Friday, August 17, 2007

Perfect Storm

While everyone on the Gulf Coast of the United States is watching Hurricane Dean and praying we don't have a replay of 2005, when and where this storm ends up landing is absolutely out of our control. (If only it were....)

New Orleanians have spoken for a long time now about 2005 being the Twin Disasters, one natural disaster, one man-made disaster. But there are other man-made disasters that are taking their toll as well, and they can kill just as surely as a failing levee. Crime, mental health issues, and government shenanigans have a devastating effect on both the real quality of life in this city, and the morale to keep up the spirit that keeps this city alive against all the odds that she has faced.

Since I came down here last September, I have been awed by most of the folks I have met. They have rolled up their sleeves and done the dirty work of putting a City back on the map, rebuilt their homes and the homes of others and their businesses, often times without the help of the governments who take a cut of their incomes. They have inspired me at every turn with their determination, their wit and their ability to get stuff done at all in the face of obstacles that, frankly, not many people would deal with. While the streetcars are iconic, the music is loud and the food is amazing, it is the people who live in New Orleans who make this city such a jewel. The world's largest village.

(If he saw what I saw, the taxi driver in Detroit, or - more importantly - the computer guy in Ohio would know that despite all the bad, there is plenty here worth fighting for.)

But this place is being destroyed, and it has nothing to do with the weather or geography. It has to do with the people who run things here. We have to point this out, because otherwise, who would?

The Mayor calls the murder rate a 'double edged sword,' and that gives me the impression that he does not understand the human cost of the proplem. He has mentally checked out of the job of running this city, and uses his position to raise money in cities elsewhere in the nation. (Which begs the question: who the f___ pays for plates at this guy's fundraisers in Dallas and Kansas City???)

The district attorney seems incapable or unwilling to prosecute murderers, but is all too willing to spend the City's money to defend himself against a discrimination lawsuit because he bases his hiring practices on factors other than skill. I'm surprised this isn't the most publicized case in America right now...

But with crime, lack of mental health facilities, and all these ridiculous government actions and incactions, people are snapping for a reason. The uncertainty of the storm in the Carribean will only add to that stress. The weakest and most vulnerable minds will crack wide open first. Most of the time, it isn't as bad as this particular example, but the effects - widespread - can be more damaging overall.

We're probably going to need to get in the streets again, sooner rather than later, hopefully once the weather cools off somewhat. Or maybe a candlelight vigil at night. Or maybe a tent city and barbecue outside City Hall on Labor Day weekend. Something.

1 comment:

dadvocate said...

I know there are things about NOLA worth fighting for but, man, you guys have a tough fight. Obviously you need more of those that "have rolled up their sleeves and done the dirty work" in government positions.

With a low crime rate, New Orleans would, again, become a major tourist destination.

Nagin is a complete nut job. I'm amazed anyone would want him for a fund raiser. Eddie Jordan sounds like a real case too. I wonder when enough people will realize this to vote in effective leaders.

It's great to see that at least someone (you and the other bloggers in the NOLA area) can objectively evaluate and communicate the problems facing the city. The feds can pour as much money as possible into the city but without good leadership, it would be a waste.

Two cities that come to mind did not suffer a major catastrophe. They simply grew to ugly, dirty cities by poor leadership. Chattanooga, TN and Cleveland, OH. About 25-30 years ago they both decided to turn things around and became models of clean, beautiful, people friendly cities. NOLA can do the same but probably not with Ray Nagin and his ilk in charge.