10/11/2005

New Orleans: 40 days and 40 nights after the flood

Building a new New Orleans
The city of New Orleans is reeling. Hurricane Katrina emptied it for more than a month: no people, no commerce. Six weeks after the storm, it is just beginning to sputter back to life. In essence, this is a city that must be rebuilt from scratch...

the old New Orleans - the city that charmed every visitor with its matchless food and music, the city that shared its bounty with the rest of the nation - seems irretrievable at the moment... How do we rebuild a city after three-fourths of it has been full of water for days on end? When [it's] people are scattered across the nation?...

New Orleans is hurting. There are whole neighborhoods in ruins, there are thousands of people who have no home to come home to any time soon. Despite all that, the city is still there underneath the mess. The talent still exists. The history still exists. The powerful river that reaches into the heart of this nation still exists.

[Brain Drain]
Brightest' evacuees weigh option: Return to N.O. or stay?
Creative minds finding opportunities elsewhere.. The potential for a post-Katrina "brain-drain" is a major concern for local business leaders. "It's a huge concern. It occupies almost every meeting I'm in all day long," said Mark Drennen, head of Greater New Orleans Inc., of the risk of losing the city's professional class. "We absolutely cannot afford to lose any of those people.
"Those are the people we need to grow our economy. Those are the people who will be creating jobs for everybody."

We're up, and we're down
Stephanie Grace

To hear Mayor Ray Nagin tell it late last week, the post-Katrina prognosis for his city is pretty darn promising. New Orleans is sitting on "a once in a 300- or 400-year opportunity" to rebuild and ultimately prosper, an ebullient Nagin told a gathering of local business owners trying to get a piece of the massive federally funded reconstruction. "You are sitting in a city and a region where we will probably spend a minimum of $10 billion a year for the next 10 years," he said. "You are in a position to create wealth not only for yourself but for your children and your children's children."
That was Thursday. Two days earlier, the same mayor of the same devastated city was in a very different mood, as he announced, "with great sadness," his plan to fire half the municipal work force. The layoffs are "pretty permanent," he said, and even more could come later.
The problem, Nagin said Tuesday, is that the city has no revenue stream to speak of, and doesn't expect the spigot to reopen any time soon. He didn't elaborate, but he didn't need to, because the state of the three pillars of municipal funding is starkly obvious. Sales tax has dried up. Property tax revenue will be late in coming and much reduced, once thousands of ruined homes are reassessed at their post-storm values. And hotel/motel taxes are way down, with the vast majority of rooms still out of service, and others rented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is exempt from the tax...

his own wild mood swings last week show, there's a lot of that going around. Drive around New Orleans, and you see two cities. One resembles a less-congested version of its old self - livelier each day, lit up by night and slowly filling with people ready to get back to business. The other remains utterly foreign, with sad-eyed mourners in protective gear and rented trucks arriving each morning but departing by dark, leaving an eerie, pitch-black landscape behind.
Talk to New Orleanians who've moved back, as well as those who are still deciding whether and when to do so, and the topic invariably turns to just how they're supposed to feel about, well, everything.
The questions are at once global and intensely personal:
Will businesses, even the ones that want to stay in New Orleans, be able to function if there's no place for their workers to live? Can we count on the cavalry, as Nagin put it, to stick around? Or has donor fatigue already set in up in Washington? Has President Bush finally stopped dropping in for those staged, numbingly routine photo ops?
Which favorite corner haunts will reopen, and which old friends will be around to share a toast when they do?
How can we resume our lives, as Nagin has urged us to do, if we can't put our kids in school?
How is a city full of night owls supposed to function under a curfew, anyway?
And is it really, truly OK to drink the water? It's hard to spend any time at all in New Orleans these days without finding yourself veering between hope and suspicion, ease and discomfort, and of course, joy and despair. There have been many terrible days, as Tuesday surely was for Nagin and those 3,000 employees on the block. But in some places, for some people, there have been more and more good days, too. Considering where we all were a month ago, that's not such a bad way to live - at least until we can manage to get our equilibrium back

NOLA.com: T-P Orleans Parish Breaking News Weblog

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