Wednesday, September 07, 2005

If We All Miss New Orleans--Cui Bono?

Ministers speak of spiritual needs, as well as physical and emotional ones. When it comes to talking about the future of New Orleans, there needs to be a serious, national conversation, the likes of which this country has never had before.

Can we do that? Will we? Because these are the kinds of issues that have to be considered.

DAVID GLADSTONE: In my experience, the culture of New Orleans is sold in the French Quarter, but it's produced elsewhere in many of the neighborhoods that have been devastated by the storm and flooding. And in order to get the real cultural producers back in the city, I think they need to – we'll need to feel safe that this won't happen again, and they'll also need to have adequate housing, which raises a big issue in my mind, because most people in New Orleans are renters. And most of the people who are poor and African American are renters. And the private sector cannot come back in and build housing and charge market rates and have people afford it, able to afford it. So there's going to be – need to be a rather large-scale public – either public works program in New Orleans or some kind of subsidies. I hear companies like Bank of America advertise that they have three quarters of a trillion dollars that they want to invest in struggling communities. Well, why not in New Orleans?

AMY GOODMAN: Curtis Muhammad, we just have a few more seconds. Your final comment, and tell us where the meeting is this weekend?

CURTIS MUHAMMAD: The meeting will be at the Southern University in Baton Rouge. And on this rebuilding question, the – right as we speak, monies – these $10 billion that has been approved, they have already subsidized oil drilling rigs. They have already subsidized the casinos. This city is intended without the people's input to go forward with the casinos, with the condominiums, with the Garden District, with the French Quarter. While I agree with the young man who spoke, I don't think that there is a desire of the leadership of this Project New Orleans to bring those poor people back. They're scattering them as far as California. 300 have arrived in a school, a former teacher of mine. They are all the way up in D.C. These are poor people.

If they find a way to live, they are going to stay there. If the people rise up, which we are pushing for, this is part of what our meeting is about, if the people demand oversight and transparency of all funds collected on their behalf and make priority the reintegration and the construction of places to live for displaced people, rather than casinos and hotels and condominiums, the people will come back.
These are the issues we have to deal with. Not just the political game of "Who's on Top?" We have to engage the wider issue: who is at the table? Who is heard? Who benefits?

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