Creating a Sustainable, Equitable Future for New Orleans

How can New Orleans become a better city for its residents?

Stephen Henderson talks with Ariella Cohen, editor-in-chief of Next City, about how New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the similarities between Detroit and New Orleans, and how cities can improve life for residents long-term. 

  • Highlighted poverty: Cohen says Katrina highlighted the problems that already existed in New Orleans and the US. She says Katrina changed the national conversation about race and poverty, and that people are aware of existing racial problems now in a way they were not before. 
  • Easy narrative of recovery: Cohen says that there is an easy narrative of urban recovery centered on educated white people moving to cities and starting businesses. She says she is afraid that this narrative is “reinventing trickle-down economics”, and that positive narratives about people bringing “energy” to cities are fodder for a feeling of success, while 50% of black men in New Orleans are still unemployed. Stephen says this reminds him of downtown and midtown Detroit, and the division between these areas and the neighborhoods.
  • No quick-fix: Cohen says there is no quick fix for structural problems in New Orleans, and that improving the quality of life for poor residents will require long-term community efforts. She says it does not substantively help people in neighborhoods to have minimum wage jobs with no opportunity, and that there needs to be access to food and better jobs with higher pay available in neighborhoods. 
  • Tension between suburbs and city: A caller asks what Cohen thinks about an incident after Katrina when suburban residents shot at refugees trying to get water. Cohen says that the same suburb had a “blood ordinance” so that residents could only rent their properties to their relatives.  She says this ordinance was eventually struck down, but it demonstrated clear racist and xenophobic intentions. 

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.