We Need One Voice
Nov 16 2005
New Orleanians are confirmed skeptics when it comes to issues of reforming education, smart urban planning, social justice, and healthy communities. Not because we don’t believe these are important; we just tend not to believe in the capacity of our business and political leaders to place the interests of the community in front of personal gain, petty rivalries, and parochial interests. Conversations - public and private - about the future of our city often end when someone says, “yeah, that’s a nice idea but the politicians (or other elites) don’t want that to happen.”
True, much that needs to happen if our city is to thrive does threaten the interests of many of those who got us into this mess in the first place. As a first step in the rebuilding, we need to acknowledge this fact. Then, we need to send the message that we expect the political and civic leadership to be a unified bloc to support our community’s efforts in both word and deed.
The process that began last week at the [Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference](http://www.louisianarecoveryandrebuilding.org) here in New Orleans is the first truly significant step in the right direction we have seen since Katrina made landfall. What made it unique was a combination of factors we have never before seen in our city:
+ Bringing serious and committed professionals from across the country and internationally to educate citizens on the issues facing us;
+ Inviting hundreds of citizens from all across south Louisiana to dream big about the future of our state;
+ Providing transparent and democratic methods for evaluating and prioritizing the principles developed by the group.
Skeptical that it was really transparent and democratic? What if we told you that even City Council members who violated the democratic participation protocol were brought back to order and not permitted to undermine the process? One City Council member chose to leave after being informed that grandstanding commentary was not welcome.
The Recovery and Rebuilding Conference was only a first step. While there were well over 600 voices in those meetings, there were, of course, thousands more who were absent. As the process continues, those voices need to be included. But we are encouraged that the inclusion of all members of the community was one of the key principles adopted at the close of the meeting.
We are not advocating an abandonment of vigilance. It’s a long journey from general principles to implementation and much can happen along the way. But what we saw over a three-day period represents a radical departure from the status quo pre-Katrina.
There is much work to be done to rebuild our communities. We think it would be great to expend our energy implementing a vision rather than fighting the same old fights. And it is certainly time to combine these competing commissions into one inclusive body that operates under the guiding principles of transparency, accountability and responsibility to all the people of New Orleans, rather than one group at the expense of the other. There will be hard decisions to be made. But we think the first step in the recovery is acknowledging the hard facts and then speaking and acting as one community.
[Preliminary list of Initial Principles as prepared and prioritized by LRRC participants [PDF]](http://www.louisianarecoveryandrebuilding.org/SiteObjects/files/lrrc_dayonereport.pdf)