Jed Horne, former Times-Picayune metro editor, speaks about the current state of New Orleans.
New Orleans still needs help
September 24, 2008
Author: Beth Maclin, Former Communications Assistant, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Broadmoor Project: New Orleans
New Orleans could be wiped out tomorrow if another storm hit it, according to former Times-Picayune metro editor Jed Horne.
“The truth about Gustav is that it could have been a worse disaster than Katrina,” he said. “We are terribly vulnerable, still.”
Horne spoke at lecture hosted by the Belfer Center’s Broadmoor Project for Community Engagement in New Orleans about “Governance vs. Laissez-Faire in Rebuilding New Orleans” last week.
He said the levees must be rebuilt and brought past their current substandard condition if the city is to be truly protected from future storms.
The levees are currently designed to withstand a 100-year storm, which Horne said is only a category three storm. The term 100-year storm means statistically there is a one percent chance a storm of this strength will happen during any given year; it does not, however, mean it cannot happen two or more years in a row. Horne calls this standard a failure when compared with the Dutch levees that are built to withstand a 10,000-year storm. “Grown up countries take this sort of thing seriously,” he said, listing the British and Japanese in addition to the Dutch.
Horne is not surprised the federal government pays such little attention to the levees or New Orleans, despite the importance of the Ohio-Mississippi River mouth and the cultural significance of the city, since it took them a week to get enough buses to the city to evacuate everyone.
The government’s laissez-faire approach is seen as shrewd policy by neoconservatives who tout the healing powers of the corporate sector, but Horne said New Orleans has yet to see the positive impact of investments on the city.
“Shock capitalism, disaster capitalism – we ain’t got capitalism in New Orleans,” Horne said. “But here we are without capital infusion, without corporate support attempting to rebuild a city.”
As the city continues to be rebuilt, it is experiencing gentrification, as seen by the Trump Tower, and Disneyfication, which Horne said will leave a Williamsburg-type town in place of a real city. But New Orleans residents are less worried about either of the Donalds –Trump or Duck – than another D-word: Detroit. New Orleans is seeing “tiny, little posts of revival in some of the hardest hit areas surrounded by seas of abandonment, ruin, plagued by crime,” he said.
But New Orleans has success stories coming from within the community through grassroots activism; Horne compared the action and feeling in the city to the experimentation and revival that happened in Prague after the Soviet pullout in 1989.
Horne said LaToya Cantrell, President of the Broadmoor Improvement Association – a partner of the Belfer Center’s Broadmoor Project, and other local activists “have been paradigms of a new way of community organizing and a new hope for the city.”
The Times-Picayune, including individual work by Horne, won two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He said that during the storm and its immediate aftermath, the newspaper, which had to move online because of no means to print or distribute, became a type of community bulletin for residents. Horne also said the newspaper played a large role in “truth spotting” bigotry in the large, national newspapers and networks coverage.
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