Two weeks after President Barack Obama concluded his first presidential visit to New Orleans, one local chef is speculating about the president's first trip here with the First Family. "They should visit City Park," Metairie resident Travis Smith, 37, says of the Obamas, who have two young daughters. "[Park officials] brought the old paddleboats back to the lagoons and they added some water fountains." Smith, a chef at Gordon Biersch restaurant, has married and started a family of four young children — all since Hurricane Katrina hit four years ago.
Research released during Obama's Oct. 15 visit indicates the Smiths are among an increasingly rare demographic — New Orleans area families with children. The percentage of metro households with kids under 18 plunged to 27 percent in 2008, from 33 percent in 2000, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. Most of the drop occurred after Katrina hit in 2005, says Allison Plyer, a GNOCDC research analyst. In Orleans Parish, families with kids fell to 20 percent last year; from 30 percent in 2000. In Jefferson Parish, where the Smiths reside, families dropped to 25 percent, from 33 percent.
A lack of affordable housing and threats of future hurricanes are likely to discourage family settlement in the metro area until the levee system is refortified and the coastal wetlands are restored, Plyer says. Meanwhile, Smith continues to spice up his homemade list of local attractions for the Obama family, including the Musicians Village and new houses built by Brad Pitt's Make Right Foundation in Lower 9th Ward. — Johnson