Friday, December 08, 2006

12/09/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (12/6/06)
  • Robert Gates Unanimously Confirmed by Senate Armed Services Committee; Testifies U.S. is Not Winning Iraq War
  • Conservative British MP in U.S. to Challenge Extraordinary Rendition; 3,000 Published Flight Logs Expose New CIA Rendition Activities
  • Supreme Court Considers School Integration Case: A Debate

audio Community Congress II report
At the second citywide Community Congress on December 2nd, about 2500 New Orleanians and displaced residents 21 other cities were polled in a day-long series of questions about how to rebuild their city. It was the largest meeting of its kind since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city. It was also the most demographically representative of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Previous planning efforts failed in large measure because they didn’t achieve a consensus of public opinion about priorities.

And in the latest planning effort, the Unified New Orleans Plan, participation had been extremely low, and the black population was grossly underrepresented.

The Saturday meeting, however, rectified those problems with an extensive outreach effort, childcare and transportation assistance, translation services for Spanish-speaking and Vietnamese participants, live jazz music, painting and poetry readings, and live satellite teleconferencing in the largest evacuee cities: Atlanta, Houston, Baton Rouge, Dallas, and other, smaller cities.

Participants leaving the meeting expressed a sense of satisfaction that they were finally able to weigh in with their own feelings on some of the most pressing issues as they desperately try to reclaim their lives and their neighborhoods fourteen months after they were forced out of their homes.

One of the clearest priorities that emerged from roundtable discussions was a desire to see effective Category 5 levees built following from Dutch successes, and to emphasize wetlands restoration and conservation as part of a holistic approach to flood protection.

Other priorities didn’t emerge with as much clarity, however, owing to a complicated round of questions and follow-up questions which allowed participants to vote both for and against issues.

Moreover, the questions asked of participants lacked specificity. Although they believe it is essential that they be allowed to participate, many complained about the fact that they have no sense about how the Unified New Orleans Plan process will take their input into consideration in the final citywide master plan scheduled to be released in January.

The questions asked at the second Community Congress were much the same as those asked at the first citywide meeting in July. The neighborhood planning meetings which are ongoing have far more detailed lists of priorities, but in the Community Congress, there were no specific proposals offered for participants to vote on, such as the development of new streetcar lines which pass through multiple neighborhoods, or the siting of new medical facilities or housing developments. The meeting ironically lent an air of legitimacy to a process which remains obscure.

Citizens may not be savvy enough to know how to work within the rarified circles of political dealmakers at the local, state, and federal levels in order to achieve their goals. Almost without exception, however, citizens from various neighborhoods, of various backgrounds, races, education, and experience, are generally far better informed than public officials about what’s happening in their neighborhoods, and speak passionately about how government is failing them, because they’re living and feeling the post-Katrina crisis every minute of their lives.

Reactions to the second Community Congress, and the planning process, in this edition of Community Gumbo -- conversations with Rev. Lois Dejean, Deborah Davenport, Joan Smith, Shaunda Collins, and Victoria Lewis.


AmericaSpeaks keypads which participants use to enter their preferences.

About 1000 people filled the New Orleans Convention Center.

Participants in other cities provided live feedback on options presented.

Participant input was refined on-the-fly to generate additional rounds of questions.

The Vietnamese community has been very active in their own planning process. This was the first time they showed up in significant numbers to a citywide Unified New Orleans Plan meeting.

A translator booth.

Painters, poets, and musicians entertained and inspired participants.

Mayor Ray Nagin made a rare public appearance to address the crowd at the New Orleans Convention Center.

Michelle Krupa and Coleman Warner, "Across South, displaced chime in with own ideas for rebuilding N.O.", The Times-Picayune, 12/3/06.

Bruce Nolan, "At tables, options often revised," The Times-Picayune, 12/3/06.

Unified New Orleans Plan Community Congress #2 Preliminary Report

Christian Roselund - Representation and Misrepresentation in UNOP

2nd Congressional District Election
William Jefferson defends his congressional seat from challenger Karen Carter. Polls open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Use the polling place locator by typing in your address at the Louisiana Secretary of State Web site SOS.LOUISIANA.GOV. You may also try to call the Secretary of State office at 1-800-883-2805, or the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters, 658-8300. The Jefferson Parish Registrar of Voters can be reached at 736-6191. The Secretary of State maintains a list of parish election officials on its Web site.

Le Jour de Noël
Holiday Music of Old and New Worlds
New Orleans Musica da Camera with Vox Feminæ
Sunday 10 December 3:00pm
Holy Name of Mary Church - 500 Eliza St. - Algiers Point

Festivus, the holiday market for the rest of us
Every Sunday until Christmas, 12-4 p.m.
700 Magazine, corner of Girod in the CBD
A human-scale alternative to the loneliness of on-line shopping or the hassle of big box holiday parking lots by featuring the best of local cottage industries whose businesses reflects our core values of ecology, fair trade, craftsmanship and personal customer service. Over 40 fair trade, handmade, and recycled tables, hot food, live music, Office of Homeland Serenity with free massage, airing of the grievances, regifting station, immolation station for those grievances to disappear in a puff of smoke, Flattery from celebrity flatterers like the Big Easy Rollergirls, and the world's first Flattery Slam.

Kingpin Holiday Flea Market
Every Sunday until Christmas, 12-5 p.m., Kingpin Lounge, 1307 Lyons St. at Prytania
Holiday festoonery, stocking stuffers, vintage & designer clothing, handmade crafts, jewelry, used/rare CDs, albums & books, collectibles, household goods, great junk, offered by local artists, designers, musicians, and nonprofits.

Music Played:
Low, "Just Like Christmas"
Fats Domino, "Walking to New Orleans"
Charles Brown, "Please Come Home for Christmas"


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