Monday, August 31, 2015

Honorable NOLAier mention to Sean Payton

Nolier tats

This was a fun way to blow off steam yesterday.
On Sunday, (artist Jeremy) Herbert’s ink won him the designation “Nolier Than Thou,” a satirical and tongue-in-cheek title bestowed during a drinking event hosted by organizers behind the grass-roots organization Rising Tide, which has hosted an annual conference since 2006 to discuss the ever-changing future of New Orleans.

Held at Molly’s at the Market, the contest was created as a way to poke fun at the city’s obsession with its own legitimacy, with residents incessantly grappling with what it means to be a New Orleanian.

“It’s reached a level where it’s worthy of satire — the amount of New Orleans pride everyone who lives here currently has,” Rising Tide organizer and artist Lance Vargas explained, laughing at the notion. “And the deeper you dig into the philosophies behind it, the more absurd it’s going to seem.”
Here's the Facebook invite we sent out.  It describes, at some length, the reasoning behind the contest as well as its mechanics.
Attire to be judged in a 10 point system in three categories:

Resilience: How long have you had it? What's it been through? What is it's current condition? What's it's personal history?

Standing: How legit is it? Is it a rarity? How rare? Did Fats Domino once own it? What's it mean to New Orleans in general?

Vibrancy: How does it communicate your Nolism? Would you be stopped on the street and exalted for your Nolism? Does it scream Nolier than thou? Do you have to explain it in your Nolier Than Thou voice with correct pronunciation of New OR-Lee-ANs? How well does it read Nolier than thou?
The three judge panel included one native New Orleanianone pre-K transplant, and one post-K transplant.

NOLIer Judges

Now I don't want to go too far in the direction of impugning the integrity of the process but I am still scratching my head a bit this morning over the fact that this stunningly Nolier collection of objects didn't win some sort of  prize.
Another transplant New Orleanian, who wished to remain nameless, presented a can of Budweiser-bottled filtered drinking water that was handed out along with Meals, Ready-to-Eat after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The can of water brought a needed, therapeutic laugh for participants who seemed ready to forget the storm the day after the city was inundated with commemorative events for Katrina’s 10th anniversary.

NOLIER Diorama

That is some vibrant, standing, resilient shit right there. Meanwhile, this guy who just showed up in a T-shirt and rambled on about being from the West Bank ended up coming in third.

West Bank

Then again, nothing in this city makes any sense so what could be Nolier than that?  I feel kinda bad for Sean Payton, though.  Nobody even knew he was playing until after the party was over.
NEW ORLEANS – Head coach Sean Payton said his decision to draw Katrina x-codes on his shirt during Sunday's preseason game against the Houston Texans wasn't planned in advance.

"I hadn't really thought about it, and I don't think anyone else really had," Payton said.

Search and rescue teams used the x-codes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to mark which houses had been checked for survivors.

Payton said he was reminded Sunday of wanting to learn what each code meant, and it was "just kind of a spur of the moment" choice to honor Katrina survivors by displaying one of the x-codes on his shirt.

"It just seems fitting," Payton said. "I was at the pre-game meal and I started going through and looking up -- everyone who has lived here, many homes still have the insignias on it, east, north, south, west, it was pretty interesting to study or learn how they were used in regards to any home being searched."
Congrats to all the NOLIErs.

Update:  Oh hey here is a link to Scott Colesby's video documentation of the event.

I shot some video of Varg being a jackass I might post later if it's any good.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Can you read this?


It says "Help."  Or, at least it did once. This is a sidewalk I pass over every day. Sometimes I still stop to wonder who needed help here.  I've been thinking about it constantly this week because, well, how can one not?  The national spotlight has burned hot on New Orleans this week. It has, for worse and for better, illuminated some of the fading markers of our trauma like this message in the sidewalk here.

To us it is jarring.  Not because we've "put Katrina behind us" even if some people do make that assertion. How could we, though? It defines everything about what's become of us since. But because we've lived with its scar so long, we've come to understand that it is just a part of our body now. It's still with us. We've just grown accustomed to having it. The attention this week has caused us to feel it in a way we might not have in a while.

We're not reacting well to that. How could we?  The uncomprehending scrutiny of the world outside combines with the avalanche of official bullshit from city leaders to create an echo of that time after the flood when we felt abandoned or betrayed by an entire system at all levels.  So while everything this week seems like it is about us, none of it is really for us.

Our friend Adrastos captured much of this anxiety earlier in the week in a widely distributed post he wrote for First Draft.
People have been in a very tetchy mood here all month. It’s made worse by all the disaster tourist journalists and carpetbloggers popping into town, taking our temperature, and putting their own spin on our story. That makes it their story, not ours. Once again, we live it every day, they’re just drive-by Katrina experts. Go bug somebody else and leave us alone.

Can you see it here? Look closely.

Katrina mark palimpsest

I took that photo this week. There's a search and rescue mark on that wall. You might not know if you aren't looking for it. Here. I'll show you same wall in June 2006.

Entrance with rescue marks

If you've been reading this week, you'll know I've made a project of revisiting the sites of old photos and reshooting them. Here's the link to all of those posts. This post will be one of them too.

Apt door 2015

When I started to write about revisiting the rescue marks, I realized after a while that I had already written a post like this last year.  At that time also I was thinking about what the experience of the flood still meant to those of us who lived through the recovery. 
Katrina and the flood have formed an indelible mark on our lives. It is the palimpsest upon which every story about our city today is written. Nine years later, it is impossible to understand anything happening in New Orleans without talking about how that thing was made possible or necessary by Katrina.
So while the flood isn't the first thing on everyone's mind these days, you don't get too far into explaining anything without dealing with the fact of it in some way. After this week, I'm sure we'll declare it's been put to bed entirely.  This will not really be true. But in some ways I expect it will feel so. And this can be for the better or for the worse.

