Gras parades for years, and there is no evidence that the floats pose a danger to the public.

Furthermore – the Mayor’s ban on tandem floats may invite lawsuits on the idea that the ban was predicated on a real danger that the floats pose to citizens. The argument could be made that if the city believes tandem floats do possess an inherit danger to citizens – why were the floats not banned prior to 2020?

Publically, the Mayor’s decisions were accepted by the krewes, but privately, there was tough talk about the Mayor overstepping her authority and making knee-jerk decisions that place unrealistic burdens on parades.

The decisions to halt parades after tragic deaths is less controversial – but it is still the source of controversy. In the case of the Krewe of NYX – it may have been logistically impossible to divert the parade from Magazine St. onto narrow streets with low hanging trees. But stopping Endymion was questioned because there may have been room for the remainder of the parade to pass the scene of the tragedy.

I do empathize with Mayor Cantrell’s difficult position during the parade tragedies – but we elect politicians to make the right decision and not to just make a decision.

Over the Mardi Gras weekend – two riders fell off two different floats.  Neither rider was wearing the harness supplied on the float. Also – two individuals fell off of balconies during parades. If tandem floats are to blame for the tragic deaths – then in theory – the floats and the balconies should be blamed for the incidents that left Mardi Gras revelers injured.

Politicians have a tendency to blame tangible items rather than the human decision that lead to tragedies. Politicians can avoid focusing on the human behavior that led to the loss of life, but they can also avoid making decisions that falsely redirect attention from the real issue.

Mardi Gras floats – even the tandem floats – do not go off course and threaten people along the parade route. People along the parade route often put themselves in danger by recklessly approaching floats. Tandem floats are not to blame for the two tragedies that occurred during Mardi Gras 2020.

The Mayor, NOPD and the City Council will begin discussing way to make Mardi Gras safer as early as tomorrow. It will not be surprising if there is compelling talk about banning tandem floats as a reaction to the tragedies – but blaming tandem floats circumvents the need to impress upon citizens that they should be responsible for their behavior.

There are no barriers along the main streets of New Orleans. There are no security guards. There is nothing that prevents you from walking into traffic and getting hit by a car. The only thing that prevents people from doing that is their instinct to survive. Sadly, some individuals use poor judgment and become a pedestrian fatality – but that should not lead to a call to put everyone behind barricades.

We can’t save people from themselves, and politicians just complicate matters when they feel desperate to make a decision for the sake of making a decision. I’m waiting for the day when politicians have the courage to address human behavior over unfairly blaming tangible items.

Let’s be honest – the reluctance of politicians to blame human behavior is linked to votes. It is far better for politicians to blame anything other than the individuals who are the voters. But if the voters continue to support these knee-jerk decisions of politicians – then the voters need to accept some of the responsibility.

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