«Mission Statement The following Mission Statement was adopted by the Board of Directors on March 28, 2000: The Committee for a Better New Orleans is ...»
Committee for a Better New Orleans
Introduction to Blueprint
The following Mission Statement was adopted by the Board of Directors on March 28, 2000:
The Committee for a Better New Orleans is a diverse group whose
mission is to identify the critical issues and opportunities facing the
City and to create a Blueprint for the future based on mutual trust and
consensus. Our vision is for New Orleans to achieve the brightest
economic future for all its citizens and to be THE City in which to live, work and do business.
Principles of Involvement The following Principles of Involvement were adopted by the Board of Directors on April 25, 2000:
1. The Committee will be accountable for acting in the best interest of the City (not of a particular individual, politician or business);
2. The Committee will promote and practice open and honest disclosure of concerns and intentions;
3. The Committee's decisions will have multi-generational input and consciousness;
4. The Committee will work toward creating an environment where people have a "fair" chance at a decent quality of life; and
5. The Committee's process will respect and acknowledge the diversity of the people in New Orleans.
A BLUEPRINT FOR A BETTER NEW ORLEANS
TABLE OF CONTENTSI. Origins and Founding of the Committee
II. City Management and Finance Task Force Report
III. Economic/Workforce Development Task Force Report
IV. Education Task Force Report
V. Housing and Neighborhoods Task Force Report
VI. Public Safety Task Force Report
VII. Transportation Task Force Report
VIII. Overarching Issues
IX. Epilogue: The Future of CBNO ……………………………………………………... 65 X. Summary of Costs for Recommended Action Plans
Appendices XI. Committee, Board and Task Force Members and Consultant Team
The Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO) is a non-partisan assembly of approximately 140 civic, business and religious leaders, representing virtually every constituency in the City, with an emphasis on achieving a strong multi-racial, multi-generational mix. It was formed for the purpose of exploring critical issues facing New Orleans through honest and creative discussion, and developing a wide-ranging Blueprint of specific objectives to define a great future for our City.
Although it is committedly non-partisan and apolitical, the Committee for a Better New Orleans actually had its genesis in a political setting. The first seeds of what would sprout into CBNO were planted by City Councilman Jim Singleton, who in September 1999 called a meeting of a small group of City leaders. His purpose was to develop a broad-based platform, built on issues of true significance to the community, on which to run a campaign for mayor. Councilman Singleton emphasized the need for a serious look at these issues from an inclusive approach.
Shortly after this meeting, Councilman Singleton approached Joseph C. Canizaro, seeking his assistance in identifying and studying the major problems facing New Orleans. Mr. Canizaro felt the concept had strong merit, but immediately viewed it as something that needed to go beyond a campaign agenda. He urged the inclusion of the most broad and diverse group of people possible, recommended involving the presidents of the local universities, and strongly advised that the process be refocused as an apolitical, citywide initiative. Councilman Singleton agreed to release the process to go forward in this manner, and Mr. Canizaro became the driving force behind the newly invigorated effort.
One of Mr. Canizaro's first actions was to contact Dr. Norman Francis, President of Xavier University. Dr. Francis expressed strong enthusiasm for the nascent project, and with his assistance, in January of 2000, the University Presidents Advisory Council was formed as a key component of CBNO.
In addition to bringing the incredible energy and resources of the colleges and universities of New Orleans to the table, this was also an important step in the depoliticizing of the process, which Dr. Francis emphasized from his very first conversations with Mr. Canizaro.
Forming the Committee The beginning of the new year 2000 produced several other significant steps forward, generating the momentum that made CBNO a reality. Several highly regarded business and community leaders committed to backing the initiative. Joe Canizaro, Barbara Major and Dr. Francis were named as Chairs of the CBNO.
One key decision was to preserve the apolitical nature of the project by including as Committee members only those individuals who were not holding or running for elected office. This was based on broad consensus that the inclusiveness, credibility and openness of the project required that no one actively engaged in the political arena be allowed to serve on the Committee. However, an intense effort was made to include representatives from all aspects of the community, including all political interests and factions; the theory was that the best way to ensure that CBNO would be apolitical was to include the entire political spectrum. City government was represented by the inclusion and active participation of several top non-elected officials.
Achieving the goal of broad community representation also required active participation by a cross-section of business and community leaders. The participation of many business and community leaders in the CBNO process indicates a significant shift in attitudes. Corporate New Orleans and the community as a whole must become true partners in the city’s future; the active involvement of many leaders in CBNO is a positive step in this direction.
By March 2000, the CBNO Board of Directors began to take shape. A Mission Statement was adopted, and the Committee structure and strategic planning process it would use began to crystallize.
Board members agreed that the hard issues facing New Orleans would be looked at openly, honestly, thoroughly, and without preconceptions. Strong emphasis was placed on equal racial representation on the Committee, as well as multi-generational representation. Nominations for Committee members were provided by the Board members, by the university presidents, by political leaders, and by other civic and religious leaders to whom Board members reached out. Nominees were asked to provide some statement of why they would be interested in participating, and full disclosure of all political and other organizational affiliations was required. Individuals were chosen based on expertise on the key issues, their contribution to the goal of broad community representation, and their ability to get things done in their communities.
