Jun 29, 200910:01 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Errol Laborde: An attempt to undermine the Master Plan

A bad bill was defeated, but it was so damn close

Errol Laborde

SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I am one of those people who gets emotional about New Orleans. I rejoice at the triumphs and mourn the setbacks. Right now I would be dressed in black had a dreadful bill passed the legislature.
Known as Senate Bill 75, the proposal, introduced by State Senator Ed Murray, whose district, by the way, I live in, would have in effect undermined the triumph on the Master Plans that was passed by voters last year.
        
As originally approved, a professional urban planning firm, Goody Clancy and Associates, will hold a series of public hearings. After that, the firm will propose a citywide Master Plan that will have to be approved by the city council before becoming law. Once approved, there will be rational guidelines for development. Best of all, the process will be de-politicized, thereby weakening the stroke of politically connected developers and deal-making politicians.
        
SB 75 would have called for the final plan to be put before the voters again for approval, but that would have just politicized the process and given those whose power is threatened by the plan one more chance to try to defeat it.
       
Some thoughts:
 
WHY WAS THIS PRESENTED AS A RACIAL ISSUE?
Because the real motivations behind the bill, control and greed, do not play well in the public arena. We see many examples in political life of people who feel their power base threatened resorting to race baiting as a way of maintaining the division needed to stay in control.
 
BUT ISN'T THERE A CHANCE THAT LOCAL WHITES WILL USE THE PLAN AS A WAY OF BULLDOZING THEIR WAY OVER THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY?
No. First of all, the final plan has to be approved by the city council. All council members (including the two at larges) represent significant black populations that are either in the majority or that are large enough to be powerful swing votes.
        
Secondly, such an argument is condescending to blacks as though they will not make their voices heard.
        
Thirdly, such an argument is condescending to whites who choose to live in the city. They understand, and in many cases, desire multi-cultural communities. There is an underestimated sense of decency among those of both races who want a better life for all people.
         
Finally, Goody Clancy, the firm that will submit the plan after a series of public hearings, is not naive or uninformed about urban issues and sensitivities. Its planners know more about cities and how they tick than most of us do. The company's national reputation, as well as local community standards, will not allow for a race-driven plan.
 
WHO WERE THE HEROES IN LOBBYING TO DEFEAT THE BILL?
Three council members: Jackie Clarkson, Stacey Head and Shelley Midura, spent much time going to Baton Rouge speaking against the proposal. Even Ray Nagin and his administration deserve credit for making the case that the proposed legislation violated the city charter. City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields personally advanced that argument before a legislative committee. In an announcement sent out by Clarkson last week, she also thanked members of the city planning commission, the Business Council, the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors, the Home Builders Association, AARP Louisiana, the Preservation Resource Center, the Bureau of Governmental Research, the Downtown Development District and her staff.

As a citizen I thank them all too - as well as those local legislators who fought to block the bill. They protected one of the most important pieces of legislation in the city's history.
 
WHO WERE THE DISAPPOINTMENTS?
Most of the legislators who pushed for the bill were the usual suspects (it was introduced in the House by Cedric Richmond.) Many people, I suspect, were especially disappointed in Murray, who has a reputation as being one of the bright lights in the legislature - both smart and progressive. He may say that he was representing the best interests of his district, but as a constituent of his, I for one was never asked, nor were any of my neighbors that I am aware of. He may say that by calling for an extra vote he was championing the democratic process, but he is smart enough to know that his bill was a way to forever kill the Master Plan.
        
To his credit, Murray, who says that he intends to run for mayor, did help finalize the Saints deal during the session and there were no doubt many other examples of good works, but SB 75 is something that will be remembered.
 
WILL THERE BE ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO DRAG DOWN THE MASTER PLAN IN THE UPCOMING CITY ELECTIONS?
Possibly, but if so, the only way it can possibly succeed is to play the race card AGAIN. Here's hoping that the next election will be the one in which the political obstructionists learn that the city's voters, black and white, are smarter than they think.
 
 
 
 
 
 Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to errol@renpubllc.com. For the subject line use MASTER PLAN. All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter. Please include your name and location.

 
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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