People Get Ready

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New this fall: Citizen clowns do back flips in the planning fake democracy circus reality show

Posted by schroeder915 on October 23, 2006

What do planners do behind the scenes in the post-Katrina citywide Unified New Orleans Plan rebuilding process?

Who the hell knows?

Speaking of which, the expression about hell being paved with good intentions may apply here.

There’s no (real) accountability. There are no financial books to look at. The communications plan relies entirely upon consultants, and marketers, and official media (i.e., big dollar media purchases), rather than on basic grassroots communication. There’s no answering for mistakes or unfulfilled promises.

The people we elected to represent us aren’t involved in the planning process. If we don’t like the job being done by the people appointed to plan the rebuilding of our city, we have no recourse.

What isn’t reported anywhere but here in blogs is the conversation that’s going on among citizens as they react to what they’re going through.

Here’s a snippet of one of those conversations:

First citizen:

1) One role for us would be to make sure we ask all the actors what the assumptions are in their model. If they say they are “neutral” process or tech folks, run for the hills and watch your wallets and purses.

2) In every venue, ask the accountability questions: Who benefits ultimately …. Who ultimately do we have to go to get an answer? Who decides? For whom? How did you arrive at that decision? What is the impact of that decision on my neighborhood? Why should we trust you?

3) Many of the decisions that are being made or not made have incredible implications on race and class here. They also have the potential for racial and class conflict the likes of which we have not known since the last century. We need to continue discussions about how that can be confronted for the peace of the city. My question is always: what are the impacts in terms of race and class issues of that decision? I just believe that raising the issue, though sometimes difficult to talk about, needs to be on the front burner. Some believe we can simply draw maps and red dot ourselves to bliss, while ignoring the real Katrina questions. I think it takes hard work inside — me more than most — and outside.

4) I hope that the report on the day to day grind of planning of UNOP … is made available the very day it is finished. That should be a really interesting story. Indeed, what do planners do? It can be the script for a reality show?

Second citizen:

Perhaps what we were discussing without actually saying it was an oversight commitee.

Who is doing oversight? I would like to see the contracts and sub contractors. The issue of COI came up with Acorn. I believe that it exists with other entities as well. Any and all decisions, contracts,mou’s or entities involved in this process should be clearly revealed and it should be sooner than later.

There will be backlash and we would do well to mitigate it by demanding as much information as possible as soon as possible.

But then again, what do I know?

First citizen response:

My take is that the political leadership from Washington on down just punted into a fake democracy circus, where we are all the clowns doing back flips in the center ring while the consultants sell popcorn to the crowds.

Rather than an oversight committee … I would just keep asking the questions of accountability which we all talked about last night. Sure the LRA is the lead actor. But what is the city’s role, the council and mayor’s roles, the planning commission role? Also, how do we say and bluntly state that incompetence of the planners is one of the key issues we would like to discuss?

And that the time parameters involved in this process are so drawn out, that it is so clumsily constructed, that a decision has been made already that the Diaspora is gone, out of it, history. Every day they wait to repopulate, more of the Diaspora lose hope. It is simply not fair, it wrenches my gut to know it. As one of us pointed out, it may indeed happen that as adults, people, knowing their options, make a choice to not come back. Sadly, the don’t know their options; some would say their options are deliberately being muddled. But many in the communities I listen to DO ascribe the clumsiness of the process to racism and classism. That may not be paranoia or conspiracy theorists on a kool-aid high. It may be one of the core truths of this process.

If this dialog has you confused, please refer to this helpful diagram.

Community Gumbo recently featured views of the planning process from the last Community Support Organization advisory board meeting, and from a Mid-City neighborhood activist.

10/23/06 update:

The Unified New Orleans Plan Web site recently posted the Concordia Powerpoint presentation delivered to the Community Support Organization advisory board meeting on October 14th (the Web site is down right now — they must be busy uploading that schnazzy new “Recovery Data Atlas” full of “windshield data” and “grassroots data points” they intend to load into their “action-oriented menu of key projects”).

Watch for the Recovery Data Atlas, scheduled to be completed before this Saturday’s Community Congress. There would be little point in holding the Community Congress without it, since citizens are supposed to use the atlas to make decisions at the Congress. I’ll be interested in seeing what all these fancy planning words mean when translated into practical ideas that tangibly help people get back into their homes, and rebuild their neighborhoods.

The next CSO advisory board meeting is this Thursday, in the City Council chamber, at 5:30 p.m. Note that ticket Nazis were out in force last time. I got ticketed at a metered spot where the meter was broken (i.e., it had absolutely nothing mechanical inside the meter) and the new electronic credit card machine was totally covered. So you’re screwed either way. This is, after all, the “New” New Orleans operating under the logic of “our mayor”. Another attendee who got a ticket suggested we send them to UNOP or Concordia. I think I will, since they try so hard to convince everyone that their process is open and democratic.


PGR — What is the narrative of New Orleans?

b.rox — Deaf

“>Becky Houtman — District 2 Planning – Needs and Goals Day

VatulBlog — Day 417: Bill Moyers On The Internet

Emily Metzgar — The currency of democracy

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4 Responses to “New this fall: Citizen clowns do back flips in the planning fake democracy circus reality show”

  1. Anonymous said

    you are absolutely right. there should definitely be some citizen participation. In other parts of the country the citizens are really involved and very organized. In the end they get a better development as a result. Here is one such group’s website:

    The more of these groups, even when they disagree, the better!

  2. Schroeder said

    My sense is that citizens know more than the people who are supposed to represent them. Politicians (in our broken system of government) are either way behind the curve, or too busy lining their pockets. The costs of citizen activism and participation are falling. It might be time to take some power away from the gatekeepers of political decisionmaking.

  3. I think so. You should do a peice on Net Neutrality. Did you see the Bill Moyer’s story on it on pbs? He covered Lafayettes battle to build their own network and an independent community based radio station from the gulf coast that came to life during and after katrina. Its about Democracy and community.

    There is a lot at stake, this could become theInternet of Tomorrow!.

  4. Karen said

    My back hurts..too many flips

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