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«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 ...»

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1.4 OPSB to accept State Accountability Plan requirements of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and restructure Board policy to achieve the accountability standards, including modification of the Strategic Plan, as necessary to ensure compatibility and timely compliance.

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1.5 Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO) and GNOEF Council to convene appropriate groups immediately to inform and engage the community and mobilize its resources to ensure that the OPSB complies with the State Accountability Plan and thus ensure continued operations of the Orleans Parish School System by Orleans Parish.

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2.0 Improvement of physical infrastructure and human resource environment.

More than 70% of the respondents in the CBNO Baseline Survey acknowledged that the public school system in Orleans Parish is under funded. With an aging stock of school buildings, the projected cost for bringing school infrastructure up to minimum standards is in the neighborhood of one billion dollars. Even with the 1995 bond issue which provided $175 million for school renovations, the school system faces a severe challenge in maintaining buildings and meeting basic code requirements. Additional needs in the area of human resources (well trained, certified teachers teaching in their fields of expertise) place enormous pressure on the school system to provide its basic necessities.

Create a quality educational environment, including infrastructure, human resources and operational systems.

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2.2 OPSB to delegate to the CEO total responsibility for physical renovation of public schools, including generating capital funds, developing and prioritizing project construction schedules, negotiating and awarding contracts, overseeing construction, and debt repayment.

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2.4 OPSB to make teacher training and professional development a top priority, and CEO to implement a professional development program which provides consistent and ongoing training for teachers and administrative staff. CBNO also encourages the utilization of community resources to address this pressing need.

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3.0 Parental involvement.

Students and their parents are the primary constituency of the New Orleans Public School System. The involvement of parents in the educational process of their children is a fundamental element of improving the quality of education in the classroom.

Increase student achievement and reduce school disciplinary problems by promoting active parent, family and community involvement in the schools.

3.1 OPSB to support the implementation of State-recommended programs, such as the School, Family and Community Partnerships program of the National Network of Partnership Schools, as a means of enhancing and monitoring parental and community involvement in compliance with OPSB policy 1210. The program includes recognition of the six types of school involvement, inventory of present involvement practices, development of specific involvement goals, action plans for reaching results, and annual progress evaluations.

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3.2 OPSB to include parent and community involvement as a criterion in the assessment of schools, and provide appropriate training and resources for faculties, staff and parents to enhance the capacity to meet this objective.

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3.3 OPSB to allow schools with high levels of parental involvement to mentor other schools, thus assisting them in increasing parental and community involvement.

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3.4 OPSB to involve parents and the community in appropriate and meaningful decision-making by sharing information, training parent leaders and representatives and creating district level advisory councils and committees.

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4.0 Alternative school settings for children with behavioral problems.

School site personnel cite the disruption and chaos caused by students with behavioral problems as the major impediment to an orderly and effective learning environment. Alternative settings within and outside of traditional school settings must be created to address these students' needs and to preserve order in traditional school settings.

Minimize the classroom disruption and assist children in overcoming behavioral problems so they can return to their regular environment, using off-site and on-site settings and resources.

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4.2 CEO to coordinate an off-site alternative education program for secondary students (including middle school) whose behavior and/or academic proficiency seriously impair their ability to perform in education programs at the regular school site. Such alternative education should provide students the opportunity to pursue viable career training opportunities and the possibility of advanced learning, while providing options for returning to the student's base school or completing his/her work at the alternative school, as appropriate.

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4.3 CEO to coordinate on-site services for recalcitrant elementary students based upon a preventive model in which services are provided at the initial onset of disruptive behavior and include related support services for families of these children.

4.3.1 Time Frame: September 2001 4.3.2 Financing: No additional financing required 4.3.3 Resources: No additional human resources required 4.3.4 Legislation: None required

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New Orleans faces a crisis with its housing and neighborhoods, the major components of which include 27,000 vacant housing units1and thousands more that are blighted; a home ownership rate that is in inverse proportion to that of most other cities; a large number of people who lack the experience, credit history and financial sophistication to qualify for home loans; and a dearth of quality, affordable rental units.

At the same time, the unique architecture of the City and the tremendous character of its neighborhoods are two of New Orleans' greatest strengths. Moreover, the problem of vacant and blighted properties has the potential to be a substantial part of the solution to the lack of both ownership and rental opportunities.

In the course of its conversations, the Housing and Neighborhoods Task Force found that many of the obstacles to progress in solving these problems were matters of process: confusing, conflicting and inaccessible permitting requirements; legal impediments to property acquisition; insufficient bonding opportunities, tax credits and other incentives provided for by federal, state and/or local law; and inadequate enforcement of various housing-related codes and regulations. In addition, many existing opportunities are being under-utilized at present. Most of these problems can be resolved with little or no financial costs.

More substantial barriers exist in terms of educational, cultural and racial issues, the last of which is highlighted by the discrepancies in attitudes towards housing in New Orleans expressed by white and African-American residents in Silas Lee's original study for CBNO. In particular, education is needed on how to manage personal finances to qualify for home loans; on the rights of property owners and renters;

and on what are the real -- as compared to the perceived -- implications of implementing many of the measures needed to solve New Orleans' housing problems. The fact that home ownership is simply not deeply ingrained in the City's culture must also be considered.

