Charles Eliot Norton
society, at any time, dramatic events can occur that demand a
response greater than government alone can provide. At such times
the circumstances can be so dire, and the potential consequences of
doing nothing so severe, that ordinary citizens instinctively
realize they must act.
moment arose in 2005 when disaster struck New Orleans and challenged
government at every level. Broken floodwalls had fatally exposed the
city to a tidal surge produced by Hurricane Katrina. As government
struggled in the aftermath of a catastrophic flood, citizens turned
out in throngs to help.
began looking deeper into the city’s future. In November 2005, 120
local residents gathered to consider such looming questions as: What
can we do to prevent a recurrence of this disaster? How can we
rebuild to create a better city than we had before? They focused
immediately on the local flood protection system.
gathering, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans was born. Led by local
businesswoman and longtime activist Ruthie Frierson, the group threw
itself into a campaign to overcome the state Legislature’s failure
to reform the workings of southeast Louisiana’s levee boards.
community and legislative outreach and public education, the group
advocated for creation of a unified levee board comprised of experts
who would be guided by sound principles and would operate
transparently and without political patronage. The group collected
some 53,000 signatures on a petition calling for levee board reform.
In March 2006, the Legislature approved historic legislation to
dissolve local levee commissions and create the Southeast Louisiana
Flood Protection Authority. Six months later, Louisiana voters
approved a constitutional amendment to consolidate and reform levee
management in the region.
success as a springboard, the fledgling group of activists took on
additional challenges. They began advocating in such areas as
property tax assessment, crimefighting, education and governmental
ethics.With each step forward, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
grew into a more powerful force for change.
for 1 Greater New Orleans is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian grassroots
organization that aims to be a voice for reform and renewal for
greater New Orleans and Louisiana. A 12-member executive committee
leads the all-volunteer group, which today has more than 20,000