PROJECT STATEMENT: Created as a public outreach tool during the formation of the Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan, this documentary pulled together the major hurricane recovery issues facing Louisiana and showed how different patterns of land use, transportation, economic policy, housing, and wetland loss would shape the future landscape of the region. By providing information on the benefits and consequences of pursuing different futures, Louisianians were given the information they needed to choose their preferences for a new vision for Louisiana.
PROJECT NARRATIVE: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast less than four weeks apart in the summer of 2005, damaging more than 200,000 homes, 81,000 businesses, and 870 schools. More than 1,500 lives were lost and almost 1.4 million Louisianians were displaced. Areas along the southwestern Louisiana coast were decimated by wind and water, and nearly 80% of New Orleans was flooded when federal levees failed. These storms left a legacy that will be remembered for generations.
In the aftermath of these storms, an interdisciplinary consultant team, funded with private funds, was tasked with developing a regional plan for South Louisiana. The Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan: Vision and Strategies for Recovery and Growth presents a bold vision for South Louisiana. It guides sustained recovery and future growth through a comprehensive, 35-parish physical and policy plan supported by a concrete implementation strategy. Never before has the need for an effective land use plan, long advocated by landscape architects, been demonstrated so clearly.
The Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan represents a model for large-scale comprehensive planning, incorporating a broad array of issues ranging from land use patterns and transportation systems, storm protection and coastal restoration, and economic development and housing. The plan transformed far-reaching public involvement from 27,000 citizens and stakeholders, robust and innovative technical analysis, and a unique integration of social, spatial and economic recovery and growth planning into a set of actions that embrace the region’s history while providing concrete steps toward a more prosperous and resilient future. The Regional Plan recognizes that there are identified risks associated with living in South Louisiana, and we need a strong enforceable land use plan for dealing with and managing those risks by building and rebuilding safer, stronger, and smarter for ourselves and future generations.
The plan is organized around three primary goals: Recover Sustainably, Grow Smarter, and Think Regionally. Recover Sustainably tackles the immediate, short-term challenges in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Grow Smarter builds on the foundation of recovery to develop a safer, smarter, more resilient future. Think Regionally addresses the institutional framework necessary to accomplish the short and long-term actions.
During the entire Louisiana Speaks process, citizen input was essential to determine citizens’ values and collect feedback for the development of the regional plan. Through a well designed and thorough public outreach process, citizens were able to participate in shaping their collective future. The public outreach elements including extensive surveys, large stakeholder workshops held across the state, and a citizen poll that solicited feedback using various media including a website, newspaper inserts, radio and news ads, a TV show, a 1-800 number, the public library system and grassroots canvassing. Louisiana Speaks also specially targeted minority and diaspora populations.
A key tool of the major public outreach campaign to engage citizens across South Louisiana on their views about the region's future was the one-hour TV documentary, titled Louisiana Speaks: Our Voice. Our Plan. Our Future which aired during the polling period and gave an overview of the Louisiana Speaks planning process, explaining each scenario with visuals and graphics. Hosted by Louisiana-born actress, Lynn Whitfield, the program was broadcast over 100 times during the months of January and February 2007 on public television stations across Louisiana, in Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas and Houston, and was available online. The program informed viewers about a range of issues, including community growth patterns, transportation, coastal protection and economic development. Louisiana Public Broadcasting carried this program over their statewide television network and it also aired in markets where the diaspora populations were concentrated.
The challenge in creating this video was distilling complex technical subject material into an engaging message with an emotional appeal, while still conveying data and facts to give the viewer enough information to make informed decisions about the future growth and development of the region. During a three-week polling period, viewers were asked to weigh in on a set of five questions that would shape the direction of the final vision plan. The video was a powerful communication tool to reach ordinary citizens to illicit responses to the five questions. Over 23,000 web, paper and phone responses were received, which made it the largest and most inclusive regional planning outreach campaign ever conducted in the United States.