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Master Plan / CSI: Gentilly

April 30th, 2009

What the Master Plan Means to Gentilly: Resident Participation

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

The crowd at the District 6 meetings for the Master Plan are different than the GCIA’s General membership meetings. Perhaps the Master Plan holds more cachet among the residents, or perhaps the Planning Commission’s advertising is just so much better.

What I find as striking at the Master Plan meetings is that most of the questions that are asked are questions that should be discussed on a continuous basis at GCIA committee meetings.

And that is what the Planning Commission and other sponsors of the planning meetings are trying to tell us, but not too successfully. At one point of the latest meeting last week an apology was made that the residents of District 6 needed to come up with a solution. Broad hints were made that more public discussion was needed on a variety of issues facing Gentilly. Let me make it clear that I think that the meeting was successful and that the moderators addressed every question that was deemed most important by the ten break-out groups.

The Master Plan and the zoning plans being discussed will culminate in guidelines for future infrastructure and land use in Planning District 6. Most of the questions raised by participants addressed current or looming problems like blight, crime and bringing needed health, social and commercial services to Gentilly. These are questions that concern planners in a very general way, but the participants are asking for SOLUTIONS and the SOLUTIONS filtered through such meetings are subject to the interpretations by planners who do not have to live with the consequences. The real SOLUTIONS will come from residents who meet on a regular basis, document their discussions, continuously query other residents and research programs that have succeeded in other communities.

TAKE GENTILLY CRIME…PLEASE!

A recent appearance by Major Greg Elder, NOPD at the Gentilly Terrace and Gardens Association echoed this theme. The police are constrained by the U. S. Constitution and laws regarding what they can do to prevent crime. The same laws that prevent them from arresting bad characters at will are there to protect the rights of all citizens. They can observe the people we suspect but they have to have a very good reason to enter homes or hassle “visitors” (Zombies?) that drive or walk through out streets at all hours of the night. Major Elder said outright that residents need to be proactive in addressing these concerns – the solutions are initiated by citizen discussion and action.

I have voiced some ideas about what we can do:

  • A GCIA committee on public safety.
  • A “neighborhood defense fund” that would pay for shared legal services.
  • Neighborhood covenants that restrict future construction of two-family or multi-family construction.
  • Establishment of drug-free zones with signs.
  • Support of neighborhood crime watch groups.
  • A security district with paid patrols to augment police efforts.
  • Public demonstrations in crime-prone areas with brass bands and pizza.

These ideas are not originally mine, so there are many other people out there who want to discuss actions. The only step left is to formalize these discussions and make sure that those residents who are not directly committed to the discussions know that there is a public effort being made and that their input is welcome.

The reasons for discussion are many. These programs raise their own questions. Covenants can be construed as targeting African Americans and they will test the strength commitment of a neighborhood group. Drug-free zones also can be seen as targeting minorities – nationally 95% of arrests are of black suspects. A security district takes legislation, a vote of residents and money. I also agree with one young resident that Gentilly needs more townhouses, inexpensive housing that will attract young professionals, our college population. But most older residents might say that we have enough doubles in Gentilly already and they are being populated with “section-8” or “Central City” families by well-meaning but detached government-funded programs. Most programs are more interested in filling empty spaces than building a community.

ORGANIZING

Crime is but one area of interest that needs to be discussed district-wide. The GCIA, through the neighborhood associations, needs to take up these forums. At every opportunity the neighborhood groups need to urge residents, including those not currently participating, to come forward and be a part of the solution. With the level of discussion at the Master Plan meeting I know that there are enough questions on the minds of Gentilly residents to make committee meetings worthwhile.

To discuss problems and take action now may sound like the work of alarmists but when our problems overwhelm us, any efforts taken now may seem woefully inadequate. We would do well to heed the words of Edmund Burk.

Communications Part II - Forming Committees

April 3rd, 2009

My last posting brought a comment from a reader that said in a few words what I was trying to say in so many. I hope it will point out that I started this forum because I believe there are many unheard voices in Gentilly with ideas and words that are so much better than mine. I certainly hope that you don’t think I just know so much more than everyone else. Far From it.

“If the name “Gentilly” creates a negative perception, then we need to change the perception, not the name of a building.” Tom Henehan’s words not only get to the soul of the problem, perception, but generates an action idea that we all need to think about. Let us not dwell on the negative actions of a small group, but on the task of changing the perception of what Gentilly represents.

