With my earlier post on Drew Brees putting me in a New Orleans mood, it’s worth noting this absolutely superb piece in City Journal by Nicole Gelinas, whose immediate post-Katrina articles were the absolute best at explaining the public-policy issues facing the Crescent City. If I remember rightly, Nicole is a Tulane grad; either way, she understands the city’s civic affairs as few in the national media do. Her article is full of hope and inspiration of the right, well-grounded sort:
The shock of Katrina, it turns out, produced a surprising renaissance in citizen initiative, one result of which was widespread recognition among New Orleanians that all that federal cash wasn’t going to solve the city’s long-standing problems on its own. Instead, engaged residents have kept local politicians on their toes, making sure that they use the recovery funds to transform and rejuvenate the city. They have taught the rest of the country, still reeling from the financial and economic crisis, a lesson: how to do recovery right.
It turns out that instead of looking for a heroic potentate to work miracles from on high, New Orleanians were making smaller-scale, bottom-up changes that would truly help their city. Beginning in the same election, voters reshaped the city council: today, only one of the seven council members is a pre-Katrina holdover. More important is that the members’ résumés are subtly different from those of the old days. Fewer have community-organizing or social-services backgrounds; more have had careers in law, real estate, and management. These new members are likelier to view government as a provider of efficient public services than to consider it a weapon for social justice or a dispenser of jobs. They know, too, that city voters are paying attention in a way that they never have before. As new councilwoman Susan Guidry puts it, the biggest change in the electorate is “the level of citizen involvement” in day-to-day issues.
Read the whole thing. Great stuff.