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?

From The New Orleans Community Support Foundation Nomination Form for Neighborhood Representatives for the Community Support Organization:

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 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 neighborhood’s constituents.” Yet the CSO’s composition is always described in the future tense…

9 Responses to “Who Will the Community Support Organization Represent?”

  1. Karen Says:

    Do you sleep woman?

  2. NorthWest Carrollton » CSO GNOF NPN Says:

    [...] Do all these acronyms have you down. Fortunatly we have a local blogger who has charted the chaos [...]

  3. melissa Says:

    Your essay does an excellent job of capturing the confusion around yet another portion of the UNOP planning process, and I love you earlier posts as well. I would point out, however, that the city council (our elected officials) have already let us down once with the Lambert/Danzey fiasco. Although these planners were chosen by people chosen by the people, they failed to include the public in their work. Few people found out about the meetings and the even fewer who attended left the process feeling alienated (sounds familiar). You are completely right in saying that the UNOP process has clearly been formed behind closed doors. However, this is hardly surprising, as the mayor, city council members and neighborhood leaders find themselves negotiating a delicate balance of powering the midst of distrust and public skepticism. In my humble (and maybe naïve) opinion, the part of the UNOP process that will determine its relative democratic value, is not the process it arose out of but the process it results in. The challenges facing citizens, planners, and politicians in our city right now are huge, but the factor that will determine democracy will be cooperation between the powers that be at the top and public engagement and continued informed scrutiny (like yours) at the bottom.

  4. Karen Says:

    Democracy is Process
    When I call My City Council to task they answer

    When I question UNOP they stonewall

  5. melissa Says:

    Karen, I agree that this process is NOT democratic. I did not mean to say that it was.

    All I was saying is that no matter what process goes on, planners need to be working with citizens at the neighborhood level so that their voices are taken into account. To me that has value, democratic or whatever word you want to use for it.

  6. becky Says:

    Thanks Melissa,

    I agree entirely that every attempt at a plan to date has left something to be desired (to put it very mildly), City Council’s included. I also believe that regardless of where this or any other plan originates, public participation is crucial to ensure that it reflects public interests. Just because we elect our officials doesn’t mean we can or should sit back and trust them to do what we’d like. There are plenty of elected officials out there who dodge their obligation to operate openly and honestly–but at least there’s an obligation they have to take the trouble to dodge. Private citizens and groups don’t owe us anything they don’t volunteer. When our democratic leaders fail us, I don’t think we gain by scrapping democracy itself–we just have to keep hounding it.

    Also, I think one thing that’s muddied the already murky waters in this process, for me anyway, is that the word “democracy” is being tossed around with two different definitions without acknowledgement of the distinction.

    The version of “democracy” I’ve been hearing an awful lot of lately is actually a rather loose figure of speech suggesting any sort of civic participation by citizens. Civic involvement is absolutely essential of course, but it shouldn’t be conflated with the stricter definition of democracy. It’s frustrating to hear from authorities in this process that this is “democracy in action” (as we were told at Sunday’s meeting) when to me democracy in our era entails such things as equal representation (including equal opportunity to be represented, i.e. well-publicized advance notification of important events), officials accountable to their constituencies (far from perfectly, but still in a way that the private sector is not), and the absence of unreasonable barriers to participation (such as (computer) literacy tests).

    It may seem to be quibbling on a distinction, but some distinctions are worth the quibbles. Consider: with the anniversary of Katrina’s landfall coming up, we’re less than a month away from being back in the national news cycle. When the “New Orleans One Year Later – Where Are They Now” stories start circulating, describing this process as “democratic” will lend it a different sort of legitimacy altogether than merely “some public participation.”

    You note astutely that the UNOP developed privately behind closed doors (and our backs) because the public leaders are kept busy being subject to distrust and public skepticism. And later you note (astutely again) that “informed scrutiny from the bottom”–that same public skepticism–will be a factor in steering this process toward something more closely resembling democracy. The opportunity to have been skeptical a little earlier might not have, in reality, changed things all that radically, but it might have averted at least some of Sunday’s fiascoes, and the general skepticism might have remained closer to its steady, buzzing (largely healthy) level instead of bubbling over into yet another outrage.

  7. Gentilly Girl Says:

    Democracy in action is the individual doing what they can, given the circumstances.

    We in New orleans must take the reins in our hands, and we are still owed reparations for the levee failures. This is all that is needed to rebuild.

    We are New Orleans, ’nuff said.

  8. Karen Says:

    OK I give up..I thought I would view the Planning Videos on the UNOP website

    I thought we were supposed to watch them so we could “deliberate” At anyrate they have said all day that they would post them later today. But now today is yesterday and they are still not posted. I need a drink

  9. Think New Orleans » That Loud, Opinionated Person That No One Can Seem To Escape Says:

    [...] This is an astute observation. The mocking indifference ties right into that fact that people are not being heard. For example, real representation is accountable, not volunteer. It is easy to laugh in meetings before unelected representatives, draped in the vestments of goverment, who when pressed with hard questions, remind those attending that they have no obligation to attend the meetings themselves. [...]