Here is something Troy Gilbert posted earlier this month that got my attention. It's a previously unpublished interview with Chef Greg Picolo about his post-Katrina experiences. There's a paragraph toward the end where Picolo talks about how the flood changed his outlook on civic life to a degree. 
Asked how he was changed by the entire experience, the Chef answers quickly, “That Greg doesn’t live here anymore. Before I led a very monastic lifestyle. I kind of broke out of the tunnel vision I had before. Today, I have more of a need to connect with people. I needed to lose some of my control. I’m easier going. I have zero patience for bullshit, and now I just don’t get bogged down with stuff.”
I'm certain I am not alone in saying this really hits home. It might be the common denominator of everyone's experience rebuilding New Orleans.  When we got back, we were shaken out of our silos. Each of us in some small way at least had to look around to see who our neighbors were. Who else was here? Who could help? How could we help them? Entire new networks were stitched together out of parts that just weren't possible to bring together before.

I wonder, though, if ten years later, we're starting to sink, bit by bit, back into our own tunnel visions of life in a new New Orleans. As we put the recovery "behind us" is receding from the tighter cross sectional communities we built during that process a good idea? Why might this be important?

Well, for one thing, let's take a look at who does and doesn't think New Orleans has recovered.
According to a survey released Monday by the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU, nearly 80 percent of white residents in New Orleans think the state has mostly recovered.

But three in five black residents — 59 percent — say it hasn’t.

“White and African-American residents of New Orleans tend to see the past decade in very different ways,” said professor Michael Henderson, who directed the survey. “Most white residents think life in New Orleans is better today — not simply better than the toughest times that followed Hurricane Katrina, but better than it was before the storm even arrived. Most African-American residents do not feel that way.”
So that's uncomfortable. At a time when the calendar tells us it might be okay to close the book on "recovery" we're finding that the work is not all done. President Obama said as much during his visit Thursday.  
So we've made a lot of progress over the past 10 years. You've made a lot of progress.  That gives us hope.  But it doesn't allow for complacency.  It doesn't mean we can rest.  Our work here won't be done when almost 40 percent of children still live in poverty in this city.  That's not a finished job.  That's not a full recovery.  Our work won't be done when a typical black household earns half the income of white households in this city.  The work is not done yet.

Our work is not done when there's still too many people who have yet to find good, affordable housing, and too many people -- especially African American men -- who can't find a job.  Not when there are still too many people who haven't been able to come back home; folks who, around the country, every day, live the words sung by Louis Armstrong, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?"
I worry that the class and racial divide in our perceptions of recovery is allowing some of us to sink back into complacency.  I worry that even though we've learned to live with the fact of our altered reality, we are in danger of losing its lesson through active denialism.

Former Times Picayune reporter John McQuaid wrote about this on Medium today
America is an optimistic nation. It has a short memory. Our political system and media don’t really learn very obvious lessons that unspool right in front of everyone’s faces. And so we end up repeating our errors — at least, some of them — to great sorrow.
Memories, even the painful ones, are what make us who we are.

735 Bourbon

Eradicating their marks might be an act of optimism. But it can also be a willful negligence of a more chronic condition.  Out of sight. Out of mind.

735 Bourbon in 2015

But it would be a greater mistake to lose the expanded sense of community that helped us help ourselves these past 10 years.

On Thursday night, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza spoke to a full house at the Ashe center. The subversive power of active community networks was a major theme of her speech.
Garza ran down a list of threats to black lives — blasting neo-liberals, the “racist blowback” of President Barack Obama’s election and reelection and subsequent “bursting of the Obama bubble,” the national affordable housing crisis, climate change, gentrification and the literal threats of violence (and many deaths) of blacks at the hands of white police officers. “The crisis in the Gulf Coast didn’t start when the levees broke,” she said. “Levees have been breaking for black people for a long time now.”

Recovery, then, should include a radical shift of power — an economic, social and political transformation, she said. Black people should seek new forms of power and learn to wield and execute it differently “than those who oppress us” while abandoning “solidarity” and instead taking on “radical conspiracy and collaboration.”
When I heard Garza's speech I took the distinction between "solidarity" and "radical conspiracy and collaboration" to mean the difference between passively receiving a benign official definition of community and actively stretching beyond those limits to create stronger connections.

I also thought about the city's summer long promotion of the term "Resilience" and how impotent the celebration of that buzzword was compared with the countless citizen directed networks and actions that sprouted up in the wake of the flood. If we lose momentum; if we retreat from those participatory actions and rest on our "resilience" we will move in a direction opposite to what Garza is calling for.

Rather than responding to President Obama's call to finish the work of recovery, we are in danger of sliding into complacency. Because we are not Kristen McQueary, we should not want to wait for another Katrina to shake us out of that rut.  In the next ten years, if we're going to help each other, we're going to have to keep shaking each other awake.  And to do that, we'll have to remember some unpleasant things.

Upturned tree

Even if we don't always see them in front of us.

Harmony and Prytania

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dispelling myths

I think this bit of text has been on the Rising Tide website since the very beginning.  It would be a sort of creed.. if anyone knew it was there.
We come together to dispel myths, promote facts, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a "real life" demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels.
Anyway I thought about that when I read this fantastic myth dispelling omnibus at The Lens today.  It's all there. Give it a look.

Also come do Rising Tide with us tomorrow.  It really will be the best yet.

Update: As a companion to that Lens piece, see also this tracing of the "Blank Slate" narrative promulgated through the right wing media over past decade.  

Bonus moment of zen

Hang in there. This nightmare will soon be behind us.  In the meantime, though...

No I didn't want to be in the paper

I didn't agree to be interviewed and I spent a good part of the day yesterday begging them not to run the story.  They acknowledged my objection but told me they were running it anyway because, "we think it's an interesting story."  So now you know what kinds of things the people in charge of presenting the daily news think are interesting.

All I can say is I'm embarrassed. I don't use the internet to get attention. I use it to learn about what's happening. And the way you do that is by shooting the shit with people. This is a public square/corner bar/barbershop... whatever metaphor you prefer for the venue where regular people hang out to share news and information and talk about their lives. It's how social animals like we humans exist in the universe and make sense of it.  Everyone does that. I don't think any one of us should be singled out or shamed for it.

But what's done is done.  Just have to find the resilience to deal, I guess.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Obama's Katrina

obama katrina 10

Thursday. This is the point in the Shitstorm where it begins to rain Presidents.  Today the current President is here. His two predecessors will be in town during the weekend.

President Obama just finished speaking a few minutes ago at the Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Community Center in the Ninth Ward. Here is the video. Obama says our recovery "inspires" him.  But he also talks about unemployment, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and says there is "more work to be done."

