Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The following was written by a friend of mine, Lance Hill.  Lance has published a series of commentaries about New Orleans  since Katrina in local and national publications on his experiences during the rescue and race and equity in issues in the recovery.  You can read some of those commentaries at http://www.southerninstitute.info/commentaries/?page_id=2

Lance is the Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, a tolerance education and race relatioresearch center based at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was a community organizer for fifteen years before embarking on an academic career. From 1989-1992, he served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism (LCARN), the grass roots organization that led the opposition to former Klansman David Duke’s Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns. One of the coalition’s founders.

Before that Lance was involved in all manner of anti-racist work dating back to his days in Lawrence, Kansas where I first met him fresh out of high school and organizing the "hippie" community which had grown up around the University of Kansas.  Lance was one of the initial founders of the original Oread Daily back in 1970.

On top of everything else, no one tells a story better.

Anyway, here is what I received from Lance today.


Today the New Orleans Times-Picayune published their first full story on
the Bring New Orleans Back Commission (BNOBC) "greenspace" plan.
Predictably, it revises the history of the plan that they editorially
endorsed and that Brown University researcher John Logan said would
eliminate 80% of the black population. One popular misconception
reiterated in the article is that the only areas slated for demolition
were those under the "green dots" on the planning map.  In truth, the
BNOBC plan, first proposed by the Urban Land Institute in November 2005,
was designed to demolish all homes that flooded--and using that flood
criteria, the result would have been the demolition of virtually all
black neighborhoods.  Race was a key factor in given that the white
Lakefront area was explicitly exempted from demolition (see attached
map).  The homes under the green dots were simply reserved for
conversion to parks and retention ponds--"greenspace."  In the end,
under the BNOBC plan, most of New Orleans residential neighborhoods
would have reverted to woodlands and swamps.

Granted, the BNOBC plan did contain a 120 day "planning period" in which
neighborhoods had to prove they could recover or face demolition, but
given that the residents of these neighborhoods were scattered to 5,500
cities in 48 states and most had no jobs, no means of returning, and it
was illegal for residents to stay overnight even in their gutted homes
in New Orleans East, the BNOBC planners knew that no neighborhood could
re-convene and meet the criteria or deadline.

The best evidence of that the "neighborhood planning process" was a
charade is found in the plan budget on page 57 of the BNOBC report below
http://bit.ly/BNOBCGreenspacePlan) which allocates $12.7 billion for
"heavily flooded/damaged home acquisition" and "demolition and site
remediation."  The budget was sufficient to ensure that virtually all
homes in the flooded residential areas would be demolished. In addition,
although over 40% of blacks rented pre-Katrina, not one penny was
budgeted to rebuild rentals.

More than simply a "green dot" problem, the fear that blacks had was of
a vastly greater removal policy. As the Brown University report found:
"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 analysis by a Brown
University sociologist. Professor John R. Logan, in findings released
Thursday, 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

Finally, the current level of blight is not, as the Times-Picayune
suggests, the result of the failure to demolish homes and relocate
residents.  Since the plan was never to rebuild the city in its
entirety, the city never requested funding to rebuild the damaged roads,
water lines, and sewerage system for the entire city.  Entergy, the
local electric company, asked for and received $400 million in a federal
bailout funds to rebuild the electrical grid for the entire city.  New
Orleans would have adequate infrastructure today if the elite planners
had not been preoccupied with keeping most of the population out of the
city.  Most of the current blighted homes are a result of the failure of
the planners to request any funds to restore rentals and then
subsequently the state's policy of allocating home-owner rebuilding
funds in a racially discriminatory way, according to a recent federal
court ruling.

All of these injustices can be remedied and all neighborhoods restored
if the poltical leadership, locally and nationally has the will to make
people whole again.

August 24, 2010 Times-Picayune article on BNOBC "greenspace" plan

Revised Times-Picayune Map published August 23, 2010 (leaves out
"flood-damaged" neighborhoods targeted for demolition. See attached map
originally published) 

Original BNOBC Plan with $12 Billion Budget for buying and demolishing

Brown University says plan would have eliminated 80% of black community

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