Our City, Our Responsibility

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Our City, Our Responsibility

New Orleans post Katrina has heightened the question as to who is benefiting from its community regeneration. One of the main sentiments both locally and nationally is that New Orleans is a tale of two cities.

This narrative depicts a city with an unhealthy social and economic balance among its citizens.

On the prosperity side, many would argue that a combination of newcomers, increased millennial presence, increased real estate investment and an economic development strategy which focuses on high level economic clusters is fueling the prosperity.

However, on the non-prosperity side, many would argue that the city historical social and economic issues are contributing to suppressed opportunity. Furthermore, many would also suggest limited education, tourist economy, poverty, high incarceration rates, and the global economy is making it difficult for individuals with limited skills to adapt to change.

The opinions are wide and vary in degree on this issue. The point here is that without consensus as to what’s driving the tale of two cities, its presence only serves to further the divide our city which fuels anger and resentment.

Our task as citizens is to reach a point where a shared consensus on the issue can occur. In doing so, we can begin to work toward understanding this paradox. And as such focus our energy on not fighting the old, but building on new possibilities to create an opportunity city for all citizens.

As a starting point where we all can agree is the fact that we love New Orleans. This fact transcends race, income, class, newcomer status and individuals born here. It serves as the common element we can build on in regenerating New Orleans comprehensively for all its citizens.

You may ask why this is even important. It’s important for several reasons.

First, extreme inequality can inhibit our city’s ability to support private investment, job creation, and more importantly, can stunt the social and civic infrastructure needed to sustain a vibrant community.

Second, New Orleans is a limited resource city. The resources which stabilized New Orleans after Katrina are all but gone. Third, the State of Louisiana has financial challenges with no end in sight. As such, is not seen as a reliable source to support New Orleans in the realm of community and economic development.

And last but not least, the White House’s budget is calling for a $6 billion dollar cut in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development budget adding rocket fuel to ongoing reductions in federal funding for cities.

The proposed cuts would decimate community housing and urban development programs. Even if a compromise is reached, the cuts will be significant. New Orleans has no source to replace the funds at the scale needed to mitigate pressing social and economic issues present within our city.

More importantly, New Orleans recently ranked last in a Brooking Institute study of the top 100 metro areas in the country for growth, inequality and prosperity, New Orleans will need to look inward to solve its problems.

This places a greater level of responsibility on the community to solve its own problems. However, this is easier said than done. Some will want to continue to run outdated playbooks. How the community navigates this challenge shall determine if we can emerge as a cutting edge community to invest, live, work, learn and play.

The question is are we up to the task?

 

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