May 22, 2010

THE BAKER WILL THANK YOU FOR BREAKING HIS WINDOW:

Who’s Resurrecting New Orleans?: Mitch Landrieu sees a problem that city government can fix. (Nicole Gelinas, Spring 2010, City Journal)

Mitch Landrieu, who takes office as New Orleans’s first elected post-Katrina mayor in May, is already proving to be a radical—in a good way. “The city of New Orleans is not safe,” he said in February. “When New Orleans is best known for crime, something is drastically wrong. That has to change.”

Landrieu’s calm assertion may not sound like much to someone living in a city used to competent policing. But it’s a revolution for New Orleans. The city’s long-held tolerance of poisonous violence was rooted in some combination of the following beliefs, not all of them in harmony with one another. First, crime isn’t that high; it’s a national media exaggeration, notwithstanding a per-capita murder rate that’s eight times New York’s figure. Second, crime is high, but the criminal-justice system can’t do anything about it; crime is a by-product of illiteracy and poverty. Third, crime is high, but you shouldn’t worry; if you’re not dealing drugs, you probably won’t end up dead.

But Katrina washed away these old attitudes. After the massive hurricane hit nearly five years ago, New Orleanians decamped to other cities and saw that these governments adequately protected public safety. When they returned, they decided that they were working too hard fixing up their houses and neighborhoods to let their city slip back into the old ways. New residents, too, demand some basic protections from the city in which they have invested so much. There’s a strange new sense of self-sufficient competence infusing New Orleans, and citizens are trying to hold their government to the same standard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 22, 2010 9:10 PM
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