Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lords Of The Realm

The NY Times writes about the planning process going on in New Orleans and it reminds me why I don't usually read the Times.

Here are a few examples of the newspaper's inaccuracies:

Worst of all, by planning ad hoc, the city is forfeiting a chance to consider how infrastructure could be used to bind communities — rich and poor, black and white — into a collective whole. It allows residents to retreat back into their old ways and ignore uncomfortable social truths.
This paragraph assumes that New Orleans is racially segregated like so many northern cities that the Times writers are so used to. The fact of the matter is that most New Orleans neighborhoods are very much integrated. Although some neighborhoods have little integration such as the Lower Ninth Ward and Lakeview. Areas such as New Orleans East and Uptown have a varied mix of races.
Part of this mentality is related to the anti-big-government campaigns that gained momentum in the Reagan era, leaving ever more infrastructure, from parks to phone systems to schools, in the hands of private corporations. But the aversion to broad planning is also based on a neo-liberal belief that it is impossible to build any large-scale urban project without destroying the fine-grained fabric of city neighborhoods.
Anyone living in New Orleans for any amount of time will know that Reaganism largely passed us by. In fact, New Orleans is a liberal island in the middle of a conservative sea. Additionally, aversion to large federal government projects in the city goes back to the 1960 when the city's residents protested the construction of the Interstate Highway between the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. Such a project would have doomed the French Quarter. Instead the Interstate was relocated behind the French Quarter along North Claiborne Avenue. This was the second worst place to locate the highway for N. Claiborne was the center of a vibrant black middle neighborhood. For the record, during the 1960's, Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California.

This issue is discussed in a subsequent paragraph:
Mr. Kroloff, the dean of the Tulane University School of Architecture, has also raised the intriguing possibility of dismantling a portion of the freeway that now separates part of Tremé from the French Quarter, stitching the two neighborhoods back together and partly righting a wrong from the 1950’s, when the highway’s construction wiped away one of the city’s thriving black commercial strips.
Do NY Times editors read their own copy?
This idiosyncratic approach allows the government to circumvent the racial issues that torpedoed earlier planning proposals, in particular a legitimate suspicion among low-income black residents that any large-scale planning effort would be used to marginalize them.
Forget that Lakeview also protested the planning proposal for the same reasons.
Of course such progress is only possible in a world where government does not abdicate its responsibility to provide all of its citizens with a measure of protection. The Federal Emergency Management Agency packed up and left long ago. The federal government has yet to significantly raise the level of levee protection. Nor has it committed the money needed to rebuild the coastal wetlands and barrier islands that could absorb the impact of another storm.
OK. So the residents of SE Louisiana said "Good ridance" when FEMA pulled out. The Corps of Engineers is in the process of rebuilding and improving the levees as we speak, albiet behind schedule and Congress is currently debating bills that would guarantee Louisiana a greater portion of the offshore drilling revenue. By the way, it was big government liberal Democrats that most strongly opposed these bills.
As it stands now, the planning process is a cause for both hope and rage. It awakens us to the reality of what Americans are capable of and what our government is not.
So what is the point of the article's last paragraph? Does the Times lament the fact that individuals are taking leading role in rebuilding their communities without the aid of the government? Or is it that the government is not building our communities for us?

People's memory is long in viewing the government's record when it comes to providing housing for it's citizens and they rightly choose to rule their own abode rather live as a surf in a manor.

9 comments:

Zihuatanejo said...

great Blog!

Nice Blog,

Unless that was you there I urge you to take part in the discussions at this community. It is very popular, especially with the New Orleanians of all stripes. It is great place to poll the community with a quick question and get tons of feedback.

http://community.livejournal.com/neworleans

My belief is that to get real transparency in our government and planning process we need to get the young folks involved and up to speed on the new paradigms. Teaching only civics in school and not smart growth concepts is like teaching our kids to count to ten without teaching them arithmatic, algebra and calculus.

Help us get those concepts out there! Create an account a live journal and help build a community. An educated community.

Thanks,

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