Saturday, February 17, 2007

There were three men came out of the west

So, the New York Times suggests that the "brain drain" is accelerating post-Flood but offers not a single fact in support of that assertion. Well, that explains why Professor Ashley Morris, Ray Shea and myself--three educated professional who have returned, some of us after very long absences--now doesn't it? It certainly explains my my nephew returned here with his new wife to attend law school.

I asked a few days ago for an example of someone who was leaving, and now I've gotten it. Reading the littany of indignities, this couple has my entire sympathy, although I think I would have preferred that the roofing contractors have crapped on my roof rather than case my house for a burglary on a rainy day when they had nothing better to do.

I'm disappointed by the story in a few ways, but welcome it as another canary in the coal mine. I plan to send a copy directly to the Mayor's and my council member's emails and challenge them to explain: what the hell are you going to do about this? We have all figured out, I believe, that it's not really up to them, it's up to us.

The flaws in the story's logic may seem small, but I think it is important to address them. Even as U-Haul shows more of an inflow than an outflow, it cites moving van services which show more people moving out. Frankly, so many people lost all of the contents of their houses this is a deeply flawed metric. The people moving back have only what you can buy with a $2,000 FEMA debit card and a partial insurance settlement, if they had flood insurance. The people coming back don't need moving vans. They need insurance and Road Home settlements.

What is important here is that this story is part of a growing conventional wisdom about the failure of New Orleans. A prominent bank and credit card company trumpets a study showing how New Orleans is lagging the rest of the Gulf Coast in recovery, even as contrary indicators begin to roll in. The state finds it has underestimated economic activity in the city, and even the Yellow Pages is putting out an extra edition to accomodate an explosive growth in advertisers post flood, and the study ignores the political disparity in how money was allocated between the states. From all I've seen, anything that trumpets Mississippi's recovery over Louisiana's is either fatally superficial or intentionally biased.

As Poppy Z. Brite pointed out, there are two sides to this story. I think the one everyone who is writing about New Orleans should strive to tell, and to insist that the national media tell: there are people (besides the movie starts) who are coming or coming back in spite of it all. As I've said repeatedly until I almost bore myself, this is the Great American Story right now. The spirit that settled a continent (for all that means, good and bad) is very much alive in one corner of America, where the Mississippi meets the sea.

Bravo! Keep pounding their heads.
Mr. Wet, my original letter had you in there, but I remembered that I didn't think you were telecommuting to ND anymore, so I removed it rather than possibly putting in misinformation. I didn't mean to omit ya, bud.
Don't forget to include the Mrs. Shea,Morris and Folse. Without Team Support it would not have happened. You should also mention the 7 Kids that came along. They all contribute to the long term viability of the City.
Not only that, it also explains why my Yale-educated self, living in Hawai'i, no less, will be spending the Mardi Gras weekend (I believe they call it "President's Day" or "Chinese New Year" hereabouts ;-P ) working on an application for something I found while trolling N.O. craigslist for the umpteen millionth time.

Actually, no, it doesn't (duh!). What you and Ashley have written on the subject, though, just might.

I, too, like the Perfesser (Not Dr A), have sent off a letter to the NY Times with a short description of how and why we left NYC in the first place - to move right back down to New Orleans.

If there is ANY justice in this world, the NY Times will follow up on this with an article about the folks who have moved back and intend to stay.
The NY Times did repent a little with the series on Mardi Gras by rock critic Jon Pareles. (A story ran in Tuesday's paper, and the online version links to several other pieces he wrote while here this week.) All are worth reading -- the idea being that, despite it all, the marching bands and brass bands are fighting their way back, and it's going take more than a few feet of water to drown out the New Orleans sound. I wrote Pareles to compliment him, and he wrote back: "There's no avoiding New Orleans' deep problems, but there's also a story in the vitality of the culture despite everything." It would be nice to see more reporting of that story. It gives hope.

And add my wife and me to the ingress: we moved to NO from New England last fall, and brought our graduate degrees with us.
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Great post
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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