Thursday, January 26, 2006

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So what do people think about rebuilding New Orleans?

Some of my colleagues here at the University of Chicago have been conducting some veeery interesting public opinion research on post-Katrina New Orleans. Here are some snippets from the press release:

The process of deciding how to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is undermined by sharp racial gaps between blacks and whites about what should be done, according to new research by political scientists at the University of Chicago.

Their project, the 2005 Racial Attitudes and the Katrina Disaster Study, is the first to analyze racial differences in reactions to the reporting of the tragedy and people’s attitudes toward the responsibilities of the victims to avoid the disaster. The research is being conducted by the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, and headed by Michael Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science; Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science; and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science....

Some of the reasons the national consensus is still unresolved may come from the way the disaster was initially reported, Harris-Lacewell suggested. Shortly after the hurricane struck, people were shown images of both black and white people being rescued as well as reports that either described them as refugees or referred to them as Americans.

To test how reporting on the tragedy influenced people’s reactions, survey participants were shown separate television images of both black and white families and asked two questions: “The federal government should spend whatever necessary to rebuild the city and restore these Americans to their homes,” or “Although this is a great tragedy, the federal government must not commit too many funds to rebuilding until we know how we will pay for it.”

Whites who viewed the images of white victims described as refugees were 6 percent more likely to support rebuilding than they were if they viewed a black family described as refugees. Blacks had similar responses, whether people were described as refugees or as Americans, but were 5 percent more likely to support rebuilding if they were shown a black family.

Overall, blacks supported the federal government spending whatever is necessary to rebuild and restore people to their homes by 79 percent. Only 33 percent of whites held that position.

Among blacks, 89 percent felt that the reason blacks were trapped by Katrina was that they didn’t have resources to escape, while 56 percent of whites held that view....

In addition to the work of the team analyzing data, Harris-Lacewell traveled to New Orleans in November 2005 to interview people and attend community meetings. She found attitudes and responses divided racially as well.

“African-Americans blamed local government. They felt that the local authorities had not maintained the levees or else blew them up so that their neighborhoods were flooded,” she said. Whites were more likely to attend meetings at which a plan with modest goals to restore the core tourist section of the city was given priority, she said.

posted by Dan on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM


Kind of a moot point. If actual rebuilding had started within 4 weeks, it might have been done. But at this point, and with no realistic plan for securing NO from the next hurricane in sight (assuming such is even possible, which I doubt), New Orleans will NEVER be rebuilt. Disney might be called in to own and operate the French Quarter, and there will be some sort of settlement to serve the port, but the city as it was will never exist again.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

I'll be attending a conference in New Orleans next week, so I may have an opinion afterwards.

The only thought that occurs to me right now is that we shouldn't assume last year's hurricane season will be the exception over the next 20 years or so. Defending a city like New Orleans from a Cat. 3, let alone a Cat. 5 storm is one thing to talk about if one expects such a storm to approach the city once every quarter-century or so. It is quite another if one has reason to expect storms that strong every two or three years.

posted by: Zathras on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

If political correctness invades this process as it did the rebuilding of the World Trade Center (and yes I am sensitive to the families' pain) NOLA will be rebuilt ina bout 50 years, if ever.

Sort of makes me wonder about the intellectual level of the federal, state and local governments, and the assessment is not good.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

What were the support divides on the Chocolate part?

(God help the politician who calls for a Vanilla city...)

posted by: John Kneeland on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

If you had access to some demographic data on the respondants besides race, it would endear you to readers who try not to be so simpleminded.

posted by: Cobb on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

If you accept that New Orleans should live by the same flood plain zoning laws as the rest of the country, large sections of it will not be rebuilt. Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin could have been protected by a huge flood control dam but it was cheaper (and better for the environment) to just move the town to higher ground and start over.
Flood plain zoning used to be controversial but over the years as floods have wiped out low lying areas and land owners have been forced to move because they weren't allowed to rebuild where they once were. Subsequent flood events don't damage as much property and attract less attention. The exceptions are coastal zones were landowners have so much money and clout they can sometimes game the system.
All across the upper midwest farm towns have died because things have changed. I feel for those folks just like I feel for the folks of New Orleans. But some cities die. New Orleans may be one of them.

posted by: Art Hackett on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

Hmmm...What do I think about rebuilding an American
city destroyed by a weapon of mass destruction?

Rebuild. And do what true humans do. Learn from
your past mistakes.

How's that little ditty go?

Pick yourself up;

Dust yourself off;

Start all over again.

Unless, it's Galviston...Then let that worthless
piece of crap die.

posted by: James on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

It pisses me off that *I* have to worry about whether "we" should rebuild NO at all. People should be choosing whether or not to rebuild their own property, with their own money. If they had insurance, great. If they didn't, tough.

Unfortunately, it seems like the primary (perhaps only) purpose of government is to transfer money from the prudent to the imprudent, or from those without influence to those with influence.

posted by: Sean Lynch on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

It was always foolish to have such a dense population living below sea level. The only economic justification for that was that the rent in those less desirable areas was lower. The oldest parts of NOLA fared reasonably well after the hurricane, those parts should be rebuilt. Those who are foolish enough to rebuild below sea level should spend their own money to do so, at their own risk.

posted by: Tresho on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

Let's ask another question Should St Bernhards Parish be rebuilt? It had 100% destrution of housing and business. It was almost 100% white. What about the Gulf coast to Florida? It was almost totally wrecked. People are living in tents like a set scene from MASH. All of these places suffer from the same problem they are at or below sea level and will suffer each and everytime there is a hurricane yet you adovocate rebuilding coastal property because they might have insurance. I haven't heard anyone say do not rebuild there because the government will have to come a rescue them or they did not have flood insurance.
If you rebuild any of these places where next to no one had flood insurance you have to rebuild those parts of the New Orleans that suffer from the same problem. Other wise the conclusion is America is still a very racist place.

posted by: Robert M on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

To John Kneeland, and those like him,

In numerous actions, varied modes of speech and rhetoric, Vanilla cities are continously called for. Hence, the massive segregation (urban/suburban/rural) of America.

posted by: Junior Cooper on 01.26.06 at 08:23 PM [permalink]

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