Monday, August 07, 2006

Unbalanced Report of UNOP by T-P

Overall I believe that the local newspaper the Times-Picayune has done an outstanding job following Katrina. However, their recent presentation of the Unified New Orleans Plan is absurd in my opinion. Or at least it is blatantly one sided in its presentation of a very contentious issue.

The Unified New Orleans Plan was set up to get the federal funds flowing to start rebuilding our city. The state run Louisiana Recovery Authority won't release the funds until we have a comprehensive and unified plan. The history of all this is summarized very well by Becky Houtman. The first UNOP meeting on July 30th was a total disaster. Many people, including me, blogged about the poorly planned event produced to give the veneer of democracy. It was put together by Concordia, a design team run by Steven Bingler. To make a long story short, we knew more about the planning process for New Orleans than the facilitator for our district (4) hired by Concordia, you can't vote unless you have email, and the voting system they have set up is a fraud. As stated by People Get Ready, Res Ipsa Loquitur!

The day after this first meeting, I was shocked when I opened the T-P and read a glowing review of the meeting. I was upset, and like many others, I wrote a letter to the Times-Picayune, but none of these letters criticizing the UNOP were printed. Then today in the editorial section of the T-P, the first letter to the editor about the UNOP appears. Cynthia Scott's letter basically says that you'd have to be an idiot not to support the UNOP. Then, on the front page there is a long story about the greatness of Steven Bingler, his company Concordia, and the entire UNOP. I've heard from several people that the head honcho of the Times-Picayune, Ashton Phelps, has strong ties with both Concordia and the GNOF, the group which gave the contract to Concordia. I can't emphasize enough what a fight this is to make sure that the people who live in New Orleans have a say in how we rebuild. I wish the local "paper of record" would listen a bit more to those of us who don't happen to make six figure salaries.

And then: 2 hours after posting this, Annete Sisco from the T-P wrote me and asked me to write a broader op-ed piece about the planning process and the recovery of Mid-City. Of course I enthusiastically accepted and I'll write it tomorrow


Anonymous said...

do us proud

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael. You're an excellent writer. I'm sure that you'll make the most of the opportunity to get a word in edgewise.

I'm not sure how Concordia is able to portray this chaotic disarray of events and information as something that we should be participating in and paying for.

They did pick planners, but now they are wrong-footing these planners with this needlessly antognistic "democratic process", where we are being told what happens next "just in time".

Richard Layman said...

To understand better the dynamics of development, the local power structure, and the role of newspapers as the cheerleaders within that structure, I highly recommend reading the classic paper The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place by Harvey Molotch.

While you're not likely to have time to read it before you finish your op-ed, it's must reading in terms of understanding how the local elites work, are funded, and what they focus on.

Good luck.