«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 ...»
Economic development was reviewed in depth, with much valuable information developed. The single most salient point was the link between education and economic development, which virtually every survey respondent saw as inextricable. On top of basic education and workplace skills, workforce development, job training and technology training were seen as essential. Improving the quality of education in New Orleans was widely viewed as the most important avenue to opportunity and quality of life. In addition, many people felt that while tourism currently serves as the economic base for the city, strong efforts needed to be made to diversify the economy and build upon other opportunities for growth.
City government is not held in high regard, and there are also some damaging misperceptions, especially relating to revenues. While the City must work to increase its funding, from all sources, citizens are not inclined to dig deeper into their own pockets until they believe that government is being run much more efficiently. Regardless of whether this is a question of reality or perception, it poses a significant challenge to present and future administrations.
Challenges indicate both problems and opportunities. While the Silas Lee study paints a picture of a City facing many problems and risks, it also identifies many opportunities for improvement and growth. It also identifies a base for moving forward: the surprisingly strong commitment of the citizens to their community.
- Also in May, the Berman Group issued a summary of 110 studies relating to the six critical issues, "Planning and Research Studies on Six Critical Issues 1985 - 2000". All works in these areas performed in and/or for the City between 1985 and 2000 that could be located were referenced. The survey grouped past studies by critical issue, and provided brief narrative and research summaries.
- Dr. Tim Ryan, Dean of the College of Business Administration, University of New Orleans, prepared preliminary definitions of each of the critical issues. These definitions were developed as starting points for the Task Forces assigned to address the issues (see next section). Given the scope and complexity of the issues, the definitions are brief and intended to serve as preliminary views and catalysts for further thought.
- A ten to fifteen page Position Paper was prepared on each issue. These explore and expand upon each topic in some depth. Their purpose was to give each Task Force a relatively thorough summary of the issue, as a touchstone and reference as the Task Forces launched their work.
The Task Forces With the six critical issues -- City Management, Economic Development, Education, Housing, Public Safety, and Transportation -- identified and defined, the Committee for a Better New Orleans divided itself into six Task Forces, each assigned to one of the specific issues. Committee members were assigned to the individual Task Forces based on expertise, the interests of the communities they represented, and the desire to achieve community and racial balance in approaching each issue. A concerted effort was made to identify and involve all community groups actively working on the issues covered by each Task Force. In addition, at least one member of the University Presidents Advisory Council was assigned to each Task Force. Once the initial Task Force rosters were set, two co-chairs, representing each race, were selected for each Task Force. Many Task Forces added one or two new members as the process unfolded, to enhance expertise and diversity.
On the face of it, the charge of each Task Force was deceptively simple, involving the following
- Perform a SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) analysis of the issue.
This comprehensive overview of the issues provided the raw material from which each Task Force worked.
- Select a manageable number of specific aspects of the issue, and develop goal statements for addressing them. Given the many important facets of each issue, this task engendered some of the most impassioned debate of the entire process. There was no illusion among members that many important issues were left on the table for another day. However, the aspects that were selected embody the most critical and immediate elements of the many problems facing our City, and the resulting goal statements are the first steps on the path to solutions.
- Develop concrete objectives for each goal. Representing the details of solving the problems identified in the previous steps, this task involved free-thinking, free-wheeling discussion and a willingness to go far beyond the limits of past and present solutions. Every effort was made to ensure that the totality of the objectives for each goal truly addressed the concerns and needs of every segment of the community, and would have significant and permanent impact on the problems being addressed.
- Develop an implementation plan for each objective, including responsible party, time frame, financial and human resources needed, and possible legislative changes that might be required. As a strategic planning process, CBNO is different from most, in that with few exceptions the Committee and the Task Forces are not the implementers of the objectives. However, for realism and credibility, members felt that it was essential to include implementation in their reports. This very involved process took considerable time, represented a true reality check for the Task Forces, and frequently resulted in further refining of the goals and objectives.
Through this process, each Task Force developed an Action Plan for solving problems and moving the City forward on its issue, to be a key component of this final Blueprint document. The Action Plans are detailed, demanding, realistic, and thorough.
Since the end purpose of the entire process was to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that represented broad community consensus, at each step of the way Task Force members were asked to achieve their results by unanimous mutual agreement rather than by simple majority rule. While extremely challenging, this assignment provoked tremendous creativity, ingenuity and cutting edge thinking on the part of Task Force members.
In part because of the commitment to consensus, each Task Force put in approximately twice as much time as was initially planned. The simple monetary value of the hours donated by the Task Force members is extraordinary; the value of their deliberations, conversations and creative solutions is incalculable.
The Task Force process proved to be daunting, invigorating, frustrating, stimulating, timeconsuming, exhaustive, and uplifting and even inspiring. The work of each Task Force, including the Action Plans they developed, is presented in the next major section of this Blueprint.
The Blueprint This document whose introductory section you are almost finished reading is the result of the work of the Committee for a Better New Orleans and its six Task Forces. What is its purpose, and what makes it different from the innumerable studies, reports and plans that have preceded it?
As mentioned above, CBNO is not the party responsible for implementing most of the objectives.
