Mitch Landrieu

Monday, August 31, 2015

Katrina 10 closes with epic program featuring former President Bill Clinton

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 2:05 PM

John Boutte singing during the Katrina 10 commemoration at the Smoothie King Center Aug. 29. - ZACH O'BRIEN/UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • ZACH O'BRIEN/UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • John Boutte singing during the Katrina 10 commemoration at the Smoothie King Center Aug. 29.


Over the last week, the 10th anniversary of New Orleans has a tale of two narratives: the city’s official story of recovery and a newly heralded “resilience,” contrasted with media accounts describing the growing disparities from neighborhood to neighborhood.

In an attempt to bridge both those perspectives, former President Bill Clinton used his keynote address during Saturday’s commemorative ceremonies to call for a “new unity” in New Orleans, saying the city should both celebrate the progress made since the floods and rededicate itself to overcoming the deeply-rooted challenges that remain.

The foundation-funded “Katrina 10″ program heavily featured the images that have predominated the city’s messaging since the storm: Mardi Gras Indians and John Boutte, Soledad O’Brien and charter schools, Cafe Reconcile, AmeriCorps and Circle Food Store (one of only six black-owned groceries in the country, said owner Brooke Boudreaux). Eight leaders representing the city’s major faith groups — Catholic and Protestant, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism — offered prayers in a variety of New Orleans accents as well as in Spanish, Hebrew and Vietnamese. Bishop Darryl Brister of Beacon Light International asked for guidance seeking meaning in suffering, and the Rev. Elizabeth Lott of St. Charles Avenue Baptist prayed that injustice not be dismissed as a “quirk” of New Orleans.

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Y@ Speak: 10 years and some days later

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 12:30 PM

If Twitter was around 10 years ago, what would New Orleans look like today? (I got in touch with friends and family through, um, Livejournal back then; Facebook wasn't really helpful.) Last week was most definitely a week. We talked about it, listened, goofed around, then Lil Wayne came home, we walked a lot, then cried a lot, then Thomas Morstead ended it appropriately by puking in a trash can.

Because I can't fit it all on here: read Michael Grunwald's tweets on the frustrations of reporting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, all of the updates from Rising Tide X, and the story behind @skooks, in his words.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Memorials and second lines in New Orleans commemorate Katrina's 10th anniversary

Posted By on Sat, Aug 29, 2015 at 4:40 PM

Several social aid and pleasure clubs led a march and second line from the Lower 9th Ward.
  • Several social aid and pleasure clubs led a march and second line from the Lower 9th Ward.

Before he led a procession of city, state and U.S. officials, all carrying wreaths, clarinetist Dr. Michael White performed "Amazing Grace" to a crowd gathered under a white tent nearby.

In marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and elected officials held a somber memorial for the lives lost in the floods, particularly the dozens of people interred at the memorial.

"They are not unclaimed, because we claim them," Landrieu said.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What does "resilience" mean? In new plan, it drives disaster preparedness

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 2:30 PM

screen_shot_2015-08-25_at_2.18.46_pm.png

Resilience: "the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens."

FEMA director Craig Fugate said he loves the word because it means whatever you want it to mean.

And if you've been paying attention over the last couple of weeks, you'd think he was right. "Resilience" has replaced similar words, or been used in sentences where it didn't necessarily need to appear, to define the City of New Orleans' philosophy as it prepares for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has planted his "resilience" seed (or some form of it — "resilient," "resiliency") in speeches throughout his terms as mayor. (And if you're keeping score at home, you can add "vibrant," "new Orleans" and "NOLA for Life" to Landrieu's list.) The word has seemingly grown into a jungle of word salads with business lingo and jargon-y nothing phrases that have taken over dozens of panels, events and speeches this week. Its overuse implied it not only didn't mean anything but that there wasn't anything to be "resilient" about. But the word now defines a plan that the city will look to over the next decade and beyond.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Atlantic conference discusses "New Orleans: Ten Years Later" after Hurricane Katrina

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 11:32 AM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, left, being interviewed by The Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg.
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu, left, being interviewed by The Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg.


This week will see dozens of events related to the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, and today saw one of the biggest — The Atlantic's "New Orleans: Ten Years Later" conference at the Sheraton New Orleans. 

After an introduction by The Atlantic's editor in chief James Bennet, Gwen Ifill of PBS News Hour introduced writer/filmmaker Lolis Eric Elie, New Orleans native and national student poet Madeleine LeCesne, VAYLA executive director Minh Nguyen, writer Chris Rose, former City Councilman Oliver Thomas and Tracie Washington of the Louisiana Justice Center. 

Washington had the crowd's attention, questioning the city's recovery pointing out that 50 percent of black children in the city live in poverty — more than before the storm —  adding that special needs children are being ignored in the New Orleans school system. She also took exception to "resilient," which has emerged as the buzzword du jour of Katrina recovery. "I'm not resilient," she said, scoffing. “I have a right not to be resilient!”

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Atlantic announces full schedule for its "New Orleans: Ten Years Later" symposium

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM

Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later." - THE ATLANTIC
  • THE ATLANTIC
  • Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later."


The Atlantic has announced the complete schedule for "New Orleans: Ten Years Later," a daylong symposium to be held Aug. 24 at the Sheraton New Orleans.

It's an ambitious program, with 15 separate panels and several dozens speakers in less than 8 hours. Among those scheduled to address the group: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, former City Councilman Oliver Thomas, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, Rising Tide author John Barry, Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. and Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indians Hall of Fame.

The panels are free and open to the public, and some tickets still are available as of Aug. 19. Register here. Full schedule under the jump.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Chicago Tribune columnist: "What I was thinking"

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 6:06 PM

Original online title: ""In Chicago, Wishing For A Hurricane Katrina."
  • Original online title: ""In Chicago, Wishing For A Hurricane Katrina."

