New Orleans to Combine Reconstruction Groups as Rebuilding Continues

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City planners who have been working independently will be brought together to develop a reconstruction plan to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin announced Wednesday.

A citywide plan must be developed before federal money becomes available. The initiative will bring together city, private and neighborhood reconstruction groups.

Various plans to rebuild have been announced since the Aug. 29 storm, and Nagin has been criticized for being slow to announce a strategy that helps residents understand the city's direction.

Nagin called the new plan "democracy in action, just as it should be."

The mayor did not specify a deadline for developing a plan. More details were expected Thursday.

Urban planners have about $4.5 million at their disposal and are seeking more from various sources. The new plan aims to restore neighborhoods with such amenities as bus and streetcar lines, fire stations, and parks.

Last fall, the mayor convened the Bring New Orleans Back Commission to develop a master plan for the city. In January, the commission issued a series of reports outlining a city flourishing with high-speed trains, new museums and parks and better flood protection, but since then, little has resulted.

"I want concrete action," said Keith G.C. Twitchell, president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Committee, a neighborhood advocacy group. "I want everybody stating clearly that we're on the same page, and I want to see what that page is."