Mark pointed the NOLA bloggers to da po blog’s take on Andrés Duany’s article on New Orleans in BusinessWeek. (Feel free to read the article and the post/comments before checking back in here). Here are some of Duany’s statements that da po’ boy emphasized:
I realized at that instant that New Orleans is not really an American city, but rather a Caribbean one … then I thought that if New Orleans were to be governed as efficiently as, say, Minneapolis, it would be a different place—and not one that I could care for …
… One way to leisure time is to have a low financial carry. With a little work, a little help from the government, and a little help from family and friends, life could be good! This is a typically Caribbean social contract: not one to be understood as laziness or poverty—but as a way of life.
It is a lifestyle choice, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it.
My first thought on reading this: Tell this to the families of murder victims whose killers walk the streets due to inefficient government, the parents who work two or three jobs and save to keep their kids out of NOPS and the accident victim whose ambulance is delayed by potholes, uncoordinated lights and drivers who don’t have the common bloody courtesy to pull over for an emergency vehicle.
Understand that Duany wrote this article to justify alternatives to current American building standards – “drawings, permitting, contractors, inspections” – that put up blockades to affordable housing, and not the dangerously fine social line between a laissez-faire joie de vivre and abject apathy. His is not an excuse for the high high highs and low low lows that characterize this city. Let’s not confuse cultural accomplishment to date with an effective society, especially when we host a murder a day and some banana republics have it more together than us. If culture were my only criterion for an American city, New Orleans would win hands down, but as (for just one example) my own recent goat rodeo with the City Of No’s parking division* attests, we have miles and miles to go before we rest on any laurels, folks.
Like it or not, we are still the 18th state of the Union and would do better to abide by the standards of infrastructure and effectiveness of other states (no, not the federal government, which couldn’t find its way out of a wet manila envelope) to meet our own state’s motto of union, justice and confidence. As I commented at da po blog, we can have the best of all, it is not an either-or proposition. It’s not America vs. New Orleans or bust. For as another commenter astutely observed, “Culture is how you lay out the roads in your city, infrastructure is how many potholes exist in those roads … I’ve also heard that an ambulance will show up in Minneapolis 4 minutes after you call in an emergency, anywhere in the city. You can have that same sort of response in New Orleans, too. It has nothing to do with culture.”
Res ipsa loquitur. Why can I not have both the most breathtaking amount of festivity and bonhomie and preeminent levels of service, response and conscience on the part of my government and fellow citizens? And I mean all citizens, not just the same ones I read about and meet over and over again in recovery circles. If we put the same amount of soul and determination into rebuilding and demanding the best of this city as we do a Mardi Gras costume, Jazzfest art and a school band, we would then be world class. And don’t ever tell me one person cannot chill when required and then step to it when the occasion demands. Never state that the free spirits that fill this city with its art, music, soul and culture don’t have the gumption and can-do attitude to accomplish things logistical and lasting. Work hard, play hard, demand the best!
Do we have it in ALL of us, each and every one of us from the Iberville projects to the mansions on St. Charles Avenue and beyond? That’s what is required. Or we’re done.
* to be explained in an upcoming post – until then, hold your goats