The New Orleans Citizen Participation project is wrapping up one of its most successful years ever!
As we reported previously, the New Orleans City Planning Commission adopted the first major piece of the New Orleans Citizen Participation Program this summer. The Planning Commission calls its piece its “Neighborhood Participation Plan”, or NPP. Since the Commission’s adoption of the NPP in July, the Plan was reviewed and unanimously approved by the New Orleans City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee, and final ratification of the Plan by the full Council is expected in early December. However, the mayor’s proposed 2013 budget initially did not include funding to implement the NPP. Fortunately, subsequent negotiations between the administration, the Planning Commission and the Council have led to inclusion of the necessary funding in the Commission’s 2013 budget. This ensures that residents, neighborhoods and businesses will be receiving information on both private and public sector projects that will impact them beginning early next year, and will also have the opportunity to meet with developers prior to any discussion of permitting, zoning, etc.
CBNO has also completed its Latino Community Survey and report, in partnership with Puentes New Orleans, a Latino organizing and advocacy organization. The report details the needs and priorities of Latino residents in New Orleans, as well as their attitudes towards government and community participation. It also examines the barriers Latinos experience to participation and the obstacles to obtaining needed government services. This has already led to a meeting with the leadership of the city’s Department of Health and a commitment from them to work with both Latino and Vietnamese communities in New Orleans to improve access to health care services and information. Follow-up work will involve additional conversations with city government as well as Latino leaders, neighborhood leaders and other service providers. The full text of the report can be found via the link at the end of this report.
The Neighborhood Boundary Mapping pilot project in the city’s Planning District 6 has also been successfully concluded. This will serve as a template for mapping neighborhood boundaries in all 13 Planning Districts, which is critical for the success of the Citizen Participation Program as well as for equitable economic development in New Orleans, for city service delivery and for many other vital reasons. The report on this project has been provided to the city administration, and we hope to collaborate with the city to complete the mapping project over the course of the next year. This report can also be found via the link at the end of our Global Giving report.
Building on our growing outreach to the New Orleans business community, the Citizen Participation Project also organized our Business Advisory Council. The initial meeting of the BAC led to some new insights into business priorities for the CPP, as well as some excellent thoughts on how to continue building business support and to move the next phases of the project forward in 2013. Among the more subtle but important accomplishments for the Project in 2012 is our expansion of awareness of and support for the CPP in the diverse New Orleans business communities.
Finally, less than two weeks ago a year-long tug of war over a proposed amendment to the New Orleans Master Plan came to a final resolution in front of the City Council. The administration-proposed amendment would have substantially weakened the Community Participation chapter of the Master Plan; further, the amendment was offered with no community input, to a Master Plan that was created with the input of thousands of community members. From our standpoint, this made the amendment a bad idea in terms of both content and process. Though accepted by the City Planning Commission, the amendment in its original form was sent back to CPC when it came before the City Council. CBNO worked with CPC staff on the language, and the revised version was significantly less damaging; however, we still felt that it was unnecessary, damaging to the advancement of meaningful civic engagement in New Orleans, and contrary to the spirit of community input that shaped the Master Plan. The Planning Commission almost voted to reject the amendment, then ultimately decided to forward it to the City Council. At the Council meeting where the amendment was considered, there was lengthy debate before the Council finally voted 4-3 to reject it, putting the issue to rest at last. CBNO is very appreciative of the community voices that weighed in with the Council in opposition to the amendment, as well as the willingness of the Council members to examine the amendment thoroughly and take a stand against. We do see opportunities to improve the Master Plan going forward, and hope to work with the administration on both language and a community process that ensures this is done in a way that is inclusive and productive.
With a critical piece of the Citizen Participation Program adopted by New Orleans city government, with two major reports completed and serving as the basis for community actions in 2013, with growing support for our work and the threat of damage to it in the Master Plan eliminated, we look back on 2012 with satisfaction — and as always, with tremendous gratitude to the many people who support our work with their time and their contributions. Best wishes to all for the year ahead!
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