Guest Commentary: New Orleans’ progress slow but steady
As a previous resident of New Orleans, I feel it is my responsibility to provide the campus with a personal view of the city and the rebuilding process. The image popularly portrayed of New Orleans is one of destruction and desolation, and while this perception was accurate in the past, it is hardly correct to describe the uninhabitable areas of the city as the bulk of New Orleans.
Indeed, these areas do still exist, but they are isolated neighborhoods such as the Lower Ninth Ward and Lakeview, where progress is under way. I attended high school in the Lakeview neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and experienced the destruction after the storm as well as the rebuilding effort by the residents. Although progress is not speedy, it is definitely happening. To deny this is to show a simple lack of understanding.
The trailers provided by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency have been steadily disappearing from front lawns over the past year or more, as the city set specific deadlines for residents to have them removed.
As for the city not readily welcoming back residents, I cannot tell you how many personal friends and family members whose lives were completely destroyed I have seen turn around and come back to the city with a vengeance. The help is there if you know who and how to ask, and although the process is not easy, fun or particularly quick, if someone is determined to come back to New Orleans it is not some kind of imaginary, unachievable goal.
A problem arises when people expect everyone else to do everything for them, and as we all know, you cannot be helped without helping yourself first.
?Crime has always been a problem for New Orleans, and yes, the problem was worsened by the hurricane. The New Orleans Police Department’s police force is still down despite active efforts to recruit new officers, efforts that have been successful, but only mildly so. Just as the damaged homes must be rebuilt, so must the police force.
I agree with many about the fact that young people should be in school learning to provide a bright future for the city rather than on the streets, but I also invite anyone to approach these children and try to convince them of the same thing. These young people raised in poverty know nothing else, and although they are a large, if not the entire, contributing factor to the rampant crime, it is difficult to change a mindset that has been held for generations. Recently, New Orleans approved the demolition of several remaining housing projects to replace them with mixed-income housing, providing a better environment for the residents and their children.
The fact remains that although progress is slow and the institutions established in the wake of the storm are often slow to react, a natural disaster of this scale has never been experienced before in the U.S.
Of course progress is slow, of course things are often in chaos and difficult to get off the ground. It is only in the post-disaster state that we can look around and evaluate what went wrong, why it went wrong and how we can prevent it from happening in the future.
Any denial of the progress being made is a direct slap in the face to the residents of the city who did return and are making an effort to help. No one expected there to be a quick fix – there is no easy way out, and people were aware of this from the beginning. I invite all who want to see the city for themselves to pay a visit.
Walk through the French Quarter, go shopping on Magazine Street, ride the newly refurbished street cars through the city’s scenery, enjoy the nightlife on Bourbon Street, eat in one of the many famous restaurants, stroll along the Riverwalk that overlooks the Mississippi River, admire the traditional architecture or ride a steamboat and celebrate the rebirth of one of America’s most historic and cherished cities.