Many of the parties who were assigned these responsibilities were represented on the Task Forces; some were not. In each instance, it was the judgement of the Task Force members that the assigned parties were the most appropriate and capable choices to take responsibility for implementation of the objectives.
Regardless of the assignment, CBNO felt that to prepare a lengthy list of goals and objectives without including implementation strategies was not a credible approach.
Taken together, the objectives represent a specific, concrete and realistic vision of a future for New Orleans. Though some may be challenging, even "out of the box", none of the objectives is unrealistic or undoable. These objectives represent a consensus of leaders from all aspects of life in the City, and are fully endorsed by the entire Committee for a Better New Orleans. As such, they represent a remarkable statement of intention from a remarkable group of people, each of whom speaks also for his or her own constituency. In this context, this Blueprint speaks the will of the people of New Orleans like no previous document has ever been able to do.
Much of the implementation of the Blueprint will require its embrace by City political leaders, and their active, practical commitment to follow through on its recommendations. Its release is timed to the start of the campaigns for the Mayoral and City Council elections in February 2002. It is being presented to all candidates for major City office, and they will be asked for a full commitment to its implementation. Those who are elected will be held accountable for their active leadership in its implementation.
Other objectives have been assigned to the private and nonprofit sectors, not infrequently as a cooperative effort. In each case, the specific entity that is called upon will have the objective presented to its leaders. To the fullest degree possible, firm commitments from those leaders will be obtained, and they will be expected to deliver on those commitments.
Although not specifically cited, many of the recommendations made in this Blueprint are congruent with findings and measures being implemented and/or contemplated by public entities in New Orleans. In such cases, the Committee for a Better New Orleans wishes to encourage and reinforce those efforts.
In those cases where public entities have identified different findings and priorities, the Committee asks that its findings be factored in for immediate consideration. Moreover, CBNO offers its work papers and resources, within reason, to any entity with a similar mission, public or private, to advance their findings and to promote coordination and linkage of efforts that further the recommendations of the Committee.
It is notable that the work of the Committee included only limited determination of efforts in progress of any public entity or organization. As such, the Committee wishes to acknowledge that its findings and recommendations are in no way intended to detract from or diminish the work of other organizations.
Some of the Task Forces have indicated a high level of willingness to remain operational and become involved in implementation. Their energy and enthusiasm will help drive the objectives to their enactment.
Implementation of any strategic plan requires a monitoring component, and this Blueprint is no exception. Many of the objectives include a specific monitoring component. For the rest, monitoring will be in part a function of CBNO. While the details of its ongoing operation have not yet been finalized, neither CBNO nor the individuals who comprise it are going away, and they will hold accountable the elected officials, the private sector and other entities as delineated in the Blueprint.
However, a far greater force than even the considerable clout and leadership of the Committee for a Better New Orleans will be the ultimate monitors and enforcers of this Blueprint. That force is the people of the City of New Orleans, those everyday citizens whose unsuspected love of their City was an early surprise of this process and whose commitment to the City's future mandates that no leader, in any sector, can afford to let them down. This document is of the people by a wide spectrum of their community leaders; it is for the people in that it truly describes their future.
The people of New Orleans are invited to take ownership of this Blueprint, to demand of CBNO and all community leaders that it be implemented, and to monitor vigilantly the progress of that implementation. Any citizen who has any comment on or question about the Blueprint or its implementation, at any time, is encouraged and even urged to contact the CBNO, its members and responsible parties. This is for all of us.
City Management and Finance Task Force Report
Dr. Silas Lee’s study in July 2000 indicated that the public considers City government in New Orleans as a major contributor to the City's problems. Excluding the police and fire departments, no single aspect of the government is rated as excellent or good by even half of the citizens.
There is no question that New Orleans’ City government has substantial room for improvement. At the same time, it faces tremendous obstacles, including a declining City population, an inadequate and highly restricted revenue base, a lack of citizen understanding of what government is and does, and very poor communications with the citizens that lead to widespread misperceptions about the realities of the situation.
There is a fundamental disconnect between City government and the people it serves. Citizens do not well understand the purpose and function of City government, or their own role in it. It is extremely important for government to improve its communications with the citizens, and to make government understandable to the proverbial man on the street.
A key aspect of this is transparency: to the highest appropriate level, keeping all functions and operations of government clear and visible to the citizenry. This includes factors such as budgets, organization and decision-making. One very specific need is for the City to upgrade its web site significantly, and to post as much information as possible.
Another component of the communications effort, as well as of improving government service delivery, is performance review. A qualified outside agency needs to be brought in to establish benchmarks for customer service: responsiveness to citizen inquiries, making doing business with the City a simple rather than byzantine process, and fundamentals like courtesy and cordiality. Once these have been established, regular performance review and reporting is essential. Having an independent third party provide these reports will enhance their credibility with the people as well as with the departments and employees whose performance is being reviewed. Ultimately, this data can be the foundation for justifying needed revenue increases in the future, as well as being the building blocks for an improved relationship between the government and people of New Orleans.
The root cause of a large share of the City's operating problems is revenues, and at the heart of this is a classic Catch 22: the City needs more money in order to perform better, and the citizens won't provide it unless they see better performance.