Katrina at 10: Coming back

Gambit’s first cover story after the storm asked locals what our recovery priorities should be


Katrina 10 — the first cover story

"Out of the tremendous pain and suffering that came at the hands of this catastrophic event, New Orleans now has the distinct, unprecedented opportunity of a second chance to right its wrongs, to replace its disparities with equalities, to integrate its segregated communities, to rank our children and their educational needs at the top of our priority lists. I pray that we seize this opportunity to make New Orleans what it should be — one of the top-ranking cities in the nation."

— Lynette Colin, branch manager of the HOPE Community Credit Union in Central City, October 2005

After Hurricane Katrina, Gambit's return to print was on Nov. 1, 2005 — All Saint's Day, two months after the federal levee collapses. Our cover story, "Picking Up the Pieces," posed three questions to locals:

• What should New Orleans' priorities be at the outset of the rebuilding process?

• What elements of New Orleans must we preserve at all costs?

• What mistakes must we avoid at all costs?

  These people were surveyed in late October 2005, a little less than two months after the city flooded. Many of their concerns still resonate today, and a few were quite prescient.

What should New Orleans' priorities be at the outset of the rebuilding process?

Stephen Perry | President/CEO, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau

  "All priorities should be wrapped in a refusal to accept mediocrity, the status quo and reflect a commitment to national excellence. Priority one should be the re-establishment of the basic economics of the city — the hospitality industry, the port and maritime industry and the creation of unprecedented tax stimuli to make this the most attractive business zone in America. Priority two should be restoration of all essential city services (including a thorough cleaning of the city) utilizing a creative, incentive-driven privatization approach that makes New Orleans the leanest, most efficient city in the nation. Third should be the total re-engineering of the public school system, utilizing an innovative, downsized, charter school approach with new governance, school buildings, and freedom from old rules, barriers and politics."

Judy Watts* | Executive Director, Agenda for Children

  "Public housing must be opened immediately. Thousands of low-income families are still waiting to come home while public housing stock — much of it in good condition — lies empty and idle. Schools and child care must be in place by January. Families can't come back if these pieces are missing. Never before has the catchphrase 'children are our future' been more meaningful. A city without children literally has no future. And, there must be good jobs with decent wages and an organized effort to assist returning evacuees with securing employment. ... Our businesses won't survive without a competent reliable workforce." * Watts died in April 2015.

Jonathan Ferrara | Artist, gallery owner

  "Transparency must be a top priority in the rebuilding process. We, the people of New Orleans, must be able to see where the reconstruction money is going. Given our history of corruption, we must know that the dollars intended for rebuilding our great city are not going to line the pockets of 'connected' individuals."

Sean Cummings | Developer

  "We need to fundamentally reduce the cost of doing business in New Orleans, and we need to focus economic development on what we can be the best in the world at doing. This state needs to take the courageous step to eliminate all income taxes. Like nothing else, it will induce companies and people to stay, grow and even relocate here."

What elements of New Orleans must we preserve at all costs?

Roy Glapion Jr. | Engineer, businessman

  "We must preserve the 9th Ward, which is the true backbone of our old city, along with the East, Lakeview, Pontchartrain Park, the 7th Ward, red beans and rice on Monday, and fried fish and potato salad on Friday. In short, we must preserve our culture, how we think, how we live, our way of life."

Okyeame Haley | Attorney

  "We must preserve live New Orleans music; our civil rights history; brass bands; second lines; Mardi Gras Indians; the African retentions in New Orleans food, music, dance and language; and our architecture. We must bring back the people. Pre-Katrina New Orleanians must be given the first opportunity to repopulate and rebuild the city."

Judy Watts | Executive Director, Agenda for Children

  "Our people need ready access to reliable health care. This is especially urgent for low-income families. Charity Hospital has been a lifeline for poor people in our city for many years and with Charity facing an uncertain future, families are concerned about their health care needs being met."

Charlie Smith* | Arts lobbyist, poet

  "Ensure the preservation of all the historic things, architecturally and culturally, that make our city unique. Fight the urge to bulldoze or go for the quick fix. Do not rebuild expensive instant slums but do encourage home ownership in the salvageable neighborhoods. We are not, never will be, and should not seek to be Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, or, God forbid, Las Vegas. Preservation of the culture is inseparable from preservation of our architecture. People come to New Orleans to participate in and partake of our culture. If we lose that, we're just another urban area." *Smith died in March 2012.

What mistakes must we avoid at all costs?

Okyeame Haley | Attorney

  "Avoid quick fixes like numerous charter schools and casinos. Avoid rewarding those who demonize the poor."

Roberto Quintal | Cardiologist

  "We have to prevent the clustering of poverty in certain areas of the city. This type of economic segregation is, I believe, the principal culprit of high crime rates."

Lynette Colin | Branch manager, HOPE Community Credit Union

  "We must circumvent the segregation that existed in many low-income neighborhoods, i.e., the 9th Ward. And even further, we must prevent the erosion of infrastructure. We must provide for access in those communities where there is only limited availability or no existence at all of essential business services, such as financial institutions, shopping facilities, etc., only those that prey upon the residents of those communities."

Don Marshall | Executive Director, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation

  "What mistakes must be avoided? Segregation in our schools, our neighborhoods, our businesses and institutions and in our minds. Lack of respect and support for education. Lack of proper training for our workforce. Poverty and unemployment. Wages that don't reflect the cost of living. Inability to see past perceived differences and work together for the good of the entire community. We need hospitals working together, schools working together, races working together, politicians working together. Constantly lowering our standards and expectations. Not having floodgates at all canals where they meet the lake. Underpasses that allow water to flow all over the city instead of using the railroad tracks as a second levee — and not filling in the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet."

— To read the entire article, click here.

For more Katrina 10 coverage, click here.


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