Culture,  Politics

Katrina Didn’t Do It

I wrote last week about the alarming murder rate in post-Katrina New Orleans—nine murders in the first eight days of 2007 (previous post). I also pointed out that the problems that New Orleans is facing are not mainly due to Katrina. Katrina merely exacerbated problems that were there before the storm.

I’m finding that more and more people are coming to this same conclusion about the Crescent City. Not only did Nicole Gelinas warn over a year ago that the pre-Katrina dysfunction of New Orleans would cripple its recovery, but now Adam Nossiter of the New York Times is saying the same thing. He writes:

“The new doubts, surprisingly, are largely not based on the widespread damage caused by the flood. Rather, crippling problems that existed long before Hurricane Katrina are mostly being blamed for the city’s failure to thrive. . . Hurricane Katrina may have brutally recalibrated the city’s demographics, setting New Orleans firmly on the path its underlying characteristics had already been leading it down: a city losing people at the rate of perhaps 1.5 percent a year before Hurricane Katrina, with a stagnant economy, more than a quarter of the population living in poverty, and a staggeringly high rate of unemployment, in which as many as one in five were jobless or not seeking work.”

Nossiter also suggests something very controversial. Even though the city’s population is about half of what it was before Katrina hit (from 444,000 to 200,000), Nossiter says that it might be best if New Orleans would stay small.

“Political leaders, worried about the loss of clout and a Congressional seat, press for people to return, but a smaller New Orleans may not be bad, some economists say. Most of those who have not returned — 175,000, by Mr. Stonecipher’s count — are very poor, and can be more easily absorbed in places with vibrant job markets, they say.

“Large-scale concentrations of deep poverty — as was the case in New Orleans before the storm — are inherently harmful to cities. The smaller New Orleans is almost certain to wind up with a far higher percentage of its population working than before Hurricane Katrina.”

Pundits and commentators who pine away for the pre-Katrina New Orleans cannot possibly have more than a tourist’s knowledge of the Big Easy. The problems of poverty, unemployment, and crime were there well before the storm, even though they were hardly noticed by those who were passing through to party in the Quarter.

My guess is that New Orleans will never again be the leading city of my native state. That baton has been passed to the capital, Baton Rouge—maybe for the better. The fact that the rest of the Gulf Coast (even Mississippi which got the brunt of the storm) is recovering makes one wonder what the problem is in New Orleans. It’s become increasingly clear that New Orleans’ stalled recovery is not due to Katrina.


  • Shane

    As one who went to New Orleans the day after Katrina hit I can totally agree with this. I, along with 60 other paramedics and emt’s went there looking to help out a devastated area. What we found when we got there was an overwelming cynical state. Most people who were left were just rude. I had never been treated by someone I was helping so badly. I knew then that the city would have problems ever balancing itself. When the evil is so bad that it out does the good, what Biblically happens to the city? Just something to look into the future with.

  • Celucien L. Joseph

    Repent or Perish
    13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

  • Joe Kennedy

    Shane, I appreciate your effort to help here. I evacuated two days prior to the hurricane- to my family’s home in Mobile, Alabama. I agree many people can be rude here. In fact, most are by nature. They’re lost.

    But when you say that the bad outweighs the good… it bothers me. Here’s why. How do you know what good is here? I would say you don’t know. To say that the bad outweighs the good is to be speaking in complete ignorance. It’s a complete insult to the people here, like me and my church, and the thousands of volunteers we’ve had come through our church.

    After the hurricane we had people claim it happened because of our sin. I say to those people that they are blind to their own sin. Celucien is right, to a certain extent. Our sin isn’t greater than that of anywhere else. In fact, I would go so far as to call this storm a blessing. The bad here is indeed bad. The government is corrupt. Most people are downright mean. But God has not left us nor forsaken us.

    So I’m trying my best not to get really upset, but your comment at the end was very rude itself. Besides, when did we become works-based? Where is grace in your comment?

  • Shane

    I didn’t mean to offend you with my earlier comment. I understand that there is some good left in New Orleans. But my experience and what I wrote my comment on was the experience I had with the ones that were left behind. But when most people are mean, as you even agreed in your comment, then you will have a hard time balancing life. The only true hope is in God. It’s hard whit a city of that size and all the corruption that it has. I know that there are many Godly men and women working to rebuild and give people a chance. God does wonderful things and miracles with people who are willing. I applaud you for sticking with it. May God Bless You.

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