Entries for July, 2006
July 31st, 2006
From the NOCF’s FAQ page:
The Membership on the Community Support Organization is comprised of the following:
- One person appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans
- One person appointed by the New Orleans City Council
- One person appointed by the City Planning Commission
- One person appointed by the Greater New Orleans Foundation
- Five people selected from nominations submitted by individual neighborhood organizations
1, 1, 1, 1, and 5 makes 9, right?
The structure of the Community Support Organization Support Foundation will be comprised of one representative each from the Mayor’s Office, the New Orleans City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and two representatives of city-wide non-governmental organizations that are working to support the neighborhood planning process and five people selected from nominations submitted by neighborhood organizations.
1, 1, 1, 1, 2, and 5 makes 11, doesn’t it? Or is the lack of a comma supposed to indicate that the GNOF and two reps of city-wide NGOs get one representative in common? Why aren’t these NGOs named, whether they get a whole rep apiece, or just a third? Maybe they don’t matter – everywhere else I’ve seen references to the CSO board make-up it’s been 9 members.
Still elsewhere, the Times Pic announces:
The Community Support Organization (CSO), a nine-member advisory committee, will oversee and monitor the planning efforts. The nine members of the Community Support Organization, still to be named, will include one representative appointed by Mayor Nagin, one by the City Council, one by the City Planning Commission, one by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and five citizens selected from the five council districts. (emphasis mine)
Like wise, a press release from the Mayor’s Office.
But what really concerns me isn’t so much the rampant ambiguity of number or identity, it’s the question of who approves the mysterious 9.
From the UNOP’s FAQs:
23) Will the mayor and city council members have to agree with the people selected to serve on the Community Support Organization?
Appointments to Community Support Organization will be vetted by both the Mayor and City Council, but appointments will be made by the New Orleans Community Support Foundation board.
And from the nomination form again: “Please return this form by fax at 504-569-1820, by email to
firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to NOCSF, 201 St. Charles Ave, Suite
4314, New Orleans, LA 70170.” (Who’s guarding the hen-house exactly?)
So the private non-profit, GNOF, and the NOCSF which it composed will get final approval of 6 of the 9 seats (or 8 of 11) of the group that is going to monitor, advise, evaluate, coordinate, support, oversee, select, recommend, implement, etc., etc. everything to do with the UNOP? We two members selected by actual elected officials and one selected by a city department, and all the rest owe their position to a private group?
The GNOF may be saints (although I fear they’re not), and the City Council may not be either (what city’s are). But we elect our Council members to represent us – i.e. to make exactly these sorts of decisions. The Council is obligated at the very least to operate in the public view, private groups do so at their convenience. It makes me wary to say the least that several of the lists of the CSO’s composition make reference to the five Council Districts, as if to imply that the Council has something to do with the selection of more than one representative. This process is not democratic in any way, shape or form, and democracy is way messier than Steve Bingler thinks–what alarms me is everything that looks a little too tidy about this process.
Oh, and one more thing. If you look once more at the UNOP’s FAQs, there are several things that the CSO is already supposed to have done, such as approve the list of planners we were presented with after the RFQs were in, and “then work with neighborhood leaders to determine which of the pre-qualified Neighborhood Planning Teams would work best with each neighborhoodâ€™s constituents.” Yet the CSO’s composition is always described in the future tense…
July 31st, 2006
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the attendant flooding and other related destruction, many parties have deemed a unified, city-wide planning process essential to the recovery of New Orleans. The release of billions of dollars in federal recovery funds, as well as some private grants, depend on the formation of a master plan covering everything from city-wide infrastructure issues to neighborhood-specific projects. Eleven months from Katrina’s landfall, a “Unified New Orleans Plan” is just now beginning to coalesce. In a July 5, 2006 press release, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, the New Orleans City Council and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) announced their agreement to adopt a common plan, to be overseen by the Greater New Orleans Foundation‘s (GNOF) New Orleans Community Support Foundation (NOCSF).
