New Orleans On Saturday morning local ACORN leaders headed by Louisiana ACORN state chair Beulah Laboistrie, national ACORN leaders headed by ACORN President Maude Hurd, and top New Orleans elected officials headed by Councilme–at–Large Oliver Thomas and Arnie Fielkow, gathered over grits and eggs at Holy Angels in order to get the first inside pre–publication look at the ‘Peoples’ Plan’ for rebuilding New Orleans crafted through the ACORN and University partnerships first welded together in the fall of 2005, right after the storm. ACORN Housing, Cornell, Columbia, University of Illinois, and others had all joined together against adversity to dig deeply in the upper and lower 9th Ward to find out what was really happening and what people really wanted and needed, and not what others might have wished and hoped might be the case.
Professor Ken Reardon from Cornell and Professor Rebecka Green from Columbia jointly summarized the bottom line conclusions from inspecting almost 3500 individual properties (against 50 different measures) and interviewing at length more than 250 individual residents, and the results had real power.
* A huge proportion of houses (over 80%) are in physical shape that they could affordably be rehabilitated and reconstructed for occupancy.
* A huge percentage of families (over 80%) are in process of being engaged in efforts to come back to New Orleans from home gutting to repair to living in trailers and so forth. Furthermore, when interviewed families are unequivocal about their commitment to return.
* People want support on housing repair; they want more and better schools and health care facilities, and other public support for returning in the fullest way to their lives in the 9th Ward.
The report goes on like this for 239 pages and counting. There is no ‘smaller footprint’ indication. There is no argument (made in Friday’s paper by new local rebuilding commissar, Blakely) for ‘clustering’ by moving with neighbors together to other parts of the neighborhood. There is no simple argument (requested by current UNOP planning czar, Steve Bingler) for just ‘nuts and bolts’ work.
People simply want help in returning immediately and throughout the first phase so that they can rebuild their lives. From the 1st days after the storm the consistent measure of ACORN has been to demand and implement a ‘right to return’ for low and moderate income residents and at the brass tacks that’s what people are still demanding 16 months past Katrina.
There is a reason why public schools are seeing hundreds of new enrollees every month and U–Haul is reporting huge waiting lines for their trucks (at predatory prices) moving families, especially from Houston, back to New Orleans. People are fighting to get home. Soon the city fathers, paid off planners, and everyone from here to DC, are going to have to finally step back, listen to the way that people are voting daily with their feet, and finally help make this a reality.
This plan put together between ACORN and its partners is a big step in that direction. The plan will be available on the ACORN rebuilding web site accessible on the home page (www.acorn.org) on Monday morning.