As a growing number of important players in each issue area were identified, the Committee grew from an initial target of about fifty members to nearly triple that number. This ensured tremendously broad community representation as well as preventing any individual or faction from dominating any of the issues. As Ms. Major put it in a lighthearted moment, "We have enough people in here who hate each other to make sure this process works." A complete list of CBNO Board and Committee members can be found in the Appendix.
Further representation and input were ensured by the establishment of the Faith Based Advisory Committee, representing a cross-section of the religious denominations and associations in the City.
Even the funding of the Committee affirmed the diversity and inclusiveness of its nature.
Contributions have come from a bi-racial mix of individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations, and the universities have provided substantial assistance and support via research and other services. A list of financial supporters can be found in the Appendix.
According to Mr. Canizaro, CBNO was -- and is -- intended to be "an accountable and inclusive process to get the best thinking, develop consensus, and work to implement a Blueprint which will bring New Orleans to world class recognition." The overarching goal was to move the City from a state of disrepair to one of active reform.
In addition, the issues of racism and pervasive poverty in the City were placed at the top of the agenda, with honest dialogue on racial issues expected at every step of the process.
To refine the list and flesh out the definitions of these issues, several important projects were carried
- In April 2000, Norton Berman of the Berman Group -- who was retained by CBNO as the project director -- conducted interviews with the Presidents and Chancellors of the eight New Orleans institutions of higher learning to obtain their views on the critical issues, the impact of education on these issues and the roles of their institutions in both the work of the Committee and the future of the City.
Interviewees were: Dr. Joseph Bouie, Jr., Chancellor, Southern University of New Orleans; Rev. Thomas Chambers, President, Our Lady of Holy Cross College; Dr. Scott S. Cowen, President, Tulane University;
Dr. Norman C. Francis, President, Xavier University; Dr. J. Terrence Kelly, Chancellor, Delgado Community College; Fr. Bernard P. Knoth, S.J., President, Loyola University; Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President, Dillard University; and Dr. Gregory M. St.L. O'Brien, Chancellor, University of New Orleans.
These distinguished individuals expressed enthusiasm for a non-political, citizen-based effort like CBNO, and pledged their institutions' support for it. They also spoke frankly and openly about the City's problems and the responsibility of the university community to use its resources to address them.
The "Report on Interviews With University Presidents" was completed in May 2000.
The presidents were unanimous in linking their institutions' missions to the interests of the city, region and state. In particular, there was intense focus on working with the public education system, for direct educational benefit of the population as well as the system's impact on economic development.
Among the specifics cited were teacher training, training for administrators, accelerating the introduction of technology and technology training into the public schools, broad-based professional training, and working in partnership with business and government to influence policy decisions at the local, state and national levels.
The presidents' interest in strengthening New Orleans public schools included considerable emphasis on the need to improve the City's workforce as a vital avenue to economic development. There was strong recognition of the fact that at least three-quarters of high school graduates in New Orleans do not receive any further education; the colleges and universities are very interested in working with the school system to ensure that students get real-world job training and life skills training as part of the curriculum.
An additional aspect of their focus on the public schools was this system's impact on the universities' efforts to recruit faculty. Several presidents cited the poor public education in New Orleans as a frequent impediment to their ability to attract the best professors and researchers to their institutions.
Partnership with City government was another recurring theme in these discussions. While most presidents felt a strong connection with City leadership, they felt under-utilized on a day-to-day working basis. Research, training, systems evaluation, lobbying and more were suggested as opportunities for strengthening these links. The universities view themselves as a major resource and asset for the City;
they want to be more involved, make a greater contribution, and be appreciated for what they offer.
One final point of importance arose from these discussions: the issue of regionalism. While CBNO's focus is largely on the City itself, there has always been recognition that New Orleans does not exist in a void. The university presidents urged that this issue be addressed by the Task Forces, and in fact, it evolved into an overarching issue that, like racism and poverty, became an integral item on each Task Force agenda.
- In May 2000 Dr. Silas Lee was commissioned by the CBNO Board to conduct a baseline poll on the issues. A representative sample of the residents of Orleans Parish was polled. Questions were asked about the City's problems, people's satisfaction with life in New Orleans, and their views of the future. People's perceptions about race, trends in the City, and City leadership -- including government, religious, civic, and business leadership -- were compiled. Specific questions relating to each of the critical issues were also asked. Some of the most interesting and important findings of the poll will be highlighted here; the poll itself and Dr. Lee's accompanying analysis were released to the public in July 2000.
The survey indicated that most New Orleanians like their City and are glad they live here. Most plan to stay, and to encourage friends and family to do the same. At the same time, there is widespread uncertainty about economic and environmental factors, as well as doubt about the quality of the opportunities their children will have in the future.
One startling finding was that, by a margin of one percentage point, more people thought that the condition of the streets was a greater problem than crime.
While people see progress in areas such as crime fighting, most think that public education, streets, housing, and city government are not improving. Moreover, while a surprisingly large number feel that their personal income is at least adequate, many people are uncertain about the City's economic future. The very high level of poverty, and lack of real economic opportunity, are major concerns for the City and its leadership.
It should also be noted that in each category, even when a majority of people saw the situation positively, substantial numbers still held the contrary, negative view; and that perceptions in the AfricanAmerican community were almost universally gloomier than those in the white community. This suggests ongoing racial inequality, the need for encompassing dialogue on racial issues, and some recognition of the fact that in no single category can the City be said to have achieved widespread satisfaction among all its citizens.