CHANGING FACE

We can’t blame the media for stating that certain crimes are committed in Gentilly, when in fact they occur outside our claimed boundaries. We need someone, better yet a committee, to keep tabs on the media and to alert them that there are other ways to express the location of a crime. Alas, the same media might claim that the coming Jazz Fest is “in Gentilly” but we must make it certain that not all areas bordering on Gentilly Blvd. can rightfully be called by the name that we covet. Third District maybe, but don’t blame it on the police either.

Changing the perception of what Gentilly is implies that there is a culture, a spirit that embodies the area. It certainly isn’t crime, so what is it? The GCIA has two committees to thank for the beginnings of an effort to define us. The Education Committee and the GentillyFest Committee have made great strides in formulating a new perception for us. We will be known, in the future, as a great place to educate children and as a segment of the city that honors it’s police and firemen. As an extension I would hope that we are seen as an area that nurtures technology and knows how to define the culture of its residents.

A CALL TO ACTION

GCIA President Laurie Watt has asked for ideas and called for formation of committees to formulate an agenda for the GCIA in 2009. I thin at the last board meeting Norm Whitley moved that these ideas be discussed at the next meeting which is Monday, April 6.

Committee creation is not a way to make more work for the neighborhood presidents, however their position is ideal for getting more people involved. Using the Education and GentillyFest committees as an example, GCIA committees are run and staffed by volunteers who are passionate about the focus of their committee. The presidents are welcome to participate, infact committee meetings, as well as the board meetings are open to all residents of Gentilly. I have not been a board member for years, yet I am welcome at all of the meetings and at the festival meetings as well.

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS – WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?

Here are some committee ideas to start the ball rolling:

Media: Monitor news about “Gentilly” and make media connections that can make sure it reflects well on the community. Assemble news from the neighborhoods that need to be documented and shared. This is vital to helping the growth of neighborhood groups as well as the GCIA. It also will build pride in the community, a keystone of changing perception about Gentilly.

Beautification: Catalog the plantings that have been made since Katrina and monitor the maintenance of common areas such as neutral grounds and playgrounds. Create partnerships with other groups. An independent “Gentilly Garden Club” would bring great prestige to its members and to the community.

Recreation: How about after-school and weekend programs or a Gentilly Summer Day Camp for the kids.

Community Technology: I will be glad to chair this one. A CT Center would assemble computer equipment to teach career/life skills and provide greater access to online resources.

Government: Although there are government agencies and non-profits charged with similar programs, the “lessening of the burden of government” should be written into the mission statement of the GCIA. The municipal administration is inept at best and we have shown that we can do a better job when we put our minds and hearts to it. Pick any government agency that draws your interest or ire and find like-minded people who want to research ad discuss solutions for Gentilly residents.

And Many More…

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL WORK

If you have ever been to a Gentilly Festival Committee meeting you would know what I mean. This group has fun, they have formed new and lasting friendships and a deep and meaningful pride in a place called Gentilly. Changing perception by gathering with other people with similar interests. This is what it is all about folks!

Gentilly – The wrong side of the tracks?

March 25th, 2009

Last Monday’s GCIA board meeting was dominated by a discussion of the name of the new high school. Ultimately a vote was taken to support the choice of the GCIA Education Steering Committee. The Greater Gentilly High School will remain its title for now, not withstanding a change in the committee’s focus on the academic standards of the school rather than a name change forced on it by a small group of vocal citizens whose concerns are the values of real estate that will pad their wallets.

According to this group the name Gentilly attached to the school degrades the value of the real estate around it. They have launched an attack on the name by writing to school officials in an attempt to define the boundaries of Gentilly in their own terms.

The name came to the committee after much thought and ample requests for other people to join the discussion and hard work to create an institution that would reflect well on the academic standards as well as the standards of the community in which it was to be built.

Gentilly, as a community, became more defined after Katrina. The Gentilly Civic Improvement Association was conceived as an organization to bring neighborhoods together, not to divide them according to value. Our diversity is one of our most deeply revered values. Gentilly, as a name, was a natural choice that fit well with existing tradition, physical boundaries and forgotten history. Gentilly is the banner we have chosen.

That is the way it works folks. Decisions are made by the people in the room. The name is chosen and we quickly move on to the hard work of improving the values of residents and businesses in the area, whether they participate or not and without regard to their financial status.

