It’s Been Two Years and We’ve Been Wondering the Same Thing

How long do you get to live someplace else, but still vote in New Orleans?

NAACP Challenges Louisiana Voter Purge
The NAACP filed a civil rights lawsuit Thursday challenging a purge of Louisiana voters believed to have registered in other states following Hurricane Katrina.
In the federal court action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contends that the purge has already begun without the necessary pre-approval of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Because of its history of racial discrimination before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, voting changes in Louisiana and other Southern states must be approved by federal officials.
On June 15, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne announced that his agency was mailing notices to 53,554 voters saying they must give up their registration in other states or risk losing the right to vote in Louisiana. Dardenne said the state had compared Louisiana voter roles with those of other states and identified people with identical names and dates of birth.
Voters were given one month to prove they had canceled their out-of- state registrations. After that, they had to appear in person at their voter registrar’s office with documentation that their non-Louisiana registration had been canceled.
On Aug. 17, election officials said more than 21,192 people had been dropped—the majority from areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Of those, 6,932 were from Orleans Parish, which was majority black before the storm.

I think the answer is as long as the Nagin and Jefferson types still want to keep their office staff. You can BET Nagin wasn’t elected by people who’d actually returned to the city ~ I’m sure he had a helluva voting block come out of Houston/points beyond. (AND I’ll bet a bunch of those voters are still there.) “All politics AND VOTING is local” is how it should be in New Orleans. If you’re not suffering through the hard times alongside the folks in the city, you don’t need to be casting votes deciding who their elected officials are gonna be.
We were there last month, for the first time since Ivan in 2004. Take this picture, for example. It’s from the window of our room at the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street. Pretty much the heart of the French Quarter.

The second and third floors of the buildings are empty. And it’s not just that block. They’re almost all empty. It’s like a creepy fantasy village, where most of the street level shops on the main thoroughfares are open (it’s a different story on sidestreets ~ two or three shuttered shops in a row at a time), but the floors above are a facade. People work there…but no one lives there.
We’ve been through devastation here in Bangla-cola and, from personal experience and what we’d seen on the telly, knew in our hearts that NOLA would be back, even though it would be a hundred times harder than our little success story. But now we’ve BEEN there. Now we’ve dropped down on the Irish Bayou side of the Pontchartrain I-10 bridge and SEEN NOTHING the whole way into the city. Miles upon miles of bleak abandoned apartments and condos and housing tracks by the thousands. There’s nothing scarier than the small, derelict amusement park in horror films. Look to your left and there Six Flags sits…rotting. Those massive, empty rollercoasters black against the sky. It’s all still standing ~ all the businesses, buildings, neighborhoods ~ all still standing. But now a ghost town of unimaginable scale. And for it to come back to life, it all has to come down first. UNIMAGINABLE scale. I could not stop the tears. Could. Not. From the interstate, you’ll catch a glimpse of blue tarp, the glimmer of siding from a FEMA trailer, or the flash of TYVEC housewrap from the few intrepid souls trying to put their lives back together, but honestly, all you can think is

WHO is the CRAZY motherfucker out there in the wilderness by themselves?!”

God bless them. Honestly. There are no utilities, no neighbors, no NOTHING. And the desolation runs right up to the back of the Quarter. Locals will sit at the Monteleone bar and ask “Where you from?” and shake your hand and thank you for coming. They will ask every single person in the bar, moving from table to table, stopping to chat, offer suggestions and shaking hands. From the bottom of their hearts.
Really. Before we went, major dad and I thought they’d be fine eventually. Changed, of course. But fine. Like us.
Now we don’t see how and we love that city so much, it’s visceral. The enormity of it washes over you like a big, grey wave and you cannot visualize where they would even start. Even if they had the resources and the talent and the political will and weren’t their own worst enemies, WHERE do they start? WHO starts? Starts WHAT? Sweet Jesus, I wish someone knew, ’cause right now?.
We don’t see how.

5 Responses to “It’s Been Two Years and We’ve Been Wondering the Same Thing”

  1. Mike Rentner says:

    I was unfortunately in that hell hole of a city during Nagin’s re-election. From talking to the people there, it’s not true that he was elected by people from out of town. He’s quite popular there among all races. He’s considered a reformer, someone outside the old corruption that is willing to do something about making the place better.
    Yeah, that’s why the city is as screwed up as it is. The people have lost touch with reality.
    The alternative to Nagin was no better, so they said, or even worse. He was from the old corrupt money. I guess they use a relative scale in New Orleans when they say that Nagin isn’t corrupt.

  2. I would sincerely doubt that, Mike. Indeed he was elected as a ‘fresh face’, but I would lay dollars to Dunkin’ Donuts that he was RE-elected by a majority of the displace-ees.

  3. (Not ‘doubt’ your reporting, of course. {8^P Just that the out-of-state bunch didn’t have any impact.)

  4. The_Real_JeffS says:

    That’s really sad to hear, Sis, especially for the folks still there. It’s their home, and they want it to be as glorious as it was pre-Katrina.
    But, honestly, it’s time to admit two things:
    1. Lousiana did it to themselves, starting with ignoring their own hurricane response plans and the looming threat (known years before Katrina was even a dip in the barometer), and ending up with many people there expecting the guberment to save them.
    2. Cities die. The cause is immaterial, but they do go away. Carthage dies by the sword, Pompeii from a volcano……and New Orleans from being in a poor location, aided by corruption and incompetence, and accelerated by a hurricane. That we are alive to witness to this tragedy merely adds to the agony.
    Destroyed cities can be rebuilt. We’ve seen this time and again. But sometimes that takes years. Or centuries. And it’s possible that any future “New Orleans” will not look the same as the New Orleans you remember so well.
    Indeed, I think a rebuilt New Orleans must look different. A good portion of the current city is below sea level! What sense does that make?
    But people don’t like change, even when change is necessary for survival. So everyone is going to struggle with this one for a long time.

  5. memomachine says:

    The federal government has poured, literally poured, money by the billions into NOLA for the past 50+ years with ever greater amounts.
    Enough is enough. I feel sorry for these people but if they can’t make a life there then they’ve got to move.

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