Unfortunately he doesn't have a whole lot new to say about how we're going to do that work.   He did mention climate change briefly, more or less as a slap at our stupid Governor. But he didn't dwell very long on how the rising seas and our dissolving coastline combine to imperil everything he was here to celebrate. To have spent too much time on that would draw attention to the fact that he had no new initiative to announce, no solution to offer to our continuing existential crisis. In fact, as The Lens pointed out this week, the President is already moving to defund our insufficient source of relief there.

But hey, thanks for coming. Hope the chicken was good.

The other thing that happens when a President comes to town is traffic gets jammed up for a while.  But we're used to that by now.  Both because the streets are already impassable due to every construction project imaginable happening simultaneously, and because we can remember when the feds put all sorts of things off limits.

Federal City

That is another view of the post-Katrina FEMA camp I mentioned in an earlier post today.  The photo is from late December 2005. It's one of my favorites from that time. I went back there a few weeks ago to try and recreate the scene. It's less forbidding now.

St. Louis St. at Jax lot

It's time to retire the phrase "culture bearer"

Second lining
Uptown second line. December 18, 2005.  Grainy flip phone photo. This was the first second line I saw after Katrina.  For all I know it was the first post-storm parade period. 

"Culture Bearer" is meaningless wording that suggests we're thinking of people as tourist attractions first and citizens separately. Pigeonholing people like this creates arbitrary divisions, misapprehends the value of neighborhoods and takes away their power. It's one reason the "Musicians' Village" project always seemed strange to me.

 Would the city even care about displacement if it wasn't related to tourism?
The changing demographics that come with a real estate boom raise questions about the future of the city's cultural identity. What happens when the next Danny Barker passes away? Will the band have to be bussed in from eastern New Orleans or another community miles from the historic neighborhoods and cemeteries that gave birth to the jazz funeral tradition?

Will tourists still flock if the culture begins to feel manufactured rather than authentic? In a region where tourism employs about 40,000 people, the answer to those questions is more than academic.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration says it recognizes that displacement caused by rising housing costs presents a problem and points to a variety of efforts it has undertaken to address the issue, for those it identifies as culture bearers and for residents in general.

Besides that, the term itself betrays the very essence of participatory street culture.  Folk art and music are created by specific individuals. But they have meaning because the are inspired by and tell the story of.. well, the folk.  Everyone in your neighborhood is a "culture bearer" there. Why even make the distinction?

And now your moment of zen



That photo was taken of the Jax Brewery parking lot in December of 2005.  By this time the water was all long gone but 80 percent of the city was a shambles.  People were filtering back into town to tend to their properties or clean out apartments. But the rate at which this happened depended on each individual's resources.  Many would never catch up with "pace of progress" as this Lens report out this morning on post-Katrina demolitions demonstrates.

Accommodations in town were scarce. FEMA was delivering trailers, paying for hotels, even housing people on cruise ships. FEMA employees were stationed in makeshift "Disaster Recovery Centers" at various points around town to process aid and distribute food and supplies. If I remember correctly the tents in the photo above weren't a DRC but more of a base camp for various federal agencies operating in town.

Today it's back to being a parking lot. Most of the tourists who walk by here every day probably couldn't imagine the scene back then.

Jax lot 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Katrina envy

Ray of Hope

Nobody could have predicted there would be Katrina envy
A member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board is wishing for a "Hurricane Katrina" to strike and help clean up what she sees as her own corrupt city.

Kristen McQueary, who is an actual member of the Chicago Tribune's actual editorial board, met with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and somehow came away with the notion — well, I'm not sure what's more wrongheaded, that Katrina "fixed" things in New Orleans or that a Chicagoan would want the people of Chicago to go through something similar:
Envy isn't a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.
So that's kind of jarring.  But is it really all that different from what we've heard from conservative pundits like Ms. McQueary right from the beginning of the post-K ordeal?  The right wing campaign to use the deaths of some 1800 people as an opportunity to "fix things" in New Orleans is not a difficult thread to trace.

For instance, here is an article by New York Times columnist David Brooks published on September 8, 2005.  Its headline is, "Katrina's Silver Lining" 
As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina has given us an amazing chance to do something serious about urban poverty.

That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty.

It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.
Brooks goes on to recommend that a recovering New Orleans take as a model this social engineering experiment developed in (irony) Chicago. 
The most famous example of cultural integration is the Gautreaux program, in which poor families from Chicago were given the chance to move into suburban middle-class areas. The adults in these families did only slightly better than the adults left behind, but the children in the relocated families did much better.
So mere days after the storm, while flood waters are still actually draining out of the city, Brooks tells us that Katrina is an opportunity. It has provided us a "blank slate" to do "something serious about urban poverty."  And that serious thing we should do is move poor people out to the suburbs.  Scowl if you want but this was remarkably prescient. Especially for David Brooks.

At the same time that Brooks was writing that column, advice was also pouring in from libertarian think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute where tank thinker James Glassman could barely contain his enthusiasm for building "the ultimate libertarian city" upon our blank slate.
The inevitable commission that will oversee the rebuilding must realize that the world’s best designers, developers and innovators will be drawn to the city only if they are relatively unrestricted. New Orleans could become a laboratory for ideas like tax-free commercial zones and school reform. This is the ultimate libertarian city and the last thing it needs is top-down planning. Many of the city’s great attractions–the Jazz Festival, D-Day Museum and blackened redfish, for example–are of recent vintage.

I’m optimistic. New Orleans has a unique chance to make a fresh start and, in fact, become more like cities that do work (Chicago and Phoenix come to mind) while retaining its spirit of mystery, absurdity, beauty and decadence.
Brooks and Glassman were really proud of Chicago back then.  But now McQueary wants to "blank slate" it and start all over for some reason.  What the hell happened there?

In any case, such calls of opportunity did not go unheard locally.  They began to echo among our social and political leadership almost immediately.  Here is a quote from former Bring Back New Orleans Commissioner James Reiss I first read in September of 2005.
A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.

He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.

The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
If you've followed this blog over the years you'll know I've never let it drop.  There I was hundreds of miles away still wondering what in New Orleans was left for me to come back to and already I could read about plans for a "new New Orleans" and who might be welcome back there.

