On October 2nd New Orleans residents will be voting on whether or not to change the city charter again. This time we are voting for abolishing the New Orleans Recreation Department and replacing it with the New Orleans Recreation Commission which is a public/private partnership designed to reform the recreation department. I haven’t made my final decision on voting yes or no yet. Someone who feels very strongly about this reform measure passing sent me an email and asked me to read up on the plan more before I came to a decision. I want to tell her that I did and this measure is going to pass. We are in a pro reform environment and the mayor and the council has endorsed the plan. Plus, no one would call the current NORD set up a world class operation by any stretch of the imagination. It’s probably a slam dunk but I have some concerns.
My first concern is that we have two many boards and commissions in this city that seem to be ineffective and now we are about to create another one. It looks like overkill to me. If we are creating another board with that many people making decisions with public money then the people on the board should be voted on by the public. If there are representatives from each district then let the people in the district pick the people themselves. That person should have children that participate in NORD programs and their vote should be equal to the politically connected people that will make up these appointments.
Now we are going to have another set of meetings to keep track of that busy people can’t attend. I don’t like that because poor and working class people in New Orleans always find out they are getting screwed the hard way like if parents start getting letters that there’s now a 200 dollar registration fee for their child to play sports and the letter comes two weeks before the season starts. Don’t say it can’t happen because worst things have been done in this city since Katrina and the council voted for all of it.
I brought up the kids paying a registration fee because it leads me to the main issue with the entire plan. We are voting to change the city charter with any guarantee of additional funding to the recreation department. A few years ago some people in this city were dying to create an inspector general position to watch over the public’s money. They felt so strongly about the need for this position to work and function correctly that they made sure the OIG’s office’s funding was guaranteed in the charter change when everyone voted for it. When you ask voters to change the city charter for something that important they needed to know that it wasn’t just lip service and that the new process would work properly. Guaranteeing the funding in that case made sense to me so if everyone is so in favor of destroying NORD in place of this new commission then why didn’t we guarantee money in this case as well? If the children of the city mean as much to us as the mayor not being able to hook up his friends with a contract then the money for NORD reform should have been part of the vote.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand its great plans being dangled in front of us like a carrot and then being told we can’t pay for it. That’s why all this reform without money doesn’t excite me and I don’t know if I want to vote for a new way of being disappointed. I’m not sure if the current system at NORD is that broken or we as a city is just too broke to do things the right way no matter what system is in place.