If Missoula Can Do It…

June 23rd, 2006 by Editor B

Los Angeles has them. Atlanta has them. Even Missoula, Montana has them.

I’m talking about Neighborhood Councils. In Atlanta they call ‘em Neighborhood Planning Units. I’m sure in other communities they go by other names, but the basic idea is the same:

Neighborhoods need control over the basic decisions that affect our lives.

If they can do it in those other cities, then surely we can do it in New Orleans. Now is the time! We have a reform-minded City Council and civic involvement is at an all-time high.

We need to decentralize governance in a way that gives control to the local community. Each neighborhood in New Orleans should have a neighborhood council with the power to initiate, decide, and execute the affairs that concern it closely: land use, housing, maintenance, streets, parks, police, schooling, welfare, neighborhood services.

Mid-City Neighborhood Organization has identified this idea as a key component of our recovery plan. Now we need to reach out to other neighborhood organizations, share ideas, and work together to promote democratic reform in the governance of our city.

3 Responses to “If Missoula Can Do It…”

  1. Sophmom Says:

    I think you’re right when you say, “Now is the time!” The old status quo has been disturbed and the new status quo hasn’t completely settled in yet (not that there aren’t signs of its trying), so there’s an opening for change to come from the ground up. It looks from here to be happening.

    I don’t know whether neighborhood self-governance is achievable as long as the city or parish is expected to provide actual services (or not). I think that here in Atlanta, the NPUs do more in planning and making recommendations, while the existing structures in the various county and municipal governments ultimately decide and implement, based on those recommendations.

    It seems to me that there is a pretty nasty vacuum of leadership starting in the White House and working it’s way down (not that there aren’t a few good people toiling aways hopelessly tucked in here and there). It’s an opportunity for leadership to emerge among local activists and for regular folks to make a big difference in what New Orleans is like ten years from now.

    I believe that with enough of you trying, you can make this happen.

  2. Bartender J Says:

    I wish I had time to tell you of the positive and negative experiences I’ve had with our neighborhood council system here in Missoula. The bottom line is, they’re a good step, but unless they’re legislated with some amount of power, they’re kind of a frustrating waste of time.

    Our neighborhood council has fought for years to stop a new mega-Safeway from going in in our neighborhood. The project goes completely against a large number of the basic, guiding principles of our comprehensive neighborhood plan. The short of it is, other than shouting loudly, we couldn’t do anything to stop it. Apparently, the comprehensive neighborhood plan that volunteers spent four years writing, and that the city council approved, has more weight as a doorstop than as a binding planning document.

    On the upside, I do think the neighborhood council has served a good purpose in terms of simply getting people together in one room to discuss serious issues. If it weren’t for that, we’d only get together when somebody throws a kegger in the park and neighbors sneak in for free beer.

    Not that, uh, I would know anything about that.

  3. john massengale Says:

    Great wiki for your plan! We used a similar process of neighborhood rights in the Gentilly charrette — you can see the preliminary report at http://www.tectics.com/gentilly.html. The Catholic church calls it “subsidiarity.”

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