choices11 Sep 2005
A good article in the Nation discusses the choices we have in rebuilding New Orleans, among them the unappealing but depressingly likely scenario:
When I was in Sri Lanka six months after the tsunami, many survivors told me that the reconstruction was victimizing them all over again. A council of the country’s most prominent businesspeople had been put in charge of the process, and they were handing the coast over to tourist developers at a frantic pace. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of poor fishing people were still stuck in sweltering inland camps, patrolled by soldiers with machine guns and entirely dependent on relief agencies for food and water. They called reconstruction “the second tsunami.”
There are already signs that New Orleans evacuees could face a similarly brutal second storm. Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how “to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic.” The Business Council’s wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels. Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: While their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatized French Quarter (where only 4.3 percent of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down. “For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans’ reputation is ‘a great place to have a vacation but don’t leave the French Quarter or you’ll get shot,’” Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labor organizer told me the day after he left the city by boat. “Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification–poor people.”
The article provides a compelling alternative, however – namely putting the money in control of advocates for actual people rather than business interests. At the very bottom of the article it recommends giving money to the “Vanguard Public Foundation” – anyone know these people?