In The News › EDITORIAL: Share the excitement

Sep 8, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

EDITORIAL: Share the excitement

EDITORIAL: Share the excitement
Saturday, September 08, 2007

New Orleans officials say residents will like what they see when Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council finally detail how they plan to spend the first $117 million for the city’s targeted redevelopment blueprint.

As the council gave initial approval for the money Thursday, Councilwoman Shelley Midura said: “People will be tremendously excited when they see the plans.”

Well, it’s time for the mayor and the council to share the excitement.

Failing to publicly release details before the council vote and immediately after was unacceptable, and the city risked losing the public’s confidence in the effort.

The Nagin administration and council members have street-by-street blueprints of some rebuilding projects in the 17 targeted zones. But the mayor and the council refused to publicize them even after the vote, and Mr. Blakely said City Hall does not plan to post the plans online until the end of the month.

In other words, the council appropriated the $117 million in federal dollars to Mr. Blakely’s office without letting the residents who elected them see what they had in mind.

Mr. Blakely said he has prioritized projects based on recent meetings with civic groups and other stakeholders who got a sneak peak at the blueprints. But he did not provide a list of who those were, and most New Orleanians have not had access to those meetings.

Council members and the administration said the proposed projects are in line with what residents suggested during last year’s citywide planning effort. But how can people know without seeing details?

The Bureau of Governmental Research unsuccessfully urged the council to postpone a vote until residents commented on the plans. Doing otherwise, BGR said, makes any public review no more than “an afterthought.”

That’s an important point. New Orleanians supported last year’s planning effort because thousands of people participated. Most residents also welcomed the 17-area targeted blueprint as City Hall’s most concrete and feasible plan to rebuild the city.

But public support will erode if officials make decisions while keeping residents in the dark and denying them a chance to comment on the plans.

Rejecting the BGR’s argument Thursday, Council President Arnie Fielkow said it was time to take action. Then why did officials still fail to release the plans as soon as the council voted?

New Orleanians have waited patiently for the administration to flesh out its plans. If officials want to keep public support, they need to be open about those blueprints.

Sep 8, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

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