New Orleans Revitalization

2252107112_d3d135ac9b Silver Spring Campbell Robertson from the Times did a piece on the Katrina impact on New Orleans at the 4th anniversary and given the fact – to their credit – that the Times has stayed on the New Orleans / Katrina story all of these years, it bears attention, if for nothing else to monitor the spin.  Here are the parts that caught my eye:

So instead of returning to a decaying economic structure, New Orleans is talking about revitalization, a buzzword behind the new energy in the city, carried by an intensity and idealism that would have bordered on indecent in the old, charmingly carefree New Orleans.

It is there among the legion of young nonprofit workers crowding the bars of the Bywater at night, drawn to what one described as her generation’s civil rights struggle. They envision the city as a national example for innovative schools, smart urban planning and a housing stock built to the highest environmental standards.

And it is there among the swaggering entrepreneurs, who have set up small branding firms, music licensors and green energy companies in the downtown warehouses. Over drinks at a downtown boutique hotel, they seem largely untroubled by the reluctance of Fortune 500 companies to bring their headquarters here. This is not a town for old-line corporate thinking. This is a town for pioneers, risk-takers, they say.

But this energy is not enough, on its own, for a new, flourishing, functioning New Orleans. A large-scale rejuvenation of the city’s economy needs a large-scale commitment, with the city’s leadership on board. And the tens of billions of government dollars flowing into the city for the next few years give it a rare, but not unlimited, chance to make that kind of commitment.

I have to first confess that I sent the article to my two adult children IMMEDIATELY!   They were born and raised in Bywater, and we all still live there now, so anything that paints New Orleans and Bywater as ground zero for what’s happening in America, I send off immediately with big exclamation points.  I also like the line about rebuilding New Orleans as this “generation’s civil rights struggle.”  Let’s hear and think a lot more about that, and then push to make it real and not just “branding,” which is what it is now in many ways.

Of course the undemocratic, charter-ization of the public schools, the urban planning talk with little action, and the housing stock largely still not built, all make this seem like a charade unless this generation is going to supply the discipline and courage to the rebuilding that would make the civil rights analogy more real and vibrant.  The “swaggering entrepreneurs” are perhaps tipsy as they leave those bars and the watchword for their enterprises may still be “small,” but we wish them well, especially because change is going to require a flat our confrontation and hammer and tong war with the deeply entrenched, CBD and uptown “leadership” of the city.

I like the spin.  We need as many advertisements for the city and it’s rebuilding as possible, even if this one seems to be using the money still coming for revitalization as a magnet to attract schemers and hustlers.  But, we have a huge amount of work in a lot of areas unmentioned here to actually make the city not only different, which it has always been, but better, which the people deserve.

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