Minutes of MCNO Board Meeting: June 6, 2006

Board meeting – June 6, 2006 at Bayou Coffee House

The meeting was called to order by Jim Taylor, President, at 6:30 p.m. Approximately 30 people were in attendance.
Stacy Head, City Council Member, District B
Jake Wagner, UMKC
Nicky Najiola, Gentilly Neighborhood Assn.
I. Pres. Taylor introduced Stacy Head, newly elected councilwoman from District B. She explained the 311 system which is the number for people who need help getting out of the city in an emergency. She asked for a contact person from MCNO to help provide information on elderly and infirm people in the neighborhood who might be in need of assistance during an evacuation. She announced that the Rockefeller Foundation has donated $17,000,000 to assist with planning. Bart Everson and Pattye Brignac volunteered to be the MCNO contact persons to act as a liaison with her office and to provide a “hot list” of neighborhood issues. Councilwoman Head provided her cell phone number and her email address: 504-658-1020; shead@cityofno.com.

Stacy Head Speaks to MCNO

II. Jake Wagner, professor of Urban Planning at the Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City, and former resident of New Orleans, told the group that he has committed to work here for two years. He and his students have worked on plans for the Lafitte Corridor and Rails for Trails. He announced that the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology is planning to build a film studio from Claiborne to Galvez. Dr. Wager’s work is funded by HUD. He also discussed the Main Street Program to which merchants who have historic buildings may apply for grants.
III. Nicky Najiola, representing the Gentilly Neighborhood Assn., spoke about the Greater New Orleans Community Support Foundation’s plans for the involvement of neighborhood associations in the planning process and for the need of all neighborhood groups to work together to insure that plans are produced from the bottom up, rather than the top down. The GNOCSF will certify planners, architects, landscape architects, and other professionals. Each neighborhood will then select those with whom they will work. The Board will consist of twelve members; seven will be neighborhood appointees, five governmental appointees. The Preservation Resource Center’s role in acting as a liaison with neighborhood associations was pointed out. Their was a strong consensus that the MCNO should work closely with them and with other neighborhood organizations, particularly in the area of zoning where variances were often granted by the previous city council. A suggestion was made that the groups might jointly prepare a document which the council would be asked to sign committing to denying zoning variances opposed by the neighborhoods.
I. Dibert School – Amy Lafont and Rick Lorusso have been working long hours to obtain acceptance of the MCNO‘s application to operate Dibert as a charter school. MCNO is the only neighborhood association to apply to operate a charter school. The reason for involvement is that a good school will attract young families and will benefit the neighborhood for generations. The association has interviewed candidates for principal and there is probably a consensus for one candidate. Teacher applications have also been received. However, while provisional acceptance was received, the final notification of approval has not been received. Rick said that he was told that the decision would be made Friday before last, then early this week. Phone calls to the state office have been unavailing. Councilwoman Head agreed to have her office attempt to speed up the process. The target date of the school’s opening is September 5, 2006.
II. Bayou Boogaloo – Chrm. Taylor announced that when the final accounting is in, the event will have made between $10,000 and $12,000. Its success can be measured by the fact that the previous record for fundraising was the Chocolate Affair held in February 2005 which garnered $7,500. Its great success is all the more remarkable in that only a few people were involved in its conception and planning. The Board unanimously voted to pay Jared Zeller 10% of the proceeds for arranging for the musical acts and for donating his own money to do so. It was also unanimously agreed to pay a percentage of the profits from the sale of tee shirts and posters to Jane Brewster who designed them. Others singled out for recognition were Jennifer and Erich Weishaupt, Jolie Bonck, Julie Posne, Nancy Okun, Virginia and Charlie Blanque and Wendy Laker.
III. Neighborhood planning issues include a Home Depot to open temporarily in the Winn-Dixie on Carrollton (until a permanent building is built behind the old one) and a Walgreen’s at Carrollton and Canal. While the area is zoned light industrial, Val Dansereau and Ron Wismar, among others, urged that quick action by the MCNO is needed to affect the overall design and parking flow to mitigate the traffic and aesthetic impact of such large businesses. Val Dansereau volunteered to start a dialog with the developers of these projects. There was also discussion of an inquiry by Jim Cripps about his plans for a coffee shop with a drive-through window to be located in the old Liberty Bank Building. Some of those present voiced concern that if it is not zoned for that purpose, approval by the MCNO would undermine the organization’s stand opposing other zoning variances. Val Dansereau will investigate the zoning question and whether the coffee shop will be locally owned.
IV. The Art Market will move back to the Botanical Gardens and will be held in conjunction with a Festival of Neighborhoods on June 24. MCNO volunteers are needed to man a booth where they will provide information about the neighborhood and accept memberships. This date conflicts with a workshop to be held by the Lambert group from 10 to 12 at Grace Episcopal Church. Virginia Blanque stressed the importance of a large turnout at that meeting, as well as the meeting this Saturday, June 10, at Grace Episcopal, 10 to 12 a.m. Some dissatisfaction was voiced concerning previous meetings held by this group which were not announced in a timely fashion and which were held at inconvenient times and/or places. Some members of the group also seemed dismissive of neighborhood concerns, making a large turnout at the upcoming meeting imperative.
V. Wendy Laker and William Wright volunteered to act as liaisons with the office of Shelley Midura, newly elected councilwoman from District A. William Wright will also act a liaison with the Preservation Resource Center.
VI. Jim Taylor announced that he will not be able to continue acting as President until he has moved back into his damaged house and will temporarily relinquish his duties. In years past, the organization has been on hiatus during the summer. It was unanimously decided that meetings will continue throughout this summer. Both Jim and Wendy expressed the need for a definitive decision regarding who is and who is not a board member. It was also agreed that the size and complexity of the issues confronting the organization require board members to chair and serve on committees, to be determined. Virginia Blanque suggested that one committee might be Hearts and Lives, which would provide practical information to returning residents. She and Tracy Hamlin volunteered to chair this committee. Wendy will work on developing other committees.
VII. The meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m. The date of July 11 was set for the next meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Bayou Coffee Shop.
[Minutes taken by Bette Cole and lightly edited by Bart Everson.]

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