Friday, January 27, 2006

Don't Cry Me a Chocolate River

One paper admits that it screwed up in covering the Whiplash Nagin 'chocolate city' comments. The paper edited out the 'chocolate city' comments from the story, and readers had no clue that there was even a kerfuffle.
Courier-Journal readers got pretty much all of the AP-reported God stuff in the version of the paper they received on Jan. 17.

But Nagin's reference to "chocolate New Orleans" had been edited out of that same story in these pages. Instead, our version read, "Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be rebuilt and again will be 'a majority African American city.' "

C-J readers would not see the controversial "chocolate" reference -- which was all over TV news and the Internet starting at the crack of dawn on the 17th -- in their own newspaper until a day later, on Jan. 18. That's when the Courier printed an AP story about the mayor's apology for his earlier invocations of God and chocolate.

So, what gives?

The short answer: We messed up.

It's not a monumental goof, but it's one that fuels suspicions some readers have about the news media in general and this newspaper in particular. That's why I'm addressing it today.
Meanwhile, MSNBC is worrying over a report that the racial makeup of New Orleans will never return to its former condition. Is this such a bad thing? We know how successful things were the way the city was run before Katrina, which is to say not well at all.
The city of New Orleans could lose up to 80 percent of its black population if people displaced by Hurricane Katrina are not able to return to damaged neighborhoods, according to an ongoing university study.

“This means that policy choices affecting who can return, to which neighborhoods, and with what forms of public and private assistance, will greatly affect the future character of the city,” according to the Brown University study, which is being funded by the National Science Foundation.

The lead researcher, sociology professor John Logan, determined that if the city’s returning population was limited to neighborhoods undamaged by Katrina, half of the white population would not return and 80 percent of the black population would not return.
The concern seems to rest that there's a perception that the rebuilding will push black people out of New Orleans. One has to wonder just how much of that concern is based on compassion and how much is a political calculation and pandering to get votes. This is, after all, what Whiplash Nagin was talking about in his chocolate comments.

From the article:
It found the storm-damaged areas had been 75 percent black, compared to 46 percent black in undamaged areas of the city. It also found that 29 percent of the households in damaged areas lived below the poverty line, compared with 24 percent of households in undamaged areas.
The breakdown of people who were displaced shows that more than half the people in the damaged neighborhoods were renters - not owners. They don't have any reason to stick around and wait for something to be rebuilt - they can go anywhere that they can find housing. And that they're black or white is secondary. They've already lost whatever they had, and they can get back on their feet through aid programs regardless of where they end up. They've got to wonder why they should wait around for New Orleans to be rebuilt when they can go to Houston or Dallas, or Baton Rouge where the infrastructure is functioning and can find housing easier than waiting for rebuilding to take place.

It's the property owners who have the most to gain or lose from rebuilding - they have to wait and see whether they can be made whole through any of the proposed plans to assist folks who were flooded out by Katrina and who didn't have flood insurance. It's the property owners who have an incentive to come back and rebuild. Ownership in the property incentivizes people to rebuild and stay in New Orleans more than any other factor.

In other news, Local New Orleans hospitals are wondering where the money is for their continued operations.
Stunned subcommittee members said officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency had assured them that the agency had sent $400 million to Louisiana to pay for storm-related health-care services. The members also said they thought Congress had removed the main policy barriers that were blocking funding from flowing through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services immediately after the storm.

But hospital officials appearing at the state Supreme Court building on Royal Street said they have yet to receive a penny.

"I have not seen that funding," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the medical director for the state Department of Health and Hospitals. "All I keep doing is filling out applications for funding."

Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina tore through the region, matters of survival have been supplanted by financial concerns for many New Orleans-area hospitals. Some face huge costs to rebuild damaged facilities. Others have reopened but are straining to deal with an influx of new patients, many of whom are uninsured and unable to pay for services.
So where's the holdup in assuring that these crucial services are funded? So if Congress appropriated the money, FEMA and DHHS say that the money was given to the state, and the hospitals have yet to receive it, where did the money go? Is the state government holding onto the money, or is FEMA and DHHS still so screwed up that they're sitting on money that should have gone to these hospitals.

And where is Whiplash Nagin and Gov Blanco to press the case? Getting critical infrastructure would be the key to rebuilding New Orleans, but their focus seems elsewhere. Go figure.

And here's yet another example of New Orleans being New Orleans.
A study by the watchdog Bureau of Governmental Research released Thursday concludes that the different assessors, who were directed to reappraise property to reflect Katrina's flood damage, did so in wildly different ways. The report, which examined only unflooded areas, concludes that the haphazard pattern of appraisal in the city, already well-documented, has only gotten worse since the storm.

It's likely to provide another powerful argument for overhauling the city's appraisal structure -- unique in the United States -- in which seven independently elected assessors set values in their own districts in often starkly different ways.

In general, the report says, residents of unflooded areas of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th districts received no reductions in their 2005 assessments, while their neighbors in dry areas of the 3rd -- particularly the Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater -- and 6th and 7th districts saw their assessments drop as much as 50 percent.

The contrast, in some areas, is inexplicable and striking. For example, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson did not change the valuation of many unflooded homes on Carondelet Street. But just a few blocks uptown, 6th District Assessor Albert Coman cut in half the valuation of similarly dry Carondelet homes.
Assessment and valuation of property is crucial to determining the tax base and revenue for a municipality so that if there are serious problems in the process, they'll severely affect the rebuilding process and stunt the growth of the affected areas.

Technorati: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; .

No comments: