New Orleans Ready to Host Congress of Cities

Article excerpt

The City of New Orleans is more than ready to host what could be one of the most interesting and exciting Congress of Cities ever.

That was one of the major conclusions from the work of a 25-member committee charged with shaping the 2007 Congress of Cities. The committee, chaired by Littleton, Colo., Mayor James Taylor, met last week in New Orleans. The conference will be held in New Orleans, November 13-17. It is the first time that the Congress of Cities will be held before the Thanksgiving holiday.

"The city is definitely ready for us," Taylor said. "And we have a great opportunity to give back to the citizens of New Orleans and learn from their experience surviving a major disaster and rebuilding a community."

The program framework for the conference will feature all the trademarks of a Congress of Cities--leadership training seminars, quality workshops on current issues facing city leaders, exciting general session speakers, networking opportunities and a strong connection with the host city and its surrounding region.

In addition, a series of mobile workshops, special conference sessions and community service opportunities will create a learning laboratory in New Orleans about how to prepare for, respond to and recover from a natural or manmade disaster. City officials say New Orleans is focusing its efforts today on "rebuilding community"--and they are anxious to share their lessons learned with colleagues from throughout the country.

Preliminary mobile workshop plans include the 17 post-Katrina recovery zones, pumping station operations, levee protection projects, mobile health clinics and public safety strategies. Mayor Ronnie Harris of nearby Gretna, La., has offered to host a mobile workshop demonstrating local community building efforts in his city.

Committee members also agreed to focus on the 2008 elections and what cities expect from new national leaders as part of the program--including inviting candidates for President to address the delegates.

"By coming to New Orleans, we'll not only witness and share in the rebirth of a great city," said Councilmember Bruce Tobey of Gloucester, Mass., "we'll also have a hand in shaping America's municipal agenda."

Committee members also participated in a tour of the French Quarter, the central downtown business district, the Ernest Morial Convention Center and areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. They were also encouraged to get out, walk around and experience the recovering city.

"My first visit to New Orleans was a very pleasant experience" said Mary "Dot" LaMarche, alderwoman from Farragut, Tenn. "I was very inspired by the resilient spirit of the people, the warm and generous hospitality, the delicious food, and the famous music. I felt very safe in the areas where I traveled. …