Over the past few months, a group of dedicated citizens have been working on revisions to the Communities of Interest Section of the NOLA CPP Model. These revisions are designed to simplify this Section of the Model and to provide a framework for how non-geographically based groups can participate.
We have submitted this version of the NOLA CPP Model to the City Planning Commission staff. City Planning will review this version of the NOLA CPP Model as part of their process to develop a Neighborhood Participation Program.
New Orleans Citizen Participation Program Draft Guidelines and Standards
This document defines the procedures required to establish and operate a formal CPP System in New Orleans, providing the City with standards for definition and recognition of Neighborhood Associations, District Councils, Communities of Interest, the Community Advisory Group, and the responsibilities and benefits accruing thereto.
The mission of the Citizen Participation Program (CPP) is to enable citizens to effectively participate in city government’s priority-setting and decision-making, and to give government officials a clearly defined way to communicate with the people. CPP is a tool to establish a continuing dialogue between communities, neighborhoods and city government, taking into account the rights and needs of all communities and striving toward a consensus-based decision-making structure that benefits individuals, neighborhoods and the city as a whole.
II. Core Principles of Civic Engagement :
- Careful Planning and Preparation Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.
- Inclusion and Demographic Diversity Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.
- Collaboration and Shared Purpose Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.
- Openness and Learning Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate the process.
- Transparency and Trust Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, out comes, and range of views and ideas expressed.
- Impact and Action Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.
- Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.
A. “Neighborhood” is a geographically based community or region of a city.
B. “Neighborhood Association” is an independent organization formed by people of a neighborhood for the purpose of considering and acting on issues affecting the quality of life, human development and sustainability of that Neighborhood. Once registered with the CPP system, the Association will be subject to the benefits and standards of participation.
C. “District Council” is a grouping of multiple geographically proximate neighborhoods into a regional organization that supports the participation of Neighborhood Associations and residents within a geographically defined area, and is subject to the benefits and standards of participation.
D. “Communities of Interest” are people who are grouped based on their shared socio-cultural, faith, business, or political interests rather than according to their specific geographical location. Individuals as well as organizations may join together in Communities of Interest.
E. “Community of Interest Organization” is an independent organization formed for the purpose of considering and acting on issues affecting the quality of life, human development and sustainability of communities of interest by providing services to, organizing with or advocating for people with common interests. Once registered with the CPP, individuals and Community of Interest Organizations will be invited to participate in thematic “Community of Interest Coalitions” and be subject to the benefits and standards of participation
F. “Community of Interest Coalition” is a thematic grouping of various individuals and organizations devoted to specific socio-cultural, faith, business or issue interest on a citywide basis.
G. “Community Advisory Group” is the citywide module of the CPP, consisting of representatives from the various components of the CPP and serving as a place for resolving of grievances and review and possible refinement of the CPP system.
H. “Citizen” is any current or internally displaced resident of New Orleans and Orleans Parish regardless of race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, language preference, United States legal citizenship, national origin, income, length of residency, or political affiliation.
I. “Internally Displaced Person” are individuals who have been obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters.
IV. Neighborhood Associations
A. Certification of a Neighborhood Association in the CPP
Neighborhood Associations that meet the requirements contained in this section may, upon request, be officially recognized by the City of New Orleans CPP system, and be eligible for the range of services provided by the system and/or their District Councils.
B. Entitlements and Benefits for Participation in CPP System
All Neighborhood Associations who opt to participate in the CPP system will be entitled to the following:
1. Registered Neighborhood Associations shall receive a direct funding allocation from the CPP system to support their general operation, including but not limited to outreach, communication and support for public meetings and other mandates set forth by these standards.
2. Registered Neighborhood Associations shall be entitled to send designated representatives to participate in capacity building trainings sponsored by local city agencies or departments, the CPP system, or partnering organizations contracted to provide CPP training services.
3. Registered Neighborhood Associations shall be entitled to receive direct and detailed access to public records that concern or impact the quality of life in their neighborhood or district. This specifically includes timely information regarding any development proposal that will locate in or impact the quality of life in their neighborhood. In addition, registered Neighborhood Associations will be entitled to submit in writing formal statements detailing neighborhood views on issues of local, district or citywide concern.
4. Registered Neighborhood Associations shall be entitled to send a representative(s) to the District Council within which their neighborhood is located, and to participate fully within that District Council. Each Neighborhood Association shall have a written procedure for selecting a delegate(s) to the District Council Board. District Councils will individually determine the number of delegates Neighborhood Associations will contribute to the District Council Board.
Registered Neighborhood Associations shall be entitled to receive notice and participate in public meetings of any citywide Community of Interest Coalition of their choosing.
C. Neighborhood Association Structures
Neighborhood Associations lacking formal incorporation or 501(c)3 non-profit designation will be allowed to register provided they show proof of compliance with financial accounting, public meeting and democratic decision-making standards. Any Neighborhood Association desiring technical support for gaining formal status can request support through the CPP. Neighborhood Associations will elect their own officers, board members and representatives to the District Councils. Officers and board members will be held accountable for their Neighborhood Associations in the following areas:
1. A Neighborhood Association will be an independent nonprofit organization (unless it meets the requirements stated immediately above), with regularly scheduled meetings [minimum of 4 per year].
2. Neighborhood Associations must establish and follow their own bylaws.
3. Neighborhood Associations must follow CPP guidelines.
4. Once boundaries are defined, Neighborhood Associations must represent their geographically defined Neighborhood in its entirety. Groups that primarily represent the interest of one segment of the community or concentrate primarily on one issue are not eligible.
