NOLA CPP Executive Summary

Here is the link to a pdf copy of the NOLA CPP Exec Summary 12-10. The entire Executive Summary text can be found below.

Executive Summary

New Orleans Citizen Participation Program (NOLA-CPP)

Committee for a Better New Orleans

Introduction

Citizen Participation Programs (CPP) have existed for over 30 years and are an integral part of land use decisions, budgeting processes, and other quality of life issues in cities all over the world. A CPP enables citizens to have a greater say in city government decision-making and priority setting, and it gives government officials an effective means for communicating with the people.

The intent of a CPP is for citizens to be aware of the activities of government before they occur, and to be an integral part of the decision-making process that precedes such activities.  Instead of having citizens overflowing City Council chambers distressed about a proposed development or reacting to a project after it has been implemented, citizens will be informed of proposals in their early planning stages and will be in a position to provide input on decisions that directly affect their neighborhoods and the city.  Citizens will also be able to proactively assess neighborhood needs and assets, and generate their own proposals and projects.  In turn, government officials charged with making important decisions will have more accurate and verified information about both the majority and minority views and preferences of the people before they take action.

The citizen engagement and energy that emerged in New Orleans post-Katrina has been a profound force in the city’s recovery and revitalization.  The CPP will strengthen and sustain this energy far into the future and will be a vitally important component of rebuilding New Orleans as one of the world’s great cities.

Background

The original call for a citizen participation program in New Orleans comes from the “New Century New Orleans” document, created by a citizen group in 1992.  The call was strongly restated in the UNOP final version in January 2007, and mandated by the November 2008 amendment to the New Orleans City Charter.  Citizen participation is also mandated by Chapter 15 of the New Orleans Master Plan, which identifies core principles for a CPP and outlines key components of its structure.

Following a request from the City Planning Commission, the Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO) began working to develop a New Orleans CPP in 2003, and has made this project the organization’s top priority in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Working with a broad coalition of partners, including neighborhood, community, faith-based and business groups, CBNO has conducted public forums, held many small group meetings, and made hundreds of presentations about the CPP concept to thousands of citizens across the full geographic and demographic spectrum of New Orleans.

The current draft model is based on extensive research of many models, reflects the elements of CPPs around the country, and represents thoughtful input from the diverse citizens of our community.  This model is also truly groundbreaking in that – unlike any previous CPP model nationwide – it goes beyond the purely geographic construct to include “Communities of Interest” – individuals and organizations that come together around specific interests and affinities (such as health care advocates, environmental groups, education advocates, etc.). Interestingly, as several cities with established CPPs conduct reviews of their systems, the failure to include these communities of interest is being recognized as a shortcoming, and the new trend nationally is to work towards incorporating them into the system. The new New Orleans model, however, is the first to propose a methodology for doing this.

The 2010 Draft Model

CPP creates a mandated framework for Neighborhood Associations (NAs) and Communities of Interest (CoI) to receive information from and provide input to the City Planning Commission (CPC), City Council, and a variety of city agencies, departments and boards on issues such as:

  • Land use and zoning decisions.  An Early Notification System (ENS) establishes timeframes and procedures for a formal review by Neighborhood Associations of any new proposal for development in a geographic area.
  • Capital Budgeting Processes.  Review of City budget priorities and direction and use of tax revenues, especially those generated within a neighborhood.
  • Quality of Life Proposals.  Proposals related to code enforcement, blight, crime, emergency preparedness, cultural arts, economic development, sustainable environment, education, housing, public works and other issues.
  • Review of Master Plan.  Public review and oversight of amendments to the City’s Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO), including work with CPC and other City agencies, departments and boards whose decisions and actions are in any way guided by the Master Plan.

Structure

The CPP is proposed to be a quasi-governmental agency[1] overseen by a Community Advisory Group (CAG) and funded with a dedicated millage. The CPP strengthens existing relationships between people and government.  It also strengthens existing neighborhood organizations, and will help create new ones where none presently exist.  Finally, it creates new structures that will promote dialogue and collaboration between people, neighborhoods and community groups throughout the city. A few critical points:

The CPP does not preclude any individual, neighborhood association or community organization from being in direct contact with their City Hall officials or City Council representative.

Each of the CPP components is required to support fundamental values of democratic inclusion and decision-making within their operations through bylaws that provide for open membership, regular open meetings, and financial accountability.

Training and capacity building will be offered to provide information and tools to enhance a neighborhood association or other organization’s ability to work with and advocate for their communities and work within the CPP system.

Major Components Proposed:

The Community Advisory Group is a 15 member group that reviews the function of the CPP and handles any grievances in the system.

The City Wide Coordinating Office’s main roles are oversight, capacity building, and coordination with City Departments, agencies and boards ensuring that information flow is accurate and timely to District Councils, Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest.  This office should also partner with existing nonprofit groups in the community in providing resources and training to neighborhoods.

Registered Neighborhood Association (NA) is an independent organization within a geographic boundary with a board, bylaws, public meetings, communication with residents, and financial accountability.  Capacity building is available to meet these basic requirements for registration. A registered Neighborhood Association is eligible for CPP resources and support.

Registered Community of Interest (CoI) is an individual or group that is concerned with a specific issue or represents a special constituency.  Because it is thought that a CoI has existing resources, CPP funding will not be provided.  There are many community organizations in New Orleans representing interests such as faith groups, ethnic groups, merchant/business groups, arts, research, environmental, nonprofit service providers, professional associations, and labor unions.

District Councils will be associations of multiple Neighborhood Associations.  Their boards will be comprised of representatives from the neighborhoods, selected by those neighborhoods.  District Councils will be established for each of the 13 planning districts. Examples of already existing District Councils are The Gentilly Civic Improvement Association, the Eastern New Orleans Neighborhood Association Council and the Algiers Council of Neighborhood Presidents. These Councils will have staff to provide resources for information flow, resident outreach, capacity building training, collaboration and dispute resolution across neighborhood boundaries, and linking Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest on mutually beneficial issues.  Initially, it is anticipated that staff will be shared among two or three District Councils.

Community of Interest Coalitions will bring together multiple Communities of Interest with a similar issue or constituency.  The Coalition enables these groups to address issues that extend across the city. The Coalition serves as the chief conduit for information to and from city government and the CPP to community stakeholders.  The Coalition monitors and upholds standards for inclusion and participation and must agree to represent divergent voices within the Coalition.  [NOTE:  work on this component of the CPP is continuing, and the final model may reflect significant changes.]

For more information on the New Orleans Citizen Participation Program, please visit our web site, www.nolacpp.wordpress.com.  You can also contact CPP Project Coordinator Nick Kindel at (504) 267-4665 or nolacpp@gmail.com.


[1] Such as the Office of the Inspector General.

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