*****

Artificial boundaries exist to help us define ourselves. In the case of the GCIA most of the boundaries were existing, physical features. The lake, the bayou, a man-made canal, railroads and highways that restrict human discourse. Neighborhoods were included that were outside the District 6 planning area because active groups came forward. Much discussion about federal entanglements drew the final lines.

Since that initial definition some neighborhoods have elected not to participate, but their streets remain within the boundaries of GCIA concern. There are more neighborhoods who wish to join us under that banner and we should pause to consider whether our largess would be diluted or the risk is worth the sweat equity and additional ideas that can be added.

The reality of those boundaries, however, becomes meaningless in the light of the GCIA’s mission. The negatives we rally against - crime, bigotry, blight, ignorance and pollution - do not respect those artificial borders and any feelings we get disparaging those on the other side of those boundaries would be equally contrived. Our concerns don’t stop at any line in the sand.

We must also respect the limits of our government resources. Council District D includes areas beyond Gentilly that are in much worse condition. State districts stretch even further and the municipal purview – I’m not even going there.

I am not a new Orleans native or a long-time resident of Gentilly. I chose Gentilly because it seemed to have certain values that appealed to me. Safe? Wholesome? Unassuming? It is not up to me alone to define Gentilly. That responsibility belongs to the residents of the area, no matter how arbitrarily named or outlined by random lines on a map. Or we can leave it to a tiny group of financial terrorists.

The GCIA has taken on the responsibility to be the voice of these residents. It needs to call upon them to put a heart and soul in that voice and to sing praises of its values. The hard work of the Education Committee reflects these values and as residents we will do well to let them know that we will work hard to support them.

Let’s Eat!

March 15th, 2009

Going out to eat in Gentilly just ain’t what it used to be.

Or perhaps it never was. You tell me.

Below is a list of sources of food and beverages that are presently found in Gentilly. I hope that the list is not complete, and I am really think I am stretching some definitions to come up with what I have.

We could really use some help here. Can anyone add to this list? Can you give me some reviews while you are thinking about it? And while we are discussing food perhaps someone can come up with dining experiences from the past. Was there ever a formal dining experience in Gentilly? Or maybe someone wants to wax nostalgic about hotdogs at Pontchartrain Beach.

And the future… What would you like? Applebees or Olive Branch? Do you believe that Gentilly can use some upscale dining experience? A steak house? Coffee Shops?

Just click on the blue “Comments” link below and add your thoughts.

Alcohol

Daiquiris and Company 6301 Elysian Fields

New Orleans Original Daiquiris 4450 Chef Menteur Hwy

Bakeries & Delis

John Gendusa Bakery 2009 Mirabeau Ave.

Sweet Savors Bakery 5242 Elysian Fields Ave.

Coffee shops,

The Juju Bag Cafe & Barber Salon 5353 Franklin Ave/

Convenience Stores

Discount Food Store Franklin Ave.

Dollar General 4774 Paris Ave.

Happy Discount 5601 Franklin Ave.

Lucy’s Supermarket 3443 Paris Ave.

Walgreens #3024 4200 Chef Menteur Hwy

Walgreens #3558 6201 Elysian Fields Ave

Walgreens #11414 3216 Gentilly Blvd

Wagner’s Meat 4601 Chef Menteur Hwy

Wagner’s Meat 3101 Elysian Fields

Fast Food

Burger King #375 6332 Elysian Fields

Burger King #5783 4454 Chef Menteur Hwy

Burger Orleans Gentilly Blvd

Church’s Fried Chicken - Gentilly 4030 Chef Menteur Hwy

Great Wok 1554 Mirabeau Ave.

McDonalds 4240 Louisa

McDonald’s 3025 Elysian Fields

McKenzie’s Chicken-in-a-Box 3839 Frenchmen St.

Papa’s Pizza 6220 Elysian Fields

Popeye’s Chicken 4470 Chef Menteur Hwy

Rally’s 4460 Chef Menteur Hwy

Smoothie King 6600 Franklin Ave.

Subway 6600 Franklin Ave

Subway Caton

Wendy’s Chef Menteur Hwy

Groceries

Cousin’s Seafood Franklin Ave.

Eastside Seafood 4601 Chef Menteur Hwy

Rouses 6600 Franklin Ave.

Wynn Dixie 4600 Chef Menteur Hwy

Zimmer’s Seafood 4915 St. Anthony Ave.

