Nagin left office with a mixed legacy – many criticized his ability to handle the evacuation, recovery and subsequent rebuilding efforts in the city. He’s fired back at his critics and calls out FEMA for the lag in redevelopment efforts. Where the blame lies is open to debate but one thing is clear: progress has been made but things are moving far too slowly.
Data shows that just seven percent of the city’s 283 public buildings, including police and fire stations, that were slated to be rebuilt have been completed. Neighboring parishes haven’t had the same delays. For example, nearly 90 percent of St. Bernard Parish's government buildings are either under construction or open for business while more than 50 percent of Plaquemines Parish's government buildings have been rebuilt or are close to being finished.
Immediately after Katrina, the city of New Orleans was, understandably, concerned with clean up efforts and restoring basic services to residents. However, as time went on, the city had trouble prioritizing its next move. It was important to get residents back home, to be sure, but they needed housing and jobs. Making things happen was difficult, considering the widespread damage and the amount of governmental red tape city officials had to deal with. Because the plan for redevelopment was so scattered, many efforts have moved along at a snail’s pace.
To be fair, New Orleans is a different city than it was in the months after Katrina hit. About 80 percent of the city’s residents are back and newcomers have made the city their home; life in New Orleans almost seems ‘normal’. But a quick drive through many of the city’s neighborhoods reveals that life is anything but normal: abandoned buildings stand as a reminder to the storm that killed thousands and caused billions of dollars in damages.
Landrieu is taking office at an interesting – and important – time. The five year anniversary of Katrina is approaching. He should take that opportunity to reveal his plan for taking rebuilding efforts to the next level. And he needs much more than a plan: he needs action items, deadlines and ways to measure success. Without these, any plan suggested by him or the city council is nothing more than a stack of paper and a bunch of promises that could be too easily broken.
Now is the time for the new mayor, and his supporters, to reveal a clear plan of action, one that would not only rebuild the city but work to eliminate racial and economic disparities that plagued the city long before Katrina’s winds rages through. City officials must work to give New Orleanians reasons to be proud of their home, reasons that go beyond a Super Bowl championship.
Judge Greg Mathis became the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and was elected a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District. He has been called upon as a regular contributor to national television programs, including “Larry King Live,” “Politically Incorrect,” CNN's "Talk Back Live,” “Showbiz Tonight” and “Extra” to discuss his opinions on complex issues of the day, such as national security, unique sentencing, affirmative action and celebrity scandals. He also offers his take on high-profile legal cases.