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by Ray Mikell
Affiliation: University of New Orleans
Abstract: New Orleans Recovery Case Study (Manuscript Under Review) After Hurricane Katrina's storm surge inundated New Orleans in August 2005, national opinion makers began debating the possibility of shrinking the city's physical size. Formal proposals to do this were created later, after local civic elites and governmental authorities debated the matter. These proposals failed, but in the process helped fuel an increase in local civic engagement. Unfortunately, this study argues, the effect of this increase was muted due to fractured relations between these groups, and these groups and city government. More specifically, the research suggests that Mayor Ray Nagin's administration failed to successfully engage with newly resurgent neighborhood groups, squandering an opportunity to increase cross-city cooperation. The study uses a variety of methods, most prominently among them social network analysis, in examining these concerns. Recent research on civic engagement and urban resilience informs this study. The piece concludes with a list of recommendations for post-disaster policymaking and research on civic engagement in post-disaster planning and administration.
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1 New Orleans Recovery Case Study (Manuscript Under Review) Few, if any, of the national pundits and opinion leaders who wrote about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the historic city bothered to ask its citizens about plans for the city's recovery. Thousands of homes were still underwater from storm surge infiltration when the unsolicited advice regarding the city's future came anyway, fast and hard. It came from self-appointed experts and frequently-cited authorities alike–from journalists and pundits (Garreau 2005), as well as economists (Glaeser 2005), geologists, architects, planners, and countless Internet bloggers. Many of these opinion makers suggested that New Orleans did not need to be (or would not be) rebuilt; if not at all, then certainly not in its entirety. Dennis Hastert, then speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, bluntly summed up the arguments just two days after the storm's August 25, 2005 landfall. "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed" (Katel 2006). These individuals were advising that New Orleans shrink its physical size, something that no large city had apparently done after a disaster in modern-era history, at least in dramatic fashion (Vale and Campanella 2005). Despite this intimidating historical hurdle, and the fact that most residents of the Crescent City's flooded areas were still evacuees, a debate also ensued among the city's civic elite over whether to "shrink the footprint," as the idea to shrink the city’s physical size came to be known. The issue made its way to the top of local policy agenda about three months after the storm, when architects, developers and academics--mostly from other cities--came to town to advise a mayoral advisory panel called the Bring New Orleans Back Commission (BNOB) about recovery efforts. Yet just two years later, pre-storm status quo reigned in New Orleans. All the furious debate changed nothing. The talk did have one unintentional side-effect, however. It led to renewed civic engagement in heavily flooded areas, especially those with more middle class populations. Existing neighborhood organizations increased their membership numbers, and new umbrella organizations were formed.
2 Soon, national universities and foundations began working with them. This increase in engagement was seen locally and nationally as a focus of hope for the city and its recovery. Before going further, it is worth noting that post-Katrina recovery efforts have won little in the way of scholarly attention, especially when compared to how much attention the initial, botched emergency response received. Despite the fact that the city’s sometimes Byzantine politics is as much the stuff of popular legend as its Mardi Gras, the case of New Orleans' recovery era may well have wider relevance, especially as regards the role of civic engagement in urban resilience. There has been a resurgence of interest in civic engagement among academics in public affairsrelated disciplines in recent years. Most recently, Putnam (2007) has suggested that what he terms social capital--a combination of ties between individuals and groups in a community, along with the norms and trust engendered or bolstered by social network ties--is often lacking in areas with ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. In education policy studies, Stone, Henig, Jones and Pierannunzi (2001) and Orr (1999), have suggested that citywide policy is likely to be ineffective without strong intra-city and cross-sectoral ties among citizens, community groups, government and administration and private sector leaders and organizations. While New Orleans may not be as racially diverse as the largest cities in the United States, it has certainly had its share of racial and socioeconomic division. Unfortunately, as a social network analysis study administered in connection with project suggests, this limited the efficaciousness of more citywide recovery efforts. This division appeared to contribute to a marked lack of intra-city, cooperative relationships among citizens, community-based groups, government leaders and institutions and other private organizations. Whatever the case, it is argued in this study that a lack of strong intra-city relationships likely kept the renewed civic engagement from having more of an impact on the city's recovery than may have been possible. Mayor Ray Nagin and his administration, meanwhile, declined to engage with more active neighborhood groups. The result was a noticeably
3 slow and spotty recovery. What the city lacked was, in short, what Comfort (2006) suggested that New Orleans sorely needed--something she called governance, a model of civic engagement that includes all sectors of its population, including citizens, government leaders and civic elites. She echoed Burns and Thomas (2006), who attributed the city’s failures before and after Katrina to its lack of an urban regime; this being loosely defined as a coalition of government leaders, important private sector actors and other interests of the sort Stone (1989) saw as essential for effective urban governance. Diverse interests did not share long-term policy goals, but instead formed smaller or ad hoc coalitions similar to Helco's (1978) issue networks for what were typically one-shot initiatives. This lack of a citywide policymaking coalition or of authentic governance had earlier led to the demise of proposals to shrink the city's footprint, as well as to the backlash that resulted in an increase in neighborhood-level civic engagement. Consequently, the social network analysis study and recommendations regarding research and policymaking are preceded by a half-descriptive, halfanalytical