Committee for a Better New Orleans

CBNO is a multi-racial, multi-generational community organization, a catalyst and convener, working to bring all voices to the table to address systemic issues that will help to build a better quality of life for all New Orleanians. CBNO/MAC will accomplish its mission by providing and maintaining an advocacy role that encourages the kinds of partnership, collaboration and candid conversation that reflect the interests of the citizens of New Orleans.
Jul 3, 2014

July 2014 Project Report

There is a myth that in New Orleans in summer everything slows down.  We don't know the origin of that myth, but it sure isn't CBNO:  we've just released our new Blight Resource Guide, our Latino Community Health Survey report is almost completed, we just completed neighborhood mapping in another Planning District, and work continues apace on the NPP evaluation.

The Blight Resource Guide is a product of the Housing Community of Interest pilot project of the Citizen Participation Program, in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance.  One thing we want to demonstrate with this pilot is how the Communities of Interest -- a groundbreaking new concept in Citizen Participation Programs -- can not only bring new people into the civic engagement process, but also be a resource to neighborhood groups.  The Blight Guide is a perfect example of this.  It serves as a compendium of public sector, nonprofit and private sector resources that are available to individuals, neighborhoods and community groups as they seek to take the fight against blight into their own hands.  Since New Orleans has at least 30,000 blighted properties within the city limits, enabling people to take action towards remediating properties that are impacting their daily lives is a major accomplishment.  The Blight Resource Guide can be downloaded from our website,, in the Newsroom section; or from the Guide's own site,

The Latino Community Health Survey is a project of our other Community of Interest pilot, in partnership with Puentes New Orleans.  The New Orleans Department of Health is also partnering in this.  The purpose is to get a much better understanding of the primary health issues and needs, and barriers to receiving health care, faced by New Orleans' fastest-growing population segment.  The report contains numerous detailed recommendations for addressing the Survey findings, and the Department of Health has indicated that it will begin implementing those recommendations that pertain to its work rapidly.  We have already received support from the Chevron Corporation to begin implementing additional recommendations.  Given that close to half of the Survey respondants indicated that they have received no health care at all in at least two years -- and in many cases, much longer -- moving from information to action is imperative, and we are very pleased to see this happening so quickly.  This project will result in improved outcomes for New Orleans' Latino residents for many years to come.

The Neighborhood Boundary Mapping work continues to move forward, though not as quickly as we might wish.  It is troubling to encounter sections of the city where there is no history at all of neighborhood organization, or even of any real neighborhood identity.  Not surprisingly, these areas tend to be under-resourced and plagued with numerous urban ills.  It is also frustrating when geographically proximate areas want nothing to do with including their neighbors.  Nonetheless, we just completed the Planning District 5 map, and have five more districts in the works.

Finally, we continue working on the evaluation of the City Planning Neighborhood Participation Plan (NPP).  As we've noted before, this is the first major piece of our Citizen Participation Program proposal to be adopted by the city, and it is critical that we get a clear understanding of how it is functioning.  The early results indicate that, while a few tweaks would be useful, it is truly serving its dual purposes of preserving neighborhood character and promoting quality economic development.  We have seen instances where proposals that simply were bad ideas were denied after strong and clear neighborhood opposition; we have also seen instances where proposals that met with such opposition initially were ultimately approved after the developer and the residents worked together to find mutually acceptable solutions.  It is really, really rewarding to see this process working after a decade of pushing to bring it to fruition in New Orleans.

It's great to see this kind of progress happening in our work, and we are already in the early phases of our next publication, a Community Guide to how city government works.  Needless to say, we are extremely grateful to all of our supporters; without you, none of this would happen.  We hope everyone has a happy summer -- just don't look for it to be a slow summer here at CBNO!

Apr 14, 2014

April 2014 Project Report

Spring is busting out all over New Orleans, and CBNO is busting out in search of community input and engagement!

We have begun conducting surveys of residents, neighborhoods and businesses about the City Planning Commission's Neighborhood Participation Plan (NPP), which is the first major piece of our comprehensive Citizen Participation Program to be adopted by the city.  The NPP requires any applicant seeking any action by the Planning Commission to meet with the nearby residents and neighborhood association before the application process can begin.  This is a vital first step towards meaningful community participation in New Orleans.

Working with the Planning Commission and our partners at the Neighborhoods Partnership Network, we have designed an objective survey tool to gauge the effectiveness of the NPP.  This has several purposes; key among them is to identify anything in the NPP that may need to be improved, and (hopefully) to demonstrate overall that it is indeed a valuable tool for both preserving neighborhood character and promoting quality economic development.  Assuming the surveys do indicate this, it will help us to make sure that the NPP is not weakened in any way when the city's new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance is adopted later this year (the NPP is part of the current CZO).  Good results will also help make the case for expanding the NPP to cover other departments with a high level of impact on residents and neighborhoods, like Public Works and the Sewerage and Water Board.

