The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

October 4, 2012

Katrina victims take on hurricane tour operators

(Continued)

That changed in recent weeks when complaints prompted officials to stop and fine operators.

"We're fed up and tired of them coming through the neighborhood like we're some sideshow," said Vanessa Gueringer, a lifelong Lower 9th Ward resident.

"After all the suffering we have been through, we deserve more respect than this," she said. "We don't need those big buses coming through here tearing it up."

Lynn Wolken, a veteran guide who belongs to the Tour Guides Association of Greater New Orleans, said many fellow guides weren't aware of the ordinance or knew it existed but wasn't being enforced.

Yet she said no warning had been issued from the city's Taxicab Bureau, which regulates tour companies.

"A warning would have been nice," she said.

She noted that about 30 companies ply the neighborhood, charging tourists about $25 apiece.

Charbonnet said he believes there's room for compromise. He plans to gather tour guides and residents together Friday to begin discussing possible changes to the ordinance, proposals such as limiting bus sizes and requiring a single route to protect streets and the privacy of the residents.

"I feel confident that we will come up with a plan that will work for everybody," he said.

For now, many tour companies have halted tours of the neighborhood.

Ducote said his company still takes visitors elsewhere in the rebuilding city, including to the Musicians Village, a post-Katrina effort launched near the Lower 9th Ward by entertainers Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.

Meanwhile, not all Lower 9th residents oppose the tour buses.

Some, like Sidney Williams, say they enjoy waving to tourists and selling homemade treats such as pralines, a popular New Orleans candy, as the buses wend through the neighborhood.

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