And this became a regular theme among the city's well placed decision makers throughout the rebuilding process. Sometimes it would merely sit in the background as every NOLA Entrepreneur Week implicitly celebrated the replacement of the black middle class with younger whiter transplants and/or "volunteer entrepreneur" grifters. Or as the Cowen Intsitute or Leslie Jacobs regularly feted the firings of 7500 public school teachers.

Often, though, it was right out in the open. Shortly after the storm, Baton Rouge based Congressman Richard Baker expressed gratitude that "God" had finally "cleaned up public housing in New Orleans."

Pres Kabacoff might prefer Baker and God send some of the credit his way. Kabacoff hasn't minced words about the favors the flood did us either. For instance, there was the time he told us that poor people were a "drag on the city's economy" who needed to be moved out of the way of an "urban renaissance" led by his development company.   Or the time Kabacoff told us we didn't really want "the kind of people who if their refrigerator stops working their life falls apart" My fridge went out on me earlier this month.  If I hadn't managed to reset the motor myself, it would have been a pretty serious hardship. Maybe Katrina should have blown me out of here too.

It's not exactly clear what Ray Nagin meant in 2008 when he told a columnists' convention, "There is big money to be made in a storm."  Nagin eventually went to jail over relatively small beans. But Nagin did also spend a lot of time encouraging people to "buy some dirt" in post-Katrina New Orleans in anticipation of "this economic pie that is getting ready to explode."

These are things you might expect any cheerleading mayor to say.  Heck, they even turned out to be correct observations and sound investment advice.  But the boosterism in the wake of the disaster did jibe well enough with David Brooks's "silver lining" narrative to make the premise seem true to a lot of people.  Owen Courreges made a similar observation this week about Mayor Landrieu's own triumphalist rhetoric which has been burning at billion watt intensity all summer long.  
In his “State of the City” address given this past May, Mayor Mitch Landrieu boasted that New Orleans is “no longer recovering, no longer rebuilding.” Citing a laundry list of improved statistics, Landrieu continued: “It didn’t happen by accident. It is all part of our larger approach to government — cut, reorganize and then invest the savings in what matters most so we can grow.”
It's worth noting again that McQueary's "Chicago needs a Katrina" column was based on impressions formed during her audience with Landrieu.

Mitch isn't the only New Orleans ambassador sending these signals out into the world, though.  Here is a criminally lengthy and pretentious ESPN Magazine feature by Wright Thompson where we find the reanimated corpse of Chris Rose brought back down from the attic to share with us the following wisdom.
Since Katrina, life on the wealthy side of that fence has improved. The New New Orleans really is a safer, wealthier place with more responsible institutions. "Almost everything's better," Chris Rose says. "You know, it's the one thing that no one can speak. Nobody dares write it ... but how many people said, 'It's the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans.' Now, here's the problem: It was rich white people who were saying that when we weren't even finished burying our dead. We still hadn't even found our dead and people were saying that. Now, you look back and you gotta think about what it was like in 2005, our crime, our corruption, our police, our education. They're all better now. Would they have improved had we not had this intense, overwhelming catastrophe, which forced us to not only rebuild and recover and repopulate but also reimagine ourselves? Would that have happened? I think it's safe to say no."
The reason the lady in Chicago thinks Katrina is the best thing that ever happened to us is because our mayor basically told her that. The reason he thinks that is because a lot of his political allies as well as some subtly smug and selfish people like Chris Rose have told him that is what they believe also.

It's fine to call out McQueary's Katrina envy column as the obviously crass, insensitive, right wing propaganda that it is.  But don't overlook the fact that local Katrina pride is very much the same thing. 

Marty McFly life preserver

Great segment on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning with Deray McKesson.

You might be aware that McKesson will speak at this year's Rising Tide Conference Saturday August 29 at Xavier University.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Resilience March

Street signs

We're just about done with Tuesday. Let's see how far along that puts us in the Shitstorm by now.  Oh yes. Today was Resilience Day.
FEMA director Craig Fugate said he loves the word because it means whatever you want it to mean.

And if you've been paying attention over the last couple of weeks, you'd think he was right. "Resilience" has replaced similar words, or been used in sentences where it didn't necessarily need to appear, to define the City of New Orleans' philosophy as it prepares for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has planted his "resilience" seed (or some form of it — "resilient," "resiliency") in speeches throughout his terms as mayor. (And if you're keeping score at home, you can add "vibrant," "new Orleans" and "NOLA for Life" to Landrieu's list.) The word has seemingly grown into a jungle of word salads with business lingo and jargon-y nothing phrases that have taken over dozens of panels, events and speeches this week. Its overuse implied it not only didn't mean anything but that there wasn't anything to be "resilient" about. But the word now defines a plan that the city will look to over the next decade and beyond.
FYI: The city's Chief Resilience Officer makes $172,000.

You laugh but, according to this Slate article, the guy might have some work to do.
After Katrina, the second line became a symbol of New Orleans’ resilience. But the survival of the parades—and the neighborhoods the revelers called home—is far from assured.
That can't be good. I mean, if you lose the "symbol of resilience" what else to resilience really is there worth having?

Anyway, this isn't an article about "resilience." It's an article about gentrification even if it doesn't know that it is. Despite the media hyper-focus on the fate of "culture bearers" who do interesting things that tourists might like to see, the escalating costs of living in New Orleans affects an entire class of people.  The fact that the "culture bearers" in question happen to be a segment of that class merely makes this an attractive story for a national outlet.

The reason this caught my attention, though, was the particular piece of resilience theater the article opens with; an "All Star Second Line" organized on MLK weekend in 2006.
Meanwhile, displaced second liners, many of whom had no transportation of their own, were renting cars and even chartering buses to get to the parade. Vallery made a desperate call to City Council President Oliver Thomas, who had strong ties to the clubs. Thomas thought this second line might be the last one the city would ever muster, that the tradition itself was at stake. “That’s why, for me, it had to happen,” he told me later. He convinced the Nagin administration that the parade would be more manageable than a crowd of people who found their way back from exile only to discover it had been canceled. He helped secure a permit for a route contained in NOPD’s First District, a loop around Treme, regarded by some as the oldest black neighborhood in the country, and a bit of the Seventh Ward, birthplace of Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet.

