Friday, May 09, 2008

Pockets of Development: A Wishing Well

The Board of Ethics has decided to allow Sean Cummings to continue leading the New Orleans Building Corporation.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics said Thursday that Sean Cummings, a private developer who also leads a city agency called the New Orleans Building Corp., can continue to steer two public developments because he does not have a "substantial" financial interest in the projects.
That's okay. We'll see very soon what is meant by "substantial" financial interest. I don't know why I need to wait. I'm against the his riverfront development plan regardless of whether or not his family stands to make millions.

I think it's a stupid idea.

There, I said it.

I feel as though politicians everywhere have this stupid expectation that just because some development deal gets put together and promises to spend a bunch of money and generate a bunch of revenue, ordinary citizens are supposed to just support it and not ask questions.

Wake up.

During my lifetime, the city of Philadelphia went through probably 300 different plans to redevelop the Delaware River waterfront. The plans were always foolish deals to bring retail space or expand concert space or for condos or for casinos.

The plans all more-or-less mirrored different riverfront revitalizations from around the country, think Baltimore or Pittsburgh.

Urban capitalist group-think was that if you have a river or a harbor and put shops there, (shoppes, rather) yuppies will want to go there to purchase things and will move back to the city and put money into the tax base.

In Philadelphia, for whatever, reason these things never panned out. There are too many people to pay along the way. Unions wanted too much. Developers wanted this tax incentive or that tax incentive. Residents, who all along wanted green space, were able to mount opposition. Several plans came and went in this way. Finally, the city decided to go back to the drawing board entirely. They invited the University of Pennsylvania to engage the waterfront communities in crafting a new master plan for the waterfront.

Guess what?

The residents and the planners got together and crafted an absolutely fabulous vision for the Delaware River Waterfront.

It doesn't promise museums and hotels and cruise ship terminals and amphitheaters.

It's got parks and bike trails. It has housing. It extends the street grid to the river to melt the planned community with existing neighborhoods. Residents gain riparian rights.

It's awesome, even though it still faces hurdles.

Check it out here and here.

You know who didn't like the plan?

The unions and the private developers that have owned the politics of municipal development since before WWII. Something something about economics. Whatever.


It's called quality of life.

Think about your own neighborhood in New Orleans. How greatly would it benefit from a recreation center, a community garden, or a park? I know that different groups are trying to get things done in their neighborhoods and are just being ignored.


Why does the leadership of this city still govern with some 1990s economic development magic wand? It makes no sense to sink so much money into this project. We have plenty of attractions and things to do in this town. There are plenty of concert venues. The tourists have a lot of options.

If you want people to move into the city, if you want people to invest in the city, if you want residents that grow up here to stay here, you're going to have to make the place more livable.

We need hospitals, public transportation, schools, and sanitation service.

Let's start there.


Maitri said...

Another insightful post with real-world examples. Keep 'em coming, Senor E!

The long, long road home,New Orleans said...

I don't understand how this cannot be a conflict of interest. His decisions on the development board will directly affect his bottom line. I call that conflict. Just another example of Louisiana "ethics"

E said...

I think that a lot of people here have been victimized by their own low expectations for urban leadership that they don't realize that great things can be accomplished even in places resistant to change.

That's why I'm running for Mayor.

M Styborski said...

It gets uglier:

M Styborski said...

Hi Maitri!

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