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.
Jan 18, 2017

January 2017 Project Report

2017 is going to be a very significant year for civic engagement in general in New Orleans, and for the Citizen Participation Project specifically!

First, as we have previously reported, our city is in the process of reviewing and considering amendments to our Master Plan.  The Master Plan was adopted six years ago, was based on input from some 8000 community members, and won national awards for its quality.  Unfortunately, our mayor -- who has a little more than a year left in his final term -- has seen fit to propose a large number of amendments to substantially rewrite the Plan.  This includes major changes to land use definitions and land use maps; and, sadly, his second attempt to remove the Community Participation Plan from the Master Plan.

As an opening response to this, CBNO published an op ed in the daily newspaper, the New Orleans Advocate, asking the basic question of why the mayor of New Orleans does not trust the people of New Orleans.  We received an enormous amount of positive feedback on this (see the link below for the piece).  Since then, we have spoken with many of our City Council members, and received pretty strong assurances that the amendment on the Community Participation Plan will not succeed.  The Council is the final arbiter of all of the proposed changes, and anticipates taking its final vote on all the amendments this September.

Regarding the other amendments, from both the administration and from the community, CBNO is not taking a position on whether or not they should be accepted.  However, we are adamant about the fact that the Master Plan belongs to the people, and that the people must be fully aware of, informed about, and able to participate in the entire amendment process.  The process will include a total of four different votes and multiple public hearings.  To maximize community understanding and participation, CBNO has convened a working group of residents and community and neighborhood leaders to create numerous strategies for getting the word out.  The first major piece of this is creating a plain language document that synopsizes and analyzes all the major amendments.  This is a massive undertaking; fortunately, we have been able to collaborate with a variety of community-based issue groups, each of which will take the amendments in their area of expertise (i.e., housing, transportation, arts and culture, etc.) and produce the information.  CBNO will then assemble all of the information and create and distribute the document.  This will include presentations at numerous neighborhood and community organization meetings, augmented by special teach-ins on individual topic areas.  We are utterly committed to doing all of this, though right now we are struggling mightily to get the financial support we need to get it done.

By the time the Master Plan process is wrapping up, we will be in full swing of campaign season for the November 2017 mayoral and City Council elections.  This is a vitally important election for the CPP.  We have multiple mandates for implementation of the New Orleans CPP, including our Master Plan, City Charter and resolution of City Council; now we simply must elect a mayor who will act on those mandates instead of blithely ignoring them as the current major has done.  One of the main candidates has already endorsed the CPP in writing, and CBNO will meet with all the candidates individually as they emerge to get their commitments of support.  We will also be working with a large group of partners to create a candidate questionnaire on a number of vital community issues, including where they stand on implementing the CPP; we will then create a scorecard that identifies where each candidates stands on each issue.  This will be distributed as widely as possible throughout the city.  In addition, CBNO will be part of probably two different candidate forums, at which each candidate will be asked explicitly whether or not s/he will implement the CPP if elected, and on what timetable.

While these two items will consume the vast majority of CBNO's time this year, we will also conduct round two of the Big Easy Budget Game.  More than 650 people participated in 2016, with the final report on the People's Budget delivered to the City Council during the budget process.  Our goal for 2017 is to top 1000 participants.  And we are delighted to report that we had our first official sale of the Budget Game to another city in December 2016 -- big shout out to Cambridge, Massachussetts!  We are currently in discussions with groups in Poland and Portugal as well as several other U.S. cities.  Also in the next month or two, we will be adding the information from 2016 to our Big Easy Budget Breakdown website, which provides an accessible look at the city's annual budget-to-actual spending going back to 2006.

It's going to be an intense year for the NOLA CPP team, but the opportunity is there not only to reaffirm the mandate for the CPP, but to end the year with a mayor-elect who has made an absolute commitment to implementing it.  The workload is a bit daunting, but the rewards are more than worth it.  We have to be very honest in saying that we need a lot more in the way of financial resources than we have on hand right now, so we are asking all our friends and supporters to please consider giving us the most help you possibly can.  CBNO has been working on this since 2003; we really could be in the final stretch, and we would so grateful for your support in getting across the finish line.

Best wishes for a productive and peaceful 2017 from the NOLA CPP team!

Links:

Oct 24, 2016

October 2016 Project Report

Good news and bad news for citizen participation in New Orleans.

The good news is that we are preparing our report on the People's Budget for delivery to our City Council next week.  600 people used our Big Easy Budget Game to create their own version of the city's budget, meaning we have a strong sample size to bring to the Council as they begin their budget deliberations.  The Budget Game was a major success in terms of informing people about the budget and getting their input for the People's Budget.  We also received wonderful local and national coverage for it; the most recent example was the online website Progrss, which in an article on the use of games in civic engagement covered the Budget Game along with examples from Oslo, Mexico City and Jakarta (see link below).  We will issue a final report in December, contrasting the adopted New Orleans budget with the People's Budget, and are already laying plans to build on this success in 2017.

