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Naomi Klein, as usual a must-read: Power to the victims of New Orleans  - With the poor gone, developers are planning to gentrify the city

It's a radical concept: the $10.5bn released by Congress and the $500m raised by private charities doesn't actually belong to the relief agencies or the government - it belongs to the victims. The agencies entrusted with the money should be accountable to them. Put another way, the people Barbara Bush tactfully described as "underprivileged anyway" just got very rich.

Except relief and reconstruction never seem to work like that. When I was in Sri Lanka six months after the tsunami, many survivors told me that the reconstruction was victimising them all over again. A council of the country's most prominent businesspeople had been put in charge of the process, and they were handing the coast over to tourist developers at a frantic pace. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of poor fishing people were still stuck in sweltering inland camps, patrolled by soldiers with machine guns and entirely dependent on relief agencies for food and water. They called reconstruction "the second tsunami".

There are already signs that New Orleans evacuees could face a similarly brutal second storm. Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how "to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic". The council's wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels.

Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: while their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatised French Quarter (where only 4.3% of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down. "For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans's reputation means a great place to have a vacation, but don't leave the French Quarter or you'll get shot," Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labour organiser told me the day after he left the city by boat. "Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification - poor people."


by Fran on Sat Sep 10th, 2005 at 01:33:18 AM EST
... to prove how the priorities of the American politicians are set, compared to those from Sri Lanka. Somehow, the alarming news from Sri Lanka doesn't really surprise me so much... Politicians and fishermen, they're two different kinds of people in Sri Lanka (can I say castes?). If suddenly all money would be poured into repairing only the French Quarter and the business district, then you're at the same level of Sri Lanka, just patching up the tourism flux and leave the rest fend for themselves.

The concept of gentrification is a good one, and it is working well in (most) places, as long as you don't force people to live someplace they don't really want to. Gentrificating an ENTIRE city, though, seems pretty impossible to me... Still, making the French Quarter more accessible sounds like a fine idea. Let's just see what's been done with it...

by Nomad on Sat Sep 10th, 2005 at 09:59:24 AM EST
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