With the high stakes, it has not been without a little trepidation that we have begun doing the surveys, but we are pleased to report that both businesspeople and residents seem to be having very positive experiences with the NPP.  We have identified a few instances where applicants followed the letter but not the spirit of the NPP, but in most cases, the business owners have truly taken this to heart, and the residents are responding positively.  Full survey results will not be available until June, but we are very pleased to see that the initial results strongly endorse this big step towards inclusive, structured civic engagement in New Orleans.

Our related work on creating more open and accountabile city budgeting processes is also going well.  We were recently awarded a grant from the Sunlight Foundation to create a new website that will allow any New Orleans resident to track city spending compared to the adopted budget, and will generally shed some more light on the budget process.  All the candidates who were successful in the recent municipal elections signed pledges from the Forward New Orleans Coalition, of which CBNO is a member, to make changes in the budget process that would allow for more meaningful and timely community input into the city budget, and we will be working with coalition partners to make sure that city officials do follow through on this.  Finally, we are developing a steering committee to oversee our work to bring Participatory Budgeting to New Orleans; the committee is being populated by residents from all over the city as well as representatives from neighborhood and community coalitions.  We initially had some difficulty getting people to engage on this (city budgeting not being the sexiest topic under the sun), but in the last month the pace has accelerated rapidly, and we expect to have this group up and running by June.

Wherever you may be reading this, we hope that both spring and strong community participation are in your air too!  Thank you for caring, and for supporting our work to create equity and opportunity for all New Orleanians.

Jan 23, 2014

January 2014 Project Report

It is election season in New Orleans:  on February 1, we will vote for mayor and six of the seven City Council seats (one incumbent did not draw an opponent).  It has been exciting to see that civic engagement and reforming the city budget process to include meaningful community input have been high-visibility issues during the campaigns.  Coalitions such as the strong Forward New Orleans group have made improving input into the budget process part of their platforms, which they ask candidates to sign on to; and questions about citizen participation and budget reform have been a constant at various candidate forums.

That said, not all candidates have embraced forceful positions on resident input.  Thus the upcoming elections could result in a mayor and strong Council majority in favor; or a mayor opposed and a weak Council majority in favor.  The plus side is that either way, we will still have majority Council support for this work, and we will come out of the campaign with greater visibility for the issues and stronger support in both neighborhoods and the business community.

Meanwhile, the work of the Citizen Participation Project goes on.  One of our top priorities is building on the passage last year of the City Planning Neighborhood Participation Plan (NPP), which is basically the Early Notification System from our full Citizen Participation Plan (CPP) model.  Currently, we are working on the following:

- Developing an objective evaluation tool for residents, neighborhood and businesses that have experienced the new NPP, to demonstrate how well it is working and make any recommendations for refinements.

- Continuing to make presentations to neighborhood and business groups about the NPP, to make sure that all are well informed and able to derive the most benefit from the NPP.

- Monitoring the progress on the rewrite of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, which contains the NPP legislation, to ensure that it is compatible with the NPP.

- Identifying additional city agencies and departments to which we can expand the NPP.  Examples would be the Department of Public Works, the Sewerage and Water Board, and the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

We are also working to complete a Blight Resource Guide, which will be a tool for residents and neighborhoods to combat blight in their communities, beyond what city government is accomplishing.  This project has taken longer than we had hoped, but a comprehensive draft has been prepared and we are in the review stage, with a target of a spring publication date.

Work also continues with our partner Puentes New Orleans in the Latino Community of Interest project.  We have completed the second Latino Community Survey; more than 300 Latino residents answered questions mostly pertaining to health care and education, two top issues identified in the first Community Survey.  We are analyzing the data right now, and should have the report published within the next two months.  We appreciate the support and partnership with the New Orleans Department of Health in conducting this survey.

Work also continues on the Neighborhood Boundary Mapping project.  The city recently released a map of what it described as neighborhood association boundaries, but because this also included merchant groups, community development corporations, main street organizations and many other groups, it is full of overlaps and is thus confusing and difficult to use.  We are optimistic that after the elections, we can sit down with city officials and explore opportunities to collaborate on the neighborhood -- not neighborhood organization -- maps.

As always, the CPP work has many facets.  CBNO staff participated in some campaign training in late 2013, and have organized the work more into a campaign structure, which we think will further enhance our capacity to move the project forward.  We remain extremely grateful for the support from the Global Giving community; we wish everyone a happy, prosperous and civically engaged New Year!

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