Saturday, September 24, 2005

Something better?

I just came from a meeting this morning of a few people who have been getting together about once a month for the past dozen years or so. They're an interesting mix of mid-life people who want to get together to talk about significant social issues facing the country or the world.

This week was Katrina. In preparation, we read this piece by Jim Wallace about how the disasterous consequences of Katrina are reminding America that we don't always live up to the hype.

Sure, the U.S. is the richest country in the world. But we also have some of the most inexcusable poverty. When 50% of children in New Orleans live below poverty, we're not doing all we can. When parents enroll their children at average looking schools, but say they never expected their children to go to such nice schools, we are not doing all that we can. When unemployment for many parts of New Orleans was in the mid-to-high twenty percents, our national greatness and our national wealth is not being used as well as it could be.

This brings to mind the question of how to rebuild New Orleans. President Bush has declared that it should become better than it was before, a place of new opportunity and new hope. I agree. This is what I think should be done.

1. Give rebuilding contracts to companies that promise to hire local residents to perform the work--this will ensure that money going to rebuild will be recycled into the community, rather than shipped home when the work is done and the workers leave.
2. Create grants and tax incentives for existing small businesses, and new entreprenuership. These are the types of businesses that are rooted in community, hire and invest locally, and develop their communities.
3. Establish a minimum threshhold for money used to build/rehab schools, early childhood programs, and adult education centers. These are the bedrocks of economic advancement, job growth, and capital accumulation. Without these, everything else will be like too-much makeup attempting to hide years of hard living.

Obviously these, by themselves aren't enough, they're the main ideas I took away from the conversation this morning. Anyone else have any ideas?


alektra said...

I think that your ideas are good, but other things should be done, as well. Neighborhood planning, etc, should be through the people from the area. Planned neighborhoods tend to help people become communities, and it is unlikely that any community from New Orleans will be the same again. They will need something to bring those who choose to return to bring them together, and not just something as terrifying as surviving the colosal mistakes of our President.

NTAC said...

I agree with your comments as well. But having spent numerous days in New Orleans, the city and neighborhood planning is/was a major issue. When you can walk down Canal Steet and be overcome by poverty and suffering right under the nose of the extravagant French Quarter, there is a serious problem. Drive deeper away from the Quarter and it only gets worse.

Maybe it is unrealistic to expect unity within a city, but the lack of community in New Orleans was staggering. Why can't the French Quarter be a centerpiece of one unified community? It cannot be simply created, but poor planning can certainly make development of a sense of community and place impossible.