CBNO Statement Regarding the City Planning Director Search

The following statement was read by CBNO at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 18 — and despite what the Times-Pic reported, we were NOT expressly referring to Mayor Landrieu in the fifth paragraph!

The position of Executive Director of the City Planning Commission is among the most important in New Orleans. CBNO appreciates the opportunity to offer some comments on some key qualifications for the new Director.

First, the new Director must have a strong record of practical experience in urban planning, preferably from a city that is comparable in size and demographics to New Orleans. More specifically, a track record related to solving problems such as blight, code enforcement, poverty-related issues and similar challenges that are among our top priorities would be very useful.

Equally important is a track record of working with community. Our residents have been at the core of our city’s revitalization, and the new Director must be able to continue and even expand this partnership between professional planners and everyday people. This specifically includes an understanding of neighborhoods, neighborhood associations and the myriad reasons why we must define and know who and where our neighborhoods are.

While public sector experience would be a big plus, we do not think it is strictly necessary. However, the new Director should understand the requirements and the constraints of working within a system like city government, including strong ability to communicate with elected officials, the public at large, and of course, you the Commissioners. At the same time, that individual must be strong enough to fend off political meddling or other forms of micro-management.

Finally, if the new Director is a present or past New Orleanian – which would obviously have some benefits – he or she absolutely cannot be perceived as being part of any political structure or affiliation. This person must be able to work within the system, but must also have the independence to balance the interests of government, business, neighborhoods, and residents – and ideally to find as much common ground among these interests as possible.

In sum, we need the right mix of planning expertise, strong management, respect for community engagement, political awareness, and ability to bring many voices together in a constructive way. This may be a tall order, but given the importance of the position, we urge the Planning Commission to take the necessary steps to find the right person for the job.

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