And GOP should tout the news
With Hurricane Isaac menacing New Orleans as Republicans meet in Tampa, the national media are reminding everyone how badly President George W. Bush screwed up the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Bushs real New Orleans legacy isnt those images of storm survivors desperate for food and water. Its New Orleans spanking-new flood-protection system — which helps protects the city from a catastrophic repeat.
Seven years on, the images from Katrina remain indelible: survivors begging outside the citys Convention Center and Superdome; rescuers terrified to enter the lawless metropolis without armed guard.
Yet New Orleans has moved on. Visit now, and you wont find a city wallowing in self-pity, but one whose people have rebuilt.
Thats a small miracle. In 2005, people worried that the floodwaters had washed away the historic city forever. Yet the Big Easy has regained a population of 361,000 — nearly 80 percent of the pre-Katrina level.
And New Orleanians have rebuilt without bitterness. They arent angry partly because they know that they cant blame outsiders — not even Bush — for their woes back then.
The failures of the levees? Yes, the feds were responsible for maintaining them — but local officials were responsible for holding the feds accountable.
Yet New Orleanss regional levee boards had long been fonts of corruption. Local appointees to the boards were more interested in who was paying the restaurant tab than in making sure the water stayed out of peoples homes and workplaces.
The post-Katrina lawlessness, which slowed rescues and added to Katrinas death toll of 1,836? The New Orleans Police Department couldnt keep order after the storm because it couldnt keep order before the storm.
Even in a good year, New Orleanss murder rate, per capita, is 11 times New Yorks. When people arent safe walking dry streets, they certainly wont be safe once the streets are flooded out.
Both flooding and crime had their roots in the pre-Katrina corruption that infected New Orleans government. Indeed, a federal grand jury has for months been investigating Katrina-era Mayor Ray Nagin for shenanigans related to contractor kickbacks during his tenure.
The reality is that a city that cant provide basic protection to its citizens in good times cant do so in a crisis.
Yes, Bush should have responded more quickly once he realized the extent of New Orleans failures. But he didnt cause those failures.
Anyway, this is all history. New Orleanians who returned to rebuild their city after August 2005 didnt do so only to see it succumb to bad government again.
Since Katrina, theyve elected a new mayor, Mitch Landrieu (Sen. Mary Landrieus brother), who took office in 2010. Voters have also done a sweep of the City Council. And activist citizens have forced the regions levee boards to reorganize to stamp out corruption.
The citys even working on its police department, which saw six officers indicted in a post-Katrina murder case.
Thats a tough slog, though — and the city is far from declaring victory. Residents dont want to come to terms with the fact that even good policing must include the stop-and-frisk procedures to curtail illegal-weapons possession — a technique that still riles more successful cities, including New York.
But New Orleans couldnt have even started to work on these long-term problems after Katrina without the $14.5 billion that President Bush sent it to build new flood barriers. This gave regular folk the confidence they needed to rebuild their homes, their lives and their local government. They could feel comfortable that they wouldnt lose everything to floodwaters again.
Now, Isaac — albeit not as strong a storm as Katrina — is testing that new protection. So far, its holding up, although heavy rain could persist for days.
Indeed, the resilient post-Katrina New Orleans offers national Republicans gathered in Tampa a powerful message. When government delivers on core public works and on public safety, the citizenry can do the rest of the work.
Yes, seven years ago, Bush may have bungled the crisis. But the money that Washington sent to New Orleans when he was in charge helped prevent future emergencies.
Thats the Republicans real post-Katrina story. The GOP shouldnt be shy about embracing it this week in Tampa.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/new_orleans_owes_Be6qnxIJyarhPH41b1hRYJ#ixzz254BTzd64