I’ve finally taken a stab at completing the section of our Mid-City Recovery Plan which deals with the issue of local control. These ideas are not my own but are based on conversations with the Mid-City Governance Committee and others in the community. These ideas closely parallel the “wish list” I submitted to our assigned planner, Clifton James, on behalf of the Governance Committee in early July.
Housing might be most pressing issue, but having local control is ultimately the most important. If the recovery of New Orleans is to be just and fair, then neighborhood control is key. We need to decentralize governance in a way that gives control to the local community.
- Community input into a recovery plan is a good start. We also wish to have community oversight of the plan’s implementation. We need to establish local decision making procedures at the neighborhood level.
- To this end, we recommend the formation of Neighborhood Councils, similar to those in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Missoula, Montana and many other communities. These neighborhood councils should be democratically elected through the existing ward and precinct system, with one representative from each precinct to sit on a neighborhood council. The system should be constructed so that each council represents approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people. (A less desirable alternative would be to simply expand the existing City Council to accomplish the same level of representation; this would require much smaller councilmanic districts.) The neighborhood councils should not be merely advisory, but have real power to initiate, decide, and execute the affairs that concern the neighborhood: land use, housing, maintenance, streets, parks, police, schooling, welfare, and other services. We support the adoption of a participatory budgeting process, in which residents decide how to allocate a portion of our municipal budget. We recommend funding to support a community-driven process to further investigate and build support for the neighborhood council concept.
- Because we realize that this is an ambitious goal which could not be instituted immediately, we recommend as an interim measure regular monthly meetings, open to all in the community, where officials will give an accounting of progress in implementation of our neighborhood recovery plan and will answer questions from the community.
Your thoughts are welcome.