Previous to endorsing the NOCSF’s plan, both the Mayor’s Office and City Council had embarked on comprehensive planning efforts of their own. While the achievements of those efforts to date will not be discarded, to what extent they continue to be funded under the LRA and NOCSF remains to be seen.
In October of 2005, Mayor Nagin established the Bring Back New Orleans Commission (BNOB). BNOB engaged the Philadelphia-based firm Wallace, Roberts & Todd, LLC to develop its action plan. The BNOB plan failed to get the FEMA funding it expected, however. The LRA initially assured its support of BNOB, but subsequently endorsed the NOCSF’s plan. Wallace, Roberts & Todd is not on the NOCSF’s list of their officially endorsed Neighborhood and City-Wide Infrastructure planning teams. According to Architectural Record News, sources close to the LRA say that it’s likely that some elements of the Wallace plan will be retained in whatever the Unified New Orleans Plan proposes.
When FEMA support of BNOB fell through, City Council launched its own enterprise, the New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilding Plan (NOLANRP). The Council appointed Paul Lambert (Lambert Advisory, of Miami) and Sheila Danzey (SHEDO, of New Orleans) to manage the recovery strategies of 49 neighborhoods that sustained two or more feet of flooding.
The GNOF was established in 1983 as “a community foundation [...] that derives its funds from gifts provided by its citizens” (About the Foundation). On September 8, 2005, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a grant which would eventually total $3.5 million to the GNOF. The GNOF also contributed $1 million of its own and formed the NOCSF to serve in a fiduciary capacity, overseeing the $4.5 million and the Community Support Organization (CSO) which will administer it. The CSO board will be composed of nine members, whose identities have not been announced at the time of this writing. Of the nine members, one each will be selected by the Mayor’s Office, City Council, the GNOF and the City Planning Commission, and the remaining five are to be selected from each of the City Council districts (the open call for nominees for the district seats has been closed, and candidates are being reviewed).
The GNOF retained the New Orleans-based firm Concordia LLC to create a master plan and to oversee the selection of planning teams that will assist the individual neighborhoods, the wider districts and the city-wide infrastructure efforts. Among other things, the Concordia plan calls for each of New Orleans’ 73 neighborhoods to select from a pre-approved list of professional architects, urban planners and other professionals to assist in their efforts and/or endorse projects already in progress, spearheaded by the BNOB, the Lambert-Danzey group, and by the neighborhood groups themselves over the many months that no other resources were available.
On June 5, 2006, the NOCSF issued a Request for Qualifications for parties interested in participating in their recovery process. A panel composed of one representative of the City Planning Commission and four “nationally recognized planning experts sifted through the 65 applicants to establish the official list endorsed for the Unified New Orleans Plan. Concordia coordinated the selection process, but was not involved as a voting member. The final list was recommended to the board on July 21, 2006:
District or Neighborhood Planning:
- H3 Studio, of St. Louis, MO
- Goody Clancy, of Boston, MA
- ACORN Housing‘s New Orleans, LA branch
- Frederick Schwartz Architects of New York, NY
- EDSA of Columbia, MD
Neighborhood Only Planning:
- EDAW‘s Atlanta, GA branch
- E. Eean McNaughton Architects of New Orleans, LA
- Burk-Kleinpeter of New Orleans, LA
- Williams Architects of New Orleans, LA
- HDR of Omaha, NE and HOK of Tampa, FL
- Duany Plater-Zyberk of Miami, FL
- KL&M of New Orleans, LA and CH Planning of Philadelphia, PA
- NOW, a joint venture between Eskew+Dumez+Ripple of New Orleans, LA, Chan Krieger Sieniewicz of Cambridge, MA and William Morrish of Charlottesville, VA
- Davis Brody Bond of New York, NY
- Torres Design Consortium of New Orleans, LA
- Villavaso and Associates and Henry Consulting of New Orleans, LA
On July 24, 2006, a meeting open to the public was announced by the NOCSF on BayouBuzz.com and on the Unified New Orleans Plan website (but not in the Times-Picayune or other local print, internet or broadcast media), scheduled for July 30,2006. The time and location of 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM at The Pavilion of Two Sisters at City Park were posted at a later date. The agenda for the July 30 meeting is to “begin the process for community members to be involved in the selection of the technical assistance teams of professionals to support them in neighborhood, district and city-wide planning.” Although all 73 neighborhoods are to be involved, the city will be divided into 13 planning districts whose boundaries are to be determined at this meeting. In addition, the criteria for working with the planning teams to be selected are to be established. On August 1, 2006 community members will have the opportunity to view presentations by the NOCSF’s teams in preparation for each districts’ vote on their top three preferred teams. Votes will be accepted until 5:00 PM on Monday, August 7. After the votes are tabulated, the CSO will begin defining scopes and fees for neighborhood projects and assign planning teams to the 13 districts based on the districts’ preferences as well as “capacity and cost,” although what relative weight each of these concerns will be given is not stated.
