Coming Home

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

Burlingame     26 Days in Exile!
For all of the planners and pundits looking at New Orleans today, as always very few are worrying a whole lot about what folks from New Orleans might want. There is starting to be speculation about whether New Orleanians will want to stay in Wyoming, Utah, Texas, and everywhere else under the sun for the rest of their lives or will they want to come home.
New Orleans is New Orleans and a lot of folks will want to come home, but coming home means having the chance of a job and a house, and both are now in doubt for huge numbers of families. Given that doubt and the trauma of the evacuation, it was surprising that a Washington Post survey indicated that it was a push with about 43% indicating they were coming home and 44% indicating that their feet might be planted out of town and they would be voting that way.
Louisiana regularly leads the country in surveys that indicate the number of people who were born instate and stayed there, resisting the lure of the highways. The Times mentioned yesterday that a professor had found citizen satisfaction with living in New Orleans higher this last summer than what was found in 22 other cities in another survey.
In Tampa yesterday my daughter, organizer 5, shared with me an informal poll of her close friends from high school. Almost all of them now want to come back to New Orleans and fight for the future, where before many of them had sworn off the hometown in what has become a constant tradition in recent years.
All of this is so surreal still, since no one can really go back to New Orleans now, and everyone wants to go back to something they remember, which demonstrably no longer exists. The small airport of Baton Rouge is an issue for me, but even when I am able to live and work from New Orleans again, it is hard for me to pretend that I will have the same selection of flights with a couple of hundred thousand less citizens.

I would bet people will do their damnedest to return, but I am also pretty sure that no one is going to make it easy for the mass of families to do so. I have argued in that vein that SEIU’s Hurricane Fund be substantially dedicated to helping our members relocate back home to New Orleans and their jobs in the city. FEMA and friends may have finally dropped them like wet rocks all over the American soil, but no one is committed to lifting a finger for folks to come home.

FEMA is talking about a lot of people living in tents and mobile units for years, but we are not hearing enough about these operations being located right in and around the city, which would give guaranteed jobs to local residents as the first source. I have not seen anything yet that does not indicate that the embarrassment of the Convention Center and Superdome is not still happening day to day, it’s just stretched out across the whole American map where it’s harder to see as clearly on CNN.

The higher levees of the future still need to include bridges that let our people come home!