The night out against the Night Out Against Crime
That's what Alan called the Tuesday night UNOP meeting.
UNOP? What's that you say? Y'all dern well better stert 'preciatin' what the UNOP stands for boys and girls, because it's the ernly game in town.
And what was the UNOP meeting supposed to accomplish?
Well ... I suppose that depends on who you represent and what your goals are. Are you interested in propping up a process that most residents think is intentionally confusing and undemocratic? Or are you one of "those people," who think that power originates in the people, and that their ideas should be honored?
Ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaaa!
If you stand to benefit from access to an exclusive board structure which limits citizen participation in order to control the flow and distribution of billions of dollars in redevelopment resources, well then, I'll give you the official UNOP answer: The goal of the meeting was to allow "participants to select their top three choices for technical assistance teams to support their planning process."
Huh? What does that mean you say? You say your neighborhood already has a planning process underway? You say you don't need a technical assistance team? You just need money to implement your neighborhood's plan?
No, no, no, no, nooooo! That's a bunch of poppycock!
Let me explain something to you. You see, the UNOP is the "official" planning process. This is not like those other planning processes. This is the planning process endorsed by the Mayor of New Orleans, New Orleans City Council, New Orleans City Planning Commission and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (and this time they really mean it).
If you want the money, you have to go through the "official" planning process. Remember the name: Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP). And you have to use the list of planning teams approved by the New Orleans Community Support Foundation (NOCSF) if you want to get any money at all for the plans you already developed, because only the NOCSF has the proper expertise and judgment to decide who should create the plans for your neighborhood.
How did "they" pick the planning teams you ask? Oh, now you're getting really picky! Who cares? Trust them. It's easier that way. Sure they're getting paid for consulting services. They're just trying to earn a ... er ... a few million dollars like the rest of us. Hey, they gotta fill their SUV tanks too. It ain't cheap living like a king in 21st-century America.
So you're still pessimistic? Oh ... what?!! Damn ... that ... wet ... bank ... guy! It's all his fault for posting that diagram of the planning process!
Now they're going to have to admit to everyone that the whole point of the UNOP process is to once more assert the status-quo pre-Katrina power, class, and crony superstructure on emerging grassroots neighborhood organization efforts.
What's that? You want to know why the federal grant money for neighborhood improvements can't go straight to the neighborhood organizations, where there's already grassroots accountability, so they can spend it with whomever they choose to complete their projects? What a quaint notion. You probably believe in unicorns too, don't you?
People don't know anything about the way things are supposed to work! You just can't do that in the United States of America! The money is supposed to go to people at the top first before it trickles down to citizens and their "neighborhoods." That's the way things are done in this fabulous country. The monied power class are the ones who really know what they're doing, and they should by duly rewarded. They get to define what neighborhoods are, and they get to tell people what they should and shouldn't do.
Now, I know you're worried that they're going to accuse you of being one of "those people," and take away your neighborhood money. That's why you're being offered this one-time opportunity, but this is the last time they're making the offer. This is, after all, the "official" planning process, and by the way, they don't have much time left. They'll give you precisely 12 minutes to consider the merits of each planning team, and then you have to make your decision.
After about a half hour of looking at glossy brochures and listening to "We're the best team for your neighborhood. We care about your neighborhood," I went outside where a bunch of other people were standing around having dispirited conversations while staring at their shoes.
It was all very anti-climactic after Sunday's fiasco. Karen captured the mood exactly in a comment to my post last night:
It was like a really boring trade show, except it was a beauty contest to pic-o-planna.
I didn't think there was a story to report initially. But that's the story really. It's the way that things are being done to usurp the neighborhood planning processes already underway that I find disturbing.
I thought I was going to leave several times to join the Night Out Against Crime, but I stayed a little longer and talked to a couple more people.
One woman I talked to belongs to a family that owns a funeral parlor in New Orleans East. She was most interested in seeing development of the Chef Menteur corridor. At first, I thought she seemed interested in the area because she lives there. But she doesn't. She clarified later that she lives in Gentilly. She didn't say anything about Gentilly. She seemed to want to gloss over the deficiencies of the UNOP process. Then it occurred to me that she may not have the best interests of her neighborhood in mind -- that is, the New Orleans East neighborhood where her family's business is located. That's not to say that she didn't care about that New Orleans East neighborhood -- I think she did. But something else was driving her decision to support the UNOP process, and I think that thing was money. Either she had a connection that she wasn't revealing, or she thought an improvement to the neighborhood would be good for her family's funeral business.
Now, I can't say there's anything at all wrong with wanting to improve a neighborhood around one's business. Everyone wants that. But it gets to the core of why the UNOP process seems so artificial. Residents of different neighborhoods are confused. Nobody's telling them what the UNOP is going to do for them. It isn't clear how money is going to move from the federal government through UNOP to neighborhoods. It isn't clear who the players are and what their associations are. In short, everyone's suspicious of the process, ergo res ipsa loquitur.
A guy I talked to from New Orleans East said his neighborhood already had a planning team it was happy with, so he said he was going to write in that team on his planning team preference sheet. His neighborhood's team couldn't apply to the NOCSF process of selecting "approved" teams because it started working before the UNOP came along, and signed a non-compete contract. He said he's been hearing rumblings that the UNOP was going to collapse just like the BNOB did.
I doubt it, but you never know.
Then we'd have to learn a whole new set of acronyms.
Tags: Hurricane Katrina | New Orleans | Louisiana | We Are Not OK | Rebuild New Orleans | Unified New Orleans Plan | UNOP