A Hard Look at the "New" New Orleans

With the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming later this month, assessments of the city’s recovery are beginning.  None will have the depth of analysis provided by Open Society Foundations grantee the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center in its New Orleans Index.  Released in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, the Index takes a 20-year view to understand where New Orleans was, where it is, and where it is going.  In essays by local experts, the Index dives deep to understand the state of education, criminal justice, health, community development, and citizen engagement.

Not surprisingly, the situation today is mixed.  Shared prosperity and environmental recovery are two essential factors in rebuilding a stronger, more sustainable city.  Both are lagging in the city’s recovery.  At the same time, the report recognizes that the city is rebounding and transforming in important ways, noting:

The real makeover may be in the new spirit of reform and enhanced self-reliance in the city that have been borne out of these crises. As documented through the "essays of key post-Katrina reforms," citizens and civic groups in the metro area have proactively taken the city’s future in their hands, building cross-sector partnerships to deliver change, often in the absence of local government leadership.

With the impact of the BP oil spill continuing to unfold, the need for continued attention and action in the region remains high.  The good news is that five years after Katrina focused the world’s attention on New Orleans, the people of that city are better prepared to deal with the challenges.  The New Orleans Index is a must read for anyone interested in supporting those committed to transforming the Crescent City.

In the five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the levees broke, residents have developed innovative approaches to tackling some of the city’s—and the nation’s—most persistent problems: criminal justice reform, unresponsive government, and racial and economic inequality.  In recognition of these efforts, during the month of August the Open Society Blog shines a light on people and organizations in New Orleans bringing change from within one of the country’s most important cities. Read more posts in this series.

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