New Orleans: Dead and Gone?

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Lower 9th Ward, 8 months post-Katrina. [Eric Harvey Brown/ Flickr]

There’s been a lot of news from New Orleans this week – about the dismal state of the levees, about the fact that New Orleans is sinking at a rate of almost an inch a year – and despite the promises and the optimism, not to mention the fanfare of Nagin’s inauguration, this many months after Katrina it seems like New Orleans is still a really hard place to live. Huge patches of the city are uninhabited. More than half residents haven’t come back. Only 17 of 122 public schools have reopened. There is still debris everywhere…junked out cars and twisted metal street signs, even in front of the Superdome. Did we mention last Thursday was the start of hurricane season and that there are 17 named storms forecast for this year?

After a catastrophe we have the urge to rebuild: the tower is going to be 1776 ft tall, etc. But is it time to recognize that New Orleans just isn’t coming back? After reading the latest about the levees and the sinking ground, Joel Garreau, who was on one of the first shows we did after Katrina, had this reaction:

I looked at it and I thought, I think I got it right back in September, meaning [New Orleans] is not going to be rebuilt. It is not going to be rebuilt…And I don’t take any particular pleasure in this. It’s just one more nail in the coffin. I wish it weren’t that way, but I think it’s going to become Key West. You’ll have the tourist crescent, and that’s going to be what’s functional. It’s not one of America’s top 50 cities anymore.

Joel Garreau of the Washington Post, in a conversation with Open Source, 6/2/06

So has the task become too difficult? Despite everyone’s hope against hope, has the daily grind of dealing with FEMA become too much, even for the city’s most enterprising souls? Is New Orleans slowly bleeding to death? Is it already dead?

Or are we judging the long road to recovery too hastily?

Jon Donley

Editor, Nola.com

Oliver Thomas

New Orleans City Council President

Marion LeGard

President & blogger, ERACE

semi-retired New Orleans public school teacher

Jeff Clary

New Orleans property owner, real-estate investor and roofer

Co-owner, Bourgeoise-Clary Construction

Extra Credit Reading

Troy Gilburg, Forced to Become Pirates. Gulfsails, May 29, 2006

Christy Hardin Smith, It’s Hurricane season, do you know where your levee is? firedoglake, June 1, 2006

Coleman Warner, Census Tallies Katrina Changes, Times Picayune, June 7, 2006

Chris Rose, Very Scary Summer, Times Picayune, May 30, 2006

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