Saturday, December 10, 2005


News from New Orleans: Bad, worse, worst, and worser

Peter Beaumont, writing in The London Observer: In a city where the wealthy areas are buzzing with reconstruction, her neighbourhood, one of the worst affected, is silent and ghostly. 'They want us to be disgusted. They don't want us to return.' ...When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans it was the city's poor - almost exclusively African Americans - who were left to fend for themselves as the city drowned in a lake of toxic sludge. Now, three months on, the same people have been abandoned once again by a reconstruction effort that seems determined to prevent them from returning. They are the victims of a devastating combination of forced evictions, a failure to reopen the city's public house projects, rent gouging and - as in the case of Mildred - a decision to write off whole neighbourhoods. They are victims too of a reconstruction effort that, while its funding remains stalled in Congress, and lacking proper leadership, has been left to the care of the private sector with little interest in the city's poor. As a rapacious free market has come to dominate the rebuilding of the Louisiana city, it has seen spiralling prices and the influx of property speculators keen to cash in on the disaster. The result is one of the most shocking pieces of urban planning that black and poor America has seen: reconstruction as survival of the wealthiest. ...'It is genocide and ethnic cleansing.'... A case in point is the Iberville Project on the edge of the French Quarter, an area now bustling with out-of-state contractors spending their money in the restaurants and bars off Bourbon Street. Despite the project suffering minimal damage, like the vast majority of the city's projects its residents remain shut out. ... Population of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina: 500,000 Present population: 60-70,000 Black population pre-Katrina: 65 per cent; post-Katrina it is predicted by the US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to be 35-40 per cent... More on Flashpoints (December 8 and 9) and DemocracyNow
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