5. Neighborhood Associations must demonstrate that they have taken significant outreach efforts in order to ensure that they are legitimately representative of a neighborhood.
6. Neighborhood Associations will formulate all recommendations and official positions through public meetings by vote, neighborhood survey or some combination thereof.
7. Prior to meetings, Neighborhood Associations must demonstrate that they have communicated to neighborhood stakeholders about the time, location, agenda, and what votes will be taking place.
8. Neighborhood Associations will establish procedures for communicating with all residents and interested stakeholders within the established boundaries of the Neighborhood Association on a regular basis in a manner ensuring that information is disseminated equitably, accessibly and in a timely manner.
9. All registered Neighborhood Associations shall receive a standard stipend for basic operation, outreach, printing, and other basic services provided and required in order to meet these standards. Neighborhood Associations may impose membership dues, but must still open any meetings where issues emanating from the CPP are considered to all residents of their geographic areas (see Section I, Dues). Neighborhood Associations may also raise funds through other means, such as events, programs, etc.
10. Neighborhood Associations must show compliance with principles of democratic neighborhood decision-making.
Neighborhood Associations shall maintain and file bylaws with the CPP and the appropriate District Council. Neighborhood Association bylaws must provide for meeting CPP standards and include provisions for minimum meeting requirements, adopting and amending bylaws, hearing grievances, and setting the agenda. The CPP Neighborhood Association Manual will include sample bylaw language that satisfies this requirement. Neighborhood Associations must assure that bylaws and articles of incorporation are in harmony.
Neighborhood Associations shall define and maintain their own membership. At minimum, membership must be open to any person who lives or owns property within the recognized boundaries of the Neighborhood Association regardless of housing tenure status. Other individuals or organizations (hereto defined as “Stakeholders”) may be members as further set forth in each Neighborhood Association’s bylaws. The list of the membership is the property of the Neighborhood Association and is not subject to public record requests but must be made available to CPP staff upon request. Actual residents of the neighborhood must make up the majority of all Board Members and a majority of all Elected Officers of the Association.
1. Internally Displaced Persons – Persons displaced from their home or habitual residence within or outside Orleans parish due to natural disaster or evacuation who express a desire to return to their pre-evacuation neighborhood must be afforded the rights of full neighborhood association membership, regardless of their housing tenure in the neighborhood pre-displacement. The CPP system will provide support for neighborhoods that have suffered population displacement to conduct outreach and maintain communication channels.
2. Youth Involvement – Neighborhood Associations are encouraged to invite and support the involvement of children and youth in the operation of the Neighborhood Association and provide space for their representation on Association Boards and as Elected Officers. Neighborhoods can establish committees devoted to youth services, programs and development to foster youth involvement in planning and critical thinking about their needs.
Neighborhood Associations shall not discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, language preference, legal citizenship, national origin, income, housing tenure status, or political affiliation in any of their policies, recommendations or actions.
G. Neighborhood Association Elections
Neighborhood Associations should make every effort to hold elections in regular cycles for Board Members and Officers. Election procedures will be communicated in writing to the CPP system and incorporated into all Neighborhood Association bylaws to ensure consistency of standards and operation. Neighborhood Associations should individually consider term limits for elected board members and officers to protect against the establishment of entrenched interests in the neighborhood and to provide for the development of diverse leadership capacity.
H. Democratic Decision-making
Registered Neighborhood Associations are required to show compliance with general principles of democratic decision-making at neighborhood meetings and concerning issues affecting the neighborhood, to ensure valid representation of the views and perspectives of the neighborhood as a whole.
This particularly applies to decisions related to issues brought to the Neighborhood Association through the CPP and in situations where neighborhood input will be conveyed to, and used by, government decision-makers. It also applies to any use of city-supplied funds by a Neighborhood Association. However, Neighborhood Associations may use other procedures for decisions related to funds generated by the Neighborhood Association and for other matters not related to the CPP structure and processes.
1. Registered Neighborhood Associations making a formal statement concerning any issue related to the quality of life and future development of the neighborhood must provide details of how the formal statement was achieved, including dissenting views. This includes producing the minutes and any official notes of the meeting, the manner of decision-making used, the number of participants, and the actual vote tally.
2. After providing the opinions of neighborhood residents through formal vote, neighborhood survey or other format, board members as well as individual members of registered Neighborhood Associations are free to express individual and/or dissenting opinions in public hearings and directly to government officials. Neighborhood Association boards may also take their own votes and present the results of such votes to city decision-makers along with the results of the general residents’ opinion.
3. It is understood that some neighborhoods receive frequent notice of applications for zoning changes, conditional uses, and related zoning and land use matters. Neighborhood Associations are not required to publish specific notice of each individual application in order to satisfy the requirements of this section. Providing adequate notice of a regular meeting of the Neighborhood Association, and indicating that votes will be taken on zoning, land use and/or permit matters, shall be considered sufficient. Neighborhood Association leaders are encouraged to work with District Council staff to determine which projects and proposals are substantial enough to merit a higher level of advance notice and neighborhood involvement.
Registered Neighborhood Associations whose meetings fail to attract a significant and representative proportion of the neighborhood’s residents must show how they are taking steps to involve neighborhood residents in local decision-making outside of regular meetings. These associations are entitled to support from the CPP system to support democratic decision-making outside of meeting spaces.
