Monday, November 21, 2005

How ya gonna keep em down in the French Quarter?

Now that they've seen...Houston:

Seeing Life Outside New Orleans Alters Life Inside It


TALK to the people trickling back here, and it becomes apparent that before the hurricane, many had about as much experience living elsewhere as Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist in one of the seminal novels about New Orleans, "A Confederacy of Dunces," who had set foot outside this exceedingly rooted city only once (and rued doing so).

But after tasting life elsewhere, they are returning with tales of public schools that actually supply textbooks published after the Reagan era, of public housing developments that look like suburban enclaves, of government workers who are not routinely dragged off to prison after pocketing bribes.

Local leaders have realized for weeks that they must reckon with widespread anger over how they handled the relief effort. But it is dawning on them that they are also going to have to contend with demands from residents who grew accustomed, however briefly, to the virtues of other communities.

Many evacuees seem to be arriving with less tolerance for the failings of a city that under its glitzy makeup has long had an unsightly side. They do not want New Orleans to lose its distinctive character - after all, that is one reason they are back and vowing to rebuild. But they say their expectations have changed.

"What's wrong with our school system, and what's wrong with the people running our school board?" asked Tess Blanks, who had lived here all her life before fleeing with her husband, Horace, to the Houston area, where they discovered that the public schools for their two children were significantly better. "Our children fell right into the swing of things in Texas. So guess what? It isn't the children. It's the people running our school system."

And your emergency response systems, don't forget. The people Brownie had to deal with.

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