Sunday, November 30, 2008

Israel/New Orleans/ The American Dream

Young Israelis tell us about their immigration process. They have similar problems with new immigrants learning the language, the culture and the history while at the same time feeling resentment from the immigrants before them.

The people of Israel are fascinated by New Orleans. While I was there, they never asked, "why are you rebuilding the city?" The questions always was, "how is it coming along?" I tried to give a presentation at the Kol Dor Conference about building coalitions across diverse populations, but they were more interested in hearing about the series of events after the levees failed.

Immediately stepping off the plane, I gave a presentation at the Words and Music Festival with Shantrelle Lewis and Nolan Marshall. The theme for our presentation was The Great Gatsby and the American Dream and what it meant to the young professional today. To prepare for my presentation, I read the required reading, The Great Gatsby.

An interesting theme came to mind when thinking about the book in the context of post-Katrina New Orleans. Many of the characters in the book are not from the New York area, they are mostly from the mid-west, and they all seem lost in their new home. They are aimlesslesly searching around to find some meaning in their life, but can't find it. The big city is a giant that they do not connect with, and their downtown finance jobs do not allow to make any type of connection with the city. They could be anywhere, and that is what is different about New Orleans right now. People who came from other places got involved immediately with the city's people. They learned about the injustices that occurred and felt the perseverance of New Orleanians. It was addictive and as many of our peers live in big cities they do not connect with, young people in New Orleans feel very much a part of the city they live in.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homework for....

Contributor to the New York Times, Bruce Fuller, also a professor at Cal-Berkley suggests some homework for Obama. And it may just be the type of homework where you actually learn something, instead of doing it just to get it done. Why? Fuller takes Obama's pork barrel scrapple and applies it to our education system and then makes the case for why a cohesive plan to reinvest in public education can be the true economic stimulus package. Most encouraging, he references a New Jersey analysis that "shows how 9,000 new jobs are created for every $1 billion invested in school repair and construction.". He also finds a way to focus the conversation on how to retain and attract young talented teaching professionals.

Equally urgent, Washington should aid states in attracting smart and diverse young graduates to go into teaching. To retain them, educational institutions must become professional and supportive workplaces, not simply test-prep centers. This won’t be accomplished through attractive gimmicks, like more money for charters schools which, on balance, have yet to outperform regular public schools.

What is the lesson? Sometimes solutions do not need to be found outside of existing institutions. The new type of social entrepreneurship can be created to fix the problems of some our greatest public services that have seen steady decline in the last fifty years, but are not worthy of completely destroying. One way the public sector can retain its young talent is by raising the expectations for what they can achieve and change in the current structure. Allow teachers to create their own lesson plan, devise new strategies for reaching their students, and most important, do not pressure them to teach only to "standardized" tests. Whose standard is it anyway? We need students and teachers who can think independently and ask the right questions. In this country, we reward entrepreneurship (which means someone is thinking creatively to find a niche in the market), but then tell young professionals to wait their time and go with the flow until they are "experienced" enough to give their opinion. This was the same argument used against Obama to discourage him from running, but he has won and it is now time for the rest of country to get up to speed and continue to see how we can raise the expectations and allow everyone to get their homework done. Not just to do it, but to learn something.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A few class suggestions

The New York Times has an article this morning, titled "Tough Times Strain Colleges Rich and Poor." , which delves into how the financial crisis is going from Wall Street to the Main Quad. The most interesting contrast in the text is the difference between the schools that see the economic pitfulls, and become more stingy with their financial aid packages, as opposed to the schools who make financial aid a higher priority.

" This fall, more universities are taking steps to increase affordability. Benedictine University, a Roman Catholic institution in Illinois, is freezing tuition; Vanderbilt University will replace loans with grants; Boston University has expanded scholarships for students who graduated from Boston public schools; and the University of Toledo announced free tuition for needy, high-performing graduates of Ohio’s six largest public school systems."

Now that college is a more of a financial investment than ever before, here are some courses that I think should be mandatory for students in order to best prepare them for the working world. Or classes that I wish I took.

Financial Literacy 101- All students, whether they are going to be doctors or writers, should understand what they should do with their money, how their money can make or lose money, and where they should put their money. What kind of health care plans should they buy into? Where should they invest their money? How will the current financial crisis affect their money? Here are a few websites that can supplement this course ( Vanguard, Qvisory, Generation Debt,

How to get your first, second, third and maybe 4th job- We don't live in a country anymore where you get a job, work thirty years, and then retire. Many young professionals who graduate from school, by the time they are thirty, have had several jobs. Colleges, and especially their career centers should adapt to this new economy. Career centers should offer classes that are credited that allow students to hear from young professionals in the community about their work experience, learn about the positive and negatives of different careers, and also teach best practices for being more entrepreneurial. We encourage our students to be critical thinkers, but then do not give them the tools to start their own businesses or non-profits.

