Report To Mayor Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission:
An Alternative Vision For Rebuilding, Redevelopment & Reconstruction
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Hurricane Katrina exposed the City of New Orleans’ great vulnerabilities and flaws. Beyond the flaws in the city’s levee system which put both life and property in harm’s way, Katrina also exposed the city’s tremendous racial and class divisions, and problems that persist with its socio-economic and political infrastructure. Indeed, behind the mask of the French Quarter and the beauty of the city’s Garden District lie a city with segregated neighborhoods, racial tension, high crime, educational inequality and extreme poverty. The task of rebuilding and reconstructing the city presents a unique opportunity to repair not only its physical infrastructure but to also address the social inequities, political challenges and racial imbalances that have persisted for decades.

This report reflects the collaborative work of a variety of legal academics, community activists, non-profit organizations, practitioners and students. It addresses a broad array of challenges that lie ahead of city, parish and state officials as they move forward in the rebuilding process. Although there is much that needs to be rebuilt in the aftermath of Katrina’s destruction, people need more than bricks and mortar if they are to return. The region also needs to create social institutions — political, economic, educational, and others — that will effectively serve all city residents. This report seeks to offer a sound basis for public policy discussions, community economic development, urban planning and political negotiating in the challenging months that lie ahead. This report outlines a set of policies that will help ensure that the rebuilding process unfolds in a way that benefits all New Orleanians, wherever they might be. It is our hope that local, parish and state officials might develop alternative policies and positions based on the proposals, recommendations and analysis that are set forth in the following pages.