I. Dues and Support Revenues
Neighborhood Associations are encouraged to make their dues voluntary, but may choose to collect mandatory dues. However, whenever a Neighborhood Association is asked for input on an issue that comes to it through the CPP, all residents and property owners within the geographic boundaries of that Neighborhood Association shall be informed about the issue, and shall have the opportunity to provide their input through the Neighborhood Association, and have their vote counted, whether or not they are dues-paying members.
In addition, the CPP system, working with community partners, can provide grant writing workshops and other private fundraising support. Neighborhood Associations may also conduct other fundraising activities such as events, sales, auctions, etc.
J. Financial Accounting
A system of financial accountability and record keeping shall be established and detailed that governs the receipt and use of funds within the Neighborhood Association that will:
1. Describe the method for keeping records in compliance with local, state and federal laws related to nonprofit institutions.
2. Describe a method for providing access to and a procedure for review of all financial records for residents and stakeholders.
Existing Neighborhood Associations will have a period of up to one year from the time that their request for registration in the CPP system is received to clarify and delineate boundaries. The CPP system upon request will provide needed technical support and facilitation to assist in the resolution of neighborhood boundaries.
i. Neighborhood Associations must have clearly defined boundaries, and follow CPP Guidelines and Standards for addressing any overlapping boundaries with adjacent neighborhoods.
ii. Should Neighborhood Associations affected by overlapping boundaries mutually agree to share disputed space, the decision must be detailed in writing and submitted to the CPP. Overlapping boundaries may not comprise more than ten percent of either Association’s total area.
iii. Public spaces such as parks, schools, squares, etc are exempt from any boundary requirements and may overlap multiple neighborhoods.
iv. All boundaries must be clearly stated in Neighborhood Association bylaws.
v. When registering the Neighborhood Association with the CPP system, written criteria for selecting the defined neighborhood boundaries must be included. The CPP system may also request a written explanation as to why certain adjacent areas were excluded from the Neighborhood Association boundaries.
L. Resolution of Boundary Disputes
Resolving neighborhood boundaries will be a complex and critical issue for the CPP system, and it is recognized that achieving full resolution may take a considerable amount of time. Boundary disputes should be resolved at the Neighborhood Association or District Council level. If two or more Neighborhood Associations are unable to agree to a proposed boundary change, the District Council shall assist in resolving the dispute through the following process:
1. The District Council and the Neighborhood Association boards shall meet together to review the boundaries in question and propose a public meeting date to discuss the boundary dispute. Mediation services will be available as a helpful resource if requested. The public meeting must make every effort to attract the participation of the actual residents within the disputed area. If a substantial number of residents of the disputed area are unable to attend, an agreed-upon opinion survey or interview should be conducted to get the feedback of those residents for submission to the discussion.
2. If a solution to the boundary dispute cannot be reached by dialogue between the affected Neighborhood Associations, they may request the services of an outside mediator or any other form of dispute resolution. Before any such process is undertaken to resolve a boundary dispute, it shall be clearly described and agreed to in writing by all affected Neighborhood Associations.
3. If at the conclusion of all efforts to resolve a boundary dispute, the affected Neighborhood Associations remain unable to come to agreement, the residents of the area in dispute will be engaged as the final decision-makers. An open and inclusive process will be used to survey the greatest possible percentage of the area residents. Their choices will include the following:
a. Place the entire area in dispute within the boundaries of one of the competing Neighborhood Associations.
b. Place the entire area in dispute within the boundaries of an adjacent Neighborhood Association, subject to the willingness of that Association to add the area to its own boundaries.
c. Using boundaries as they themselves designate, divide the disputed area among two or more of the competing Neighborhood Associations and/or an adjacent Neighborhood Association (with the requirement that all boundaries be contiguous and as above, subject to the willingness of the adjacent Association to add any portion of the area to its own boundaries).
d. Request that an entirely new Neighborhood Association be organized to represent the area in dispute. If this option is selected, the District Council will consider the request, which should be granted subject to reasonable considerations of the size of the disputed area and relevant geographic, cultural and historical concerns.
e. Any other option as may be mutually agreed-upon by all the affected Neighborhood Associations.
Neighborhood Association bylaws shall include provisions relating to the resolution of grievances against the Neighborhood Association including: who is eligible to grieve, a process for the receipt of complaints, and a procedure for final resolution.
5. A grievance procedure must be established which details how an individual or group of stakeholders of a Neighborhood Association can express concerns to the governing body about its operation, decisions and actions.
N. Creating New Neighborhood Associations
The CPP system shall make every effort to ensure that all neighborhoods in the city are represented by a Neighborhood Association. To ensure equal access and accountability, the CPP shall provide assistance both technical and financial to the establishment of new Neighborhood Associations in areas where they do not exist.
1. One or more public meetings or a series of public discussions will be held to inform the neighborhood of the intent of creating the new Association. Those petitioning for the creation of the new Neighborhood Association must show evidence that they have reached out to at least 2/3 of the neighborhood’s population currently living in the neighborhood.
2. At one or more public meetings, a process for developing the structure of the new Association, including viable outreach and communication plans, must be established.
3. Follow-up meetings will be held to establish the structure and begin the formalization process of the Association within the CPP system and to establish formal non-profit status.