Underlying the entire housing issue is the continuing decline in population in New Orleans, which has dropped from a 1965 high of 650,000 to a present number of about 485,000. In addition to costing the City substantial amounts of federal money due to being under 500,000 in population, the outmigration has contributed greatly to the problems of vacant and blighted housing, since the City is built out for about 660,000 residents. The population loss has also concentrated poverty at higher levels in the City, setting yet another barrier to home ownership.

Conversely, an influx of new residents would increase the rate of home ownership, occupy properties that are currently vacant or blighted, revitalize the housing stock as well as the City's neighborhoods, provide a larger tax base for City government, and generally breathe new life into New Orleans. Some increase in population density should therefore be considered an asset for the City, provided it entails an appropriate economic mix.

Therefore the anticipated result of this Housing and Neighborhood Action Plan is to realize a net immigration of 4000 residents each year, by increasing the number of low to moderate income homeowners in New Orleans by 1500 per year and by increasing the quantity of affordable rental housing units at an annual rate of 1500. Achieving these goals will result in the City's population reaching the benchmark number of 500,000 in five years. At the same time it is anticipated that the ratio of homeowners to renters will change from the present rate of 40/60 to 50/50 by 2006.

This level of change will impact virtually every neighborhood in the City, and care must be taken to ensure that this change is positive. A comprehensive inventory of the City's individual neighborhoods, along with their strengths, weaknesses and assets must be conducted. Citizens must be educated and empowered to drive strategic planning in each and every neighborhood. In those areas where neighborhood leadership and other people resources, background and knowledge are lacking, residents must get the training and information they need to ensure that quality of life improves for all citizens.

Similarly, a web-based property inventory database that lists every property in the City must be developed. This is essential for planning, redevelopment and expansion of the availability of affordable rental properties and home ownership opportunities.

Neighborhoods must also be nurtured by other concentrated efforts, including the following:

- Code Enforcement. More aggressive housing code enforcement is necessary. Personal liability must be imposed on owners who neglect their properties.

- Zoning. The zoning must reflect present conditions as well as future ambitions for each neighborhood, and zoning requirements must be enforced strictly and uniformly.

- Permitting. The City's permitting system must be made simple, accessible, predictable, and fast.

Standards should be set, made understandable and realistic, and applied evenly and fairly. This includes the approvals required from the Historic Districts Landmarks Commission (HDLC), which currently reviews each individual application on a case by case basis. Permitting at present causes frequent delays, adding to pre-construction costs and driving up rental, renovation and purchase prices.

- Land banking. New Orleans has already seen successes from an approach that targets numerous properties within a tightly defined area for renovation, with obvious ripple effects emanating outward from the redeveloped properties. This approach can be expanded by establishing a mechanism for the City to acquire blighted properties within specific neighborhoods and even city blocks, and make them available for redevelopment. This speeds up the process, reduces investor risk, facilitates neighborhood planning, and produces far better results than a scatter-shot approach.

As an additional note, the Task Force discussed in some length the problems of homelessness and housing for the elderly and disabled. While both were acknowledged to be serious issues, the consensus was that they would be significantly, albeit perhaps not fully, addressed in the solutions to the overarching issues listed above. The Task Force urges that these three populations not be forgotten, and that as the measures recommended herein are implemented, care be taken to make sure the homeless, the elderly and the disabled are indeed included in the solutions.

Members of the Housing and Neighborhoods Task Force represented an extraordinary cross-section of community interests, and the spirited, creative, open, and honest discussion during this process was a remarkable display of the widespread community support and will for addressing the City's housing problems. This is one problem that also represents a remarkable opportunity, and it is incumbent on all the citizens of New Orleans to be part of fulfilling this opportunity.

Key crossover issues:

- Poverty (City Management, Economic Development, Education, Public Safety)

- Homestead exemption (City Management, Economic Development, Education)

- Education (Education, Public Safety) According to the 2000 census.

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Critical Issues and Goals

1.0 Vacant and blighted property.

Vacant and blighted properties are public safety hazards, eyesores and barriers to neighborhood revitalization. Eliminating these pervasive problem properties from New Orleans is essential to reclaiming and maintaining the City's unique neighborhoods.

Reclaim neighborhoods by reducing the number of blighted properties (lots and vacant buildings) through renovation or redevelopment, with demolition as a last resort.

1.1 New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), in cooperation with the Code Enforcement Division of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development (DHND), to expedite its acquisition of blighted properties through a "quick-take" process, expropriation or purchase and make said properties available for redevelopment by non-profit or for-profit developers as well as individual citizens in order to develop mixed income communities.

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1.2 Mayor and City Council to enhance its aggressive, strategic acquisition program through creation of a new Acquisition Fund to acquire blighted properties and create economics of scale for redevelopment. The Fund will be financed by rededication of the Neighborhood Housing Investment Fund and from other reliable, unrestricted sources.

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