The NOLA CPP team has worked for many years researching best practices and gathering input from New Orleans to create the NOLA CPP Model. The document below is a description of the history and outreach done by the NOLA CPP team.
History of the Development of the New Orleans Citizen Participation Program
In 2002, the Director of the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC), Collette Creppel, asked the Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO) to take on the task of developing a formal citizen participation structure for New Orleans.
While a Citizen Participation Program (CPP) was not part of the Blueprint for a Better New Orleans, the 2001 document that guided CBNO’s work, the need to rebuild trust between citizens and government was an overarching goal of the Blueprint’s City Management section. Unquestionably, a CPP would be a powerful tool for achieving this goal.
Serving on the CBNO Board of Directors at that time was Dr. Peter Dangerfield, Executive Director of Total Community Action and a leading national expert on CPPs. His eloquent advocacy convinced the Board to accept the task. At the September 2002 meeting of the Board of Directors, CBNO committed to developing the New Orleans CPP.
The organization spent all of 2003 doing background research, beginning with a large trove of materials provided by the CPC. On-line research was augmented by site visits to cities with strong CPPs like Portland (OR), Chicago, Washington (DC), and Birmingham (AL), where CBNO staff met with city officials, volunteer participants and CPP staff. In addition, CBNO staff attended numerous national conferences related to citizen engagement and participation.
In March 2004, CBNO collaborated with the Planning Commission to conduct a series of public meetings throughout New Orleans, introducing citizens to the CPP concept and getting substantial input on how the New Orleans CPP should be constructed. In addition to citywide meetings and meetings in each City Council district, a media forum was conducted to further publicize the project. Mayor Ray Nagin and City Council President Oliver Thomas publicly endorsed the development of the CPP.
With input received from more than 300 citizens during this process, CBNO staff developed an initial draft CPP model. After review by CPC staff, the draft model was released in fall 2004. Moving into 2005, CBNO was preparing pilot projects to test the CPP model design when Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system interrupted work.
After the Storm
Post-Katrina, CBNO advocated strongly for a large citizen role in planning efforts such as the Bring New Orleans Back Commission. The organization also joined with other partners in calling for the Planning Commission to take a larger role in the post-Katrina planning, but city officials did not follow either of these calls. CBNO and other groups were successful in getting the city to agree to a public process for recovery planning that eventually became the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP). CBNO played a major role in bringing AmericaSpeaks to the UNOP process and in doing the outreach for the second and third Community Congresses. Throughout UNOP, CBNO also reminded citizens and stakeholders of the need for a Citizen Participation Program, and the final UNOP document included a strong and specific call for a New Orleans CPP.
As UNOP wrapped up in early 2007, CBNO again took up the task of developing the New Orleans CPP. The pre-storm model was largely abandoned, in deference to the changed landscape and particularly to the increased number of New Orleanians who wanted to participate in designing their city’s future. Many dozens of public meetings were held, including visits to many neighborhood and community groups, in order to bring residents up to speed on the CPP concept. A close partnership was formed with the Neighborhoods Partnership Network (NPN), and the working relationship with the CPC was also redeveloped.
This first post-Katrina stage culminated in July 2008 with the Citizen Participation Summit, held over the course of a weekend at the Pan-American building downtown. Approximately 150 citizens, representing the full demographic and geographic diversity of New Orleans, participated in the Summit. During the weekend, citizens defined the nine major elements they wanted to address in the New Orleans CPP, and formed Action Teams to work on each of these elements. After the Summit, the Action Teams began their work, with the first Team meeting just three days after the Summit concluded. In addition, monthly meetings with representatives from the Action Teams kept all the groups informed about each other’s work. Nearly 200 people participated in the work of designing the NOLA-CPP.
Also during the fall of 2008, Councilmember Jackie Clarkson took the lead in preparing an amendment to the New Orleans City Charter that would give the city’s Master Plan the force of law. Working with other partners, CBNO was able to include the call for citizen participation in the amendment, putting the CPP mandate into the City Charter.
The New NOLA-CPP Model
The first draft of the new NOLA-CPP model was released at a breakfast at the Ashe Cultural Center on February 28, 2009. Attended by dozens of citizens, CPC staff and several city officials, this session introduced the model to the community, including the groundbreaking Communities of Interest component of the NOLA-CPP. Reaction to the model was extremely positive. This was followed by another round of community and neighborhood meetings to present the draft model and receive input on it, leading to the release of a revised draft model in May 2009. During the post-Katrina process of working on the CPP, CBNO has conducted well over 100 public meetings and reached out to more than 1,800 New Orleanians. In addition, input on the model has been received from close to 700 additional residents via in-person and on-line surveys.
Next, CBNO staff and NOLA-CPP volunteers began working with the Planning Commission and the Goody Clancy consultant team on the New Orleans Master Plan, particularly Chapter 15, the chapter on Community Participation. This work consumed the rest of 2009 and continued into early 2010. Dialogue with the CPC staff about the NOLA-CPP did continue during this period, leading to several important advances in the framework for the CPP and in the model itself.
After the Master Plan draft was completed, the CBNO staff and volunteers returned to the NOLA-CPP. Neighborhood and community meetings continued, as did the Action Team (now consolidated into a single group that continued to refine the CPP model). In summer 2010, a near-final draft was presented to the CPC staff, which provided a thorough and thoughtful review of the model. The NOLA-CPP team reviewed the CPC suggestions, and another set of revisions was made.
Finally, in September 2010, the NOLA-CPP model was formally submitted to the City Planning Commission, the culmination of seven years of multi-faceted collaboration, innovative thinking, thousands of hours of work on the part of New Orleans citizens, and extensive input from residents and stakeholders throughout the city. The Planning Commissioners have not performed any formal review of the model, but a process is being established for a final, formal round of public meetings and volunteer and staff work, with the objective of preparing the final NOLA-CPP for formal adoption by the City Planning Commission and City Council in summer 2011.