Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pride and Prejudice

I haven't written much about my neighborhood project and my neighbors, cuz I wanted to give them some courtesy of privacy. But I am now breaking the rule a bit to talk about the latest victory of Musa and Veda's...

If you are aware of our little end of the bayou, you may realize that we really lie between 2 neighborhoods; MidCity and Bayou St. John. Both of those neighborhoods have strong neighborhood associations, but neither really organize in our few blocks. The lines stop before they get to us in both cases, although at times, (when convenient for them to do so) both orgs claim our area.

As a result of these turfs, it is clear that we are pretty much on our own when fighting for city services. Before the levee breaks, we spent a great deal of time working with the SWB, Entergy, Parks and Parkways and others with middling success.
Since the flood, we are fighting for the present and the future, with planners (Musa and Veda have bravely battled the UNOP process on our and other underserved people's behalf), and with Waste Management, neighboring businesses, levee boards, landlords and anyone else we need to.

And, by the way, we find out what people want here by.... asking. Not calling meetings, or setting up email listserves, but by stopping and asking and listening. It is clear that scale is important; because we view our area as Orleans to Lafitte and the bayou to Broad, we can know most of our neighbors, and find them. I do wonder how neighborhood associations that stretch for blocks and blocks and across dividers really serve the entire area?
Isn't a group of 500-1000 enough to know and organize?

But, I digress. I wanted to talk about some things that have been happening here in our self-styled Upper Bayou St. John Neighborhood, so called because we have been asked on most occasions what org we represent. We shrugged our shoulders and said..okay we'll give you a name, although we know that the name means nothing to us and everything to the bureaucracy that we must work with.

The parking lot where the Tharp/Sontheimer Funeral Home used to be is slated to become 14 new homes with real people living in them, building a new community. No major developers have been involved, no large corporation had to organize this, just a few neighbors and some nice experts who find time to explain stuff to us.
These 14 new homes will fit in with the scale of the neighborhood, some will be using the latest available energy efficient methods and all will be filled with neighbors who want to anchor this area, and stay.
wait til you see...

On the recent front, due to some skillful and persistent phone calling and visits to city hall, we have 4 new garbage cans on our very heavily traveled end of the bayou! Our neighboring groups couldn't seem to help us, and our city officials were mostly confused and unable to find a few garbage cans for people who wanted to pick up trash, but Musa and Veda perservered and got it thru someone's head that this is an important step.
The garbage cans are an important addition as are the doggie bag holders that our neighbor, The Eye Animal Hospital, donated to our end. Since most dog walkers use the end we are on, and again, our neighboring association didn't see the use in putting those holders over on the "other" side of Orleans, it was done in the lagalou method that this blog champions.
Kudos also to Jonathan and family with their addition of a new oak tree planted on the bayou. His girlfriend's son will be able to bring his grandchildren and sit under it someday..

So, when walking to Parkway or to the convenience store or to the bayou end, use the bags, pick up trash and say hello as we pass so we can add your face to our list of those who understand Margaret Mead's words:

"Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has."


Editor said...

Dar, I don't think we've ever met but I've seen your name many times and we have many friends in common, and I am so glad to find this blog.

I was just in your hood the other day. It's really coming back. In fact, I almost live there -- I'm on the other side of Lafitte, closer to Canal. The difference between your area and mine is stark. Rebuilding seemed to stall out over here about six months ago.

I also felt the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization neglected my area of Mid-City. So what I did was I got involved, and now I'm on the board! But what I've discovered is that, as you noted, MCNO covering such a large area does not provide the level of attention that you are practicing. Still, there's a role that such a large "umbrella" group. In fact, there are a number of smaller organizations that operate with MCNO's area, and the relationship is generally complementary.

It's also worth noting that MCNO has been around for decades and gone through many incarnations. After Katrina we rewrote our bylaws and elected a new board in Dec. 2006.

I'd encourage you to keep doing what you're doing, but also to get involved with MCNO. By joining forces we can accomplish much.

Feel free to call me!

Bart Everson


darnola said...

I am honored to have you reading as I have, yes, run into your name and work many times over the years and also found it interesting we have not met.
I agree with your assessment of joining forces when a larger issue is at stake (as it is now with Victory), and welcome your input and MCNO's as well.
As a community activist, I do feel my best work is at the individual level and as direct action, so am not into joining, but am all for the neighborhood groups staying as watchdogs yes.
I do wonder if our groups can learn from Beacon of Hope in Lakeview which has made these smaller 10 block or so groups that share tools, do house inventories and help each other, while being loosely linked as a larger group.
Anyway, will be at Bougalou with my petitions along with my friends and neighbors to keep my neighborhood strong.
Hope you can stop and say hello!