Controversy has been a constant virtually from the moment Katrina made landfall. Even before in some cases, since issues of land development in economically depressed neighborhoods have invoked impassioned debate for years). What to do about this city’s rampant poverty, and whether the proposed solutions help alleviate its ravages or simply remove the poor have become all the more pressing matters in a post-Katrina landscape.
John McIlwain of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) which was formerly included in the BNOB Commission but whose recommendations were largely rejected, has recently savaged the state of the city’s planning efforts in the Times-Picayune. McIlwain and others from ULI leveled numerous criticisms of the city’s progress in general and the mayor in particular for lack of leadership. ULI’s recommendations to the BNOB Commission had called for drastically reducing the city’s footprint in flooded areas, thus-
intentionally or not-eliminating dozens of traditionally low-income neighborhoods. Tom Murphy, also of ULI, expressed frustration that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority has not used eminent domain aggressively enough to seize privately owned blighted properties to resell. In response to the ULI accusations, City Council President Oliver Thomas observed that ULI made “incorrect assumptions about New Orleans from the outset,” including proposing the elimination of neighborhoods that were not even below sea level. As far back as November 2005, Council member Cynthia Willard complained that the ULI report did not take into account the people who live in New Orleans East.
The City Council has come under some criticism for appointing the Lambert-Danzey without a competitive selection process, as required by the City Charter and the Council’s own bylaws. (Lambert won a contract with the Council in 2004 to review public housing redevelopment plans, having previously advised the Council on Tax Increment Financing options for the HOPE VI Wal-Mart/St. Thomas redevelopment. The Council and the Lambert Group consider Lambert’s role in the post-Katrina effort an extension of the 2004 contract.) The Bureau of Government Research (BGR), which has been the most public critic of the Council’s move, has been singled out itself for lack of impartiality: having been founded originally in opposition to Huey Long, the extent to which it exists to expose corruption as opposed to progressive populism has been questioned.
In a city whose social circles were described as a “small town” long before “small town” became much truer demographically, business relationships, including political and recovery business, have a heavily personal element. The people behind the titles and acronyms are often vested with far more meaning than their organizations’ mission statements, and the nature of many of those players’ interests and alliances is still being teased out.
July 30th, 2006
Growing up in Madison, WI, I had plenty of early exposure to liberal, progressive and radical politics (not the same things). Becoming “politically active” as early as middle school was a terrific learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and my bleeding-heart credentials remain intact, but by the time I finished high school, shortly before moving to New Orleans, I was running screaming from anything activist whatsoever. The biggest source of frustration, which can be observed at either end of the spectrum (at any end of the multi-dimensional axes of socio-political movements, actually), was the people who were only in it to hear their own voices – the slogan chanters who lived in such delusional vacuums of absolute ideals that reality (the “fact-based” community – where have we heard that lately) was a personal affront that couldn’t be obliterated soon enough. The people who I came to suspect would be devastated if peace, love and understanding were to break out universally from their very own efforts. But a close second after that frustration was the more than full-time job of staying up to date on politics and policy, constantly reading between the lines – not for the nefarious evildoing that the slogan chanters are always on the lookout for (they don’t actually have to read between the lines, they just write it in themselves) – but to understand what was really going on, what really deserved attention and action. So although, as I said, my bleeding-heart commitment to civil rights, civil liberties, responsible coexistence with the environment, etc. were essentially unchanged, I haven’t had much to do with civic involvement in years. Even after Katrina, I’ve tried to follow the news responsibly, but I’m ashamed to say I just haven’t participated very much at all.
