Mission: Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is a non-partisan, non-sectarian grassroots initiative formed to be a voice for reform and renewal for Greater New Orleans and a better Louisiana. The community group provides a venue and resources for citizens to voice their opinions and concerns and to take action for rebuilding Greater New Orleans. We are demanding a government that is open, honest and transparent.
Organization: The group was formed in November 2005, when a group of 120 citizens gathered for the first meeting in New Orleans. They came together after the state legislature failed to pass levee board reform legislation. The Times Picayune reported, “These citizens want a safe city behind sound levees so that no generation would endure what we have endured, and more than that they want honest and efficient city government, one free of old habits of cronyism and patronage that stifled progress and made us all unsafe.”
Levee Board Reform: Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans led the movement for levee board consolidation and reform which will provide for greater flood protection for all residents of the state’s largest metro area. Through community, media and legislative outreach and public education programs the group advocated creating a unified levee board comprised of experts guided by principles, transparent to the people without a hint of political patronage. The grassroots initiative collected over 53,000 signatures on a petition calling for levee board reform. Media and political observers have noted the grassroots effort and public outcry were major factors in the Governor’s decision to move forward with a special session in February 2006. The grassroots coalition held a rally on the opening day of the February special legislative session in Baton Rouge. Over a thousand concerned citizens flooded the steps of the state capital. Citizen for 1 Greater New Orleans’ volunteers had a strong presence in the State Capitol during the special legislative session at committee meetings and on the floor of the House and Senate.
Results: In March 2006, the Louisiana Legislature approved historic legislation which dissolved local levee commissions and created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority. In September 2006, Louisiana voters approved Constitutional Amendment #3, approving consolidation and reform of levee management in Southeast Louisiana.
Tax Assessor Consolidation and Reform: Citizen for 1 Greater New Orleans’ advocates supported the consolidation of the offices of property assessment in Orleans Parish. The antiquated system of property assessment in Orleans Parish had long been criticized as being a system of unfair assessments rife with government waste and patronage. The legislation would consolidate the offices from seven to one and provide a more efficient, fair and accountable process of property assessment. Over 1,650,000 email communiqués were sent to lawmaker from concerned citizens.
Results: The Louisiana Legislature passed legislation that would require consolidation of the assessor offices in New Orleans. In November 2006, voters across Louisiana overwhelmingly approved Constitutional Amendment #7 reducing the number of assessors from 7 to 1 in Orleans Parish.
Reform Legislation Critical to Improving the State’s Image
The landmark legislation advocated by Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans has been cited by many as pivotal to improving the state’s image. The fundamental changes signal that Louisiana will support bold reform measures as it recovers and rebuilds from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The Times Picayune noted, “The leaders of the movement slayed two sacred cows of Louisiana politics and fomented civic activism during Southeast Louisiana’s darkest hour.”
Gambit, the independent weekly newspaper, ranked the stunning consolidation of the levee boards and assessor system as the number one story of 2006.
Continued Pressure for Reform Urgent for New Orleans’ Recovery…
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans recognizes that rebuilding and reforming our education and criminal justice systems is critical to the recovery of New Orleans – ethics reform and a city-wide master plan with the force of law are also efforts we have supported as critical to our recovery.
Criminal Justice Reform
After a year of study by our committee, three important initiatives by Citizens for 1 have been implemented city-wide with positive results.
1. Court Watch NOLA, founded and supported by Citizens for 1 in coordination with Common Good, provides a vehicle for civic action based on MADD’S court watch program. More than 120 trained volunteers monitor the 12 sections of criminal court. More than 500 cases have been observed, the data collected, and comprehensive reports released to the media and public.
Results: Impact as a result of these biannual reports has been noted both inside the courtroom and by the public’s increased awareness. Court dockets are now moving swifter, with fewer continuances tying up the criminal court system.
2. The Crime Coalition--Citizens for 1 is a founding member of this citizen-led movement of 19 civic and business organizations to stem violent crime in our city. Efforts are focused on urging city leaders to focus police, prosecution and judicial system resources on convicting and incarcerating violent criminals. Through joint efforts of our coalition representatives, we were successful in obtaining federal funding of $4.2 million dollars for our police and DA’s offices, as well as statewide funding and support at our critical time of recovery.
3. Integrated Information and Technology System -within all departments of the criminal justice system-- $2 million dollars was provided by the federal government as part of the Crime Coalition funding package. This creates a more effective system of information-sharing among criminal justice stakeholders.
A primary focus is juvenile justice reform, a need poorly addressed by our local and state government. To better coordinate reform efforts, members serve on the Children’s Youth and Planning Board and the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Board.
Our organization received the Outstanding Leader in Citizen Participation award from the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana for its mission of bringing public attention to the critical needs of youth.
The most significant silver lining since Katrina has been public education reform. New Orleans has the highest percentage of charter schools in the United States, and improved performance scores after 2005 highlight the success of the charter school movement.
- Citizens for 1 became early supporters of the transformation of the city’s public education system and advocates for charter schools and their continued autonomy.
- We support the concept that all schools in New Orleans must be held to the same performance standards.
- We have established close ties and maintain lines of communication with state legislators, school boards, charter school administrators, business leaders and national and local non-profit organizations.
- We have relationships with groups that focus directly on education, such as the Cowen Institute for Public Education at Tulane, Teach for America, and New Schools for New Orleans.
- We have co-hosted a forum for public education with 700 participants, which greatly expanded the ranks of supporters for charter schools and local reform efforts.
Results: For the first time there is optimism that New Orleans can become a national model for urban public school reform.
Citizens for 1 supports good government reform:
- Governor’s Ethics Reform Agenda with Louisiana Ethics 1
- The establishment of the Ethics Review Board, the Office of Inspector General and Independent Police Monitor for New Orleans
- A Master Plan with the force of law
The Power of the Citizen Voice:
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans has brought residents from across the Greater New Orleans region together and provided a venue for citizens to be heard. We accomplished this through advocacy, public awareness, coalition building and online communication with over 20,000 participants. This effort is an example of how frustration, fear and action can lead to hope and positive change. The organization is committed to helping rebuild New Orleans with hope, self-reliance and optimism for the future while preserving the rich, diverse and gracious heritage of our city and state.
“We cannot sacrifice citizen safety and well-being to the politics of the past. Despite the challenge from those who resist change and reform, we will continue to be persistent advocates for honest, open and efficient government. Citizen involvement is essential in the rebuilding of Greater New Orleans.”
Ruthie Frierson, Chairman, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
To join the movement
Contact: Ruthie Frierson