Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Planning Putsch

Is that light at the end of the tunnel the headlight of a train? As yet another rushed and secretive planning efforts comes out of the dark, its hard not to believe that the people of New Orleans are about to be run over by recovery.

In a poorly publicized meeting (most neighborhood groups learned of it only by accident and only the day before) a third recovery planning efforts is launched, sponsored by the Louisisana Recovery Authority and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

An email hit the circuit of neighborhood organization mailing lists late Thursday and Friday calling for all groups to attend a previously unpublicized meeting sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which has worked with the Louisiana Recovery Authority to secure a Rockefeller Foundation grant to start a third planing effort.

There is no mention of this in the Times-Picayune that can be found online, and not a word about this process on the GNOF website. We learned through Friday's email:

The lead entity in this process is to be the "Community Support Organization" (CS)). It will oversee the work of planning to be done for city-wide infrastructure projects and neighborhood redevelopment plans for the 13 planning districts of the city.

ON SATURDAY, THE FINAL STRUCTURE OF THE COMMUNITY SUPPORT ORGANIZATION IS TO BE APPROVED by the "New Orleans Support Board," which was created through GNOF to develop the make-up of the Community Support Organization (CSO). The CSO is proposed to include ... appointees "selected from nominations submitted by individual neighborhood organizations."

The issues raised by Mid-City neighborhood activist and blogger Editor B in the comments here (kudos to Schroeder for getting this out Thursday) are the qeustions everyone should be asking: why has this been done in secret and who are the pre-selected "neighborhood representatives?" Why wasn't the meeting or the possibility of nominating neighborhood representatives mentioned in this Times-Picayune story on May 27?

There have been at least three planning efforts announced since last September, starting with the Bring New Orleans Back Commission's call for a neighborhood-led planning effort to identify which neighborhoods were coming back, and what services and support they would need.

That effort (or at least the funding and technical support portion) never got off the ground, although some neighborhoods such as Broadmoor took up the challenge and begain work. The second major initiative was the city council's decision to start its own planning process, given that the mayor's and BNOBs seemed to be going nowhere for lack of funding.

That effort didn't appear to get off the auspicious start, when the active residents of Hollygrove were told where they could shelve their plan by the council's consultant. My experience at the first meeting of the Lambert Group-sponsored planners with the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization was an opposite experience, and there was some hope that at least the process was undereway.

And now we have this LRA-sanctioned process which has also attempted to mute neighborhood input. The questions that should be asked this morning are: why weren't the neighborhoods ask to participate in naming their representatives? What is the agenda of this effort? What say are the citizens of New Orleans going to be allowed by our dear leaders in City Hall and Baton Rouge in the disposition of federal recovery dollars?

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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