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Fattening Frogs for Snakes

So I went to the neighborhood planning meeting for Mid-City and Gert Town Saturday morning, and was deeply disturbed by what I saw there. Something doesn’t smell right. It’s not just the lack of publicity for this particular meeting. The whole process seems suspect.

The aim is to come up with a recovery plan for each neighborhood by July, and then a comprehensive plan for the whole city in August. The plan would go to the City Planning Commission and then to the City Council (which body is sponsoring this whole process) and finally to the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

There’s a lot of money at stake here. Billions, I suppose. That federal money I keep hearing about, designated for rebuilding, is coming down to the LRA and they have to decide how to spend it. Established precedent from other disasters dictates that the devastated community should decide how to allocate these funds.

The planning process now under way seems to be designed to give the illusion of community participation — a veneer of legitimacy.

But it’s not the real thing. At least I don’t think it is. How could it be? The timeframe seems unrealistic. They want to cook up a plan for our whole neighborhood in two more meetings, from what I gather. That’s just not possible.

As one guy in the audience said, we’re “fattening frogs for snakes.” I never heard that expression before but it seems to fit. This looks like a scheme to get dollars into pockets, but whose pockets I don’t know.

Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I am. But it’s complicated. I have heard that the LRA will only accept plans for New Orleans that have the City Council’s stamp of approval. And with Saturday’s election, we effectively have a new city council.

I need to figure this out and fast. The pressing question for neighborhood organizations: repudiate or participate?

Published inKatrinaNew OrleansPolitix


  1. The thing to do is to get your new council people involved. I have ties to Stacy and Ashley has ties to Shelley. Use the blogger network.

  2. rcs rcs

    I’d say participate. It’s completely shady-sounding (everyone at the Central City meeting was openly skeptical of the Council’s motives) but there is at least a SLIGHT chance of some money making it to the street without getting commandeering by a political lackey of some sort (especially in the districts with new reform-minded Councilpeople.) My goal is to re-submit some existing proposals that the Council has just sat on in the past and just keep at the planners throughout the meetings. The city-hired planners won’t have time to do much original planning and so anything feasible that’s already on paper will probably stand a better chance of making the cut. The true shadiness will begin once the money comes in, which I imagine won’t be for a while.

    Everyone at our meeting (about 20-25 people) was aghast at the current timeframe – one group has been meeting for TWO YEARS trying to get this stuff hammered out! I mean, really – this whole project that’s SO DEPENDENT on public input has a nine-month run time (assuming that they started in January) and they’re having their kickoff meeting with the public at the end of MONTH SIX? What have they been doing for half a year?

  3. My question is: what if anything are they proposing at this point in time? Has MCNO (or the City Park neighborhood group) every put together a planning/development wish list? Should the Lafitte corridor get stuffed in here (this sounds like a fantastic amenity, as opposed to the car storage currently behind my new house).

    Perhaps MCNO needs to be ready with its own ideas, or at least its own list of things the city or others have proposed in the past that it opposes. Being new to the neighborhood (and returning to NOLA after a long absence) I wouldn’t know what those ideas are.

    But once I’m on the ground 5/31 I’m sure as hell ready, willing and able to do what I can to help.

  4. We need to start going to these meetings of the city council and LRA. I dread it because they are designed to wear you OUT. I already have to research the blighted and abandoned property issue, which involves the LRA, and I want to meet with Stacy Head because she will probably take an interest in it.

    Now that all the jobs have been filled, it’s time to find out what they are doing and planning to do. I think many of the old council’s plans will be scrapped, because that’s just how politicians are. The LRA is going to become just as or more important than the council, IMO.

  5. She speaketh blondsense. I think the new council is going to take a second look at everything done by the current group; especially the neighborhood planning process.

  6. rcs rcs

    My question is: what if anything are they proposing at this point in time?

    They didn’t mention anything solid at the Central City meeting – rather, they seem to have been in information-gathering mode. We saw a bunch of maps (representing various demographic/housing/income/flooding data) that our lead planner (a Mr. Byron J. Stewart) had prepared, and Sheilae Danzae (yuck!) said they were going to collect all of the existing proposals they had at City Hall and post them to the Neighborhoods Rebuilding site (nothing there yet.)

  7. karen karen

    you have to go just to is like a farce played out as a drama with great lines tossed out by those who know..and the ones that wished they knew and the ones that hope you don’t know..i believe we should jam the process by over attending..go to every meeting for every district..pack the place..

  8. Laureen Laureen

    This whole process sucks, we are all working too hard without this extra burden. I can barely keep up. Half our peeps ain’t back yet to even be a meaningful part of the process. Outreach is my biggest challenge over here in Louisville but I am going to give it my best shot and yes, PLEASE participate even if only to be a voice of reason. For example, my hood assoc. visionary maniac was bringing up the idea a renaming our neighborhood which is hard to recognize for some, because we are new and all these planning retards are new too. I scream loudly against letting them change Tulane/Galvez/Iberville corridor name, that’s the neighborhood people think they are coming back to and as long as I am here they will have at least their identity. Last week, one of my black neighbors who has lived here forever screamed with me. This is their home, even if it is a bombed out shit-hole. It’ll get better but we gotta all help monitor and communicate the changes coming.

  9. karen karen

    I went to my 3rd Planning Meeting, it plays out the same everytime…a roomful of tired desperate people and a confused group of “suits” who try to sell the concept, no one is buying. This was the Hollygrove group and one of the “planners” chirped AWESOME to the comments of the neighbors in attendence. I can say with all confidence that we are all recieving the same watered down mediocre crap…awesome indeed..

  10. […] I was very skeptical of this process when it first began, and I’m still cautious about the final outcome. But I also think that if we can keep up this level of interest and involvement in the community — and increase it by reaching out to more people — that we can not only dream big, but make our dreams come true. Not by trusting anyone else to do it for us. By doing it ourselves. […]

  11. […] Everyone’s working themselves into a tizzy over the Unified New Orleans Planning process. The local blogosphere is abuzz, to the point I’m not sure where to start linking. Me, I’m getting plenty déjà vu — so I’m sitting this round out. I’ll stay engaged with the actual grassroots effort in my neighborhood, but I’ll let my neighbors keep on top of the dysfunctional hegemony this time. […]

  12. […] time I met Karen Gadbois. It was at a recovery meeting in Gert Town back in May of 2006. I even wrote about it — the meeting, that is. I didn’t write about the crazy lady bending my ear. I didn’t […]

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