Kristen McQueary, the Chicago Tribune editorialist who pissed off vast swaths of New Orleans, Chicago, and the Internet yesterday with her wish that a "Hurricane Katrina" would strike Chicago and clean up that city's "rot," has come back 24 hours later with a "what I meant to say" piece.

Here's what McQueary meant to say, according to her:
I used the hurricane as a metaphor for the urgent and dramatic change needed in Chicago: at City Hall, at the Chicago City Council, at Chicago Public Schools. Our school system is about to go bankrupt, and the city’s pension costs and other massive debts have squeezed out money for basic services.

I wrote what I did not out of lack of empathy, or racism, but out of long-standing frustration with Chicago’s poorly managed finances.
The original column, McQueary wrote, came after a Trib editorial board meeting with Mayor MItch Landrieu, who was in Chicago to talk about the city's recovery — and, presumably, the Katrina10 commemoration, which is designed to both memorialize the tragedy and put forward the city's best face at a time when we once again have the world's gaze.

In that sense, it's a PR campaign, which is fine; that's what a traveling mayor is for. But one hopes an editorial board at one of the country's most powerful newspapers would dig deeper than an elected official's political spin, and all McQueary seemed to carry away from the meeting was this:
Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans' City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated.

An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation's first free-market education system.

Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth.
Unmentioned: billions of dollars in federal recovery money and insurance payouts, which had a lot to do with what progress we've made; bootstraps and volunteerism only goes so far. Dumping that kind of money into Chicago, even without a tragedy, would probably perk up things there as well.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Confederate statues receive recommendation for removal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 6:32 PM

Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Update: A second city committee, the Human Relations Commission, also recommended the statues' removal at its meeting following the Historic District Landmarks Commission. Its recommendation will be sent to the full New Orleans City Council. 

The New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) recommended today that four Confederate monuments "may be removed" following a push from Mayor Mitch Landrieu as well as the New Orleans City Council to consider the statues' futures. The HDLC voted 11-1.

The monuments include P.G.T. Beauregard outside City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway, and a monument commemorating the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place.

The City Council passed a resolution considering the statues a "nuisance" based on a 1993 ordinance that calls for the removal of property that "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another." Judy Reese Morse and Scott Hutcheson from the mayor's office said the monuments represent the Lost Cause following the Civil War, in that they were erected during racially divisive Reconstruction efforts to nobilize the cause and have become symbols of white supremacy and ideologies that continue to oppress minorities. Morse said the discussion isn't so much about the men represented by the monuments but "the ideology that caused their monuments to be erected in the first place."

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

City of New Orleans to host public meetings on Confederate landmarks

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 4:45 PM

click image Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Following last week's invite-only daylong discussion on the future of the city's Confederate landmarks, the City of New Orleans hosts two meetings next week that are open to the public.

The Historic District Landmarks Commission hosts a meeting in City Council chambers at City Hall (1300 Perdido St.) from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, followed by a Human Relations Commission meeting at 6 p.m. 

Up for discussion are the possible relocations of several monuments to the confederacy, including a statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, a Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, a P.G.T. Beauregard statue in front of City Park, and the Liberty Place Monument on Iberville Street.

Public discussion began in City Council chambers last month as Mayor Mitch Landrieu made his pitch to relocate the monuments, asking how New Orleans — amid its efforts "to inspire a nation" — can do so while several highly visible landmarks include symbols and echoes of white supremacy. The City Council agreed. Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities also hosted a packed-house panel on the history and legacies of those landmarks — a full transcript and audio of the discussion is available online. Though the historians on the panel held that their perspective of the monuments allows them to see them more as archeological artifacts, they largely agreed the monuments' symbolism should be reinterpreted to reflect their place in today's (and the future's) worldview. "This is an opportunity to take the mythology of the Lost Cause head on," said Loyola University professor Justin Nystrom. "I don’t think anybody wants our kids feeling oppressed by a monument. These are teaching moments. We didn’t learn this in school. Well, maybe we can learn something in the public space."

According to a release, comment cards at the Human Relations Commission meeting must be submitted no later than 7 p.m. in order for participants to speak. The city also is accepting public comments online at www.nola.gov/hdlc or www.nola.gov/hrc. Those comments must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 to be entered into the record.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

'Nuisance' or history?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 8:51 AM

The debate over New Orleans Confederate monuments could become a teaching moment about slavery and the fight for freedom.
  • The debate over New Orleans' Confederate monuments could become a 'teaching moment' about slavery and the fight for freedom.


Mayor Mitch Landrieu did not attend a forum on the fate of local Confederate monuments last Thursday at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. That’s too bad. He might have learned something.

Of course, that’s no guarantee that Hizzoner would have changed his mind on the question of what to do with statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, along with the monument to the White League riot of 1874. He asked the City Council on July 9 to begin a process that would declare the monuments “nuisances,” ostensibly precipitating their removal.

At the same council meeting, Landrieu gave the appearance of offering the monuments their day in court, even if it was a Judge Roy Bean sort of court. He asked council members to hold public hearings and to get comments from various city agencies (all of which answer to Hizzoner) — before drafting an ordinance declaring them nuisances. The council unanimously adopted a resolution putting that process in motion.

In the wake of the Charleston massacre, there’s little sympathy for the Lost Cause, but at last Thursday’s LEH forum there was quite a bit of interest in history. A panel of distinguished local historians discussed the origins of the White League, efforts to enforce “white supremacy” post-Reconstruction, and the lasting impact of these and other events on African-Americans. The historians were not exactly Confederate sympathizers, but none said take the statues down. Instead, they added much-needed context to the debate over the statues’ future.

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