The bad news is that, while New Orleans is in its mandatory review and amendment process for the Master Plan, our mayor is trying again to gut the Community Participation chapter and place all control over civic engagement within city government -- a complete violation of all best practices.  Even worse, after six and a half years of largely ignoring the Master Plan, Mayor Landrieu is trying to rewrite it almost completely as he enters his final year in office (term limits do have their virtues); and he is doing so in a completely top-down matter.  CBNO has done everything we can to work with the administration, despite its complete refusal to open up any communication about community participation and despite its previous attempt to eliminate community participation from the Master Plan, which we defeated five years ago.  This has led CBNO to the reluctant conclusion that collaboration is simply no longer possible.  Instead, we are leading a very public, full-throttle effort to defeat the amendments to the Community Participation chapter of the Master Plan and to get the entire community to weigh in the rewriting of the rest of the plan.  The opening salvo in this effort was an op-ed piece in our daily newspaper, the Advocate, published earlier this week (see link below).  Fortunately, we have already spoken with several City Council members about this (they will be the ones who ultimately cast the final votes on all the amendments), and have received assurances that they will move the entire process forward at a pace that allows for meaningful community involvement.  We've also received assurances that the Council is very unlikely to support the gutting of the Community Participation chapter.  However, this process will take at least six months and probably most of a year to play out, and we will be fully diligent in protecting the voice of the people of New Orleans until the final vote is taken.

It is beyond disappointing to have to play defense on such a basic right as community participation, but we will do so for as long as necessary.  And the possible silver lining is that by overreaching so badly, the administration may provide us with the opportunity for a "slingshot effect", where we actually build more support for real community input opportunities in New Orleans.  We most certainly will use all of this to make meaningful civic engagement a major issue in our 2017 municipal elections.

All this does not make for a happy time here at the Citizen Participation Project, but we know we are doing the right thing.  The financial and moral support from our many backers truly makes a difference, and we cannot thank you enough for standing with us.

Links:

Jul 28, 2016

July 2016 Project Report

The intersection of good public policy, community organizing, and government personalities and priorities is always an interesting one to navigate.  In New Orleans this summer, CBNO is dealing with all of these, and as always, doing our best to find common purpose and move the civic engagement ball forward.

Our Big Easy Budget Game interactive website (www.bigeasybudgetgame.com) has now compiled some 450 people's individual versions of the New Orleans city budget.  We will be releasing our first snapshot of the resulting People's Budget in a few more weeks.  We attended each of Mayor Landrieu's Budget Town Halls to distribute information about the Budget Game (and in the process noticed how attendance at these has dropped severely as people increasingly recognize that they are not meaningful community participation opportunities).  We have hosted one Spanish-language community Game night and have another one scheduled.  A variety of partners has helped circulate the link via email, so we are well on our way to achieving our minimum goal of 600 participants.  Included among these partners was the city's Office of Neighborhood Engagement, which we were very happy to see support us in this way.

We have launched the Lower 9th Ward Participatory Budgeting (PB) project, the first-ever PB process in the deep south and the first to be done completely independent of government funding.  Unfortunately, rain washed out our Lower 9 Summer Fest kick-off event, which in turn hampered our initial outreach.  However, one of our partner organizations was able to get some volunteers to go door to door in the Lower 9 with information flyers, and we are now in the process of collecting project ideas and building up the participant base to take these ideas through the design phase.

The City of New Orleans has launched its mandatory review and amendment process for the city Master Plan, and CBNO has been making presentations on this process at neighborhood and community meetings.  In the lead-up to the 2010 adoption of the Master Plan, thousands of New Orleans residents participated in many dozens of public meetings to create the Plan.  Unfortunately, the current administration has rejected much of the Plan and we have been told that they intend to use this amendment process to substantially rewrite it (ironic in that the amendments will be adopted about nine whole months before they are term-limited out of office).  The only way to protect community voice, and ensure that the Master Plan continues to belong to the people instead of the politicians, is to have comparable levels of turn-out for the current process as we experienced for the original plan.  Given the level of "meeting burnout" in New Orleans as we approach 11 years after Hurricane Katrina, this is truly a heavy lift.  CBNO is committed to doing as much as it possibly can to remind the community how invested they already are in the Master Plan, and how important it is to protect that investment by coming to the table as we go through the review and amendment process.  Playing defense for the community against powerful political interests is never fun, but if we can succeed, we can turn around and use that momentum to make real advances in creating community input structures in New Orleans.

The friends and donors we meet through Global Giving are vital to our ability to be successful.  The financial support is essential and invaluable; the moral support is equally appreciated.  We hope that even in the shadow of the national political scene, you will keep on eye on events in New Orleans and continue supporting our efforts to give people here a real voice in their futures.  Thanks so much from the whole CBNO Citizen Participation team!

 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $10
    give
  • $25
    give
  • $50
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $150
    give
  • $200
    give
  • $500
    give
  • $5,000
    give
  • $10
    each month
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $50
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $150
    each month
    give
  • $200
    each month
    give
  • $500
    each month
    give
  • $5,000
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Committee for a Better New Orleans

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Committee for a Better New Orleans on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.