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Friday, July 7, 2006

GNOF and Lambert

This is a copy of A Letter to the Editor from a Resident of NorthWest Carrollton

As a recovering neighbor in a flooded neighborhood on the edge of the Isle of Denial I looked around to the few neighbors who were back and we all said: HUH?!!!! or “We’ve got to get busy” and “How the heck do we prove our viability or plan?” So we organized, we went to countless meetings, we learned and we were annoyed by the conflicting signals being sent from Federal, State and City government as well as the well meaning non-profit organizers. Some neighborhoods “have money to hire their own planners others have worked connections with local and national universities, some neighborhoods used both money and connections to start their plans.

In January BNOB said that neighborhoods had to prove their viability.Many neighborhoods had neither money nor connections and were left to figure it out for themselves, while they were rebuilding their houses and lives.

The City Council’s Planning process allows these “have not” neighbors and neighborhoods a voice. Has the process been perfect? Nope. Welcome to PostKatrina New Orleans. In case you haven’t noticed, not much is perfect.

But if you take the time to attend the meetings, talk to the planner or planners directly, speak to Mr. Lambert (who attends the meetings) directly and explain your frustrations, concerns, ideas then, I promise you, the City Council Planners will listen and respond and work with you.

This is true bottom up grassroots planning by the neighborhoods and the neighbors who are here struggling to make it work. We can not throw the baby out with the bathwater just because the GNOF and the Rockefeller Foundation have ridden in their white horses. Lest we forget, the funding for the GNOF planning and the associated recovery funding is coming in on the backs of flooded, recovering neighbors. The plan to fold the work of the City Council planning process and other independent planning processes into the work being done by GNOF honors the work of citizens who have been at this for a long, long time. Let our city government work out a process that joins the City Council planning efforts and GNOF efforts. It is possible. To assure continuity in the planning process key contacts from neighborhood groups who have actively participated in building their own plans or working with City Council planners should be included in GNOF’s efforts. The CSO process and associated contacts are not enough. I am glad the Rockefeller foundation is working here in New Orleans. I’m sure they will do good work.

We must collaborate and cooperate to make this work. By “we” I mean all of us: Neighbors, Non-Profits, Federal-State-City governments, Wet and Dry, Back and Not back, all of us. Because if we New Orleanians do not all stand together in our recovery and planning then we shall surely all drown together. And most of us know what that is like and do not care to repeat it.

Jenel Hazlett

NorthWest Carrollton

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