I found myself struggling to think of anything other than Katrina when looking for a topic for this blog post. It feels like it happened so long ago and just yesterday all at the same time in my memory, and based on some of the research I have been doing, that sense seems to be the same for the city as well. I found a recent article (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0224/New-Orleans-razing-craze-aims-to-clear-way-for-post-Katrina-recovery) that discusses, however briefly, what is being done today to help deal with the aftermath of Katrina. What jumped out at me most in the article was just how much initial work to tear down the destroyed buildings is still being done. The article was heavily laden with statistics, and while the empirical evidence can be overwhelming at time, there were a few that caught my attention; particularly that 2010 Census revealed that 25% of New Orleans residential addresses were vacant. TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT. The statistic is revealing not only of the extent of the damage but of how much still needs to be done.
I am having Core flashbacks with this topic. When I started Core almost three years ago, they told us that if the program was successful we would leave with more questions than we came in with. I have clearly learned something because I am undoubtedly leaving the Katrina discussions with more questions than answers. Why do we rebuild in areas hardest hit before better fortifying the levees? Why would we not? Why are we still tearing buildings down seven years later? Shouldn’t this have been completed within the first couple years? And to get to the question that I have not been able to let go of since starting these discussions: Do we place more value on the social or material rebuilding of the city? I am not sure I have a finite answer to that question, but I think it is one worth exploring.
**Side Note: While on a flight home this afternoon, I decided to entertain myself with the titillating reading of Southwest Airline’s magazine Spirit. In the middle of the magazine was 20 pages devoted to New Orleans. As I read through the information provided about the cities touristy sites, I found a page that mentioned Superdome. It was the only page of the 20 that mentioned Katrina and the line read: "After Katrina, no one thought the Superdome would be rebuilt, but we spent $336 million to not only bring the building back, it make it better than before". While I understand the importance of addressing the tourism industry post-Katrina to boost the economy, I cannot help but wonder how far that $336 million would go to addressing the still-in-shambles neighborhoods affected by the flood.