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Oct 23rd

National politicians ignore New Orleans, again

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National politicians ignore New Orleans, again

By Judge Greg Mathis

Four cities have been chosen to host the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debates. New Orleans, one of sixteen finalists, didn't make the final cut. City officials were told that it was because the city, devastated by Hurricane Katrina two years ago, wasn't ready to host such a large-scale event. Interesting, considering New Orleans held Mardi Gras celebrations just six months after the storm and has attracted numerous conventions and conferences, many of which bring hundreds of thousands of people into the city. Four cities have been chosen to host the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debates. New Orleans, one of sixteen finalists, didn't make the final cut. City officials were told that it was because the city, devastated by Hurricane Katrina two years ago, wasn't ready to host such a large-scale event. Interesting, considering New Orleans held Mardi Gras celebrations just six months after the storm and has attracted numerous conventions and conferences, many of which bring hundreds of thousands of people into the city. Critics of the commission say that New Orleans was omitted from the final list because politicians don't want to remind the world that the government failed the people of New Orleans.

In the days, months and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the world watched as the American government failed to address the needs of the people of New Orleans. The storm-ravaged city became a perfect case study of the country's inability to address issues of race and poverty. Promises were made to help rebuild the city. But, as the media and the government moved on to the next hot topic, those promises were forgotten.

The current presidential candidates are not doing much to bring attention to New Orleans either. Sure, Democrat John Edwards launched his campaign there. But the issues that New Orleans shed light on - economic oppression, governmental neglect of poor people of color and more - aren't as prevalent in the discussions as, say, health care or ending the war in Iraq. And we can't just blame the Republicans: one of the co-chairs of the committee responsible for selecting the debate sites, Paul G. Kirk Jr., is a Democrat. The other, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., is a Republican.

Hosting the debates in New Orleans would have given the candidates an opportunity to examine the intersection between race and poverty, and to unveil plans designed to adequately address the issue. Instead, the commission used unfounded complaints to say "no" to New Orleans.

America needs to remember how the government failed New Orleans. If the story isn't told often, the lesson won't be learned. The presidential debates would have once again shined a much needed light on the city and would have exposed the bureaucracy and red tape residents wanting to rebuild must struggle with. Instead, New Orleans is once again tossed to the side. And so too are the many poor people of color all around the country who saw their stories reflected in those of the hurricane's victims.

An opportunity for growth and change has been missed. All we can hope for now is that the candidates do what the debate commission was too cowardly to do: go to New Orleans, talk to the residents, learn what's really going on and begin to formulate plans to make sure what happened in New Orleans in 2005 never happens again.
 

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