Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Orleans, Where "Gimme Gimme" Reigns

It has been a while since New Orleans was flooded by a combination of Hurricane Katrina and the stupidity and irresponsibility of their city and state governments. In spite of the length of time since the massive devastation, the city is still in shambles. Much grumbling and complaining is being done about this... and I got to thinking.

What is it about New Orleans that is so different from other areas of the country? Being the conservative I am, I would love to blame it on liberalism and leave it at that. But I can't. I still believe that liberalism (as it is today) is not a healthy mentality to have and that some liberals have a measure of class envy and an entitlement mentality - others suffer from a guilt complex over their own success. But I compare New Orleans to places like California and their devastation from fires... to New York City and the devastation that occurred there in 2001 - and I get blown away by the differences in the people's reaction to their circumstances.

The New York Times ran a story in today's paper about how slow the rebuilding process is in New Orleans... In March of 2007, city officials unveiled a plan to redevelop New Orleans... and so far nothing has been done except a paved walking path. New Orleans city officials - and Louisiana's state government - don't have a good track record on getting things done. They do have a long history of corruption, which has given them further ethics constraints on their spending (read: more red tape and hoops). This has slowed things down considerably.

The NYT writes: "Weary and bewildered residents, forced to bring back the hard-hit city on their own, have searched the plan's 17 'target recovery zones' for any sign that the city's promises should not be consigned to the municipal filing cabinet, along with their predecessors. On their one-year anniversary, the designated 'zones' have hardly budged." This cracks me up -- it sounds as if the NYT is feeling so sorry for the residents of the city because they're weary and bewildered... and forced to do some work to recover their city. 

The library in N.O. still has the cross-hatch markings made by emergency teams right after the hurricane (to indicate that there were no bodies inside the building). I have no idea what these markings were made with -- but really there's no excuse for that to still be there. Why couldn't the people of the city get together and do a clean up effort? Paint a little? Act as a community? I am fairly certain that if the residents went to the city officials and said, "We're wanting to get something done. Here's our plan. We'll start with the library..." they wouldn't be turned down. 

Again from the NYT: Many of the hardest-hit neighborhoods remain stuck where they have been for months, with a few houses on a block occupied and the rest in varying stages of abandonment or repair. In Broadmoor, one block might appear carefully restored by residents, while another will seem derelict. Vacant grassy lots newly pepper the city, ambiguous signs of progress: blighted houses recently sat on them, but construction has often not followed demolition. The grim housing projects have started to come down, part of a federal replacement plan. But an acute shortage of low-cost housing spurred hundreds to wait hours in line for rental assistance vouchers in mid-March, the biggest crowd officials said they had ever seen. Financing for dozens of developments in New Orleans now appears uncertain, thanks to the national downturn.

Silly question here... whose job is it to rebuild a house that's been demolished? Would that not be the homeowner's job? Did these people not have insurance on their homes? If people chose to take their insurance pay-out and use it to pay off their mortgage and demolish their home... and then move to another area of the country, well so be it. I imagine that obtaining homeowner's insurance in New Orleans right now might be a bit costly and perhaps skipping town is just a more affordable thing to do. 

Housing projects are being demolished -- I assume because they are not livable, and the federal government is going to rebuild them. I'm making the assumption that this is what's meant by a "federal replacement plan." But an acute shortage of low cost housing led to a bunch of people standing in line to get vouchers?? This because the uninhabitable places were demolished? How is it possible that there is a shortage of low cost housing in an area where people can't sell a house to save their lives, and there are vacant homes everywhere? Shouldn't there be plenty of low cost housing in such a place?

The NYT also writes of the current population of N.O., making it sound as if it's just not acceptable that so many people have failed to return. Unemployment is lower than the national average there due to construction projects (but I thought construction wasn't taking place?? I'm getting so confused!!), but then they go on to say that high end jobs are few. So? My husband does construction - guess that's not considered a high-end job. But we're not in line waiting for a housing voucher, either. They then say that "more expensive homes sit unsold for months." Again, SO?? The more expensive homes sit unsold for YEARS all over the country right now. Big deal.

Reconstruction efforts are being headed up by Blakely, a black intellectual from California. (Yes, I specifically commented on his skin color - there's a reason.) Blakely was quoted in the NYT as saying that progress so far is "still light stuff. I think people were expecting they'd wake up one morning and it would be nirvana. But little things are happening, cleanups, fixups, and so on." He also said that there have been some uniquely N.O. hang-ups. And I quote, "Lots of tensions in the staff. Black people have a hard time taking instruction from white people." What!?! Also that there is resentment "if a white person asks them to do something. It's really bad. I've never encountered anything like this." 

How sad!! But, you know, it's not surprising. The lack of personal responsibility is what really got New Orleans into much of this mess to begin with. And now they sit there with their hand out, screaming, "Gimme! Gimme!" And they wonder why things aren't "being done for them." Truly amazing -- and I still haven't figured out from where that attitude comes. 


doctorj2u said...

This article must be an April Fool's joke right? I am a New Orleanian and you really don't have a clue. You are SO FAR off the mark it is laughable. Do yourself a favor, come visit, talk to the natives, rich and poor, and find out that the reality is not always given in the news. (Hint:government on all levels sucks.) A shock, I know.

4ofusinNC said...

doctorj2u - I would more appreciate your comment as a New Orleanian, putting me in my place, if you had bothered to correct me on specifics. My blog was in response to an article in the New York Times, as I think was made clear.

I am well aware that government on all levels has its issues. If you've read my blog much at all, you would know that I abhor government intervention on most levels since government inevitably seems to mess things up.

It might be a good idea for me to go to New Orleans and "talk to the natives," I suppose. Then again, if talking to the natives gets me what I got from you I really don't see the point.