Restaurants

Café Roma 6600 Franklin Ave.

China Buffet Gentilly Blvd

Chinese Tea Garden 2170 Filmore Ave

Jolly’s Restaurant & Banquet Hall 5000 Old Gentilly Rd

Lafitte’s Café 6325 Elysian Fields

Merlin’s Place 5325 Franklin Ave.

Pizza Milano 5226 Elysian Fields Ave.

To Bancroft Park – Why Gentilly Woods Matters!

March 2nd, 2009

You, too are invited to attend the Gentilly Fest Press Conference announcing the awarding of $20k to Gentilly first responders at 2pm on Thursday, March 5th, at the 3rd District Police Headquarters on Paris Avenue. Actually, the entrance is on Wakefield Street, right around the corner from the old UTNO building.

To many the Gentilly Woods Shopping Center conjures up an image of failed capitalism maintained for years to attract bargain-basement shoppers. It was the gateway to Chef Menteur Highway with its automobile graveyards and motels of questionable quality and clientele. Let’s face it, we are all glad to see it gone.

To me the current status of the entire Gentilly Woods / Chef Menteur corridor is a golden opportunity to burnish the business community of Gentilly, indeed the entire 6th District. We must, as a community, lend our voice, our concerns, our needs to the rebuilding of this commercial area.

My vision is of “cranes in the sky” leading not only to a regional shopping Mecca for all of New Orleanians, but some high-rise office space that will bring professionals, high-tech companies and services to our area.

Am I the only one that sees this?

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

This new “Gateway to Gentilly and New Orleans” will be on the eastern edge of the 6th District. It will cast its long afternoon shadows across Interstate 10 and the Inner Harbor Canal. Its development will spark a redevelopment of commercial and industrial properties up and down the Canal and along Chef Menteur.

It will bring new, better paying jobs to our community. It will give professionals in Gentilly the ability to work closer to home. It will draw funds to improve roadways and ramps to and from the Interstate. It will provide a huge boost to a Gentilly tax district, funds that can bring us increased security services, a shuttle bus from “Gentilly Center” as well as other areas of the district. It will greatly increase our chances for a streetcar on Elysian Fields. And because it is near the interstate highway, additional traffic will be kept to a minimum.

And finally this development will increase property values throughout the 6th District.

We need to become more aware NOW, of what can come from attention to this development. The block grants and “GO Zone” money that were allocated by the federal government will not be available forever. The efforts of many agencies, non-profits and other benefactors will wither without the attention and will of the residents of Gentilly.

BANCROFT PARK, YOUR COMMUNITY AWAITS.

So why have I singled out the Bancroft Park neighborhood for this message?

Sometime in the last eight months the neighborhood association of Bancroft Park has chosen to deny its participation in the Gentilly community. Without a word it has withdrawn from the GCIA and turned its back on neighborhoods to the east.

I remember the occasion, if not the reasoning behind its decision. The Gentilly Fest committee was created and given a vote of confidence that exceeded or avoided the by-laws of the organization. It was pointed out that the “GCIA Directors have a legal, fiduciary obligation for GCIA’s operation…” and that “Oversight of funds generated by tax-deductible donations funneled through a third party 501(c)3 organization is not a responsibility… (to be taken) lightly.”

The festival group plunged on toward their goals and, to every one’s surprise, the event was a fabulous success. The money was handled responsibly and has been dispersed, to the benefit of first responders in the Gentilly area (police and firefighter groups that, I should point out, respond to events in the Bancroft Park neighborhood). No miracle was involved here, just the hard work and enthusiasm of responsible people.

I will admit that I don’t have a deep understanding of fiduciary obligations. I do have an understanding of the sense of fun and personal gratification that came from working for the Gentilly Festival committee. The GCIA Board may have acted irresponsibly in granting fiduciary obligations to people without “credentials”. It was more a leap of faith in the idea and a blind trust of the people who carried it out. This is not to say that there was no oversight. Progress was reported at every GCIA board and general membership meeting. Every dime that passed through those capable hands is available for scrutiny.

WE NEED YOUR HELP

What was sorely missed was continued vigilance from the voice that gave birth to this oversight and perhaps trust in fellow Gentillians who, let us say, have a lesser understanding of what they cannot do. Where would the United States be if we only considered the risks and the rules set out by other people?