V. District Councils
A. Basic Requirements of District Councils
Except as otherwise stated below, the working and procedural relationship(s) among Neighborhood Associations and District Councils, and any District Council staff, shall be determined by the Neighborhood Associations that create the Councils. These relationships shall be respected by the CPP system. District Councils shall be developed according to the prescribed boundaries of the city’s official Planning Districts or some modification thereof.
District Councils will rarely make decisions or provide their own input to city government decision-makers, as this is primarily the role and privilege of the Neighborhood Associations (see section B.3 below). However, when issues, projects or proposals arise that will impact most or all of a planning district, the District Council may offer its input to decision-makers. This does not preclude or supercede the right of individual neighborhoods to provide their input on the same subject.
B. Goals and Procedures
The primary role of a District Council is developing the capacity of its Neighborhood Associations to consider and act upon issues affecting the quality of life, human development and sustainability of their neighborhoods. District Councils will enable neighborhoods to come together to address issues that extend across neighborhood boundaries to impact the wider district or city as a whole.
1. Neighborhood Associations will receive logistical and other support from staff at the District Council level. The District Councils will also provide technical and resource support to neighborhood activities, such as data collection, surveys and other tools in support of neighborhood engagement. The District Councils will facilitate collaboration among neighborhoods within their districts, as well as resolution of disputes between neighborhoods, including boundary disputes.
2. The District Councils will be the chief conduit for information to and from city government. Therefore, a major role of the Councils will be to feed information, accurately and promptly, to the Neighborhood Associations, and to gather input from the Neighborhood Associations to convey to city government.
3. District Councils may not make or override decisions on issues that relate to individual neighborhoods or just a few neighborhoods within the district. Recommendations are made at the District Council level only when issues legitimately impact most or all of the district. In such cases, principles of representation and democratic decision-making must be followed; and the input and votes of all individual Neighborhoods will be conveyed along with the District decision to city government.
4. District Councils will facilitate the involvement of neighborhood groups in decision-making processes on citywide and regional issues that cross individual neighborhood boundaries.
5. Uniform bylaws will be set for all the District Councils, which will also be formal nonprofit organizations. Each District Council will be governed by a Board of Directors which is composed of delegates selected by member Neighborhood Associations.
6. When the city wishes or is required to hold public input meetings, city departments and agencies will partner with the District Councils and the appropriate Neighborhood Associations to organize, publicize and conduct such meetings.
7. District Councils will provide training, orientation, information, and consultation to Neighborhood Associations and citizens according to the policies and directives of their respective boards of directors. It is the role of the staff to be a resource to neighborhoods and communities. Advocacy on a particular issue or policy is solely the purview of the constituents within the neighborhoods, districts and communities.
8. Hiring procedures for staff shall be the responsibility of the District Council. District Councils may request the CPP system’s support in verifying the validity of applicant resumes. Hiring procedures must be non-discriminatory and in compliance with applicable employment laws.
C. Inclusion and Participation
In the interest of addressing the need for participation and inclusiveness in Neighborhood Associations, the District Councils will support the participation of New Orleans’ diverse communities in their Neighborhood Associations. The District Councils shall uphold standards for inclusion and participation. The District Council shall support Neighborhood participation by:
1. Building partnerships and outreach efforts with New Orleans’ diverse “Community of Interest” groups.
2. Providing opportunities for Neighborhood Associations to increase their effectiveness in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers and leadership from diverse constituencies to participate in neighborhood activities.
3. Providing resources and assistance for making Neighborhood Association meetings and communications accessible to constituencies or individuals where assistance is either culturally appropriate or requested. This may include providing language (including sign-language) interpretation of meetings and translation of meeting fliers and newsletters for those for whom English is a second language, identifying childcare options, or seeking transportation solutions and meeting locations which are accessible to people with disabilities.
4. If the District Councils are to have staff, they must adopt a written policy that includes a statement of non-discrimination in hiring practices. Hiring and compensation procedures shall be periodically reviewed to ensure compliance with principles of non-discrimination.
D. Process for the Creation of a New District Council
The CPP system shall make efforts to ensure that all neighborhoods are participating in a District Council. To ensure equal access and accountability, the CPP shall provide technical and financial assistance for the establishment of new District Councils in areas where they do not exist.
1. District Councils shall be developed according to the prescribed boundaries of the city’s official Planning Districts or some modification thereof.
2. The new Council must follow the guidelines and standards set forth by the CPP system.
VI. Communities of Interest
[Communities of Interest are a new concept in citizen participation programs, but they reflect an emerging awareness nationwide that the exclusively geographic – i.e., neighborhood-based – approach to these programs excludes too many citizens. This section is presented to lay the groundwork for continued community conversation about how we may best include the greatest possible number of New Orleans residents in the New Orleans Citizen Participation Program.]
Inclusion of Communities of Interest is done in recognition of the fact that there are many people in New Orleans who DO participate in community but DO NOT participate at the neighborhood level. For these individuals, the “community” most important to them is based on their shared identity or shared interests with others. While these residents may not participate in their local neighborhood association, their needs and perspectives are an integral part of the human development and sustainability of our city. Providing the greatest possible number of New Orleans residents with information about projects, programs and issues that will impact their lives, and with the opportunity to present their viewpoints in the public discourse prior to city government decision-making, can only ensure a more inclusive and collaborative city.
In addition, many of the individuals and organizations that will engage in the CPP via the Communities of Interest have particular information and expertise that will be highly valuable to neighborhood associations as they confront the questions that impact their quality of life. Fostering communication citywide and providing additional resources to neighborhoods and community groups is another substantial benefit of this new component of the CPP.