I will be on at 6pm CST today to talk about these issues and others with DJ Westley Bayas on YURP Radio

Friday, November 7, 2008

Barack Obama's New Orleans Cabinet

As Barack Obama starts to put together his cabinet to mend our country back together, it makes me think about the next generation of leaders in New Orleans that can help our 44th President rebuild this city.

(Pictures taken from the WPA Photograph Collection at the New Orleans Public Library)

New Orleans had a very large rental population before the storm, and still does. In order to re-populate the city and build more affordable units that can support the working people of the city, we need to push our tactics to be different from what has been in done in the past. To analyze what the city is doing and how to enforce landlords to fix the thousands of blighted properties, we could ask Andrew Holbien. We also must be realistic about how much affordable housing costs and how it to build it so it lasts. When the city built public housing in the 40s, it was designed to sustain the "100 year" storm. The team behind Green Coast Enterprises should help us build the type of housing that will be sustainable, affordable and will last. Others to add to the team, Yasmin Bowers and Andrea Floyd from Consciously Building, Tess Monaghan from Build Now, Hampton Barclay- Homebuilder's Association, Futureproof and the Greater New Orleans Fair Action Housing Center.

Community Development/ Neighborhood Collaboratives
/ The Arts

Since the storm, there have been many powerful examples of how neighborhods in New Orleans have responded to adversity. In order to make government more effective, neighborhood organizations/stakeholders must have a strong influence in the city's decision making. Our president should consult with Timolynn Sams and Gill Benedek from the Neighborhood Partnership Network to see how to empower neighborhood associations, but also how to find common ground with people from different locations who may have opposing views on city ordinances.

The key to recovery is who has access to information, and the team from Whence The Studio has been instrumental in creating web portals that share information with all users.For government to work, we need innovative, easy to navigate websites. We can also use websites to give suggestions for policy the city should undertake. For example, see Zach Kupperman's led Policy Pitch. In addition, an important part of rebuilding a more equitable city, is getting groups from different backgrounds and geographic locations meeting and working together. Many of the organizations ( Urban League Young Professionals of New Orleans, Young Leadership Council, NOLA YURP,Puentes, Young Friends Society) geared towards the young professional demographic have started to collaborate in meaningful ways and should be asked more to take part in the decision making for the city.

A crucial part to rebuilding a city, and strengthening neighborhoods during an economic depression/recession is investing in the arts and music (see the rest of the WPA Photo Collection). Here are several of the many projects and people that Obama should find ways of supporting and seek advise from- ( New Orleans Creative Alliance , Trombone Shorty, Sweet Home New Orleans, Defend New Orleans, New Orleans Kids Camera Project,, DJ Soul Sister, The George and Leah Mckenna Museum of African-American Art

Education, Health Care, Small Business Development- Coming Soon- Please Send your suggestions

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's coming up

Israel Kol Dor Conference

New Orleans Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals Initiative - Nathan Rothstein
The mission of the New Orleans Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals Initiative (NYI) is to create a support network to connect, retain and attract young professionals from diverse backgrounds for a sustainable New Orleans. Through innovative programming, NYI seeks to attract young professionals to the city and, once they are here, connect them with a thriving network of New Orleans locals and other newcomers. Nathan Rothstein, the co-founder and Executive Director will speak about the challenges and opportunities in New Orleans and how to build effective coalitions across race, class and religion.

New Orleans- Words and Music Festival

Friday November 21st

11 a. m. -- Hotel Monteleone, Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom West
THE AMERICAN DREAM: What it Means to the 21st Century's Young Professionals
Led by Nathan Rothstein, founder and Executive Director of of the New Orleans Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals Initiative (NOLAYURP). Rothstein and his team of young New Orleans professionals will read The Great Gatsby in advance of this round table session and compare their aspirations to the underlying themes of the novel. Q & A session follows discussion. Among your leaders joining Nathan will be Shantrelle Lewis, the Executive Director and Curator of the McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans and an adjunct professor in the African World Studies Department at Temple University. The Philadelphia Tribune selected Ms. Lewis for its “Top Ten Most Influential Leaders Under 40” Award in January of 2006 and she has been featured in Essence Magazine as a "Woman of Purpose." Nolan Marshall is the Associate Director of Common Good, a partnership of religious, nonprofit, neighborhood and higher-education organizations dedicated to building consensus and promoting action for the rebuilding of New Orleans across the lines of religion, ethnicity and class. He is also the President Elect of the Young Leadership Council, a civic organization founded in 1986 to develop leadership through community projects. The YLC has risen over $25 million for community projects since its inception. In addition, Nolan serves on the board of Court Watch Nola, a program whose creation he chaired, is President of the Board of Trustees at Einstein Charter School, Chairs the Leadership Council of Greater New Orleans and serves on the board of the Audubon Institute and Summerbride New Orleans. Prior to Hurricane Katrina Nolan was the president of NAM-It LLC, an advertising specialties and graduation supplies company and served on the board of the Independent Scholastic Sales Association. He received a Presidential Scholarship and graduated from the School of Business and Industry at Florida A&M University in 2001. Nolan is currently pursuing a Masters in Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans.