Government & Politics
 

City planning replacement of community liaison after Lucas Diaz resigns

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office intends to replace Office of Neighborhood Engagement Director Lucas Diaz, though it has yet to post a job announcement, a city spokesman told The Lens. Diaz announced his resignation, effective immediately, in an Aug. 2 letter to the City Council.

“They haven’t really started the process” for replacing Diaz, said mayoral spokesman Tyler Gamble. “They haven’t gone forward with what the process is going to be.”

Landrieu formed the Office of Neighborhood Engagement in 2011 to facilitate communication between residents, neighborhood organizations and City Hall. The office participates in or organizes hundreds of community meetings per year, including the first annual Neighborhood Summit and Landrieu’s annual community budget meetings. The office also helped organize the city’s first Police Community Advisory boards.

Billed as “the permanent mechanism for public participation in government decision-making,” the Office of Neighborhood Engagement has shrunk from six full-time staffers and an initial budget of $451,000 to four staffers with a $323,000 budget, according to the 2013 city budget book.

The Mayor’s Office has yet to post an ad for Diaz’s replacement, but Gamble said the city plans on “maintaining a staff of four people in the office.” Asked if the city was planning to fold the Office of Neighborhood Engagement into another city office, Gamble said no.

In his letter to the council, Diaz listed the city’s Neighborhood Participation Plan, a framework for public engagement in city planning, as one of the office’s main achievements. It has attracted its share of controversy, however.

Diaz came under intense criticism in 2012 for attempting to amend the Master Plan to remove references to proposed “district councils.” The councils, which under the plan would be made up of neighborhood organizations from each city planning district, are meant to act as liaisons between City Hall and neighborhood residents on land use matters. The City Council ultimately rejected the amendment that would have sidestepped or eliminated them.

Diaz has left to pursue a Ph.D. in City, Culture and Community at Tulane University, Gamble said.

This story was updated after publication to note that Diaz has left to pursue a Ph.D. The headline was changed to note that the city plans to replace him.

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  • TimGNO

    My hope and dream is for City Hall to replace the Mayor’s impromptu “Neighborhood Engagement Office” with the real deal – a proper Citizens Participation Plan (CPP) – that people on the street need to engage with City Hall. Don’t just stick us with this half-baked, phoney-balogney NPP stopgap!

  • Keith Twitchell

    The Neighborhood Engagement Office as “the permanent mechanism for public participation in government decision-making”? According to nationwide and worldwide best practices, civic engagement is NOT controlled by city government, but is rather a true partnership between government and community (anyone remember the central focus of Mayor Landrieu’s campaign three years ago?). NEO could serve a valuable role as a connector between a formal civic engagement structure and city government, but with a staff to resident ration of approximately 1 to 100,000, it is not the answer to creating meaningful civic engagement in New Orleans