The Participatory Budgeting Project Visit to New Orleans

From December 13 to 15, Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO) and the New Orleans Coalition on Open Governance (NOCOG) brought The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) to town. CBNO and NOCOG brought PBP experts Josh Lerner (New York) and Maria Hadden (Chicago) to New Orleans to share their knowledge of Participatory Budgeting. Over these three days, the PBP experts meet with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, NOCOG, and members of the public. This was a great learning experience for all involved.

On the evening of Wednesday, December 14, CBNO and NOCOG hosted a Participatory Budgeting Information Session with the PBP experts at Grace Episcopal Church in Mid-City. The public got to learn about how Participatory Budgeting works in places like New York and Chicago and other cities around the world. This was a very informative session. Here are some links with more information about the PBP and information they shared at the Wednesday evening information session…

PBP Website:

PB Powerpoint Presentation: NOLA PB presentation

PB New York Video:

PB Chicago Video:

Video from Wed, Dec 14 Meeting:

To contact the PBP email or call (347) 554-7357. If you are interested in learning more about Participatory Budgeting in New Orleans, please contact Nick Kindel at or (504) 267-4665.


NOLA CPP’s 2011 Year-End Report

Below is the latest project report on Global Giving. Here is the link to Global Giving website for all of the NOLA CPP Reports and to donate to support the NOLA CPP…

2011 Year-End Report

By Keith Twitchell – President, Commmittee for a Better New Orleans

The end of 2011 finds the New Orleans Citizen Participation Project (CPP) experiencing a mix of frustration and optimism.  The frustration comes because the indications at the beginning of the year were that New Orleans city government was going to adopt the CPP sometime this past summer and we could move into full implementation; unfortunately, a difference of viewpoints among several key city government entities pushed this timetable far back.  This apparently is the nature of systemic change, much of which by defnition has to include government and therefore politics, and requires so many different actors to get on to the same stage (and page!).

The optimism comes because the final quarter of the year saw considerable activity on parts of the CPP within city government and growing support in new communities and sectors within New Orleans.

Specifically, the city’s Neighborhood Engagement Office, which was created in spring 2011 and whose inception was a major factor in the CPP delays, conducted an initial process for developing policies and procedures for city government agencies and departments to use citizen input in their decision-making.  While this does nothing to empower the community to provide this input, it is nonetheless a very important step.  For one, it demonstrates strong recognition on the part of city government that it should pay far more attention to community voices; for two, it begins creating a culture within the individual segments of government of valuing, using, and being accountable to citizen input.

On the heels of this, the City Planning Commission CPC) has just launched a similar process specific to its own operations.  This agency probably interacts more with citizens, and therefore needs more citizen input, than any other within the administrative branch.  Further, CPC staff is very aware of CBNO’s work on the external CPP, and has supported and indeed contributed to the work.  At the public kickoff meeting for this process, dozens of citizens came out and advocated for including the external CPP with the internal procedure design work.  Both the Chair of the Planning Commission and the Executive Director have agreed to meet after the first of the year to discuss possible collaboration on these issues.  It helps greatly that the New Orleans City Council, in the city budget it adopted December 1, included funding in the Planning Commission budget specifically for a “community participation program”, which Council members have confirmed to us is intended for the external component.

While all of this went on within City Hall, CBNO worked with various community groups to continue pilot program projects to refine the New Orleans CPP model and demonstrate to city government the value of the CPP.  Specifically, partners included the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association, a collection of neighborhood associations within the city’s sixth planning district, demonstrating the District Council component of the CPP.  CBNO also worked with the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance on the Housing Community of Interest pilot and with Puentes New Orleans on the Latino Community of Interest pilot.  The Communities of Interest are a groundbreaking new approach to expanding citizen participation programs to include residents who do not typically participate in their neighborhood groups, and the work this year amply demonstrated both the need to be more inclusive and the potential of this approach to achieve this critical objective.

While the overall results this year fell short of hopes, we always prefer to aim high, push hard and see how far we get.  With an initial draft of internal city hall policies and procedures for working with citizen input in the mayor’s hands for review, tangible progress was made on the government side.  The pilot projects provided both valuable insights on how to continue refining the New Orleans CPP model and great demonstrations of why each of the pilot components is integral to this model.  In the year ahead, we hope to maximize the opportunity to work with the City Planning Commission to meld the internal and external components, and ideally to bring the final, full-fledged model to the City Council for adoption.  As always, we appreciate greatly the support of those who stick with us as this highly challenging, exceptionally powerful work of creating systemic change and empowering community residents inches forward.

