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.
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!

May 2, 2016

May 2016 Project report

Big progress in this past quarter!

Our interactive website that will enable anyone in New Orleans to create his/her own version of the city's budget is now up and running -- check it out at www.bigeasybudgetgame.com.  In the few weeks since it was launched, some 300 people have played the Big Easy Budget Game.  We had a great kickoff, including New Orleans City Council Member LaToya Cantrell, who gave us her strong support and stated unequivocally that the City Council would use the resulting People's Budget (our compilation of all the data received) in its work on next year's budget.  We are now beginning a series of community events where we will bring laptops, tablets, etc. to neighborhood, church, community organization and other meetings and assist people without ready internet access in being part of the process.

We have also designed the Big Easy Budget Game to be easily replicable for literally any city in the world.  If you would like more information about this, please email us at info@cbno.org.

Our related information website, which shows New Orleans city government's annual budget to actual numbers for every year going back to 2007 (www.bigeasybudget.org) is also operating as a companion to the Big Easy Budget Game, and it too is getting a lot of attention.

We are going to be doing a workshop on the Budget Game at the International Participatory Budgeting Conference at Harvard on May 22, so if any of you are going to be attending -- or just in the area at that time -- we'd love to have you join us for the presentation.

Finally on the budget work, we are moving forward with the Participatory Budgeting pilot project we are doing in New Orleans' still badly-damaged Lower 9th Ward.  We are working with a great set of community members and organizations in the Lower 9 to pull the project together; it will be the first in the United States done completely separate from city government.  We hope that by demonstrating Participatory Budgeting successful in this struggling neighborhood, we can convince city leaders that PB is something that absolutely should be done citywide.

On another front, New Orleans is in the process of reviewing and considering amendments to its Master Plan, and CBNO has been working diligently to make sure residents are aware of the process and how they can be part of it.  We have participated in several workshops, including one put on by one of our City Council members, and will be collaborating with multiple partners to keep the community involved at every step of the way.  Some 8000 New Orleanians participated in creating the Master Plan seven years ago; it truly belongs to the people, and we want to be sure the people continue to be engaged and take ownership of our city's future.

We are really excited about getting the budget websites launched at last, and moving ahead with the Lower 9 PB work.  All of this is of course possible only because of supporters like you, and we cannot tell you how much we appreciate your support.  We hope you will check out the websites -- after all, they are the fruits of your labors too!

 
   

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