Rebuilding ALL of New Orleans
The New York Times has a story today describing a plan that would open all New Orleans for rebuilding. Given some of sentiments expressed by certain federal officials, like Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), this is good news, and it is not surprising that such a plan would have to be devised by New Orleans residents themselves. There are of course obvious reasons why this is a good thing, but there are some more subtle positive outcomes as well.
The obvious positives are that every part of the city will be given [close to] a equal opportunity to be redeveloped. On the face, that means that all areas, black and white, lower, middle, and upper class can and will be open and available. The article does state that “the areas that fail to attract a critical mass of residents in 12 months will probably not survive as residential neighborhoods.” What does this mean? It means that people have to act quickly to ensure the survival of their neighborhoods. That means multiple people from an area pooling their resources and going in together, as opposed to individual investment.
More interestingly, this presents an opportunity for people to take ownership of their futures. They owned their past, in terms of their particular pieces of land, their homes, their possessions. Many of these things were damaged/destroyed by the Hurricane, and there were attempts by disinterested parties to prevent people from reclaiming any/all of their lives in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The drafters of this plan are creating an opportunity for sections of the region to not be forgotten. The people of southern Louisiana deserve to rebuild the area as they see fit, not as out-of-town investors see fit. Outside investors would make different choices than local people would, since they value different things. Prime examples are why the French Quarter is bustling, but people are prevented from returning to homes in New Orleans East, the 9th Ward, and various public housing projects.
Further, this opens the door for Black sections of the city to remain Black. That is important because there is a concerted effort to dilute both the culture and population of the city of New Orleans. This initiative gives Black people the chance to reclaim what was already theirs. Ownership is important. This is a unique opportunity for ownership, Black ownership, to be proliferated in the area to an even greater degree than before.