The negative aspect I see is that we still have a third of the population that has gone, that never came back, OK? That part of the population, mainly the poor and black, they were very essential to the makeup of the essence of what New Orleans is, or was. Negative also is that the development and the progress that has been made has been very selective. For example, the areas most affected are extremely slow in getting back to some degree of normalcy. In the Lower 9th Ward they really have to struggle. And Arabi, Chalmette, those people, both black and white, have had to struggle with the lack of extension of the aid and rebuilding efforts to them.
The other negative is this replacement of all experienced teachers, seasoned teachers, by Teach for America 22-year-olds who come from out of nowhere and have no experience, nor do they have any kind of relation, any kind of cultural relation to the kids they are assisting. ... What I got paid, paid for three of them. ... It's politics, not policy. If you don't have a population with good education, then you don't have anything. I had kids last year who were 20 years old and in the ninth grade.
The positive is that New Orleans, despite its shortcomings, is the single most unique city, culture, in the United States. The people are essentially good. They're warm. They're friendly. For those of us who own homes, it's been good because they are coming in and raising the real estate (values). But along with it, you have raising rents. They buy these houses ... and then they build on it, and then the property taxes have gone up. There are a lot of yuppies in the Bywater.
Even though it's good, it's missing its basic essence. It's missing what made New Orleans because these people are "Pringles" who have no sense of culture. They're Protestant and we're Catholic and we're Latin. You know what I'm saying? They're trying to suck up all of our uniqueness and they are trying to conform, but they're not contributing to the rich cultural essence that New Orleanians give. The city feels good, and despite all of its shortcomings, if I had to live anywhere else in the United States, I would go home to Panama. There's not a place that I'd rather be except New Orleans. — AS TOLD TO JEANIE RIESS