Bancroft Park is obviously a neighborhood of means and financial experience and for no other reason than those qualities the rest of us look to the denizens of this “jewel on the bayou” for leadership and guidance. What Gentilly gets is something less.

Plans for Gentilly Fest are well underway, the group is confident in its independence from the GCIA but looks to the “voice of Gentilly” for ideas and guidance. It begs the participation of all 6th district neighborhoods including Bancroft Park, Lake Terrace and all the rest of Gentilly.

Please come by and help us thank our first responders.

Democracy vs. Money

February 18th, 2009

 

A DOUBLE ELECTORIAL SYSTEM… DUPLICATION OF EFFORT?

The by-laws of the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association were drawn up and revised to implement a maximum impact for democratic ideals. The Board of Directors is comprised of the presidents of the 20 or so neighborhood organizations that hold elections to chose these representatives. In addition, the by-laws state that the dues paying members of the GCIA itself have an electoral prerogative in important matters that effect the organization and the community.

The IRS has a completely different take on this sacred aspect of American ideals: because the organization has a voting membership it is to be denied the right to apply for funds that can help its mission to improve the community. In the eyes of the Federal Government he GCIA in effect has set itself up as a labor union!

 At a recent informal meeting GCIA President Laurie Watt relayed this fact to me and stated that she would like to have the by-laws changed so that the GCIA can finally achieve the long-sought 501(c)3 status that allows us to seek donations and grants to solidify the GCIA’s mission to organize and improve greater Gentilly.

 CHANGE DOES NOT COME EASY

The importance of this electoral framework was diluted when the by-laws reconstituted the Board of Directors as the presidents of the neighborhood organizations (or a designated representative).  Since this change, in effect, creates a representative government for the GCIA the vote of the general membership is redundant and should have been eliminated.

Changing the by-laws is an exercise in serious thought and word wrangling that I am not inclined to tackle myself. We need a by-laws committee willing to take a good look at the entire document and change it to reflect the true and future needs and attitude of the group and the community.

 ARGUMENTS FOR ELIMINATING GENERAL MEMBERSHP VOTE

With respect to the membership voting matter the by-laws committee and the Board should consider the following questions (among others):What does the voting privilege really mean to the actual dues paying membership? How often has this membership been called upon to vote on any matter? And how recently? Do we really have the strength of organization to gather a quorum and hold an election? (Ouch!)

Hopefully the wording can be changed easily, paving the way to making the change and reinforcing our next application for non-profit status.

 ARGUMENT AGAINST

The present board may not be inclined to be a part of an organization that handles large amounts of money. I would venture to say that discussing such matters and others of importance are not the strong point of the GCIA’s Board. It is not so much a inability or reluctance, but a matter of style. I have been to enough neighborhood meetings to know that the presidents are more than capable within that context. They take the time to mention GCIA business but the knowledge and importance of the “big picture” is not discussed in any great depth. The additional burden of representing their neighborhood at GCIA meetings is not taken lightly but needs help from the GCIA itself.

 ALTERNATIVE MEASURES

It should be pointed out that the GCIA does not really need 501(c)3 status to make money. How was the GentillyFest organization able to collect so much money to donate to our first responders? Any organization has the ability to collect the funds under the auspices of another organization (Friends of New Orleans, Beacon of Hope) which has the proper non-profit status.

The GentillyFest organization is organizing itself to be such an organization. It is very capable of gaining the proper status and raising funds. The GCIA can “borrow” from the status of GenFest and perhaps be a recipient of a certain portion of its largesse.

I dare say that the GCIA can and should nurture more organizations dedicated to specific interests and, as the representative voice of the community, will remain a partner with these additional organizations by being embedded in their by-laws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication Part I: Gathering Ideas

February 12th, 2009

Okay, it just seems simple to me.

Think for a few moments about the things that your neighborhood needs to accomplish in the next year.

Write it down.

Pass it on. Share it.

Be specific or be broad. It doesn’t matter.

Ideas. Concerns. Interests.

 

I have been to enough public meetings in the last few years and this is how the professionals, the experts do it. They present some information and then they break the audience up into small groups and get them to write down their ideas, limiting it to a particular area of concern using a very broad, vague question. The participants respond, the hosts gather the answers and present them back to the audience so that the whole room knows what the smaller groups have considered. The ideas are sifted together and a list of definitive actions is published.