Attempting to compile an overview lately of the nacent Unified New Orleans Plan and all the committees, commissions and conspirators who have played a role going back to last September has brought back all of that old frustration and more, but has had the possibly paradoxical effect of making me want to be more involved, not less. Still, it becomes more and more confusing and appalling at every turn, and each time I think I have a grasp on just one strand I’m more tangled than before moments later. I don’t think I’ve ever had more browser windows and tabs open at one time, and there’s always another post or pdf.
I’m going to bed now, after I check out one more thing (or 10 or 20).
July 27th, 2006
I’ve lived in New Orleans long enough now that “Will Work for Food” has become all too true. Not that attempting to understanding the byzantine rebuilding process isn’t a worthy end in itself, but now that there are brownies on the line… (no offence to Byzantium – we should be so lucky)
Having a go at Maitri’s City Rebuilding Essay Contest, I’m having trouble figuring out exactly who CityWorks is/are. I’ve never attended one of their meetings, and the content on their website is a little too generalized for me to get a grasp on them. Can anyone give me a little background or point me to a better source?
Alas, the brownies may never be mine, but there’s nothing like invoking chocolate and my latent competitive streak to force me into a Learning Experience…
New Orleans Wiki – headings suggestion »
I came across wikipedia’s protocol for creating section headings. They suggest reserving the single-equal sign heading designation (Comments (0)
=Cheese=) for the page title, and beginning the section headings with double equal signs (
==Stinky==) and so on (
===Moldy===). It not only looks nice to have the page title larger than the section headings (as the formatting is currently designed), but the number of equals signs also translates to the corresponding level of html heading tags, which should help search engines determine the topic of the page.
July 24th, 2006
It’s come to my attention that last Friday, the New Orleans Community Support Foundation selected its contenders for the technical help teams that neighborhood and planning district groups will be able to choose from. Since the NOCSF was set up to administer use of a $3.5 million Rockefeller Foundation planning grant and direct the use of the recovery funds Congress has approved, this is hardly a small matter. This meeting also established the schedule and procedure for community members to get involved – a meeting on Sunday, July 30, 2:00-6:00PM was announced (location To Be Determined) at which residents can meet the prospective planners, settle on criteria for working with them, and determine their neighborhoods’ and/or districts’ official boundaries. A second meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 1, at which attendees can pick their top three choices for their groups’ assintance teams. Again, not trivial things. But where was this announcement made? As far as I’ve been able to determine, the only local media to publish the date and details was BayouBuzz. The Times-Picayune did cover last Friday’s panel meeting, but nothing further about meeting times or agendas, despite generalizations about the “strong voice” neighborhoods will have in their own planning processes. As for other local media, I’ve poked around a bit, but haven’t turned anything up as of yet. There doesn’t seem to be much extra room in the “Local News” segments these days when Dr. Anna Pou is on the loose. To their credit, the NOCSF did post the meeting info on their website, and they say they’ve disseminated the information to untold numbers of community groups – I hope they have. I hope they really are serious about including our numerous community groups in their own rebuilding efforts. I’m pleased to see how many local firms made the list – that’s a step in the right direction. But I’m still a bit concerend – where are the other local media on this? Where is the NOCSF when it comes to leaning on the local media if they won’t pick it up on their own? How much faith can we put in a planning commission whose primary outreach tool is a content-shy website that already needs some of its links retooled (try navigating off the “Contact Us” page, for example)? How far can we rely on an organization that doesn’t even have a location settled for a meeting less than a week away? That gives the community less than a week’s notice for that meeting? Cross your fingers, and register to attend…
New Orleans Public Schools »
I added some information on the Orleans Parish public schools to the wiki last week – mostly registration information, and lists of schools that have opened under the various boards the system has been broken up into. I’d like to include more about the charter systems and how they work, and I’m very interested in experiences people have had with post-K public education as well. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.Comments (2)