Lower Ninth Ward New Orleans Today Â© G. Nienaber
It is a stretch for me to publish a press release verbatim, but in this case I am making a big exception. Melissa Landry is the press officer for the Louisiana Recovery Authority. Her office has been very accommodating of the independent media, ie., OpEdNews, and we were the only outside media I encountered in six weeks while down in Southern Louisiana. Mayor Nagin’s office had no time for us, and after several tries to at least have lunch with the press officer, mend fences and get an idea where “recovery” could be viewed, we struck out. Other than Brad Pitt’s project in the lower ninth, there was no real recovery in the neighborhoods that need it most—Gentilly, Lakeview, St. Bernard’s, Greta, and most of the ninth, as well as pockets of devastation everywhere, except for the high and dry wealthy neighborhoods of the Garden District.
In a phone conversation today with a friend in the UK, I made a Jungian slip of tongue and said I was “back in the states.” I meant to say I was back in Minnesota, but as a frequent traveler in the third world, I can say that New Orleans left a subliminal impression.
It is a stretch for me to call Pitt’s project “recovery” when you see that the project mowed down an entire neighborhood and is pretty much cloaked in secrecy--unless you are rock star. We got in anyway. Black activists are suspicious of any “recovery” efforts, since they have been left out of the equation. Racism existed before Katrina and nothing much has changed.
We are going to get skewered for saying this, but racism and the agenda of big oil is everywhere. People are afraid to speak out and have left it to white northerners from white bread country to open the discussion.
It is unbelievable, as Landry so astutely points out, that the Commission on Presidential Debates has rejected an application to host presidential debates in New Orleans! If any area, anywhere in this country, needs the light of the national media shined upon it, New Orleans is it.
I would only argue that Landry’s figure of 1,464 dead is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is statistical manipulation, when the number really represents the number of identified dead. We have reports of mass graves, as well as 20,000 body bags that have gone missing. This is going to take a lot of digging and two independent reporters hardly have the resources to tackle this. A horde of mainstream media might have the opportunity and means if their boards of directors gave the OK.
Still, New Orleans is a terrific place. Art, culture, and freedom of expression are the norm. There is great anxiety, however, that the city will be remade in the image of the white country club set and that golf and a Disney-like experience will frame the future. What is the real reason for the blackout on media coverage that a presidential debate would surely generate?
Here is Landry’s press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 19, 2007
Louisiana Recovery Authority
BATON ROUGE, La. (November 19, 2007) - The leadership of the Louisiana Recovery Authority's (LRA) Board of Directors expressed disappointment with the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to reject New Orleans application to host a presidential debate in 2008, despite broad support by candidates for President, national and local publications and state leaders.
I am disheartened that the Commission on Presidential Debates has chosen not to select New Orleans as host for a presidential debate in 2008. This is a historic time for the city and our state, a time when many organizations and associations have chosen to hold their major national events in New Orleans. Thousands of hotel rooms are available, the Superdome and the Convention Center have reopened and businesses and homeowners are coming back each day, said LRA Chairman Norman Francis, who is also president of Xavier University, one of the colleges involved in the city’s application to host the debate. Just days ago the first streetcars rumbled down the St. Charles Avenue line, the sound of their bells the most recent sign of the progress happening everywhere and everyday in New Orleans. It is regrettable that the committee selecting the location chose not to participate in or to spotlight our recovery.
The city of New Orleans is addressing directly a host of domestic issues that other cities also grapple with from repairing infrastructure to improving schools and bettering health care. This makes New Orleans the ideal stage for the candidates for President to lay out their visions for improving America, from the Gulf Coast and beyond and it is disappointing that they will not have the opportunity to do that, said LRA Vice Chair Walter Isaacson. Though we had hoped for a different outcome, we thank the Women of the Storm for recognizing this valuable opportunity and leading this important effort to bring a debate to New Orleans. These extraordinary citizen leaders play a crucial role in the city’s resurgence after the storms and we commend them for their tenacity and commitment to our city and state.