Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sustainable Recovery: Carpetbaggers Need Not Apply

Ed Blakely is gone (that's old news), but his departure and other things I'm seeing help me to conclude that we are arriving at a significant and stirring phase of the resurrection of our region.

We are more than four years beyond the levee failures that temporarily crushed our spirits and our confidence in American know-how.

I have been inspired by the ongoing stream of volunteers who come to our city to help rebuild at the micro-level. Church groups, schools, national organizations of every strip--they came early, and they continue to come.

At the macro-level, however, I sense something significant and stirring.

The carpetbaggers are getting bored, and they're starting to leave. You may have experienced carpetbaggers over the past four years. I certainly have.

These are the people who smelled the chance for immediate financial gain from the plight of a city on its knees.

In many cases, we made it easy for the carpetbaggers--witness Ed Blakely. We offered them ridiculous compensation packages because "we" thought that's what it would take to attract allegedly national and international "experts" here to help us.

We didn't have enough confidence in ourselves--in our knowledge, our hearts, our passion, our work ethic.

And so the city and some major institutions in the city squandered precious dollars to bring in people who brought us . . . nothing. (Well, they did bring us heartache and frustration.)

The real action has been at the grassroots. The grassrooots generates its own expertise, and I don't just mean some romanticized notion of the "wisdom of common folk." The new New Orleans features people who take advantage of the explosion of the accessibility of knowledge, and we combine that with hardcore know-how. New Orleanians are great students of human nature. We know what makes people tick.

We are applying all this to building a better New Orleans.

We know how the world works. We can spot a carpetbagger or a "Simpsons" monorail-builder. (Many of our mayors seem to lose that ability.)

We have great meals and and great parties--we know how to live--because we know what motivates people.

We have all that, but because we are naturally a little skeptical--even of ourselves, especially of ourselves--in 2005 and beyond we spent top dollar to bring in "experts" to "lead" us out of our mess.

The good news is that having extracted plenty enough cash to last them for awhile, people like Blakely are leaving now. Four or five years is about all they could take.

The people who remain, natives and truly committed people who came after the levee failures, as well as the people who are still streaming in, are up to something great.

Now is when the resurrection takes a really interesting turn. Our monorail days are over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i hope they take their fleur-de-lis salt and pepper shakers with them when they go.