So I went to the neighborhood planning meeting for Mid-City and Gert Town Saturday morning, and was deeply disturbed by what I saw there. Something doesn’t smell right. It’s not just the lack of publicity for this particular meeting. The whole process seems suspect.
The aim is to come up with a recovery plan for each neighborhood by July, and then a comprehensive plan for the whole city in August. The plan would go to the City Planning Commission and then to the City Council (which body is sponsoring this whole process) and finally to the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
There’s a lot of money at stake here. Billions, I suppose. That federal money I keep hearing about, designated for rebuilding, is coming down to the LRA and they have to decide how to spend it. Established precedent from other disasters dictates that the devastated community should decide how to allocate these funds.
The planning process now under way seems to be designed to give the illusion of community participation — a veneer of legitimacy.
But it’s not the real thing. At least I don’t think it is. How could it be? The timeframe seems unrealistic. They want to cook up a plan for our whole neighborhood in two more meetings, from what I gather. That’s just not possible.
As one guy in the audience said, we’re “fattening frogs for snakes.” I never heard that expression before but it seems to fit. This looks like a scheme to get dollars into pockets, but whose pockets I don’t know.
Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I am. But it’s complicated. I have heard that the LRA will only accept plans for New Orleans that have the City Council’s stamp of approval. And with Saturday’s election, we effectively have a new city council.
I need to figure this out and fast. The pressing question for neighborhood organizations: repudiate or participate?