Portrait of Katrina: A Photographer Reflects

26 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

10 Years After Katrina.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former New Orleans police officer convicted for burning the body of a man shot to death by another officer after Hurricane Katrina will learn in November whether he will get a reduction in his 17-year sentence.NEW ORLEANS — It is a wonder that any of it is here at all: The scattered faithful gathering into Beulah Land Baptist Church on a Sunday morning in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Thank you for coming here to honor all we lost when the federal levees broke during Hurricane Katrina and to celebrate what we have rebuilt in the decade since the disaster. We cannot — we must not — fail for a third time.” He promised to reconstruct the city’s health care infrastructure with new facilities and incentives for doctors, said he would rebuild schools and provide local children with better educations than ever, and vowed to rebuild the local economy. Homeowners who spent elevation grants on other renovations after Katrina should be forgiven, and people who didn’t have enough money to finish rebuilding should be offered more.

Four-fifths of the city lay submerged as residents frantically signaled for help from their rooftops and thousands were stranded at the Superdome, a congregation of the desperate and poor. From the moment the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina dismantled a fatally defective levee system, New Orleans became a global symbol of American dysfunction and government negligence.

At every level and in every duty, from engineering to social policy to basic logistics, there were revelations of malfunction and failure before, during, and after Katrina. New Orleans’s economy is thriving, a new $1.1 billion hospital has opened with another being constructed, the school system has been overhauled, and the city is now protected against a 100-year storm with a $14.5 billion levee system that is far better than its predecessor. Obama’s own listing of accomplishments acknowledges with more than a dozen references to “partners.” But the recovery was also helped by a federal spending spree authorized during both the George W. The city that exists in 2015 has been altered, by both a decade of institutional re-engineering and the artless rearrangement that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves.

Its poorest residents have received few benefits from its revived economy, the school makeover may not be quite as successful as boosters claim, and some advocates worry that a new hospital will cater to a rich clientele at the expense of services to the poor. But it will take much more to repair the system, and it is essential for the city to be reimbursed fully for the damage done by the federal government’s broken levees. And there were reasons to believe that failure was likely: The region’s economy and its health and school systems had been performing poorly for years, said Allison Plyer, executive director and chief demographer of the Data Center, an independent research organization that focuses on Southeast Louisiana. “Disasters are known to accelerate pre-existing trends,” she said, adding, “so that didn’t bode very well for New Orleans, which was doing poorly prior to Katrina.” But the response to Hurricane Katrina managed to break that trend. During the worst of the national recession from 2008 to 2010, the New Orleans area lost just 1 percent of its jobs compared with 5 percent nationally, according to a recent report by Ms. One is booming, more vibrant than ever, still beautiful in its best-known neighborhoods and expanding into places once written off; the other is returning to pre-Katrina realities of poverty and routine violence, but with a new sense of dislocation for many as well.

Congress approved the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act in 2006, promising that Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama would get 37.5 percent of royalties on new drilling starting in 2017. Violent crime remains a chronic condition, and efforts, both federal and local, to fix the city’s criminal justice system have had mixed results: While the city’s jail population has been substantially reduced, the incarceration rate is more than twice the national average. Dozens of new community clinics have opened in 60 sites around Greater New Orleans compared with just a handful operating in 2004, providing desperately needed and mostly free primary care under a federal program. The canals cut through Louisiana wetlands for oil and gas exploration are a key cause of erosion that destroyed 1,900 square miles of land from 1932 to 2000.

In a recent ranking of 300 American cities by income inequality based on census data, New Orleans came in second, a gap that falls starkly along racial lines. Officials created a nearly all-charter system that, while still suffering from vast differences in outcomes between black and white children, has far surpassed the pre-Katrina system in test scores and state rankings. The education secretary, Arne Duncan, called Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” a provocative remark that many say proved accurate.

Others, particularly black residents, see something more nefarious at work. “They want to push us to the side like we don’t matter,” said Janie Blackmon, a champion of still-struggling New Orleans East, home of much of the black middle class. For most of its history it has experienced the demographic churn of a port town and a simultaneous anxiety that it was always on the cusp of losing its character. And as far back as 1722, when a four-year-old New Orleans was flattened by a hurricane, it has entertained a notion that after disaster it would finally get things right.

The difference now is that this proudly distinctive American city has become a giant workshop to test solutions to problems — in housing, education and social mobility — that are confounding the entire country. When you came here on the second anniversary of Katrina as a presidential candidate, you quoted Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “The rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.

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