Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Americans Think

I can't believe what I read in the USA Today.

Is New Orleans experiencing a crime wave? Undoubtedly.

With the spotlight on New Orleans (such as it is), the media is more capable of showing the city warts and all. Perhaps this most recent poll is a needed shot in the arm. I, for one, think that we New Orleanians are desensitized to all the crime and murder. As long as it doesn't happen in our neighborhood or on our block, we just assume that its gangbangers or drug dealers killing each other over "turf." And we turn a blind eye. Every once in a while a Helen Hill or Dinerral Shavers innocently becomes a victim, and we decry the ineptitude of the "system" for a few weeks.

The truth is that the system is broken, crime is rampant, and the solutions are more complicated and costly and deep-rooted than we can fathom. It will take years of remediation and consistently excellent effort to make lasting change. At this time, it does not seem that we are on this path. Lots of us have ideas on how to improve the world as it relates to New Orleans, but until the leaders get on board with these ideas, begin to implement them, and follow up when needed, the out of control spiral will continue. To simply say, like Mary Beth Romig states, that "All we can say is, statistics continue to point to the fact that much of the crime is taking place in historically crime-ridden parts of the city" is not acceptable. Crime in any part of our city is bad. We simply can't turn a blind-eye to where the crime is occurring.

Everyone who is killed or is a victim of a crime is someone's son or daughter. And each killing and crime effects us whether we like it or not. From this point forward, the crime will effect New Orleans financially. Maybe that's what it takes to get the city's attention. Who wants to visit a war zone on their vacation, even if the food is divine and the attitude laid back?

But it boggles my mind that Americans, our fellow countrymen, (33% of them) think the French Quarter was one of the most severely damaged parts of the city. But even more frustrating and unimaginable is the 26.5% who still thought some parts of the city were flooded.

New Orleans has a real chance to fix some of the things that are wrong with it - 30+ years of neglected public education, a broken housing system, and a laundry list of other urban ills. I don't care where it starts, as long as it starts happening soon.

The Sugar Bowl, the BCS Championship, Mardi Gras, and the NBA All-Star game are coming soon. The sports media loves New Orleans, and they take the opportunity to highlight positives. Mardi Gras is its own press release for New Orleans. I think New Orleans needs to take advantage of the positive press in the next few months and make lasting, meaningful changes; changes it must make to continue to right generations of wrongs and continue to be a world class city.

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