Communities of Interest are groups of individuals who come together based on shared heritage, affinities or issues of interest. Examples include but are not limited to: advocacy groups, arts and cultural associations, senior groups, athletic clubs, business/merchant associations, ethnic groups, faith groups, worker groups, nonprofit service providers, professional associations, and research organizations.
The primary connecting point between Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest will be through the District Councils, whose staff will have current information on all registered Communities of Interest. The District Councils will in turn inform Neighborhood Associations about CoIs that can provide information and resources to them, especially as they relate to a specific issue that may currently be in front of such Associations, and will make the relevant CoI information available to any neighborhood.
While Communities of Interest will have full opportunity to participate in the CPP system (see Section E) and to provide input to city government, when there is an issue or proposal whose impact is primarily on a specific neighborhood or neighborhoods, the voices of the residents in those neighborhoods should be given primacy as city decision-makers weigh the input they receive.
Among the objectives that are achieved by including Communities of Interest in the New Orleans Citizen Participation Program are the following:
i. New opportunities for participation are provided to citizens who would not normally engage with the CPP.
ii. City government receives input from a broader base of citizens as it makes its decisions.
iii. Neighborhood Associations have an additional, independent resource to help inform them about issues and proposals that wish to consider.
iv. Civic discourse in general is informed by more perspectives and expertise.
D. Functions and Minimum Requirements within CPP
This and the next section are provided as a starting point for framing the position of Communities of Interest within the CPP structure.
CoIs are formal participants in the CPP system and agree to the following:
i. CoIs register and update the registration annually. Upon registration, the group is listed as a formal participant in the CPP system. No legal status is required. Registration also asks that each organization indicate interest in receiving information on and providing comment on one or more government issue/area of responsibility.
ii. CoIs receive information and disperse it through their membership or constituencies. Registered CoIs will be informed by the CPP when issues of interest arise. Each CoI is encouraged to have at least two members who can receive messages electronically through email or cell phone text messages and is willing to share CPP information with the entire group or organization.
iii. CoIs provide knowledge, expertise and perspective regarding neighborhood, district and citywide issues. Stakeholder forums, citizen reviews, neighborhood discussions, and direct comment to City Hall are among the methods through which CoIs provide this resource to decision-makers.
iv. CoIs partner within the CPP. CoIs are encouraged to maintain working relationships with District Councils, Neighborhood Associations and other CoIs operating in or serving the members of their community.
v. CoIs support the value of inclusion and transparency. When issuing formal statements on city policy, proposed legislation or proposed development, a CoI agrees to demonstrate the group’s long standing policy on the issue or present in detail the minutes of any public meetings held on the subject, as well as a listing of who participated in the meetings, how the final decision was reached and what, if any, were the dissenting views.
E. Benefits to CoIs
Individual organizations as well as Coalitions or Associations, upon request, may be officially recognized within the CPP system as a Community of Interest as defined above. All Communities of Interest that choose to register and participate with the CPP system will receive the following benefits of participation:
i. Registered Communities of Interest are entitled to be notified in a detailed and timely manner about any pending policy changes, legislation or development plans that impact the quality of life of the core constituency of the CoI and its mission, per their own selection of categories of information which they choose to receive.
ii. Registered Communities of Interest are entitled to freely participate in the CPP system, i.e. the neighborhood, district council, or citywide public meetings concerning issues that impact the constituency and mission of the CoI. This does not confer the right to participate in neighborhood association voting unless considered a member of that association.
iii. Registered Communities of Interest are eligible to participate in any thematic citizen forums, juries, reviews or commissions for city or neighborhood wide, issue-based discussions sponsored by the CPP.
iv. Registered Communities of Interest are entitled to capacity-building training provided by the CPP.
v. Registered Communities of Interest are strongly encouraged to align or partner with one or more Community of Interest and also with Neighborhood Organizations in geographic areas that they serve.
vi. Registered Communities of Interest are free to engage in the civic system in all other ways, such as contacting City Council members, writing letters, testifying, serving on boards and committees, etc. The CPP supports and does not limit other legal and ethical methods of informing government decision-making.
VII. The Community Advisory Group (CAG)
The primary purposes of the Community Advisory Group are to resolve grievances within the CPP system, and to provide for review and potential amendment of these Standards. Information on grievance procedures may be found in Section VIII below.
A. Makeup of the Community Advisory Group
All representatives to the CAG shall be chosen by their respective organizations. Only those members who are representatives of citizen groups within the CPP shall be considered voting members. The chair of the Community Advisory Group will be selected by the voting CAG members. The chair of the Community Advisory Group will be a citizen representative. Positions on the CAG are provided for the following stakeholders:
1. A volunteer representative from each District Council;
2. Volunteer representatives from five registered Community of Interest Coalitions;
3. At least one representative of the CPP Office staff;
4. A representative from the City Planning Commission (CPC);
5. A representative from City Council;
6. A representative from the City Attorney’s Office;
7. A representative from the Mayor’s Office;
8. A representative from the economic development Public-Private Partnership.
B. Meetings of the Community Advisory Group
The Community Advisory Group shall meet at least one time per calendar year. Upon written request of a majority of the District Councils or Community of Interest Coalitions, a special meeting of the CAG may be convened at any time.
C. CAG Grievance Committee
The Community Advisory Group shall establish a Grievance Committee for the purpose of hearing grievances that are not resolved elsewhere within the CPP. The Grievance Committee shall consist of five District Council representatives and two Community of Interest representatives, and shall meet quarterly (if needed) to consider grievances.