 

This type of idea gathering does not have to be formally organized and in a community such as ours it should be constant and it should include even those residents who are not regular participants in neighborhood meetings.

 

These ideas can be considered by the people who are in the room so that they can formulate the goals of the community as a whole. An group without goals is not organized. It is not an organization. A group that leaves its goals entirely to a small group of participants is in danger of becoming a dictatorship, or even worse, of doing nothing at all.

 

 

EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE

Last Month’s General Membership Meeting of the GCIA was everything you can expect from a great organization dedicated to improving our community. One after another presentations were given by organizations and agencies which can be great resources to individuals and to the GCIA itself.

The only problem I have with these meetings is that there just is not enough time to allow individuals or neighborhoods to air their opinions or concerns.

I imagine that this is often a problem with general membership gatherings. When there are opportunities to ask questions during these meetings, the questions are often personal concerns or not quite relevant to the speaker’s intent. These questions do have an importance to a certain segment of the community but in the limited time of a general membership meeting there is little time for everyone to participate.

 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

I have tried to tell so many people. If you have an idea write it down. Have a concern? Write it down. Have a question about something presented at a meeting? Write it down!

None of us are perfect, we may have missed something. And the only dumb question is one that isn’t asked. Write it down!

Once you have written it down add your name and pass it on to the secretary or president of your neighborhood organization. It doesn’t have to be well written as long as it describes the idea or concern. You add your name so that you can be contacted to complete the story.

Perhaps the idea or concern can be answered on the neighborhood level, but there are many reasons that it should be passed on up to the GCIA level.

 

GENTILLY 311

Each individual may have a need but the greater need here is for the community because the definition of a community is a group with shared ideas and concerns.

When collected, this process may reveal patterns that emphasize a pathway toward a solution. One idea may fit neatly with another to become a solution. Hobbies and skills can become shared interests leading to meetings or organizations that bring the community closer together.

 

DON’T FORGET YOUR NEIGHBORS

There are many people in Gentilly who do not go to neighborhood association meetings. For whatever reason they do not participate, they may not understand that they too, are an asset or have a need that can be met through this informal system.

A new resource that has recently appeared in Gentilly is a permanent home for St. Paul’s Homecoming Center/Beacon of Hope. It is located at 1509 Filmore Ave. The center has two full time caseworkers that can help your neighbor solve many problems, large or small. There are also many volunteers available for larger tasks.

 

UNSUNG HEROES

I mention passing these ideas or concerns on to the neighborhood association presidents and secretaries. I don’t mean to burden these volunteers with extra duties, but their work in helping to improve conditions in neighborhoods is a foundation for a successful non-profit, non government system. When you get down to basic solutions, government usually fails to respond without help from other resources.

 

UNABASHED PLUG

If you have access to a computer please sign up to the yahoo group gentilly_after_katrina ( gentilly_after_katrina-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

) for info on city-wide meetings and solutions from your neighbors. GaK has been a resource for Gentilly since soon after the storm.

I can’t promise a reward or even a response but the system should try to acknowledge your effort, even it is just “Thank you for the cards and letters!”

Jan. GCIA General membership Meeting - Part II

February 3rd, 2009

My thoughts on the first GCIA General Membership Meeting of 2009:

 

I hope that the GCIA can continue to bring us great gatherings like this. I would like to once again thank Laurie Watt for her ability to organize and host such a productive meeting for the general membership. The agenda was ambitious and the pace aggressive.

I would also like to thank the residents who attended. Laurie tries very hard to pack a lot of information into as little time as possible because we have so much else to do. I can tell you that she was duly impressed and appreciative that the audience was patient and stayed for all of the speakers.

This deft balancing act of Laurie’s helps me segue momentarily to my second “goal” for the GCIA this year: Better Communication. No matter how hard we try, we cannot possibly fit all the speakers that we need into the time allotted. And to compound this dilemma, every speaker brings up more questions. This is the raison d’etre for my site: to promote communication and provide a redundancy, if you will, for the resources at hand.

 

Now back to the meeting –

Karran Royal addressed concerns about the contract and support for the principal hired for the new high school. I would agree that recent examples of bright and experienced people drawn to New Orleans have given us cause to wonder why our city seems to grind up and spit out the new people and ideas and that we so desperately need: The new library director, Robert Cerasoli, a 311 system. Is it a lack of passionate commitment or a fear of revolutionary change?

