«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 ...»
- Customer service. Similar to the above, but related to personnel rather than process. Anyone who has done business regularly with the City should recognize that improvements have been made in this regard during the present administration -- but this and future administrations should understand that the people are demanding, and deserve, even better. Performance measurements for workers and for departments should be based on their ability to deliver customer service, and a general customer service culture needs to be installed. This last need is by no means limited to government; businesses large and small throughout the City should focus strongly on customer service at every level of their operations.
This will mean both training and empowering employees; it ranges from simple courtesy to far-reaching commitments to meet the needs of the people.
Demanding accountability, and receiving assurances that it will be delivered, are only the first steps.
Vigilant monitoring is needed, and CBNO itself has taken on this role in some areas. In others, existing organizations have been called on to expand and/or formalize their watchdog roles; in others, new institutions or coalitions of groups must be formed to provide monitoring. These monitors themselves must be held accountable for thorough, fair and timely performance of their tasks. Such monitoring is desperately needed not just of City Hall but also of the criminal justice system, the school system and many other entities that significantly impact daily life in New Orleans.
The final step in achieving true accountability is public reporting of the results gathered by the monitoring agencies. This should be done with an emphasis on standards and facts rather than analysis;
people can make their own evaluations if the results are reported clearly and equitably.
Any institution that is doing its job well, or at the very least putting in an honest effort to improve its performance, should welcome this type of scrutiny. Transparency breeds public confidence, and confidence breeds support. There is a huge lack of trust between the people of New Orleans and the institutions that serve them; implementing an across-the-board system of accountability is the only way to rebuild that trust.
From there, it is up to the people. If they call out those individuals and institutions that fail to deliver what they promise -- and reward those that do -- performance in every aspect of the community will improve. Ultimately, all government and all institutions are by and of the people, and the people themselves must be accountable.
Culture means many different things to different people in New Orleans, and that very diversity is part of what makes it so integral to life in the city. Our indigenous culture is the attraction that draws most of the visitors to New Orleans, and induces many residents to stay. As such it is one of the city’s most valuable assets – and in a few of its forms, a serious liability. Either way, no discussion of the future of New Orleans can be complete without addressing the subject of culture.
Some key points of discussion include:
- What are the threats to New Orleans culture?
- How do we continue to benefit from our culture’s tourist appeal without commercializing it to the point where it loses its authenticity?
- How do we ensure that funding of arts and culture includes more of the indigenous expressions, and that culture benefits all segments of our community?
- How do we mesh culture and education? Culture and economic development?
- What are the negatives aspects of New Orleans culture, and how do we attempt to reorient them?
Some of the most obvious aspects of New Orleans culture are music, food, architecture, and Mardi Gras. Yet even these have nuances that are often overlooked and/or misunderstood.
Music may be the most universally recognized aspect of New Orleans culture. The question here is how to nurture our indigenous music and performers; part of the answer may well lie in the area of economic development. So many musicians leave New Orleans in order to “make it big”, in part because musician support services (as well as many other cultural support services) do not exist here. These services represent a superb entrepreneurial opportunity. Education is another part of the answer: music education in the schools, and education of the public – both locals and visitors – about the history and essence of New Orleans music.
Similar issues arise when discussing New Orleans cuisine, where “Creole” and “Cajun” are being used almost interchangeably. “New Orleans Cajun food” is a non sequiter, and the distinction between what is truly local food and what is regional, commercialized versions of our cuisine is becoming alarmingly blurred. Another cultural threat is the proliferation of fast food chains, virtually every one of which supplants a neighborhood po’boy or seafood restaurant.
We must also examine, and begin to set parameters for, the ceaseless debate between preservation of historic structures and development of the city. How do we choose which buildings to restore and which to remove? Our historic districts and neighborhoods must likewise be both protected and revitalized. The French Quarter must maintain its vibrancy as a living area, with local services and legitimate attractions instead of an endless array of t-shirt shops. Part of accomplishing this is spreading culture-based tourism throughout the city, without turning these cultural treasures into caricatures.
We must consider how to protect the true, local nature of Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and other uniquely New Orleans celebrations against the “Spring Break” mentality and commercial greed that is threatening to take them over. We must look at every other facet of what is uniquely New Orleans, from jazz funerals marching to our historic cemeteries to our widely misunderstood Creole heritage, and build our awareness of them so that we may not just save them but retain and enhance their full vibrancy. And we must make sure that the vibrant African-American contributions to New Orleans culture are recognized, documented and rewarded.
Even as we preserve and celebrate our culture, we must also acknowledge those aspects that hold the city back from realizing its true potential and moving forward in the 21st century. These cultural handicaps include problems such as racism (discussed above); our prioritization of entertainment and partying ahead of education and entrepreneurship; and our acceptance of petty corruption and tolerance of litter, which has moved ahead of safety as the number one complaint of visitors to our city. These are neither cute, quaint nor – in most instances – even historically valid parts of New Orleans culture, and it is time to address them openly and effectively, to shed ourselves of this cultural baggage.
It should be noted here that one element of the city’s new Master Plan is Arts and Culture. This is a very positive development, and in its final form, the Master Plan Arts and Culture element must ensure that cultural equity and other issues raised in this Blueprint are addressed comprehensively and aggressively.
