Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Retrospective on Planning in New Orleans

This weekend planners and academics are gathering at Tulane to analyze all the planning that has occurred since Katrina. It should be interesting to all, especially those who sat in hours of steering committee meetings, voted for their favorite planner, and pressed a button at the Community Congresses.

Three years ago, on my second night in New Orleans, I sat in the St. Joseph's Church on Tulane Avenue and listened to a planner tell residents to write out a wish list, and it will come true. About a month later, the Lambert Plan had turned into the UNOP plan. The first city wide meeting was to be held at the Pavilion at City Park. This blurb was taken from a piece I wrote three years ago. You can find more of the photos and a review of the plans at the site created by Jed Horne and Brendan Nee at nolaplans.com

"When I arrived at the Pavilion at five minutes to twelve, there was already a long line stretching out the door. It had the feeling of voting day in any city where the polling stations are inefficient and under supplied. Some people were registered and could just walk in once they received a packet, but others had to wait in line to register. By 12:30, people were still streaming in. In the middle of the room were two large tables with food and drink. On each side, were makeshift dividers, that made six sections on the left side, and seven on the right. The thirteen total "rooms" signified the number of planning districts in the city. I found District 4 and was told to put on the map a red sticker where I lived. It was quite amusing to see a bunch of older citizens with small red dots in their hands trying to get them off their fingers and on to the map. Once everyone had a sticker on the map, it was clear there were too many concerned citizens in our district. While other districts had empty seats, district 4 was over capacity. People crowded around the edges and leaked over into other districts. Behind me was the district that included Lakeview. After Concordia welcomed everyone and gave a brief overview of the process, our district 4 session began. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the citizens had a better understanding of the planning process than the facilitators. Carlos, our facilitator wearing a guavera, a short white moustache and thin reading glasses, began speaking, but was quickly interjected.Nobody could hear him. All of the chatter around the room was quickly invading our privacy, and communication was breaking down. Carlos was way over his head, and was very confused about the process.

Throughout the meeting, he had to look down at his notes to see what to do or ask next. He also still had a red dot on his forehead. Somehow it had not landed on the map. It was embarrassing. Thirty minutes into the meeting, a representative from Concordia had to get on the microphone and tell people to use an "inside voice." I felt scolded. When we were allowed to speak again, we were told by Carlos to break off into small groups and write down what the most important criteria is for picking a planning team. We were also given colorful markers! People wanted planners with experience in urban planning, the ability to implement projects, skills to decode the funding matrix and having the background to address issues of racial and economic diversity. Carlos really liked how we all had our thinking hats on! As I walked around the room listening to different conversations, there was a variation of responses to this organized chaos. In some districts, people were literally yelling at each other, in others, people were just yelling to be heard. Every five minutes, the noise level would rise, and never fall back to the old volume. But wherever I went, I heard similar criticism. People felt patronized. Grown men and women were being treated as children. By 3pm, many people were already too frustrated by the process, and had left. Two Sisters Pavilion had begun to empty out, making it easier for the people remaining, to hear each other. By the time 4pm rolled around, people were fed up and ready to go home. They needed a break since they would be back in just a few days. As people left, you could feel the concern and reservations people had about the process."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Around the Globe According to my Gmail Inbox

A digest of my inbox 10/19/09-

Erica Trani, owner of In Exchange is having a Super Sale

Phoenix of New Orleans (my first job in New Orleans) is making a big push to finish in the Top 10 of America's Giving Challenge.Help them out!

Groundwork NOLA is having an event on October 22nd to showcase their rain gardens.

Very Short List introduces me to "One Love"

is having a graduate school fair at Tulane on October 29th

is telling me to call FED EX ((901) 369-3600) and encourage them to leave the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is spending a 100 million to stop the public option.

Service Nation announces a partnership with Banana Republic.