 

Ariana Tipper talked about details of the Lot Next Door Program. In my opinion the regs concerning participants are too restrictive. Why can’t individual buyers invest and flip these properties like a developer? Can they recreate themselves as a developer for that purpose? Isn’t that what a buyer would be doing if they wanted to purchase a property so that the community can use it for a neighborhood resource? Abigail Feldman talked about the “growing home” program that begs the waiver of such restrictions. This begs further investigation.

 

Kendric Perkins introduced the Stay Local! organization. Unfortunately most questions dwelled on commercial properties that lie blightfully dormant, which is totally beyond his purview. This groups hopes to promote local businesses, an idea that I will continue to push on this site. It is up to us to continue to encourage the business development that the community needs. Denise McConduit brought up the idea of a central entity to guide this effort. Amen! This is another “goal” I have mentioned and plan to expand upon.

 

Maria Mecedes Tio announced the contributions gathered by the GentillyFest to help local first responder groups. I look forward to the upcoming press conference because this wonderful organization deserves to be recognized. Firemen from the “Squirt” on Paris Ave. were there to promote their own efforts to raise money. The T-shirts look great!

 

St. Paul’s Beacon of Hope was represented by Connie Uddo and Tina Marquardt. Their Gentilly location at 1509 Filmore Ave. offers two full-time caseworkers and a bottomless cup of coffee.

 

Jim Livingston and City-Works will help Gentilly residents understand all the various organizations, programs and concepts involved in the planning and  economic development of New Orleans. It is hard for us to keep up with a process that really tries our patience so I wish them.

 

Sheriff Marlin Gusman  informed us about Crime Victims Assistance Programs. These programs have been around for a while and suddenly they are on the news and at our meeting. Thank you Sheriff Gusman for bringing it to us personally!

 

The last item on the agenda was an open discussion of GCIA goals and projects. I wanted everyone there to know that the GCIA is the voice of Gentilly but we do not hear enough from our most important resource – the residents of Gentilly! I can’t stress enough the importance of gathering and documenting the concerns, ideas and hopes of the individuals that make up our community! So read the next post!

Jan. GCIA General membership Meeting - Part I

February 2nd, 2009

GCIA Meeting Jan. 31

Here is a list of online resources from Saturday’s meeting so that we can revisit the ideas presented. I know that most residents in Gentilly do not have access to the internet so it would help that those who do have good access explore and share these resources. Tomorrow I will review the people and their presentations.

·      http://gcia.us/minutes.asp - Okay this is the official site of the GCIA minutes. The fact that it is not current does not reflect upon the volunteers who take the minutes and the webmaster who takes the time to prepare and post them. We need a working system until there is a staff to make it second nature. Institutional memory is one of the foundations of a truly great organization. It is a tough and thankless job and we can do better.

·      http://nolapublicschools.net/InfoGlance/Rebuilding_schools.aspx - The Education committee is the GCIA’s most functional special interest group. A page somewhere that focuses on Educational resources in Gentilly would be a great resource. Also http://unocharternetwork.net/schools.html - has a great deal to do with schools in Gentilly

·      http://noraworks.org/ - is where you find the “Lot Next Door” information. My concern here is that the neighborhood organizations can take advantage of this to begin using real physical assets like an office/meeting house or a community garden.

·      http://staylocal.org/ - This can be a great resource for retail businesses in Gentilly. A Gentilly brochure would be a great addition to a “Welcome Wagon” package for new residents of our community. (more on this later)

·      http://www.gentillyfest.org/ - Go to a Gentilly Fest meeting! This group will welcome your input and the sense of fun and accomplishment is contagious! Their goals are expanding to more events and locations.

·      http://www.lakewoodbeacon.org/ - The Beacon has come to Gentilly! This is a great resource for much more than lawnmowers Visit their new office at 1509 Filmore for a free cup of coffee and more.

·      http://www.city-works.org/documents/GentillySDAT.pdf - Building a “sustainable” Gentilly This organization brought an AIA team to work specifically on Gentilly. The slide show needs some explanation so visit the rest of the site. Having the American Institute of Architects focus on us is beneficial, to say the least.

·      http://www.opcso.org/ The Sheriff’s office has been active in Gentilly events. Although we pride ourselves in a low crime rate it is good to know that there is assistance for victims of violent crime.

 

I will be starting some resource pages using these and other web sites.