Culture is one of those rare elements that is truly of the past, present and future. Without its indigenous culture, New Orleans could be anywhere – and would be nowhere. Concerted, proactive steps must be taken to ensure that our truly magnificent culture, and the people who bring it to life, are nourished and in turn can nourish all of us who live here.
Epilogue: The Future of CBNO
While the Committee for a Better New Orleans has worked very hard to identify those entities best suited to take responsibility for the implementation of most of the objectives in this Blueprint, very few of the objectives are designed to be implemented by CBNO itself. Yet the Committee takes very seriously the importance of seeing this Blueprint implemented; this is a plan for the future of our City, and the members of CBNO are utterly committed to being a part of building that future.
Therefore, the Committee has voted to continue past its initial mission of developing this Blueprint. Its
ongoing role is defined in its new Mission Statement, adopted by the Board of Directors in August, 2001:
The Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Committee (CBNO/MAC) is a racially and culturally diverse group whose mission is to provide leadership and to catalyze change toward achievement of the Blueprint for a Better New Orleans.
CBNO/MAC will accomplish its mission by providing and maintaining an advocacy role that encourages the kinds of partnership, collaboration and candid conversation that reflects the interests of the citizens of New Orleans.
It should be noted that CBNO’s Principles of Involvement, as defined at the beginning of this document, remain unchanged.
One major step in establishing the future of the Committee for a Better New Orleans was taken in September 2001: a formal merger with the Metropolitan Area Committee (MAC). This highly-respected organization, formed in the 1960s, shared much of the vision and many of the goals of CBNO. Bringing the two organizations together strengthens their capacity to effect change in our City. The MAC Leadership Forum, so vital to building community leaders, will continue. The combined organization will work to have the Blueprint endorsed by all candidates for office in the February 2002 elections and in future elections. Individually and as a group, members of CBNO/MAC will continue to promote implementation of the Blueprint, by identifying resources, forging coalitions and bringing people and groups together to work on its objectives.
Additionally five “Priority Issues” were adopted and will constitute the focus of the CBNO/MAC
efforts through the remainder of 2001 and into the first half of 2002:
1. To pursue establishment of an Accelerated Learning (alternative school) and Career Development Center, in concert with the Orleans Parish School Board, the school administration, the Education Foundation, the Algiers community, and other organizations as appropriate, as an immediate CBNO/MAC priority. This priority is related to Education Task Force Goal #4 – minimize the classroom disruption and assist children in overcoming behavioral problems using offsite and on-site settings and resources.
2. To make communication of the benefits of Earned Income Tax Credits an immediate priority.
This priority related to Object 2.3 in the Economic/Workforce Development Task Force report –“Develop workforce incentives which include wage and benefit targets.” The project builds on the work of Total Community Action to promote utilization of the EITC as a workforce incentive with the potential to produce over $50 million in economic impact in the New Orleans area annually.
3. To develop a plan for the New Orleans Jobs Initiative (NOJI) life skills training model to be incorporated into the institutional framework of the state’s workforce development apparatus. This priority is related to the Economic/Workforce Development Task Force’s Goal # 2 – “Create a seamless and coordinated workforce development system.”
4. To immediately pursue the implementation of a “one-stop” permitting process as outlined in the Blueprint section on City Government and Finance. This priority is also related to the Economic Development Task Force’s Goal #1.1 – “Develop a one-stop licensing and permitting service center.” The project builds on the recent investment by the City of New Orleans of $1 million to develop the One-Stop Business Center located in the Amoco Building and the work of MetroVision to establish standard permitting across parish lines.
5. To identify resources and secure funding for the implementation of a comprehensive, automated property inventory system available on the City’s website. This priority is related to the Housing and Neighborhoods Task Force’s Goal #2.2 which is designed to facilitate neighborhood development, research and planning as well as the redevelopment of blighted properties by providing easy access to information to empower citizens to get involved in the revitalization of neighborhoods.
As an ongoing organization, CBNO/MAC will continue to welcome public input and participation.
This Blueprint remains a document of the people; the future described herein is one to be shared among all the citizens of New Orleans. Creating that future requires all segments of the community to engage, to converse, and to work together to implement our shared vision of building a great American city.
Venture/Capital Outlay $20,000,000 *Includes costs that could be covered through self-generating fees such as web-enabled on-line access for paying parking tickets, permits, taxes, etc.
However, the OPSB faces severe crisis in funding for targeted and critical initiatives to bring the system up to quality standards.
No Legislation is Required.
HOUSING AND NEIGHBORHOODSInitial/One-Time Costs $ 650,000 A good portion of these funds are for creating a solely needed databank/inventory of all available properties and every parcel in Orleans Parish with $200,000 being funded by banks and foundations to use in redefining “ “neighborhoods” by geographic boundaries
Legislation Required in (5) of (13) Objectives City, state and federal authorization may be needed.
PUBLIC SAFETYBecause of the additional analysis needed to research and identify the cost of drug treatment and drug rehabilitation for the large segments of the community affected, the following are minimal dollars needed to
make our city safe:
Operational $ 22,735,000 + Includes $13,000,000 for NOPD to increase staffing levels and qualifications and $9,000,000 for School Resource Officers (already secured through federal funding)
Joseph C. Canizaro, Co-Chair; President & CEO, Columbus Properties, L.P.