Two days later, around 300 club members and three brass bands filled St. Claude Avenue in front of the Backstreet Cultural Museum. The club members wore black shirts that said “renew orleans” across the chest. Father Jerome LeDoux came out of St. Augustine Catholic Church to bless them. Thousands of people surrounded the clubs, spilling onto side streets. From the front porch of the Backstreet, Jackson announced that the second-line community was coming home. If the club members had affordable housing and basic services, she said, they would bring the city back to life.

Then a bass drum thumped, the horns started to play, and the parade proved the point. Empty streets filled with people, shoulder to shoulder, flowing around piles of moldy sheetrock on the curbs and onto porches of vacant houses with holes in their roofs. Dancers spun, popped, and jumped on the hoods of drowned cars. Thomas danced along with them. “We exorcised Katrina” that day, he recalled. It was considered by many the biggest second line ever. The parade gained momentum turning onto Claiborne Avenue, and it felt to me as if the force of these thousands of people was reshaping the city. Jackson remembers the turn onto Claiborne as “the greatest moment of my life.
Yeah I was there to see that moment.  Here's the parade coming down Claiborne.


Here it is later on Rampart.

Armstrong Park

Oh and hey look. I forgot I shot video.  It's not much.. that camera didn't take the highest quality video... but, well, here.

2nd line Rampart St Jan 15 2006

Here's the parade turning from Claiborne, probably onto Esplanade, I don't remember the route exactly.  This video quality isn't great but you do get a little bit of the sound of the drum echoing under the overpass.

2nd line Claiborne Jan 15 2006

Another thing you might remember about the Claiborne overpass was the parking area beneath it had, by this time, become a repository for flooded vehicles.  I got some pictures of those that day.

Claiborne Overpass

Claiborne Ave

There was also this abandoned boat sitting on the curb at Bayou Road.


"Beached" boat

And that's where I went on Friday to revisit the scene.  The boat and cars have been cleared away. Marie Laveau seems rather indifferent either way.  She was always pretty resilient, though.

Claiborne and Bayou


Ferry boats passing one another

Justin Augustine:
"Please ride, ride, ride, ride, ride'' the Algiers-Canal Street ferry, Transdev chief executive Justin Augustine said. Riders – and plenty of them -- are what it will take to keep an expanded weekend schedule on the ferry beyond a four-month pilot project.
From Oct. 12 through Feb. 14, the ferry will run:
  • Fridays from 6 a.m. until midnight
  • Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.
  • Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The French conglomerate's officers announced the extended schedule during a meeting of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority board Tuesday (Aug. 25), after Louisiana state Sen. David Heitmeier, D-Algiers, told Algiers Point residents about the upcoming changes over the weekend.
I dunno...  $2 each way for the possibility of getting stranded because the thing doesn't run 24 hours like it should sounds dicey.

I know, I know, I just said I was too busy doing Rising Tide stuff to post over here.  But did you know there's a transit panel at Rising Tide this year? If you're reading about ferries, this might be relevant to your interests.  Check it out

Where's my Yellow Blog today?

Sorry. I'm busy promoting and stuff.

Back later. Stay resilient.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What happened on Day 300

Coliseum Square Baptist Church 5

This was the Coliseum Square Baptist Church on Camp Street in the Lower Garden District. The church dated to 1854. I took these pictures in December of 2005. Hurricane Katrina didn't do this damage, though.  The building had been derelict for some time before.  It would have to be demolished eventually after it was badly damaged by a fire the following June.

Coliseum Square Baptist Church 1

Coliseum Square Baptist Church 3

Here's a bit of post-Katrina blogging nostalgia for you.  Our friend Maitri Erwin used to be in the habit of counting each day after the flood. She got all the way up to Day 1306 when she and her husband moved away for work related reasons in 2009.  (They're frequently back in town for various events and such.)

Back on Day 300 she was lamenting the loss of the church.  Maitri's post echos concerns of local preservationists asking that the long vacant building be saved, though it's seems like the fire had made the matter a fait accompli.
One might argue that brand new development over blighted property, however historic, provides that much-needed influx of capital, but for how long? It is an egregious exercise in Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish when we turn our historic properties over to demolishers, condo developers and boxy buildings only for our city to lose its real value over time. People will not visit New Orleans to tour the former location of a church or period house, much less empty lots or modern housing which mimics any city in America in the process of gentrification.
Again, it's pretty clear that after the fire, saving the building probably wasn't an option. But the confusion and frustration on everyone's part (which was pretty typical of the time) is palpable. Brian Denzer recorded interviews with the district fire chief on the scene as well as a neighbor named Rene Padilla. Padilla sounds like he'd been involved to some degree in neighborhood efforts to save the building although he also doesn't seem to have a whole lot of good information. "Somebody's gonna build some awful looking condos there," says Padilla who is himself a transplant condo owner from California. Later in the interview he adds,  "I heard a rumor that the school next door has plans to build there right away."

Well, if that was the case, they've got a funny idea of what "right away" might mean.  I visited the spot last weekend and found an empty lot there. You can still see some of the bricks and what's left of the church's foundation.

Here's one last look at the church facade.

Coliseum Square Baptist Church 4

And here's the view from approximately the same spot on the sidewalk today.

Colisesm Square Church bricks

Who did we rebuild this city for?

