By Ralph Schindler, Lakeview Civic Improvement Association
On July 22nd, #FixMyStreets had its first Town Hall meeting. City council members Susan Guidry, Stacy Head, Jason Williams and Jared Brossett were there, as were Senators Ed Murray and J.P. Morell as well as the major news networks in New Orleans. Also in attendance were Cedric Grant Deputy Mayor of Facilities, Infrastructure and Community Development, Lt Col. Mark Jernigan, Director of Public Works and General Superintendent of Sewerage and Water Board Joe Becker. Most importantly, the citizens were there. It was standing room only for 700 citizens; the night was a success.
Obviously, not a single street has been fixed since, nor has a plan been hashed to fix a street, but the night was a success.
For our Town Hall meeting, the measure of our success is based largely in the attendance and interactions of everyone present. Leading into the meeting, our message was crystal clear about what our goal was for all interested parties: to build on the momentum of Mr. Lupo's #FixMyStreets campaign by having an organized presentation and a civil discourse about what the problems are and how everyone would rally together in the coming months to start finding solutions and to include everyone: elected officials, representatives and citizens.
We hope to continue the success of that night into the future by creating both measurable goals and a plan for completing the task.
LCIA President Ann LeBlanc spoke briefly about the source of the streets problem in New Orleans, and then turned her attention to how the organization would grow from a passionate plea into a real set of solutions that will ultimately #FixMyStreets.
We identified 6 of them to move forward with:
- We need citizen solidarity and support. This means that we have to understand it will take many volunteer hours. We will need to support and address all ideas and potential solutions that are brought to the group. We have to understand that paying more, in some way, is a possibility.
- The organization needs total inclusivity. It is important to know that this problem does not affect only one part of the city. Additionally, it is going to require support from both elected officials as well as the citizens.
- There will need to be cooperation. Without knowing what solution is today, we know that we must have cooperation from both local government, private entities, the Louisiana Department Of Transportation And Development, and the federal government.
- Most important, there must be transparency and trust. All parties must be forthcoming with information, open and transparent. Transparency builds trust; and in our case, it builds trust where trust doesn't already exist.
- In realizing the magnitude of the streets problem, creativity is essential in finding a workable solution.
- Finally, the solutions found must be sustainable. Long term, New Orleans streets not only need a plan to be fixed, but they also need a plan to be maintained.
With the goals laid out, Ann then handed the presentation off to Freddy Yoder, LCIA's Vice President and Committee Lead for Infrastructure. Freddy then unveiled a draft outline of a plan of action that would take #FixMyStreets to the next level, similar to how Lakeview responded in bringing back the neighborhood after Katrina.
The #FixMyStreet's Five Point Plan consists of:
Step 1. Bring everyone together during the July 22, 2014 Town Hall Meeting. This was the crucial first step required to bring organization, clarity, and respect to the movement that was already underway.
Step 2. Organization. After the Town Hall Meeting, #FixMyStreets will start soliciting volunteers and organizing into an executive committee and subcommittees each with their own set of goals.
Step 3. Form A Citizens Group. This group is crucial in crowd sourcing the evaluation of streets in New Orleans end to end.
Step 4. Resolve committee research and data into a report. After committees complete their goals, the new found wealth of knowledge will be consolidated into a master report.
Step 5. Disseminate full report and evaluate options. At a future Town Hall meeting, Fix My Streets will explain the results of the committee and citizen process it had put in place. At which point, there will be several potential answers on the table that the citizens will have to weigh in on. All of these steps must be in concert with our elected officials, with their resources and expertise, as with outside experts’ input.
In the end, it appeared that #FixMyStreets got the attention of the elected officials that were present during the night. Some had assured that if the citizens we were willing to put forth the effort and make some hard choices along the way, they were willing to also put in the effort to solve this problem.
The movement now requests the mayor and his administration be engaged in this extremely important quality of life issue that has been ignored for decades. Our city must not continue to kick this issue down the road for future generations.
- Ralph Schindler, Lakeview Civic Improvement Association