So, I’ve been drawn into New Orleans politics, mostly because a) they matter and b) people around Ann Arbor think their politics are as important, which they are not. What got my hackles up was a “vote” conducted by Concordia Architecture and Planning (which I talked about over here). I’m still coming up to speed on a large backstory, but the current issue is basically this: planners are being chosen to rebuild the city after Katrina. Yeah, by the way, you should read some blogs from New Orleans; it’s not all puppies and song-birds down there yet.
Think New Orleans exposed a process for receiving input from New Orleans citizens as a sham; many citizens groups considered the process a vote and their one opportunity to influence or outright choose the planners. Concordia, after the fact, is saying that it wasn’t, and that the process was, in fact, a “consultation”.
It should be noted that this “consultation” took the form of an easily-manipulated and impossible-to-verify online form, akin to, as Alan Gutierrez called it, a guestbook. Now Concordia is attempting to manage the damage, insisting that it wasn’t a vote. I bit, jumping into the conversation.
As one of those who bit hard on calling that process a vote, I’m as guilty as anyone for propagating what, apparently, was a myth. But, that said, you can’t call it a vote (and, let’s be clear, it was called that on UNOP’s site — and still is (Google cache) — and then change the marketing of that voting event in mid-stream because you don’t like people latching onto that word.
But, really, the only questions left fall into the “what now” category. Concordia, the ball is in your court. Since you have carried out an unbelievably flawed “consultation”, not utilized the only means to identify voters (their codes), and failed to even consider how to include over 75% of the population of the city, how do you prove (not state, but convince) those watching this democratic process that the flavor of this process isn’t as rotten as it smells?
Your own model states: “Concordia has been developing tools to promote the comprehensive planning and design of facilities in the context of the total community.” The total community. I think, measured against your own model, you have missed the voice of the total community and, out of principal, should want to do it again, correctly.
Concordia seems to be managing this democratic process. They are also the ones fighting for buy-in, the whole while promising this was the important moment. Well Concordia, the challenge is, for you, this: your words have created importance around an event your now wish to downplay. The proverbial genie is out of the bottle. The responsibility now lies in your hands to legitimize the event, because right now, it’s looking pretty discredited. And, as action goes, so follows reputation.
This was, for anyone without a vested interest in it not being so, an election. Hell, you have the Mayor calling it “democracy in action”. It’s time to drop the smoke, mirrors, and pretense and ‘fess up. How, precisely, will this democratic process work? How, precisely, will you collect legitimate “consultations” from the citizens of New Orleans? And how, precisely, are the citizens of New Orleans being made, not made to feel, vested in the activities that will will rebuild their city?