There's a lot of crap from the national outlets this week about the Katrinaversary but this FiveThirtyEight article really nails something that keeps getting.. if not missed.. sorely deemphasized even in the local telling of this story.  And that is, our oft-celebrated "bran gain" of young (white)  'treps from all over the country isn't really a gain so much as it is a replacement.
More than 175,000 black residents left New Orleans in the year after the storm; more than 75,000 never came back.2 Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population has nearly returned to its pre-storm total, and the Hispanic population, though still small compared with other Southern cities, has grown by more than 30 percent. Together, the trends have pushed the African-American share of the population down to 59 percent in 2013, from 66 percent in 2005.3

But it isn’t just that there are fewer black New Orleanians; their place in the city’s economic fabric has fundamentally changed. African-Americans have long accounted for most of the city’s poor, but before the storm they also made up a majority of its middle class and were well represented among its doctors, lawyers and other professionals. After Katrina, the patterns changed: The poor are still overwhelmingly black, but the affluent and middle classes are increasingly white.4 Moreover, what remains of the black middle class is graying. Many of the middle-class African-Americans who returned to the city were retired or nearing the end of their careers; younger black professionals, meanwhile, fled the city in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

The aging of the black middle class stands in stark contrast to the influx of young, educated — and overwhelmingly white — professionals who have reshaped the city in the years since Katrina.5 Between 2011 and 2013 alone, New Orleans added nearly 10,000 college graduates under age 40. Many of them have been drawn by the thriving startup scene that emerged in the wake of the disaster; at a time of declining entrepreneurship nationally, New Orleans now has one of the highest business-formation rates in the country.
The article also takes note of at least one deliberate act that facilitated this shift. 
“When you fire all of the New Orleans public school teachers and its personnel, you’ve given a big whack to the middle class, because teaching was one of the professions where African-Americans knew they could go to school and come out with a job,” said Beverly Wright, a Dillard University sociologist. “Teachers were a treasured possession of the middle-class black community.”

Update:  Just to make the point more clear. This is from the Advocate this afternoon.
Public school teachers in New Orleans are considerably more likely to be white, inexperienced, without local roots and lacking formal teaching credentials as a result of the charter school movement that has remade public education in the city since Hurricane Katrina.

Those are the conclusions drawn by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance for New Orleans in a report released Monday.
Elsbet says, "Being white is the credential" 

"Gimme my stuff"

This is an excerpt from an essay by Sarah Broom published in The New Yorker. It is about her family's decade long struggle with recovery after losing her mother's house in the flood.
My mother and I make the trip to the Road Home office, where even the caseworker is surprised that we’re still in limbo. It’s too late, he says—they’re closing down the program. I plead and insist: my mother was sixty-four when the process began; she’s seventy-four now.

As long as we owned the land, my mother could sell it to Road Home in exchange for a grant that would allow her to buy another home. But the program had become an endless loop, bungled and exhausting, seemingly designed to wear you out. My mother tried to make it go. So did my brother Eddie, who has a big job at an oil plant where daily he makes things go.

Because we children were all part owners of the Yellow House, we had to transfer our stakes to my mother. The law firm contracted by Road Home to close the file suddenly changed. Its requests for materials were unclear. My mother would call me in New York, speaking in vague avoidance: “Those people said they need another paper or something.” Without the means to hire lawyers, very little advanced.

Days before I arrived, my mother called the law firm and was told that her case had been closed for nonresponsiveness. They had made a single unanswered call.

I tell all of this to the caseworker. My mother stays silent, peeking at the man as if from behind a veil. We take all the required steps to reopen the case. The caseworker promises that he’ll do his best—he seems hopeful—but we’ve heard nothing since then about the status of our case, which is really the question of whether my mother will ever live in her own house again.

Recently, the city notified us that our property would be sold for nonpayment of back taxes if we did not appeal within sixty days. My mother called me, upset, saying, “You know I’m not all that business-minded.” All I could think was to call the Road Home number and leave another message. “Please tell us what to do,” I said.
Road Home was supposed to help homeowners like this cover the cost of rebuilding.  It was insufficient to the task, though, and the result has been a drastically uneven recovery. Those who could muster the resources and the credit to keep themselves afloat long enough to make programs like Road Home work for them were able to come back.  Those who couldn't were left behind.

Mitch Landrieu has been asked about that a lot this month.  His answer to Buzzfeed was, "we have limited resources. And the market needs to help too."  OK. But "the market" is what's caused the discrepancy in the first place.  When we design programs like Road Home, you'd think we'd try to account for the inherent inequalities of the market.   But that may be too much to ask for Mitch, who said this today at the "Atlantic NOLA" conference.

After 10 years I guess it's still rude for some of us to ask for our stuff back.

Back in commerce

I didn't really dwell on the point in the last post but one of the Advocate articles I linked to there is about a dispute between Latoya Cantrell and Mitch Landrieu over the best use of something called the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund. 
Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who is sponsoring the ordinance endorsed Wednesday by the Community Development Committee, said the plan to strengthen the rules for the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund would be a step toward providing a better approach to housing for low and middle-income residents.

“We’ve needed a housing plan for a long time. We’re behind the eight ball, but we’re getting there,” she said.

The fund, which Cantrell said generates about $3 million a year, is supposed to be used according to a housing plan devised by an advisory committee, though that hasn’t occurred in recent years and the committee no longer exists. Instead, the money is typically just included as part of the general budget drawn up by the mayor and approved by the council.
The mayor's office responds that they'd rather have the money available to "reduce blight" which they say is a higher priority than affordable housing right now. Not that the two purposes are entirely mutually exclusive. It's more of a difference in approach between finding ways to provide direct help to residents and finding ways to "put property back into commerce" so it can be resold and redeveloped.

Or not in a lot of cases. Take, for example, today's photo revisit.  Here is a picture I took in 2007 following the Super Sunday parade up MLK Boulevard.

Red white and blue

I didn't remember exactly what block this was so I had a little trouble hunting it down again last week. Of course it didn't help that more than one house in the original shot had since been demolished.  But I found it.

House gone

Nobody lives on it now. But at least that land is ready to go back into commerce.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"That's on you"

They know this is just a CVS, right?
As city officials Friday morning turned a ceremonial pile of dirt on the asphalt apron that will be the home of a new CVS pharmacy in the Lower 9th Ward, freshly laid sod covered the nearby North Claiborne Avenue neutral ground, framing the bright, nearly untouched concrete of brand-new sidewalks.

But spiffing up some parts of the Lower 9th Ward days before the 10th anniversary of the levee failures and flooding that all but wiped out the neighborhood in 2005 strikes some as less a sign of widespread improvement in the neighborhood and more an attempt to put the city’s best foot forward for visiting national media.