Mangos with Chilis is showing Wednesday night

Integrated Planning Webinar by Synthesis Partnership

Cruising for the Coast Fundraiser

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trying something new

Sam Yoon, who I had the chance to meet in February ( the cover of the Boston Phoenix when I was there, was Yoon being carried by Obama and Patrick), came in third last month in his bid for Mayor. When we met in his corner office at City Hall, I was impressed by his humility, and graciousness. He listened, as James Perry(who has now raised money from nearly 600 donors!) explained his story and they bonded over the belief that the old guard had had their moment. It was time for a new generation of leaders. More than six months later, it has been inspiring to watch from afar, as Yoon has joined hands with his former rival, Michel Flaherty. If Flaherty wins, Yoon will join him as the Deputy Mayor.

Today, I got a call from one of their volunteers, asking, with a strong Boston accent, " Since you are a Yoon supporter, will you consider voting for Flaherty?" Yes, I would, but I live in New Orleans. She asked me about the weather, which I replied, "It's hot."

I like their game plan. Also, Alan Khazei is battling for a spot as the new Senator from Massachusetts. Last September, I joined hundreds of others dedicated to national community service in New York City, for a conference that Khazai's group, Service Nation put together. It was an impressive guest list, so when he reported that he raised a million dollars in one week, it did not surprise me. He is still an underdog, but worth watching, and rooting for.

Since Obama is in town, he may want to take a look at recommendations for a New Orleans Cabinet

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

This is what I read this weekend... sometimes out loud

How Taylor Branch decides to spend hours with Clinton in the White House, and then produces this magnificent tome. Chapter two of The Clinton Tapes

The New Yorker had an overview of Larry Summers career and what it means that Obama has picked him as the head of the NEC. This excerpt was worth reading out loud. This is even more provocative than the certain comment he made over a decade later as President of Harvard.

"At the World Bank, in 1991, Summers’s penchant for provocation had led him to sign a memo written by a subordinate, which argued—in a tone that was meant to be outrageous, in the hope of stimulating debate—that developed countries should ship their pollution to the Third World. “The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable,” the memo said, citing the mutual benefits of such an arrangement between developed and undeveloped countries (one group had lots of waste; the other needed ways to make money). It was the kind of argument that would thrill a college debater but which in the world of public policy can be a killer. The so-called “toxic memo” was leaked to the press in 1992, precipitating an avalanche of outrage from columnists and environmentalists. Al Gore, the incoming Vice-President, made it clear that Summers was not welcome in the new White House."

Read the article to learn about what he told Cornel West to make him flee Harvard for Princeton. Just as good as the juice above.

Chapter 2 of The Given Day. The first chapter was read at an airport a year ago. It describes the scene during the first world war of Babe Ruth's train breaking down, and he finds a group of African-Americans playing pick-up. He joins. For me, a year later, the second chapter is set in South Boston. The police, like today, were not paid enough and needed to have intramural boxing matches to raise funds.

The first chapter of Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography, describes his fallout with his brother. His brother had started one of Boston's first newspapers, but Franklin was excluded, for being too young. He ended up falling out of graces with his publisher brother, and painfully details his horrific, yet character building, travels to Philadelphia. The rest is history, inventions, government, and enterprise.

Worthy enough to note-

Gusman finally gets the media tongue lashing he deserves and Next American City recaps the Feast in NYC

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tutti, Twitter and Things

Tutti Dynamics

My good friend Darren Hoffman's company is the first to create an iphone App in New Orleans. "Super Looper." He is also finishing up a documentary about Jazz in New Orleans. Watch the preview

My dad's organization, The Right Question Project, hits the Social Media Universe with a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter Page

Erez Horovitz, who spent a month blogging and photographing for nolayurp last September

is back in New Orleans capturing photos. He has been traveling around the country, beautifully capturing our country's best and worst attributes. Here are some photos from his first day on the trip. You have to request his friendship to see them. Don't be afraid, I will encourage him to accept.

This opportunity was passed on to me from my friends at Startingbloc, check it out