And we’re back…

…from Seattle, in NOLA at the Rue, packed up and ready for my flight home tonight.  Have a couple places to check out, drive by, etc.  I heard Monday night that I should check out Lakeview, it’s really coming along, and today’s TP has some front page photos of it that show the progress.  (which I can’t seem to find on-line)  I’m missing tomorrow’s Community Congress, the second 5 city webcast of the latest planning process.  The linked article from the TP provides some interesting stats on who’s in the city versus elsewhere:

Nevertheless, the unusual congress has stoked enthusiasm in some quarters because it will pull in the displaced, especially African-Americans and people of modest incomes, who had thin representation during an Oct. 28 citywide planning meeting.

At the October meeting, 75 percent of about 350 participants were white, and 40 percent had an annual household income of more than $75,000. Before Hurricane Katrina, the city was 67 percent African-American and only 2 percent of residents earned more than $75,000 per year, while 54 percent earned less than $29,000 annually.

AmericaSpeaks is the technology non-profit behind making these webcasts happen; they did some similar work after 9/11.  This is there biggest project yet.  I’m curious to see the participation numbers after this weekend; right now they have only about 2k pp registered in the cities outside NO (Baton Rouge, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta – the cities with the most evacuees), but they say many people participate via churches and other public spaces in a wider range of cities than these primary targets.  There’s one more scheduled on Jan 13.

For people interested in participatory planning and democracy (very popular buzzwords in my program), this is a hell of a process to track.  As we see in Lower Manhattan, all this public input can generate very little, other than some spirit of civic engagement (see Polletta chapter) that leaves Americans feeling satisfied and like they contributed.  Ideally, this spirit is sustainable, and then publics keep tabs on progress and speak up when it is not going according to community consensus.  Of course, this is a degree of energy and investment that’s difficult to maintain.  One of the other issues with participation is whether the agreed upon outcomes are optimal, just, or merely of the majority. 

Regardless of outcomes of this process, involvement in this process, there’s not enough $$ to meet the goals of the last 15 months worth of plans.  Federal funds for infrastructure etc. will likely top out at $200M, far beneath the amount needed after the federally-maintained levees failed on 8/29/05, and thus the city will look to other private and non-profit sources for a recovery process that will necessarily be rolled out in phases.  In some ways, the work is only beginning. 



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