The problems of the Lower 9 can be seen even from that neutral ground: lots abandoned for a decade that remain home only to weeds, though ones that have been cropped down under a city program aimed at reducing blight in the neighborhood, which is separated from the rest of the city by the Industrial Canal and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

It kind of makes you wonder why they’re doing it now,” said M.A. Sheehan, of the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association.
It really does. Especially as Mitch nears the end of his marathon tour of all national media preaching the virtues of our city's "resilient" recovery as well as slapping down questions about why some of us ended up looking more resilient than others.
Landrieu argued part of the problem has also been a lack of interest from the private sector in redeveloping the area.

“It was not in great shape before the storm. And so building back is harder and tougher and it’s going to take longer. It just is. Because we have limited resources. And the market needs to help too. There’s no way the government by itself can rebuild this entire city. And that’s been a real challenge for us,” he said.
In other words, the Ninth Ward was knocked off the chair and has trouble getting back up so "that's on them."

Except maybe it's not entirely on them.  Because focusing on the fact that a neighborhood "was not in great shape before the storm" does nothing to excuse failure to restore even that poor status.  Besides, the disparity in resources between the Ninth and, say, Lakeview, is what our recovery policies should be calibrated to resolve
The fund, which Cantrell said generates about $3 million a year, is supposed to be used according to a housing plan devised by an advisory committee, though that hasn’t occurred in recent years and the committee no longer exists. Instead, the money is typically just included as part of the general budget drawn up by the mayor and approved by the council.

“This is the council’s ordinance, and to date, we haven’t been following the law,” Cantrell said.
Her proposal would set up a new committee to oversee the fund; it would receive applications from programs hoping to use the money. The committee’s recommendations, which would be tied to both the city’s master plan and a more specific plan for housing, would then be passed on to the council for its approval.

There are no firm rules in the current ordinance on how the money can be used. Supporters, representing nonprofits and a developer, pitched a variety of specific ways they would use the money on Wednesday, including fixing blighted properties whose residents can’t afford repairs, helping to offset the cost of building affordable housing units and helping to close the gap between Road Home funding and the cost of rebuilding for residents still trying to return home.

That gap runs an average of $40,000 a family for those working with the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, said M.A. Sheehan, the group’s housing director.
Well now they'll have a CVS. Problem solved.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pass the Kale

Superdome and Arena

Let's go reopen our building

Fans headed to cheer on the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will enjoy some new menu items this season, with a healthy twist. 

Centerplate New Orleans introduced their new food options Wednesday at the Dome. The food vendor is teaming up with Eat Fit NOLA to bring fans the healthy offerings.

Those include market fresh sandwiches, fresh kale salads, and savory seafood.

All of the items are designed to offer an alternative to the traditional game day favorites like hot dogs, popcorn, and nachos.
Pretty sure our section will have only hot dogs and popcorn available. But it's the thought that counts. Kale is really more of a concept, anyway.  Like Jairus Byrd.

As per usual during the fake season, nothing that happens tonight will mean much of anything. Although it might be fun to keep an eye on the Twitter Hype Meter courtesy of B&GR's Ryan Chauvin.

Robust redux

So this photo revisit is a little different.  The original subject is a photo I didn't get around to taking until 2012.  But it's of something I'd had for a long time already.

Katrina Puts End To Lull

"Katrina Puts End to Lull," it says. That's the Saturday paper. The more famous headline is the following day's "Katrina Takes Aim." But I evacuated Sunday morning and lost that day's paper. You can find pictures of it all over the internet, of course. Here's one I just googled.   "Puts end to lull" is a more intriguing headline, though.  I think it better captures the upheaval that was on the way. We were all about to be profoundly shaken out of our lull.  We may only now have begun to recapture it.

But this isn't really a post about that.  This is supposed to be one of those posts where we go back to the scene of an interesting photo from immediate post-K times and look at how it's changed. Here's how we're going to do that.

A few years after Katrina, you might remember there was an event we here at the Yellow Blog called "Crazy Freak Out '08" on account of what we were certain was a traumatized overreaction to the approach of Hurricane Gustav.  The Crazy Freak Out ended up being more valid than we anticipated as Gustav did end up setting off an evacuation.  The storm didn't destroy the city all over again but it did cause extended power outages all over town as well as angst over a bizarre "tiered" reentry plan.

As it became clear that Gustav would probably be a thing, I got out and took some pictures of the preparations.  One thing I made sure to get a shot of was the T-P front page.

Waiting For Gustav

I did the same thing a few years later when we went through the drill again with Isaac.

Isaac Eyes

But something else was happening at that time to the Times-Picayune itself. Its parent company Advance Publications was implementing a nationwide "digital first" strategy which, despite the typical corporate buzzwording about being adaptable but "robust," was really all about firing lots of people.

Former T-P staff writer Rebecca Theim wrote a book about it. She recaps some of the story in this article.
In May 2012, New Orleanians and employees of The Times-Picayune learned via The New York Times that a small circle of Picayune senior editors and managers were plotting a dramatic new course for the newspaper. Advance would put the publication at the center of a bold experiment in U.S. journalism: New Orleans would become the largest American city without a daily newspaper. The daily Times-Picayune would be replaced with a three-day-a-week publication and an expanded NOLA.com, the newspaper’s website that was routinely criticized as mediocre. The changes would involve deep staff cuts at an organization that had never instituted an involuntary layoff. Additional savings would result from reduced printing and delivery costs.

Almost immediately, the community went berserk. A grassroots campaign included dedicated Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with thousands of followers, an online petition that eventually garnered close to 10,000 signatures, 1,500 yard signs supporting a daily newspaper, and public protests. A New Orleans philanthropist recruited a who’s who of city business and civic leaders to lobby against the changes, while the owner of the city’s NFL and NBA franchises publicly pursued acquiring the newspaper.

The specter of Katrina fueled the campaign. As Miller, Roberts, and LaPoe noted in Oil and Water, “… the protest underscored the significance and essence of local news, a relationship solidified by Katrina.”

Despite a valiant community effort, more than 200 employees, including one-half of the newsroom, got their pink slips. Mounting anxiety and uncertainty over future employment then prompted a rash of defections to other media outlets locally and across the country that continued well into the next year. In response, The Times-Picayune rescinded the terminations of at least 10 employees, but “digital first” and its reduced publication schedule went into effect October 1, 2012.
Since then, Advance has continued its strategy of firing its way to success.  Recently we learned that Times-Picayune staff are preparing for yet another round of cuts this fall.