VIII. Connection of the CPP to City Government and Mandates
In order to foster communication and accountability between the CPP and city government, there must be a clear connection between the two entities. There must also be mandates for city agencies and departments to follow in working with citizens and the CPP.
A. Connection to City Government
The CPP will be connected to city government via an official city agency or department. Ultimately, the primary purpose of this agency will be to serve the CPP, and especially to make sure that information and notification requirements between the CPP and city government are adhered to. The department will receive sufficient staff and funding, through the dedicated CPP funding source, to discharge all its responsibilities to citizens and the CPP.
1. All tiers of the CPP have the right to address any issues facing the city, as long is there is some clear tie to their geographic area or area of interest. The primary focus, especially at the Neighborhood Council, will be livability and quality of life issues.
Specifically, all zoning and land use issues, including all development or redevelopment plans, that impact a neighborhood shall be brought to the Neighborhood Association(s) impacted by such issues. This shall include land uses permitted by zoning, especially if they involve new construction. A mechanism will be constructed through which such issues are brought to the Neighborhood Associations for formal review, with established routing and time frames. Information presented to the District Councils and Neighborhood Associations shall be warranted to be comprehensive and accurate; violations of this policy shall be cause for overturning any future permits and approvals. This review by the Neighborhood Associations shall occur before any such issues or plans are brought before the City Planning Commission or City Council, and any permits are issued, though this does not preclude the right of any applicant to work with Planning Commission or Council staff. As part of this mechanism, thorough and valid notification processes shall be developed. The developer or city agency pursuing the issue or development shall bear full responsibility for the notification process; and proof that notification was made, and that the Neighborhood Association review took place (including official meeting minutes), or that the Neighborhood Association declined to make such review (including the simple failure to act within the proscribed time frame), shall be required before any permits may be issued or approvals granted.
If it is determined that such plans will impact Communities of Interest, relevant Communities will also be informed and have the same rights as described above.
2. Decisions brought forth from the Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest shall, at every further step of the formal review process (i.e., City Planning Commission, Safety and Permits, City Council), be considered “rebuttable decisions”, meaning that if a city government entity acts in opposition to a decision of the Neighborhood Association or Community of Interest, the rationale for such decision shall be presented in writing to the Neighborhood Association(s) and/or Community(ies) of Interest from which the original decision emanated.
3. Any city department or agency contemplating major policy moves or activities shall be required to notify the District Council(s) for the geographic areas impacted by their actions, which will often require notification of all the District Councils; they in turn will notify the Neighborhood Associations, who will discuss and, if so desired, vote on any recommendation. Similar procedures will be followed for Community of Interest Coalitions insofar as policies or activities will impact their areas of interest. Such notice shall be provided no less than 45 days prior to making a final decision on the proposed action. Neighborhood Associations and Community of Interest Coalitions will have the right to respond in writing to any departmental/ agency proposals. If the proposed action is taken over the objections of a Neighborhood Association or Associations, or Communities of Interest, the department or agency shall be required to provide a written rationale for why it took the action in the face of the objection, in the process countering the objection.
4. The Neighborhood Associations, District Councils and Community of Interest Coalitions shall have the right to raise issues of concern to them and have their concerns brought before the appropriate city government entities. Among the specific issues that the CPP may address include:
- Access to public records and government information
- Neighborhood character
- Public safety
- Economic impact of a proposal
- Environmental issues
- Hazardous materials
- Neighborhood infrastructure
- The direction and use of tax revenues, especially those generated within a neighborhood
- City budget priorities
5. All city department heads shall be required to document any communications sent to and received from the CPP, and their responses to CPP input and decisions. Such documentation will be presented as part of the annual departmental budget process.
IX. Training and Capacity-Building
In order for the CPP to be effective and equitable across the entire city, all citizens and CPP components must have access to resources, materials and trainings that support and facilitate their participation in the CPP.
All officers and board members of CPP-certified organizations are recommended to go through a specific training that will provide information and tools to enhance their abilities to work with and advocate for their communities. In addition, a variety of trainings should be offered to all participants, on topics such as effective participation in meetings, conflict resolution, the workings of city government, available government programs, etc. In addition, background information on all issues brought before the CPP should be provided.
As part of the training materials (which should be prepared, at least initially, in the central CPP office), a “how-to” guide should be prepared for the Neighborhood Associations. These guides would include all official CPP guidelines; the legal mandate of the CPP; information on how to run meetings and otherwise operate the Neighborhood Associations; information on how to work with the CPP structure and with city government; etc.
X. Grievance and Review Procedures
The Citizen Participation Program must have a just and fair grievance procedure for individuals, Neighborhood Associations, District Councils and Community of Interest Coalitions. Further details of the CPP grievance procedure are contained in the CPP Neighborhood Association Manual. Complying with these grievance procedures does not take away any legal options for the parties that they may have under respective local, state or federal laws.
A complaint formally expressed in writing by an individual, (the grievant), or individual representing a Neighborhood Association, District Council, or Community of Interest Coalition to which the grievant belongs regarding a specific alleged violation. Grievances are limited to procedural violations of the bylaws of a Neighborhood Association, District Council or Community of Interest Coalition, or of CPP Guidelines and Standards that directly affect the outcome of a group’s decision.
Anyone who submits a grievance and alleges (s)he has been harmed by a violation of these bylaws or Standards.
