Monday, August 4, 2008

We Got it...Now We Need to Get Rid of It.

After unsuccessfully looking around for something to write for most of the day, I finally stumbled upon something that got my fur up. An article in USA Today talked about how our population has hit a plateau and this may be all we get back. While the numbers about high rent and the fact that there are 65,000 blighted houses or empty lots in Orleans parish were indeed disturbing, nothing was more disturbing than the comments section after the article.

People don't get it, we got it. They don't care, they don't want to hear about it and very few give us much of a chance of making it in the long run. After my anger abated, I realized while comments like this from outside our area sting, comments just like this on the TP site are even more of a kick to the crotch. People from what we like to call the Greater New Orleans area (much to their chagrin apparently) also question the desire to rebuild our city with as much venom and petty small-mindedness as people who have never set foot on our soggy soil.

Thinking about the fact we can't get support from people who should be thinking "there but for the grace of God, go I" really gets me whipped up into a frothy frenzy. While considering and questioning why we continue pushing the proverbial rock up the hill of public sentiment, I had a moment of clarity. These moments are few and far between, making them all the more powerful when they occur. In that moment I realized we need to take some responsibility for the "why bother rebuilding New Orleans" point of view.

Obviously, we don't bear the responsibility for the Federal Flood, some members of Levee Board, notwithstanding. But we have to own up to the fact that after the small window of civic pride we expressed after we returned complete with hugs on the streets for neighbors, friends and sometimes complete strangers, we set about doing things the way we always have for the most part. Some things need to done the way they always have been, those traditions are many and varied and don't need to be listed here. But one thing we need to stop doing is laughing off the epidemic of government inefficacy, and corruption.

We elected and reelected people who weren't up to the job, and the way people voted could be determined usually on racial or political party lines, without regard to what was best for the recovery. After deciding to be a devisive force in the city pandering to the black population with his "chocolate city" speech, Nagin was reelected. After being caught with more than four times the median income in New Orleans in his freezer, Bill Jefferson was also reelected. This gives politicians the idea they can act with impunity, never having to answer for their many crimes, gaffs, mistakes and general disregard for the citizenry.

I appreciate the argument of the black community, that political power is the only power they've had in this city, and they are not going to give it up without a fight. But for better or worse, Katrina happened to black and white New Orleanians alike, it's time we band together for our own survival rather than stand on opposite sides of of a line, electing people based on skin color who fiddle while we burn.

How can we expect the rest of the country, or even the rest of the region to support us if we can't rid ourselves of the corrupt, dangerous and racially biased stigma. How can we expect to ask people to return to this city or, better yet, make the move to the city we love if we can't elect people that will do whatever it takes to get a handle on crime. If we can't expect that crime cameras take precedence over revenue-generating red light cameras, then how can we expect outsiders to believe that we have a commitment to stem the tide of blood on our streets.

It is time for us to stand up and let the people who govern us know that they work for us. We must demand that they act in our best interest, as opposed to their own. Cops will be expected to police their own ranks rather than just the streets. If we can't ask that from our elected leaders and civil servants how can we expect anything to get any better? How can we expect people in Michigan, Minneapolis or Mandeville to get behind our cause?

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