 

Membership Drive - Part 2 - Attacting Members, New and Old

January 29th, 2009

Last week I mentioned some reasons for participating with a neighborhood association: responsibility (and not depending on government for everything, investing locally for your own prosperity,  and the rewards of joining your neighbors in activities that benefit the community.

The other side of membership drives is the work of convincing others that they should be  part of the community. There are more things happening out there than I could possibly know but here are a few brief thoughts that I can share with you.

SPREADING THE WORD

The task of marketing the neighborhood organization begs an example, and I have one. The Milneburg Civic Association is the model of good practices. First of all this neighborhood group has marked its territory. The four signs proclaiming “Welcome to Milneburg” along Elysian Fields and St. Roch are simple, yet get the message of neighborhood pride across. I have heard other neighborhood groups talk about markers but Milneburg has accomplished the task.

In addition the group, which stretches from New York St. down to Filmore Avenue, periodically meets at the Walgreen’s parking lot on Elysian Fields and marches through the neighborhood picking up trash, noting deficiencies and generally showing their neighbors that there is reason and strength and fun in being a part of a civic group.

The group lacks a permanent presence on the internet which, to its advantage, forces them to use more traditional methods to increase membership and participation. I have been to only one of their meetings, and it has been a while, but I am sure that their box of tools includes a few more ideas that would benefit other neighborhoods.

TECHNOLOGY HELPS

Another example of an active and enterprising group is the Gentilly Terrace & Gardens Improvement Association. Their website gentillyterrace.org is maintained by board-member John Lyon. The site should be noted not only for its design but for reminding visitors of the many reasons the group exists. It has a History page which shares a 1910 sales brochure and promises more documentation to entice pride in the community. if also has documents and files which include minutes of meetings, zoning documents and codes.

The GT&GIA also plans a lot of events that spark creativity and and pride in the neighborhood.This year they are celebrating a centennial with various events.  It is true that not every neighborhood can claim historic neighborhood status but events like their Holiday Door Decorating Contest does not require any special status. Check out their website for ideas.

Also check out the GCIA website (gcia.us) and the Gentilly Fest site (gentillyfest.org) for ideas about participation. Both are currently a labor of love by Doc Chatelain.

MEMBERSHIP VERSUS PARTICIPATION

I go to a lot of neighborhood meetings where I am not a member, as in “dues paying member”. I don’t always have something to say to the general membership but I do always have conversations with individuals and small groups. The ideas is to get to know people and share ideas, find out what is going on in other neighborhoods, indulge in some cross-polination of ideas, if you will.

Some people are adverse to the idea of paying money into an organization as loosely organized as some neighborhood groups. The truth is, most of them do not pressure anyone to pay dues. They want you to feel welcome and soliciting dues is an after thought, really an honorary thing that says that you want more for the group. The dues are used for various expenses, mostly to provide some refreshments or flyers for activities.

In most groups dues are $10-$25 per year, hardly enough to choke a budget.

ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE, ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

Ask people why they don’t come to meetings. Listen to them with the idea of turning their negatives into positives - I don’t have the time-I don’t want to be paying dues-I don’t know when the meetings are-I don’t want the obligations-It’s not fun  I have enough things in my life that aren’t fun-My neighbors are disagreeable people-I have enough problems of my own, I don’t want to share them with others.

If you go to meetings you already know how you overcome these attitudes. It helps to have a ready answer from your experience.

GENTILLY MEANS BUSINESS

We need to support our local businesses. We need to include them in neighborhood and GCIA activities. Many have shown a willingness to be a part of neighborhood events. Maybe, with the knowledge of a business we can have “flash-mob” meetings. Say on a Monday night Milano’s or Merlin’s has a special on a slice of pizza or a tamale for a special price. Everyone tells a neighbor, the event lasts for an hour and new people are brought into the active community. A local business benefits as well.

CAN I HELP?

Although, like everyone else in Gentilly I have limited time, I do have a computer that can produce documents. My thoughts are to create half-page, two-sided documents for a neighborhood which includes a neighborhood map, Neighborhood association contacts, meeting dates and a list of accomplishments and plans.

My main task here is to get you to share your ideas. So how about it? Comment here or at least bring your ideas to the general membership meeting of the GCIA this Saturday at the Edgewater Baptist Church on Saturday at 11am! There are many Gentilly residents that do not know the advantages of being a part of the action in our community.