Monday, September 25, 2006

Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

Tonight, the NFL returns to New Orleans, as the Saints hosts the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. Listening to the radio this morning, I heard over and over again how this is a sign that New Orleans is well on its way back, that the city is doing great, etc.

While I will note that it is certainly nice that an NFL game can be played in New Orleans now, and even admit to the likely truth that having the team there gives some emotional boost to the people of New Orleans, I'm a little hesitant to jump in and join the crowds that is claiming that because professional football is back, everything is going great is New Orleans.

A recent editorial in the Times-Picayune highlights the situation in New Orleans as moving, but way too slowly:

More than 1 million people are living in metro New Orleans today, a statistic that is remarkable given the devastation wrought by the storm and its aftermath. Still, tens of thousands of our neighbors have been unable to return, and thousands more cannot live in their homes.

There is $110 billion in the pipeline for the recovery of the Gulf Coast, but only $45 billion has made it to people and projects here -- and much of that was for the immediate costs of rescue and triage. It is crucial to get the remainder of the money to the people and businesses who need it. It is vital, too, for the necessary resources to be committed to the long-term flood protection of greater New Orleans and the restoration of Louisiana's coastal marshes. Neither has happened yet.

CNN has more:

In many ways, the Hamiltons' New Orleans East neighborhood looks like Hurricane Katrina struck last week. Call it a theme in a city still reeling a year after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

According to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, roughly a third of the city's schools, hospitals and libraries remain closed, as do half the city's public transportation routes.

Thousands remain displaced, either living in FEMA trailers or calling a new place home.
....

Parts of New Orleans scream recovery; others scream for it. On one side of the city, you can't find a gas station intact. On the other, all three of Larry Flynt's Hustler clubs are blinking on Bourbon Street.

"We are a tale of two cities," said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have a long way to go in those residential neighborhoods."

However, much of uptown, downtown, the French Quarter, and the business, Garden and Warehouse districts -- all areas that draw out-of-towners -- was "spared from the flooding and they're all thriving now," Romig said.

The city lost about half of its convention business this year, but it should be up to about 75 percent next year, and "things are looking much better for 2008 and beyond," she said. "In many ways, we are back; we just need to get the word out."

I don't want to bring everyone down, but I hope that while ESPN is celebrating the return of football to New Orleans, and all the positive emotions that brings with it, that they take the time to highlight all the work that is left to be done. It would be a shame if the all the attention on the "recovery" and the football game causes people to think that everything is ok in New Orleans. The CNN article above really highlights the contrast in New Orleans; since the football and the journalists covering it will be in the less-affected areas of the city, I'm afraid this won't happen and instead we'll see stories on the contrast of the Superdome, from the squalor of the days immediately post-Katrina to the renovated NFL home is today, giving the impression that all is good in NOLA. Let's not forget that there is still lots of work to be done.

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