City Planning Kicks Off NPP Process – Thurs, Dec 15, 6pm

City Planning Kicks Off Their NPP Process
Thurs, Dec 15, 6pm – Grace Episcopal Church 

The Neighborhood Engagement Office (NEO) is working with City Planning Commission (CPC) on their Neighborhood Participation Plan (NPP). CPC will kick off their process with a public meeting on Thursday, December 15 from 6 to 8pm at Grace Episcopal Church located at 3700 Canal Street. This is a very important meeting that will guide City Planning’s work on the NPP. It is important that you let City Planning know how they should improve the structure by which they engage the community. City Planning is wants to improve notification and input on the following:

a.   Amendments to the Master Plan;

b.  Zoning Changes, Conditional Uses, Planned Developments, and Variances; and,

c. The City’s Capital Budget Program.


Please share the information about the Kick Off meeting, and try to attend on Thursday evening. Thanks!

What: City Planning NPP Kick Off Meeting
When: Thursday, December 15, 6 – 8pm
Where: Grace Episcopal Church, 3700 Canal Street

For more information about this meeting, please go to this link for the announcement from CPC.

On a related note, when the City Council passed the 2012 budget on December 1, they allocated to the City Planning Commission $80,000 in funding to implement a community participation program. This money will give City Planning the resources that they need to facilitate an expansive and inclusive process to create a community participation program.

Participatory Budgeting Information Session – Wed, Dec 14, 6pm

Participatory Budgeting Information Session

Wednesday, December 14, 6pm

Grace Episcopal Church – 3700 Canal Street

In a time of widespread budget cuts and rising levels of civic engagement, New Orleanians are searching for more ways to have a say on how public monies are allocated, while city leaders have actively sought community input on the city budget. Now, New Orleans residents have a unique opportunity to learn more about how people in other cities around the world accomplish this through a process called Participatory Budgeting”.

Currently, residents in over 1,000 cities worldwide are coming together in their communities to manage their public dollars through a variety of Participatory Budgeting processes. New York City just piloted a program. Chicago launched one in 2009, and cities in places from Brazil to England to North Carolina are exploring ways to get the people’s voices into their public budget processes.

At the forefront of this effort is an organization called the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP). Representatives from the PBP will be in New Orleans next week to meet with community members. They will describe various approaches to Participatory Budgeting. This will include examples of how it works, where it has worked, and what benefits it brings to the community. The PBP reps will also answer questions from YOU, the public.


Participatory Budgeting Information Session

Wednesday, December 14

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Grace Episcopal Church

3700 Canal Street

Please RSVP to Nick Kindel via email at or call (504) 267-4665.

This event is sponsored by Committee for a Better New Orleans and the New Orleans Coalition on Open Governance. For more information on PBP visit

The Participatory Budgeting Project Visiting Representatives

Josh Lerner, Co-Director – New York
Josh completed a PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research and a Masters in Planning from the University of Toronto. He first became involved in PB in 2003, when he wrote a PB guide for the City of Toronto. Since then, he has researched and worked with participatory budgeting processes in the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Spain, and the UK. He has advised diverse organizations and institutions on PB, ranging from the Right to the City Alliance to Toronto Community Housing to the Municipality of Rosario (Argentina).

Maria Hadden, Project Coordinator – Chicago
Maria is a resident of Chicago and first became involved in PB as a volunteer community representative in 2009. She now serves as a member of the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Leadership Committee. She is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and completed her Master’s degree at DePaul University’s School of Public Service.

To read a brief recent article on Participatory Budgeting, please click here.

PBP Public Announcement

City Council Passes the 2012 Budget

On December 1, the New Orleans City Council approved the City’s 2012 Budget. After three weeks of hearings and negotiations with each other and the Administration, City Council had decided on the City’s final budget. City Council mostly deferred to the Mayor’s proposed budget. They “rolled forward” the property tax and funded most departments based on the Mayor’s request. Council did make a few changes to the Mayor’s proposed budget, helped by an additional $2.6 million in funds that were not included in the Mayor’s original proposal. The most relevant change for the NOLA CPP is that Council restored the funds for the Neighborhood Participation Plan that were taken away by the Administration over the past year. Here are some of the key changes…

An additional $850,000 for City Council itself

$500,000 for the DA’s witness protection project (which came from NOPD’s budget)

$475,000 for the Public Defender

$440,000 for the City Planning Commission to hire new planners and for the Neighborhood Participation Plan process

$300,000 for Public Works to add another pothole filling crew

$200,000 for the Juvenile Court

$200,000 for the Sheriff to increase electronic monitoring

$80,000 for the Sanitation Department to hire sanitation rangers

$25,000 for the Arts Council

$16,000 for the Civil Service Department to hold Fire Department promotion exams

For additional information about the December 1 City Council meeting and the approved budget, please see these articles from The Lens and At this moment, we have not seen the 2012 Adopted Budget. We will post that information when in becomes available.