Hogan's Alley

Monday, November 21, 2005

Returning New Orleans Residents See City In New Light - Or - How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down In The Ninth Ward After They've Seen Houston

The Week in Review section of the NY Times reported that at community meetings Mayor Nagin is being questioned by residents who have returned to the city after months living in other towns.

As the Times reports, the gist of much of their complaints is that they have seen how the schools in Houston and other cities are far superior to NOLA's, public housing which is decent and clean and city governments that seem to work, compared to NOLA's disfunctional, scandal-ridden entrenched establishment. Key quote:

But after tasting life elsewhere, they are returning with tales of public schools that actually supply textbooks published after the Reagan era, of public housing developments that look like suburban enclaves, of government workers who are not routinely dragged off to prison after pocketing bribes.

Local leaders have realized for weeks that they must reckon with widespread anger over how they handled the relief effort. But it is dawning on them that they are also going to have to contend with demands from residents who grew accustomed, however briefly, to the virtues of other communities.

Many evacuees seem to be arriving with less tolerance for the failings of a city that under its glitzy makeup has long had an unsightly side. They do not want New Orleans to lose its distinctive character - after all, that is one reason they are back and vowing to rebuild. But they say their expectations have changed.

The real tragedy of New Orleans is that nobody cared while it festered in its perpetual post-Mardi Gras funk for decades. The physical realities of Katrina have exposed the underbelly of the Big Easy.