Monday, June 22, 2015

Walkability is a luxury

Today's Advocate throws a bone to "skeptics."
But skeptics, even those who acknowledge there are positives in the new systems, say the real story is that the government is simply throwing in the towel — admitting it can’t properly educate poor children, house their families or deliver them suitable health care — and jobbing the work out to private or semi-private contractors that may or may not do better but that are surely less accountable to the public.

“Certainly some would say that all three systems are much better than they were before,” said Bill Quigley, director of the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University and an outspoken opponent of the changes. “But others would say, ‘I lost my house, I lost my school and I lost my clinic.’ ”

Quigley gives the theoretical example of a family who before Katrina lived in the Lafitte project, within walking distance of low-wage work in the tourist economy and also near their children’s school.

“If they’re back in New Orleans, they’re probably living in Section 8 or with relatives in New Orleans East, and who knows where their kids are going to school?” he said. “That’s a much tougher life than living within walking distance of school and work.”
This grand experiment in rebuilding New Orleans happened at the same time that elites decided, for the first time in decades, that they preferred "walkability" to suburban sprawl. They still didn't want to live around very many poor people, though, so they all had to be moved out of the way.

Russel says in that article that we are still waiting for" history to render its verdict on the changes" as if "history" is some disinterested impartial judge waiting to hand out currently unknowable answers.

What I've tried to say here over and over and over again, though, is that we already know the answer to the most important question. And that question is not so much, "does it work" as it is "whom does it work for?"
We could ask, "Is New Orleans today a more walkable city than it was before Katrina?" and reach no conclusion.  Or we could ask, is "walkability" more or less affordable and come to some definite answers.

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