A person or entity against whom the grievance is lodged. A respondent can be an organization (Neighborhood Association, District Council, Community of Interest Coalition or the CPP system) or its officers, Board of Directors or committee subject to the organization’s bylaws.
All grievances and appeals must be in the following format:
1. Provide a fully detailed explanation of the process, rule or procedure stated in the bylaws or Standards that is in question, i.e. what is being grieved.
2. Describe the individual or organization that is directly harmed and why they are harmed.
3. A remedy (solution) that would satisfy the grievant.
4. Typed or written on a maximum of three pages.
C. Grievance Procedures
In all cases, and at every level of the CPP, prior to the filing of any grievance or appeal, parties are encouraged to follow the following steps towards resolving differences:
1. One-on-one dialogue:
Individuals or groups are encouraged to first seek resolution of differences through one-on-one dialogue. Consider contacting an officer of the Neighborhood Association, District Council or Community of Interest Coalition or a CPP staff person for advice.
If direct meetings between the affected parties do not produce a mutually satisfactory resolution, either party may seek to have a facilitated discussion guided by a neutral party. If the parties are unable to settle upon a facilitator to assist them in their meeting, then the parties should consult with the CPP staff for assistance through a facilitated Mediation Program.
D. Grievance procedure with a Neighborhood Association:
Neighborhood Associations shall have internal grievance procedures outlined in their bylaws. Grievance procedures shall at a minimum include the following:
1. A grievance must contain an alleged violation of the subject Neighborhood Association’s bylaws or these Standards of Participation.
2. Bylaws of a Neighborhood Association must designate that a grievance be brought to a Neighborhood Association president, designated Neighborhood Association officer, or designated committee of the Association and/or board as provided in the bylaws.
3. A grievance must be submitted by the grievant within six months of the alleged incident. The grievance must be reviewed and responded to by the appropriate Neighborhood Association procedures within 60 calendar days from receipt of the grievance.
4. The Neighborhood Association’s consideration of the grievance shall be open to the public. The findings of a grievance shall be a matter of public record. Deliberations of the decision-makers, however, may be held in executive session.
5. The Neighborhood Association’s response shall be in writing and include supporting findings of the decision. The Association is encouraged to maintain any supporting documents in case of appeal.
6. Only upon unsatisfactory resolution of a grievance with a Neighborhood Association may the grievant appeal to the appropriate District Council. The grievant has fourteen calendar days from the date the decision is rendered to appeal.
E. Appeal Procedure with District Councils:
1. An appeal must be submitted to the District Council by the grievant within 14 calendar days of adjudication of the grievance by the Neighborhood Association. The appeal must be reviewed and responded to by the District Council within 60 calendar days from the date the appeal was received.
2. The District Council’s consideration of the grievance is required to be open to the public. The District Council shall maintain written records of the grievance proceedings, and the findings of a grievance hearing shall be a matter of public record.
3. Only upon unsatisfactory resolution of an appeal with an established District Council may the grievant appeal to the CPP Office. The grievant has 14 calendar days to appeal.
F. Grievance Procedure with a District Council:
District Councils shall have internal grievance procedures outlined in their bylaws. Guidelines for these procedures may be found in the CPP Neighborhood Association Manual.
1. A grievance must be submitted to the District Council within six months of the alleged incident. The grievance must be reviewed and responded to by the District Council within 60 calendar days from the date the grievance was received.
2. District Council consideration of the grievance shall be open to the public. The findings of a grievance shall be a matter of public record.
3. The District Council’s response shall be in writing and include supporting findings of the decision. The District Council shall maintain any supporting documents in case of appeal.
4. Only upon unsatisfactory resolution of a grievance may the grievant appeal to the Community Advisory Group. The grievant has 14 calendar days from the date the decision is rendered to appeal.
G. Appeal procedure with the Community Advisory Group
1. Appeals must be submitted in writing, within 14 calendar days of final adjudication of a grievance by a District Council. The appeal must be filed with the CPP Office, which will forward it to the Community Advisory Group Grievance Committee. Grievances must be filed no less than one week prior to the scheduled quarterly meeting of the Grievance Committee in order to be considered at that meeting; otherwise, they will automatically roll over to the subsequent quarterly meeting.
2. The appeal will be reviewed by the CAG Grievance Committee to make certain all the requirements of the grievance and appeal processes are met. If any part of the appeal is found to be missing, the grievant has 14 calendar days to resubmit the appeal, which restarts the appeal calendar. Otherwise, the grievance automatically dies.
3. The CAG Grievance Committee has the right to determine if there has been a substantial violation of the bylaws or Standards and order appropriate remedies. Remedies may range from requiring a Neighborhood Association to redo a decision-making process to de-recognition by the CPP Office.
4. Final adjudication of the appeal is by the CAG Grievance Committee. A response will be sent within 24 hours via United States Postal Service, registered mail return receipt requested, to both the grievant and respondent.
XI. Review of CPP Guidelines and Standards
The CPP Office, in cooperation with the Community Advisory Group, will organize and coordinate a public review of the CPP Guidelines and Standards one year after their initial adoptions and every two years thereafter.
A. Public Review and Comment
The draft of any CAG-proposed revisions to the CPP Guidelines and Standards will be distributed to each Neighborhood Association, District Council, Community of Interest Coalition, all city agencies, diverse community organizations in the CPP Office database, and other affected stakeholders who have requested such notification. The review and comment period shall be no shorter than 60 days. At least two public hearings will be scheduled to receive oral and written testimony from all interested parties. The committee will then review the public comments and approve any final changes before referring amendments to the City Council for approval. The City Council will review the proposed amendments a minimum of 45 days notice before Council action.
