E-Alert 8: Citizen Engagement  

Louisiana Speaks Administration

Kristian Sonnier
[email protected]


Louisiana and New Orleans have a critical opportunity to shape the future of their city and region in the aftermath of last years devastating storms, but the time to act is now. What happens in New Orleans affects all Louisianians. With one voice, we need to express our shared priorities and guide decisions at every level about the investments that need to be made in our communities. Everyone must have a voice in setting these priorities, so that we can all work together to make them a reality.


There are two planning efforts to address rebuilding hurricane damaged areas of our state under way right now. The regional process, called Louisiana Speaks, addresses all of South Louisiana. A local process, called the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP), concentrates on Orleans Parish. These are among the largest and most important citizen engagement initiatives in U.S. history. The 18-month Louisiana Speaks process is the Louisiana Recovery Authority's overall long-term planning effort to build a better, stronger and safer coastal region for all its citizens. UNOP is a six-month planning process established by the Mayor, City Council and City Planning Commission to produce a unified citywide plan for New Orleans by the beginning of 2007 that will guide public and private investment for rebuilding the city. The combined planning processes encompass dozens of public meetings, involving thousands of residents from every walk of life and every corner of the region.

Widespread public input is absolutely necessary. These plans will guide investments and help prioritize renovation and restoration projects. These plans will serve as a catalyst to affect real change in our neighborhoods, parishes, and the region. And they can even help us address economic, social, and historical inequalities. But if we are to achieve all of these goals, we need input from ALL our citizens.


On December 2nd, New Orleanians in five cities will come together to discuss the future of their city. At this citywide meeting, residents will hear about options for rebuilding New Orleans and be asked to make decisions about recovery priorities.

  • New Orleans: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 9:00 to 3:30 CST
  • Atlanta: Georgia Int'l Convention Center, 10:00 to 4:30 EST
  • Baton Rouge: Baton Rouge River Center, 9:00 to 3:30 CST
  • Dallas: Adams Mark Dallas Hotel, 9:00 to 3:30 CST
  • Houston: Reliant Park, 9:00 to 3:30 CST

    In several other cities, displaced New Orleanians will also participate at local community locations and libraries by watching a live webcast and submitting their ideas online. For more information about the community and libraries locations, please visit www.unifiedneworleansplan.com.

    The meetings this Saturday are free and open to all residents of New Orleans, pre and post Katrina. FREE transportation, food and childcare will also be provided at all five sites to ensure the meeting is accessible for all New Orleanians.

    Click here to register to attend the UNOP Community Congress this Saturday, December 2.

    The effort to involve New Orleans area citizens began shortly after Katrina with the work of the Mayor and the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, which identified city-wide needs and issues that should be addressed on a short-term and long-term basis.

    The City Council then provided neighborhood-based planning to the neighborhoods that were most flooded through Lambert Advisors. Lambert's work addressed some of the most devastated areas of the city and produced a list of recovery projects for consideration.

    These two programs and corresponding results have now been folded into the final phase of the planning for the city, the Unified New Orleans Plan process, which will produce the required unified city-wide recovery plan by the end of the year that will guide use of available funds.

    Federal, state and local agencies, including the Louisiana Recovery Authority, will use the UNOP plan as a strategic guide for the investment of funds to support the continued rebuilding of communities in Orleans Parish. The plan will also serve as a resource to citizens and private investors as they are making personal and business decisions regarding the recovery. Elements of the city-wide plan will also be incorporated into the Louisiana Speaks regional planning initiative that will bring together New Orleans, Houma/ Thibodaux, the Northshore, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles to make us a stronger region from coast to coast.


    The Louisiana Speaks regional plan will help us address challenges that extend across parish lines such as coastal restoration and storm protection, regional transportation such as rail connecting cities and towns, and major economic development strategies to accelerate job creation and job training.

    We all learned in Katrina that raging winds and rising floodwaters know no boundaries. From Lake Charles to Lakeview, there are many natural and man-made systems--such as levees, coastal wetlands, and highways--that spill across our individual neighborhoods and city and parish lines.

    We now have an opportunity to work together as a region to tackle these challenges head on. With your help, we can rebuild safer communities that are better protected from future storms, better transportation choices, a thriving economy to accelerate job creation and job training and a better quality of life for all citizens.

    Community engagement on the regional scenarios will begin shortly after completion of the UNOP process later next month. Just as your voice is helping to create a unified plan for New Orleans, your voice your thoughts and your ideas will help define a regional vision for South Louisiana beginning in January.

    The impact of these two planning initiatives will be significant and far-reaching for citizens across the South Louisiana region. But this isn't a job for just a few people to tackle. We need to hear from everyone, including you.

    To learn more about UNOP or to attend a Community Congress meeting this weekend, please visit www.unifiedneworleansplan.com. To learn more about Louisiana Speaks, please visit www.louisianaspeaks.org.


    Louisiana Speaks is the long-term planning initiative of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. With support from the LRA Support Foundation, Louisiana Speaks has engaged a team of top local and national planning experts to gather public input and support the development of a regional vision for South Louisiana that will guide long-term recovery and future growth. This work combines the efforts of many experts, stakeholders and citizens into a comprehensive approach that will be used to guide investments and secure additional resources for Louisiana.

    The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) is a process that will link all New Orleans neighborhoods under an equal, unified infrastructure plan. By developing a common, unified set of priorities for the recovery of New Orleans, this process will play a critical role in shaping public and private investment in rebuilding our city. The UNOP process will incorporate all community, professional and volunteer driven planning work, as best identified by UNOP and the community, which is complete and or underway.

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    Louisiana Speaks is a multifaceted planning process, endorsed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, to develop a sustainable, long-term vision for South Louisiana in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
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