This week I went back to the corner where I'd taken those photos of the T-P paper box before Gustav and Isaac.  Katrina was back in the news, of course.  But something else was different.

Advocate Box

I should mention also that Rebecca Theim will be at Rising Tide X next Saturday talking about the changing face of local media.

Rising Tide X is August 29, 2015 at Xavier University. Check out the rest of the website for details about the extensive program. You can go for free this year but please register here. If you'd like to help defray the cost of production or order swag, there's a separate GoFundMe page here.   

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Putting aside the merit of the amendments..."

The above is the key phrase in this AZ post about Nadine Ramsey which raises all sorts of questions about who she does favors for as well as how obscenely dishonest she is apparently willing to be about it.
In the Robinette show at the 26:45 mark Garland presses her on who wanted the amendments pushed through, she answers that it was the Louisiana Restaurant Association. The caller on the line then asks her about the "liquor lobbyist" (Chris Young) and she responds "I'm not aware of....the person I worked with being a liquor lobbyist....I don't know who the liquor lobbyist is."

She doesn't know that Young is a liquor lobbyist? How is that even possible? It's not possible...she knows exactly who he is.

There's obfuscation and then there's just damn....^^^that.
So here it looks like we have a councilmember pretty much acting as an agent for the usually pretty despicable Louisiana Restaurant Association and ignoring the objections of neighborhood groups in the process.  That's bad. I want to be clear about that.

But in this particular case, it may not be such a tragedy since the issue at hand is those neighborhood groups and their outsized prudishness over liquor laws
Opponents of Ramsey's amendment – including Councilwoman Stacy Head, French Quarter Citizens, Vieux Carre Property Owners Residents and Associates, and the Preservation Resource Center, among others – said that the current language provides protection against restaurants closing their kitchens at 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and operating as bars for the rest of the night.

"It scares the hell out of us," said French Quarter resident Albin Guillot. "Even though 99 percent of our family restaurants in our neighborhoods are good there's always going to be the guy who's going to do his hamburgers and then he's going to turn into a disco every night in the middle of a family area."

The majority of the opponents to Ramsey's amendment asked for the issue to be deferred so they could work out a compromise with business owners, though Calvin Lopez was more direct. He said that "under no circumstances" should restaurants be allowed to sell alcohol without a "legitimate meal."
These guys are just going to have to get over their irrational fear of having bars in neighborhoods. Bars aren't what's causing the "quality of life" problem in New Orleans right now.  The skyrocketing rents, on the other hand are.  Hilariously, though, Stacy Head told us this week that she doesn't think the city can take decisive action against the short term rental plague exacerbating rents because that would be  "like prohibition."   Apparently Head's commitment to actual prohibition remains as steadfast as ever.

Getting back to Jason's post about Ramsey, though, it's worth taking the dynamics into account regardless of the specific issue at hand this time.
Putting aside the merit of the amendments, it's become painfully clear Councilperson Ramsey is catering to monied interests at all cost. The question...what is that cost? District C neighborhoods are by far the most volatile and threatened in "New New Orleans", it doesn't appear they have a sympathetic ear with their current councilperson who was willing to circumvent public discussion and the democratic process in order to jam power brokers' agendas, like Chris Young's, down our throats.
Not good.  

Ruh roh

They sound nervous at the casino this time.
Stock prices around the world continued to plunge on Friday, threatening to end one of the longest bull runs in the history of the United States stock market.

A searing six-year rally in United States stocks had advanced into the summer months, shrugging off challenges like the dispute over Greece’s debt. But in the last two weeks, world markets tumbled as investors grew increasingly concerned about developments in China, which unexpectedly devalued its currency last week, and the outlook for the economies of other large developing countries.

As the selling gathered steam Friday afternoon, some benchmark indexes were at or near 10 percent below their recent peaks — a “correction” in Wall Street parlance. “This is likely going to go down as the first meaningful correction in four years,” said David Rosenberg, an economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff.
If there's another recession and oil stays as low as it is, and we're at the end of our post-Katrina spending boom, how will we manage to "buck the trend" this time?

State of denial

Fake IDs

We're about to reach Peak Katrina 10 this week as the mayor welcomes three Presidents and a host of national media to commemorate the flood.  Expect the official mood to be positive.  There are political careers staked on the national story of "recovery" period being a happy one. 

We've tried to tell a different, more realistic story here.  But even after we talk about the many injustices; the police abuse, the political corruption, the "entrepreneurial" grifting, the school privatization, the deliberate policy of gentrification by design, even when we account for all of that, the fact remains that over 70 billion dollars in federal aid was spent in Louisiana over the past decade.  And that is going yield positive results even by default. 

So, while I've made a point of focusing on our failures (please see this Lens series, btw), this doesn't mean that there aren't tangible signs of progress all over town.  You'll see much of that highlighted by the mayor next week. If you're like me you'll find yourself muttering, "yeah, but..." an awful lot.  Even so, it's worth acknowledging the rebuilt roads (which do exist despite the myopic view of Fix My Streets fetishists), new public amenities like the Lafitte Greenway, restored parks and libraries, even a stronger (if inadequate still) flood control system. Much of this is "progress" we've stumbled into, of course, but it isn't nothing.

And yet even as we focus on appreciating what we do have, it's stretching things a bit to ask us to celebrate. Not only because this would mean we are celebrating the continuing fallout from a massive tragedy, but also because we aren't confident that any of the work we have done will last much longer than the next generation's lifetime.
Worse, the ground beneath us is literally slipping away. Probably every reader knows both that Louisiana's coast has lost nearly 2,000 square miles since 1932 and that that land once served as a buffer against hurricanes.

But not every reader realizes that just in the next 15 years, an additional 300-500 square miles will disappear, a considerable chunk of it from Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. If nothing is done, land loss will keep going after that until the ocean arrives at — and eventually comes pouring over — our doorsteps.
John Barry goes on in that article to plead, once more, for a commitment from political leaders and the oil and gas industry in particular to save what's left of the Louisiana coast in very little time we have left to do so. Otherwise, whatever rebuild New Orleans we're trying to muster a modicum of pride over this week is more than just a figurative Potemkin village for the benefit of the press.  It's an actual illusion doomed to destruction.