A Sept. 8 Wall Street Journal story, run in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, finds that New Orleans’ “old-line” elite is already charting a racially-purged future for the city:
[I]n an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin’s administration as chairman of the city’s Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.
He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.
The power elite of New Orleans — whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. — insist the remade city won’t simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. “Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically,” he says. “I’m not just speaking for myself here. The way we’ve been living is not going to happen again, or we’re out.”
Not every white business leader or prominent family supports that view. Some black leaders and their allies in New Orleans fear that it boils down to preventing large numbers of blacks from returning to the city and eliminating the African-American voting majority. Rep. William Jefferson, a sharecropper’s son who was educated at Harvard and is currently serving his eighth term in Congress, points out that the evacuees from New Orleans already have been spread out across many states far from their old home and won’t be able to afford to return. “This is an example of poor people forced to make choices because they don’t have the money to do otherwise,” Mr. Jefferson says.
See our last post on Katrina’s aftermath.