The release of billions in federal funding for the recovery of New Orleans depends on the acceptance of a single, unified plan, covering everything from individual neighborhoods’ redevelopment to city-wide infrastructure. One feature of a such a unified plan must be meaningful public participation in the process, accommodating the city’s diverse citizenry and interests. Without extensive public representation, it is almost inconceivable that a plan would receive the endorsement necessary to begin disbursement of funds, in fact two prior planning attempts, the Mayor’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission, and the City Council’s Lambert-Danzey plan, failed in part because of inaccessibility to the public.

When the announcement was made that the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), its fiduciary committee, the New Orleans Community Support Foundation (NOCSF), City Council, the Mayor, and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) had come to an agreement to support the NOCSF’s Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP), Governor Blanco responded, “This process will be democratic and inclusive. Folks who live in the neighborhood will be integrally involved.” Mayor Nagin called the plan “democracy in action” in his own press release on the announcement. Democracy in invoked repeatedly in descriptions and discussions of the Unified New Orleans Plan, and the test of its legitimacy rests above all in the consequential inclusion of citizens. To date, there has been minimal opportunity for substantive public involvement–attendees at a July 30 meeting gave their recommendations for redrawing official neighborhood boundaries, and made their requests for the number of planners and project areas they would like their Planning Districts to have, but these decisions were limited to those in attendance. The selection of preferred neighborhood and district Planning Teams will be the first occasion for a public vote in the UNOP process. The integrity of this voting procedure, therefore, reflects on the integrity of the entire UNOP as a democratic entity and on any of its actions to follow.

Despite less than a weeks’ notice, hundreds managed to attend the two public meetings and neighborhood groups and individuals all over the city are earnestly studying the 15 planning groups and what they have to offer. Many of the hardest-hit neighborhoods have already been working with planners for months — some with the Lambert-Danzey team and some with firms they hired themselves in the hope that when funding did come, they would be reimbursed. The Louisiana Recovery Authority will be administering the federal funds earmarked for New Orleans. With its endorsement of the UNOP and the requirement that UNOP planning teams submit neighborhood/district plans, many fear that months of work will go unfunded and come undone. Having a vote in their teams’ selection process is taken in deadly earnest by thousands of New Orleanians.

4 Responses to “Get Out The Vote (Just In Case It Matters)”

  1. Think New Orleans » Outsourcing Democracy Says:

    [...] For those of you visiting from outside the City of New Orleans. It is difficult to explain why this is important. Becky Houtman wrote a post this morning, Get Out and Vote, that describes why people are allowing themselves to be engaged in this process. If you have No Tags [...]

  2. NorthWest Carrollton » Voting for A Planner Says:

    [...] We need to keep on participating in this project but keep our eyes and ears open as to issues of concern regarding the process. Maitri provides insight over at VatulBlog. Becky Houtman reminds us that public participation should be more than a Buzz Word and finally for those of us who think that on-line voting is a sure way to have a valid vote Alan at Think New Orleans explains with limited technical lingo the faulty application of an online Vote. [...]

  3. habitat for urbanity » don’t point that democratic process at me, mr. bingler Says:

    [...] I’m not really going to discuss my specific concerns about the specific sources of messiness in this specific “democratic process,” as so many keener observers have already done it (see Alan’s and Becky’s comments). But I will take a moment to express some concerns that continue to nag at me. [...]

  4. Think New Orleans » For the Record, This Is Not An Election Says:

    [...] Get Out the Vote [...]