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MAC-Notes: Now's the time to speak your piece

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Artist renderings of Bayou St. John and St. Claude Avenue from the "Plan for the 21st Century: New Orleans 2030.

Isn’t it amazing that we are nearing the halfway mark to becoming not only one of the “most livable cities in America,” since the failure of the Federal Levees in 2005, but also the “most walkable,” “greenest,” and the “economic engine” of the region?

Within the next fifteen years, the 1-10 Claiborne overpass that decimated on of our country’s oldest African-American neighborhoods may become a tree-lined boulevard once more while our diverse neighborhoods, with exceptional public transportation and access to services, will be enhanced with landscaped canals.

If you’re unaware of this transition we’ve been making, you haven’t checked out the ambitious “Plan for the 21st Century: New Orleans 2030.” Two years of planning and two-million dollars went into our “Master Plan,” ratified in 2010.

Don’t confuse this with the Comprehensive Zoning Order. They’re related, but whereas the Master Plan is the vision and framework for what our “made environment,” will be by the year 2030, the CZO is over 500 unwieldy pages of specific law dictating what’s allowed where, and even when.

Last week, we provided a link to show all who were involved in the Master Plan’s creation. That list is important because, for all the rhetoric about sustaining our traditions, culture-centric voices have not been significantly at the table. In fact, that list includes seeds of the current array of neighborhood associations who are content to speak or even sue the city (at our expense) to voice minority opinions that could permanently affect our landscape and “soundscape.”

Whether you find the Master Plan’s vision inspiring or unrealistic, if you truly care about New Orleans, the time is now to share your concerns. You see, the Master Plan includes a timeline for periodic revisions. Though it’s a process that will go well into next year, the deadline for submitting potential Master Plan amendments is July 29--just a couple weeks away. Executive Director of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, Ethan Ellestad explains, “This is the first time in 5 years that the Master Plan has been updated, and it is likely it will be 5 years before the Master Plan is updated again. At the rate New Orleans is changing, we can’t afford to wait another half decade before we begin to institutionalize cultural protections.”

True, the last round of amendments didn’t have much focus on culture, but if you are following or have been affected by the speed and manner that the city has been evolving, then you recognize why it’s important to make your voice heard. This official MaCCNO statement explains this in detail and also invites your Master Plan amendment ideas by email to bypass the confusing amendment submission process.

Please remind friends, colleagues, community members, and everyone who loves New Orleans that they are all stakeholders. Anyone can e-mail the planning commission, mayor’s office and city council, who need to be reminded that residents and visitors alike value keeping cultural activities and their practitioners in their traditional neighborhoods. The Master Plan is more guidelines than details, so it’s pretty open. Ask to protect specific cultural spaces or for protection of neighborhood music venues. Recommend increased programming in community centers or commitment to providing affordable neighborhood-based housing to our culture bearers and musicians.
Ellestad reminds, ”There will be several opportunities for public input along the way.” If you are a MaCCNO member or subscribed to their mailing list, there will be reminders, talking points, and information on how to be involved in the process, which can, “help ensure that music and culture are protected for years to come.”


Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and advocates for the cultural workforce. Click here for his performance schedule. He writes MAC-Notes for NolaVie. Email him with your comments about cultural issues, particularly in the music world, at [email protected]