Skip to main content

Return to Your Hovels, This Is Not An Election

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?

Think New Orleans » For the Record, This Is Not An Election


  1. Ryan, I have been enjoying my vacation by digging up the Folks who sit on the Boards. This is fun and easy but you have to have the BIG master event,The Bring New Orleans Back Commision Report to really play the game. Funny that you never see any of these fine citizens actually participating "YUCK" in a Neighborhood Clean Up. You never see any of them attending the horror show dog and pony events that we are forced to attend to make it appear that there is Democracy going on. No, when the cameras are "trained" on us at the UNOP meetings you never see or hear from them. By the way, cameras, trained on us, recording our participation, and WHO exactly wants and needs to see that?

    Thanks Ryan

  2. Hell of a way to spend your vacation. I'm downloading the reports now; I'm guessing the Wiki will be growing soon.

    So who is training cameras on UNOP meetings? And what's the purpose of filming participants? Is that expected or an intimidation thing?

  3. The cameras are part of the democratic process. LOOk, see the people participating. Those videos that show a confused and struggling population eventually reaching consensus. But in reality there was no consensus cause only about 15 people could hear.

    They show more face time with the faccillitators than the residents. What a surprize

    Ok , more vacation


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

RIP Tom Petty

Tom Petty died today, aged 66. I won't claim to be a huge Tom Petty fan, but I've bought an album or two and sang along in the car to one of those songs everyone knows. I'll  stream a lot of his catalog today to remember the songs I've heard once or hundreds of times.

I also owe Petty credit for a singular moment in my life, and one I never expected to last in my mind.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was a fresh-ish faced transplant to Ann Arbor, MI by way of my first "real job" out of college, working for a software company in Dexter. I was renting a house with some other folks who'd also been displaced as a result of a fire at my first apartment. I was the only family member East of Lansing, which made me a contact point for anyone going through Detroit Metro airport.

Which is how my uncle Dean came to spend a few hours with me one evening. At the time, my grandparents (his parents) were wintering in Texas. My grandfather had health problems most of his life and…

Google Inbox: A classic Google product

My work domain (an EDU) recently had Google Inbox enabled so I had a good chance to try it out. My personal email is relatively quiet and, I believe, doesn't provide a good Inbox experience. Work is more active and requires actual management, something I've tossed many a tool at over the years. As part of my work life, I supported the Google Apps for EDU installation here and took a pretty extensive presentation to campus about how to manage large amounts of email.

Inbox is a classic Google product: the distillation of a number of excellent ideas into a set of half-complete features built for a use case most people don't meet. We've seen this in the past in products like ChromeVox, Google's Chrome extension for accessibility. ChromeVox works great on ChromeOS devices, but completely ignores the point that most users of accessibility tech (AT) don't have or want ChromeOS devices and come to services with their AT in tow. ChromeVox also ignores decades of convent…


Evernote, for better or worse, is the best note-taking service for my needs. It works across all my devices/computers/modes. It's fairly easy to get stuff into it. Hell, they even have 2-Factor authentication. The Windows app is a little clunky and my girlfriend and I have never been able to get shared notes to work properly (conflicted note! three times in the same grocery trip!), but what service is perfect? At least they have nice socks.

Everything, in fact, is pretty good as long as you don't screw up. And screw up I did. I'm not very regular about making backups, but I do make them every month or so. Once you figure out how to create a backup, that is.

There's a helpful Export Note option (which turns into Export Notes when you select multiple notes HINT). The export process is essentially opening All Notes, selecting every note, and then choosing Export Notes. Or something like that; Evernote never tells you, you're left to figure it out on your own. The file…