A note to the new mayor of New Orleans: It’s about the people
It is not about the buildings, the roads, and the tax revenues. It’s about the people.Take care of the people, and everything else will follow.On the first day of the 2006 hurricane season last Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sworn into office again. He had defeated Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu in the election held last month.I wish Mayor Nagin Godspeed in his efforts to continue to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but I would like to give him some advice. It is not about the building, but about the people. Ray, take care of the people, and all your dreams and desires for the city will come true. Ignore the people, and you will fail.After the Aug. 29 hurricane, I wrote a column about how badly the disaster had been handled by President Bush, Governor Blanco, and Mayor Nagin. All of the investigations since have affirmed my comments. It remains the biggest failure of government to respond in the history of the United States.I was confronted by a friend shortly after the column appeared. She did not think New Orleans should be rebuilt, and that it would be a mistake to do anything other than scrape it off the face of the earth and let it return to being a swamp.
I told my friend I disagreed, and I felt strongly that the city should be rebuilt. Where there is vision there is hope. I could still see a major city being re-created on that site, and it would, once again, become a major industrial and cultural center in the South.Then I began to cross my fingers and to read everything I could find about the renewal of the community.I was in Austin, Texas, last fall and heard that there was a community of New Orleans jazz musicians who had literally taken over a club there to keep their music alive.I read about a large community of expatriates who had settled in Seattle and how well they were getting along.This spring there was a college graduation held in the Superdome, the same Superdome that was considered destroyed by the storm, and then by the people who found shelter in its innards. I have followed the stories about the New Orleans Saints planning to move to Texas who are now going to come back to New Orleans.Mardi Gras was held this year on a scaled-back basis.
The heart of the city is beating ever so slightly.The discouraging reports are about how few of the permanent year-round residents are coming back. How few of the people who lived in the Ninth Ward want to come back.I truly wish I knew the answer to why the revitalization has not included the people.Someone has missed the point.Lots of money was poured into rebuilding, which is good, but the rebuilding ignored the most important factor. The people who lived in New Orleans before Katrina. Where have they gone, and why haven’t they come back?The answer might be in the news reports that as the homes in the Ninth Ward are finally torn down, bodies are found inside.
Hard to believe that no one checked the homes after the hurricane. Someone did not put the people first. Someone did not do the job. Someone needs an attitude adjustment.One of the classes I teach at Colorado Mountain College is Sociology. Sociology is the science of society, social institutions and social relationships: How people relate to each other as individuals and as part of a group.Governments cannot exist without communities of people to serve. Schools need to have students. Economic development needs to have income created by workers.Our community is not the ski companies or recreation or the resort industry. It is the people who work and live here. It is the people who come to visit and drive our economy. I think we understand this very basic principle.Let’s hope that New Orleans comes to the same conclusion before it is too late.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, D-Breckenridge, represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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