We are now coming up to 6 years after the federal levee system disintegrated in New Orleans. When we look around, do we see our old neighbors, a resurgence in small mom and pop businesses, and a generally more liveable city than before?
I'd say no.
What we have is more non-profits (so more underfunded and overworked people to handle what city hall used to care about) more parking meter enforcement, more things downtown defined as noise or trouble and cited, more "crackdowns" on public gatherings AND MORE CORPORATE PRESSURE TO REDESIGN OUR CITY TO LOOK LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
Every year since the levees broke, we have had a never-ending cacophony of issues that stand as the year's big ones. Some, citizens win, some they lose, some are a draw. It's important to note that a draw usually ends in citizens losing later.
Post-Federal levee breaks timeline:
2005: Returned residents in Mid City erect sign in September on the side of their flooded business: "We're Still Here, Ya Bastards"
2005: The first farmers market reopens in November, months or years before stores in unflooded areas bother to reopen.
2006: Lower 9th ward residents are finally allowed to return to live, months after all other neighborhoods are opened.
2006: Green dots (of planned green spaces) dot the map of the city drawn by City Hall, covering viable neighborhoods.
2006: UNOP and its Master Plan exhaust city residents confused by its complicated "participatory systems" that are actually neither.
2006: Residents and Common Ground Collective activists break in to Martin Luther King Elementary in the Lower 9 th ward to begin cleaning it out.
2006: Half-hearted mayoral election allows lame-duck mayor back in City Hall.
Late 2006/early2007: The murders of Helen Hill and Dinerral Shavers jointly show the utter lack of ability of law enforcement to handle crime. This leads to the Silence is Violence movement in 2007.
2007: State of Louisiana's refusal to reopen Charity Hospital leads to the emergence of the diverse "Save Charity Hospital" movement.
2007: Mid-City neighbors fight to stop Lindy Boggs Hospital from becoming a retail big-box graveyard.
2007: Locally owned Rouses opens its first New Orleans store in MidCity, welcomed by all.
2008: Federal judge rules residents cannot sue Army Corps of Engineers for the August 2005 destruction of the city.
2008: Snow comes in December, along with hurricane fears for following year. (December of 2004 was the last time snow hit New Orleans).
2008: City bullies low-income homeowners by putting their lived-in homes on blighted list.
2008: Feds win plan to demolish most of the low-income housing with public housing "rework."
2008: City delays reopening the city after Gustav storm, enraging residents spending their money unnecessarily in overpriced hotels and restaurants in neighboring cities. As a result, many residents vow to never leave again.
2009: Severe drought officially grips New Orleans.
2009: Mayoral election elects Mitch Landrieu. Slight hope returns.
2009: Saints win SuperBowl. Too much hope returns to city based on this news.
2010: Landrieu appoints police chief Serpas to great disappointment in New Orleans but jubilation in Nashville (where Serpas had been).
2011: Police cite and shut down creative economy entrepreneurs operating markets, second-line food sales, street music, artistic parades, DIY bicycle shops.
2011: The last hurdles for the destruction of MidCity neighborhood (in order to build a retail development with hospitals as anchor tenants) are pushed aside by city, state and feds. Homes are torn down, neighborhoods obliterated.
2011: Lafitte Greenway design began with neighborhood meetings and wide participation by residents. Sterling Properties uses the feel-good moment in 2011 to propose more concrete and a few extra chain stores anchoring the greenway designed to compete directly with already existing honored local businesses on Carrollton. Neighbors are told it's a "concept".
Many of these (and, oh we could have continued) are lost or won as of 2011. Some are not. The fight against corporate piracy can often be won if we remember our history and believe in our future.