Picture this: a teenager from the Lower Nine who had turned to selling drugs to keep himself and his family alive. He gets an opportunity to turn things around: going to college and interning at City Hall. To keep his connection to the community, he starts coaching baseball and basketball at a NORD facility in his old neighborhood with the goal of showing kids that they can, in fact, make something of themselves.
After graduating college, working full-time in City Hall, running for state legislature, and starting his own successful business, that same young man then gets appointed as Chair of the NORD Commission. He accepts his new position with a drive to get this mindset implanted in every last boy and girl in New Orleans--that you CAN do it.
That’s my life story. I am only here today, with all the successes I’ve had, because of my time spent at NORD. I have been involved with NORD for nearly every moment of my life that I wasn’t selling drugs--I know firsthand how powerful the programming is. The benefits of participating in programming offered by NORD are endless. From meeting your fellow citizens and learning to work as a team, to experiencing the great outdoors, to finding your own abilities and strengths both on and off the field or court, these experiences have a positive impact on all our citizens. Every child in New Orleans deserves the same opportunity to access these experiences.
New Orleans voters have the chance to expand this opportunity and make it stronger with the upcoming May 4th Parks Millage vote. This measure is NOT a new tax, nor will it raise taxes. It is simply a reallocation of an existing millage that would more equitably share the funds between NORD, Parks & Parkways, City Park and Audubon. If it passes, NORD will get the money it needs to expand programming for those who need it most - so those kids most vulnerable will have a place to go. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, or STEM programming, kids all over New Orleans will have a chance to find themselves at a NORD center.
The increased funding for NORD from this millage will go a long way and provide sustainable, dedicated funding for the next 20 years. Our Executive Director, Larry Barabino Jr., is working on extra programming for not only our children, but also our adults and seniors. Whether it’s expanding robotics classes at Joe Brown Park in the East to more locations or adding more dance classes for our kids and seniors, the millage will let us continue to expand programming throughout the city and to ensure our many NORD facilities remain in good condition.
If this vote doesn’t pass, the future of our kids is in jeopardy. After 2020 there won’t be a reliable source of funding coming to NORD. That’s more kids out on the streets instead of in parks and rec centers like they should be. If it does pass, it lays the groundwork for a sustainable and comprehensive partnership between the four park partners which will increase accountability and transparency to the city while encouraging sharing of resources. The possibilities for continued collaboration among park partners are limitless should this measure pass.
I’m voting Yes on this millage on May 4th and I hope you get out and vote as well.