It’s New Year’s Eve. I’ll be heading down to the Mid-City bonfire on Orleans Avenue tonight to say goodbye to 2006.
2006 was a crappy year, but it was also a year of incredible transformation.
In my personal life, my wife divorced me, we sold the house, and I became a renter again. On the other hand, I’ve become re-acquainted with old friends, and made a bunch of new friends — many of them number among the remarkable, New Orleans activist blog community.
I’m looking forward to the new year. I’ll be changing jobs, and there’s a fair possibility I’ll be going back to grad school. Hello 2007!
I think back to what things were like at this point a year ago, when just a few months after Hurricane Katrina, we were hoping against hope that public officials would rise to the challenge. They didn’t. New Orleans’ recovery is staggering, gasping for visionary and effective leadership, but the brightest spot in the faltering process is that in the absence of leadership, citizens have organized themselves into a formidable force for constructive change. We consolidated levee boards, assessors, and civil and criminal sheriffs offices, got a bill passed to get more offshore oil revenues, and passed a state bill requiring that every cent of those revenues be spent on coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects.
The Saints! What a great story! But I’m still pissed at Saints owner Tom Benson for threatening to take them to San Antonio or Los Angeles when we were drowning. Bastard!
For a variety of reasons, the opponents of change also scored a couple of victories — creating an unlikely alliance of black voters (what I would call Morial supporters), and white Republicans, to re-elect the worst New Orleans mayor ever, and the worst Louisiana Congressman ever.
Here are a few remarks about recent events in the news.
Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes committed against Iraqi citizens. I’m not opposed to the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes, and it’s true that Saddam was a bloody villain — but he was, after all, our dictator. Moreover, I suspect that by his execution, Saddam will simply become a martyr, inspiring anti-U.S. sentiment for generations. Far better it would have been to leave him to rot in prison until the U.S. is completely out of Iraq. Moreover, if Saddam can be tried for crimes against Iraqis, shouldn’t those who sanctioned his actions be held responsible as well?
Our incredible disappearing mayor, Unseen Ray Nagin, has quite possibly been reading People Get Ready in the last couple of weeks. It seems he’s finally mentioned project worksheets as a way to demonstrate his accomplishments of the last year. That’s good, but it’s completely unacceptable that they aren’t publicly displayed. They need to be posted where everyone can see them, so we know what’s being done (and what isn’t being done) to repair our city’s hobbled infrastructure.
The Unified New Orleans Plan has another round of meetings coming up this Saturday, and another Community Congress later in the month — the last round of meetings before the plan is published in January. It remains to be seen how UNOP planners are going to “knit” together the neighborhood plans. From recent comments by Steven Bingler and Troy Henry, it looks more like what we feared — that the decisions about which neighborhood plans make it into the final plan will be arbitrarily made by a few planners, not citizens. I hope I’m wrong.
I wouldn’t bet money on it, but I also hope the mayor finally gets off of his ass, and starts becoming a cheerleader for neighborhoods that are fighting for survival.
Using the explanation that the city’s rebirth is going to be a phased “market-based” recovery is just a lame excuse for a mayor who was never up to the task of leading the city. What, for example, did he ever say about failing schools and rising crime before Hurricane Katrina? Nothing! He better get his sh*t together, or move out of the way.
Finally, Kathleen Blanco will be rolling a boulder uphill if she decides to run for re-election this year, but I wouldn’t write her off yet. From the interview I saw on LPB with Michael Olivier, the Louisiana Economic Development Secretary, anyone would have to concede that Blanco’s efforts to move the Louisiana economy into the future are the most progressive in a generation (transcript, 56k wmv).
Happy New Year friends:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.