In The News › Critics lighten up on recovery plan

May 16, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Critics lighten up on recovery plan

Critics lighten up on recovery plan
But copies of revision hard to find, they say
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
By Bruce Eggler
Staff writer

An extensively revised version of the Unified New Orleans Plan’s citywide recovery and rebuilding plan received generally positive marks Tuesday from some of those who had been most critical of the original, though several critics said the revisions have not resolved all of their original reservations.

The most common complaint at a City Planning Commission hearing, however, was that it has been difficult or impossible for many New Orleans residents to find a copy of the revised proposal.

Although the revised plan was completed six weeks ago, it was not available online until late last week, and printed copies were not distributed to public libraries or other centers.

The nonprofit group City-Works promised during the hearing that it will get copies to at least two libraries this week, and the commission said it would accept written comments on the revised plan through Monday, but some speakers criticized the commission’s intention to vote on the document May 22.

“You owe it to the public” to give more people a chance to read and comment on the revised plan, which runs hundreds of pages, said Saundra Reed, co-chairwoman of the Central City Renaissance Alliance.

But Chairman Tim Jackson said the commission, which held two public hearings on the original version of the UNOP document and which once had expected to vote on it in March, will make a decision next week on whether to endorse the revised plan.

The commission then will send the document to the City Council, which is likely to hold at least one more public hearing before voting on whether to make the plan an official part of the city’s blueprint for recovery.

The citywide recovery plan focuses on a 10-year, $14.4 billion program of 95 capital and infrastructure projects designed to correct or repair the effects of Hurricane Katrina, and preventive measures intended to ensure that a similar disaster does not occur again in New Orleans. The city is expected to use the list, or a version of it as modified by the City Council and Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration, in seeking money from the state and federal governments.

But a newly added section in the document warns that implementing the plan “is dependent on outside funding sources and future levels of funding are uncertain,” that “several key elements of the plan are outside the control of the city,” and that “many proposed programs are concepts and need further development by others . . . once funding is secured.”

About a half-dozen speakers Tuesday offered comments on the substance of the revised plan.

One of them, Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, which had issued a scathing review of the original plan, said the revised version is “much more lucid” and easier to read, but she said it still leaves several important issues unclear, such as how much of the city would be covered by new zoning.

William Borah, president of Smart Growth for Louisiana, praised the inclusion in the revised plan of language endorsing his longtime call for a city “master plan with the force of law.” But the document proposes postponing development of such a plan, which Borah said would be unjustified.

Charles Burck said the revised document still fails to designate which neighborhoods face a high risk of renewed flooding and a low likelihood of quick repopulation, and therefore it offers no meaningful guidance to displaced residents trying to decide whether to return to the city and their old neighborhoods.

Planning Commission members and their staff argued at length with the team of consultants who produced the UNOP plan about who had the responsibility to make the revised document available to the public.

Planning Commission officials said they didn’t produce the document and have not yet voted on it, so it was not their job to publicize it. Members of the consulting team said they had run out of money and could not afford to produce printed copies other than those they delivered to the commission in late March.

Reed and other speakers said the two sides should stop squabbling and make sure members of the public, including those without access to computers, can find out what the document says.

Jim Livingston, executive director of City-Works, said his group, working with the Horizon Initiative, would have copies available by noon today at the main public library, 219 Loyola Ave.; the Algiers Regional Library, 3014 Holiday Drive; the City-Works office, 841 Carondelet St.; the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association office, 1120 Lamanche St.; the Neighborhood Partnership Network office, 2401 Esplanade Ave.; the University of New Orleans urban planning department in Room 308 of the Mathematics Building; and a site in Lakeview to be announced later.

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Bruce Eggler can be reached at beggler@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3320.

May 16, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

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