Notes from New Orleans: Victory for Citizen-Driven City Planning

Posted on: November 6th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

Along with all the other exciting developments on election day, came the news from the New Orleans electorate that a majority of them want a master plan with the force of law, tied to the comprehensive zoning ordinance, and offering a legislated citizen participation component. All of this locked in through the passage of an amendment to the New Orleans City Charter. The result was a real squeaker--passing by only two percentage points, 51 percent for, 49 percent against, but a victory nonetheless.

On Monday, I stood at a press conference called by City Council president Jackie Clarkson. Scores of New Orleanians representing a coalition for the passage of the charter amendment attended. On election day, signs simply saying "NO" were planted on the neutral grounds of streets around town, but it was clear what they were referring to. Countering this was a television, sign, and leaflet campaign urging "Vote Yes for Citizen-Driven City Planning." Clearly it convinced enough people to bring the approval numbers over the top, despite lots of misunderstanding about what really was being voted on.

Now we return to the process already underway. Another citywide planning forum is this Saturday. Meetings at the neighborhood level are next week. The effort is under the primary direction of the consulting firm Goody Clancy of Boston.

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