XII. CPP Coordination of Master Plan Implementation and Oversight
As stated in the City Charter, “the City shall establish by ordinance a system for organized and effective neighborhood participation in land use decisions and other issues that affect quality of life. It shall provide for timely notification to a neighborhood of any proposed land use action affecting the neighborhood; it shall also provide the opportunity for meaningful neighborhood review of, and comment on, such proposals.”
This indicates great importance for the role of the CPP system in coordinating public review and oversight of amendments to the city’s Master Plan. One way the Master Plan is implemented is through the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). Ensuring citizen voice in Master Plan review requires a great deal of coordinated effort and partnership with the City Planning Commission (CPC), whose responsibility it is to review the land use applications listed in the Home Rule Charter, such as zoning changes, conditional uses, variances, subdivisions, and design review. These reviews are central to Master Plan implementation. Similarly, all other City agencies, departments and boards whose decisions and actions are in any way guided by the Master Plan will work with the CPP system to ensure that their policies, decisions and actions are congruent with the Master Plan and informed by citizen input.
1. Land Use Decisions
The City Planning Commission has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the participation of the public in determining future land uses across the city. The CPC will be responsible for:
i. Making information about relevant proposals easily accessible.
ii. Ensuring a fair, meaningful and adequate public input process.
iii. Taking into account the recommendations and input from Neighborhood Associations, District Councils, Community of Interest Coalitions, and individuals.
iv. Ensuring that project proposals that have a public hearing before the CPC have met the criteria for public participation.
The following projects and proposals would require community input through the CPP:
i. Plans initiated by CPC or another public agency (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Dept. of Public Works, Housing Authority of New Orleans, etc.), including:
a. Neighborhood and Planning District plans
b. Redevelopment plans
c. Citywide plans, i.e., housing, transportation, historic preservation, etc.
d. Public infrastructure plans
e. Revisions to or updates of the Master Plan
f. Capital Improvement Program
ii. Development or redevelopment initiatives (whether applicant is a private party or a public agency) including:
a. Re-zoning and conditional use permits
b. All rezoning proposals and any conditional use permit application for a project of more a certain square footage (to be determined by the City Planning Commission) or where potential impacts (traffic, noise, odor) will clearly reach beyond the immediate location.
c. Public housing development or redevelopment
iii. Transportation, Public Works and Streets
a. Proposals that would change the width or carrying capacity of arterials or major streets
b. Proposed changes in curb cuts, parking capacities, locations, or requirements.
c. Proposals involving federal funds, thus triggering National Environmental Protection Act requirements for public input. Although CPC involvement in the NEPA process is not required, such projects can have substantial impact on quality of life and land values, both of which are important to the city’s future.
XIII. Early Notification System
The CPP system shall create and maintain an Early Notification System (ENS). The ENS is designed to supplement current state and local laws regarding public notification. The ENS will operate according to the following:
A. Subject to all other provisions of this Plan, all Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest shall be provided access to relevant public documents through the internet. If requested, the CPP system shall provide technical training on the use of a computer and ENS web space at a meeting of each District Council and Community of Interest Coalition.
B. An ENS Web site shall be created and maintained where information regarding City departments, boards and commissions, plus the Community Advisory Group and its committees and any other sub-components, will be available.
C. In addition to accessing information through the ENS Web site, Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest will be able to subscribe to services whereby they will receive electronic mail notifications regarding updates to the information on the ENS Web site.
D. Neighborhood Associations, District Councils, and Community of Interest Coalitions shall be allowed to provide official comment and feedback electronically to City boards, departments, agencies, and commissions via the ENS, as well as to the Community Advisory Group, its committees and any other sub-components.
1. Comments from an officially designated e-mail address (as described in Article XI, Section G) shall be printed and placed into the public record.
E. Information on the ENS Web site shall be provided as soon as is practical so that Neighborhood Associations and Communities of Interest are afforded an opportunity to prepare and provide comments before decisions are made.
F. The City shall provide each Certified Neighborhood Association, District Council and Community of Interest Coalition with an electronic mail (e-mail) address.
1. The use of this e-mail address shall be limited strictly to official business, such as communicating with Neighborhood Associations and Community of Interest Stakeholders about meeting times and places and communicating with the City on matters of importance to the Coalitions.
2. Each Certified Neighborhood Association, District Council and Community of Interest Coalition shall be required to use the City’s officially designated e-mail address to correspond with City departments and agencies if the correspondence is to be entered into the public record.
3. Additional information shall be made available for distribution through the ENS from public or private entities as they directly relate to issues affecting Neighborhoods and Communities of Interest, provided that they are subject to the regulations and requirements of this Plan.
 In spring 2009, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2), and the Co-Intelligence Institute engaged practitioners and scholars in the creation of these 7 Core Principles for Public Engagement, aimed at creating clarity for practitioners, public managers, and community leaders about the fundamental components of quality public engagement. Visit http://www.ncdd.org/pep to download the full 12-page Principles document, which details what each principle looks like in practice and what practitioners and leaders should avoid.
 Stakeholders are here defined as non-residents of a neighborhood who have an interest in improving the quality of a neighborhood, such as business owners and merchants, institutions, nonprofit organizations and service providers.