Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Orleans. . .Will It Be Lost?

Last Sunday, The New York Times published a sobering editorial about New Orleans.

As hard as it is to conceive, this great American city may be lost forever.

Three months after Katrina, in spite of all of the early promises and political posturing, there is still no solid, tangible commitment, no plan, no real discussion about rebuilding the levies to secure whatever future city might have a chance of rising from the rubble that is New Orleans today.

To lose this city would be a national tragedy and, frankly, a disgrace for all of us.

If you haven't already, I hope you will read the editorial.

You will find it at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/opinion/11sun1.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fEditorials.

What we decide to do about New Orleans will reveal a great deal about our national attitude and priorities regarding urban poverty, race, economic renewal and compassion.


Anonymous said...

The Times piece nails it--thanks, Larry!

I've been thinking about redemption a lot lately, and especially as the Tookie Williams case got increased media coverage over the last week.

Generally speaking, I choose to be inspired and hopeful, and I cannot help but think most Americans have similarly been touched by New Orleans--aome as tourists, and now as witnesses to Katrina, and perhaps awakened to issues of urban poverty--and I refuse to accept any "deviating down" (in the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan's words) of expectations. We have every right to expect our leaders to fund a full recovery of the city. If the shoe was on the other foot, and it was my hometown, I would expect nothing less from my elected officials and from years of paying federal and state taxes.

I think the New Orleans recovery is a test for how we as a nation view redemption, and I am encouraged that the federal and state governments have a mandate to rebuild--and that they recognize it--and I am disheartened and angry that they have continued to starve domestic needs for a protracted, ill-conceived war.

But it's not too late.

Charles said...


I'm definitely not defending the government's "pretend we forgot" policy, but does it make sense to rebuild New Orleans where it is? With coastal erosion bringing the city even closer to being an artificial island, wouldn't it be better for the residents and the taxpayers to rebuild further up the river? It might be more expensive, especially if we wanted to move historic buildings, but I just don't see a better-fortified New Orleans lasting long enough to justify the expense.

Overall, I'd rather spend the money on the evacuees, on people, than on a place. But I'd like to hear more from the other side.


IBreakCellPhones said...

As I understand it, the older sections of New Orleans are on higher ground--for instance, the French Quarter is actually above sea level. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

As land reclamation technology got better, the swamps were drained (as they were in Washington, DC) and buildings were built. However, this land was recognized as subject to flooding and therefore went on the cheap, similar to the Cadillac Heights neighborhood in Dallas. The Netherlands gets away with it because North Sea storms (again, this is my understanding), while ferocious, don't pack as large of a punch as hurricanes.

Expensive land makes for richer residents; cheaper land makes for poorer residents. In each case, it's what they can afford. When the disaster strikes, water flows into the lower sections--where the poorer people live. They get innundated, the older and richer sections of town don't.

Now, the city of Dallas bought all the land in the Cadillac Heights neighborhood and evicted the people who lived there to get them away from the constant flooding. Is this something worth considering for parts of New Orleans? I understand that there are some things that can't be moved (like the port) and some things that don't need to be moved (like the French Quarter, on higher ground). But there are parts that should be moved so that this doesn't happen again. Yes, it may make life difficult, but should every part of it be rebuilt where it's at?

Anonymous said...

This is completely unrelated, but what would you do with a single mom who has been in and out of our church over a 7 year period, has been loved and nurtured, given money, car, etc. but has not made any attempts to get out of her sinful, rebellious lifestyle? She has been in several home groups and has left them all "drained dry." She's back again and will be homeless in about 3 days unless we do something. She has a newborn child and an elementary school aged kid. She just doesn't seem to want to get better. A couple in our church is considering letting her live with them. Do you think it's possible that it wouldn't be the right thing for them to do? I'm worried it might damage their marriage.
If you don't have time to reply to this I understand. I really do value your opinion.
RB in FW

Larry James said...

Tough one, RB.

I know that we get pretty "tough" with folks like this, at times in an attempt to get to the bottom of what is going on inside. We don't always succeed.

Not knowing this person, it is hard for me to say much more.

Are drugs or alcohol involved? Sexual addiction? What was her childhood/home like growing up? Has she ever been to a treatment program? Has she seen a counselor?

Sounds like trying the same thing again won't produce any new result.

You likely have two options:

1) Let her go. And tell her why you are doing so. Be dead honest about your feelings and your reasons. Advise her about the impact of her choices on her children.

2) Give her one last chance and tell her that. Establish performance bench marks for the next 90-120 days. Develop a clear plan as to what she must do and accomplish, including getting a job and moving out, by your target date. If she fails your requirements, let her go.

Like the parable of the talents, not everyone is ready to really take positive advantage of the opportunities offered. So many more are ready. We try to work with those who aren't playing.

That being said, this person may have other deep-seated emotional/mental issues that require professional help.

I do know this, you have to get really honest with people like this. Wish I could talk to her. Call me if you like--214.823.8710 ext 16.

Anonymous said...

"Those who put their faith in the Risen One and work for a world more just, who protests against the injustices of the present system, against the abuses of unjust authorities, against the wrongfulness of humans exploiting humans, all those who begin their struggle with the resurrection of the great Liberator -- they alone are authentic Christians."

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador
March 26, 1978

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your wisdom. You are a good man. I may be calling you for more advice down the road. God bless you.
RB in FW