examination of the post-Katrina planning process, including the backlash sparked by initial proposals to shrink the city's size. This section features an introduction to demographic, historical and geographic material that was of import to the footprint debate, and that continued to inform relations among neighborhood groups and government in New Orleans. Finally, sections below are informed by literature on post-disaster resilience, as well as civic engagement and social capital. Data gathered though multiple methods is featured, including documentary evidence, observation (e.g., of planning meetings) and survey data. A lethal cocktail: The role of race, class and homeownership As almost anyone who paid attention to media accounts of Katrina's aftermath might have predicted, race and class issues were bound to be important variables in New Orleans' post-storm planning and recovery process. Prior to the disaster, the city had been overwhelmingly AfricanAmerican, with a 67.5 percent black majority, according to 2004 U.S. Census estimates. Most of the
4 serious flooding occurred in majority black neighborhoods besides, due in part to legacy of racial segregation and discrimination that forced or created incentives that led black residents, particularly lower-income blacks, into less desirable (typically, lower-lying) neighborhoods (Lewis 2003, Campanella 2006). Some of these areas were still marked by severe poverty, including the Lower Ninth Ward, whose extreme flooding–and the isolation of its poorest residents after the storm—made it an international symbol of American urban poverty and racial injustice. As suggested by Campanella (2006), the story of New Orleans' race relations of the last half of the 20th Century echoes the larger southern and American urban experiences. Its early racial history and establishment under French and Spanish colonial authority was more unique, and gives the city’s history a comparatively exotic character. From its earliest years, the city had a significant population of gens de couleur libres (free persons of color). After the Supreme Court’s sanction of state and local de jure segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson–a case heard in part in New Orleans, with plaintiff Homer Plessey, a descendant of the free Creoles–former slaves and Creole blacks were put on the same separate-but-unequal footing (Thompson 2009). Nevertheless, it was technology as much as the law that led to increased residential segregation in the following century. First, the automobile made moving to areas further from the city center easier. More importantly for New Orleans, the invention of the Wood Screw Pump in 1913 made it possible to expand housing into areas formerly deemed unsuitable for human habitation. The population thus began a march toward Lake Pontchartrain, albeit a slow one, due to the expense of building flood control systems. The march quickened after the end of World War II, with one of the largest and certainly the wealthiest areas settled then being the predominantly white Lakeview. (Curiously, it was deemed attractive despite its low-lying setting, due mainly to its vicinity to Lake Pontchartrain.) Many middle class black residents moved into neighborhoods in the Gentilly area, to Lakeview's east.
5 White out-migration eventually shifted to suburbs outside of Orleans Parish, but black residents largely stayed within its borders. That white flight, and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, led to a potential side benefit for black residents; namely, black electoral dominance of local government by the 1980s. No strong biracial electoral coalition ever developed. Instead, a pattern of racial bloc voting with some racial crossover voting developed after the late 1960s in mayoral elections, a pattern that held even in cases where both candidates were African-American (Liu and Vanderleeuw 2007). This did not, however, translate into black economic dominance. One result of the racial, and associated economic and political, separation that increased over the decades was continued distrust of white elites among black residents, distrust that helped fuel talk of a white political takeover and land grab post-Katrina.1 Certainly, urban renewal of the past half century had a more negative impact upon blacks. A predominantly white group of New Orleanians helped give birth to the battle for American historic preservation during the 1960s, when they fought the proposed Vieux Carre Expressway, which would have run past Jackson Square. Their victory, however, was a loss for residents in the historic, predominantly black Treme neighborhood, located north of the French Quarter. An Interstate overpass was built there instead, and Treme's Claiborne Avenue commercial district never fully recovered (Lewis 2003, 111-12). A large swath of the thriving black middle class Sugar Hill neighborhood in Gentilly to the northeast was also demolished to build an Interstate overpass. Race was always a potential wrench that could be thrown into plans, then. A stress on race and, to a lesser extent, lower-income status obscured other potentially important variables, however. One was homeownership, and not only in Lakeview, but also in predominantly black and mixed race sections of Gentilly. This was also true of Eastern New Orleans, which became a black middle class haven in the 1980s. Meanwhile, before Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward had a higher rate of homeownership than the city average. All of these areas experience catastrophic flooding, not just the
6 Lower Ninth Ward. Gentilly and Lakeview, meanwhile, had higher percentage of elderly residents than the city average, as well as a higher percentage of homes occupied by their owners for more than a decade. Homeownership, age and length of residence all created at least a latent potential for strong civic engagement (Rhoe and Stewart 1996). Despite commonalities, homeowners in these disparate sections did not form demographically mixed, cross-city coalitions to fight those proposing a smaller footprint. Still, what you had here was a political minefield to cross all the same. There were issues of due process involved, issues of environmental and racial justice, as well as of fiscal concern to address. Future public revenue was on the line, in an already fiscally stretched city. Environmental sustainability and public safety shared the stage with a host of other compelling issues. That some civic leaders would seek to undertake serious land-use reform was not unusual. Lewis and Mioch (2005) suggested that disasters have always acted as catalysts for spurring urban areas to reduce their vulnerability, and to rewrite policies regarding development policies for disasterprone areas. This only stands to reason, the authors suggested, given that disasters seen as "natural" are often largely the result of factors including inadequate planning, ill-regulated population density, inappropriate construction practices and ecological imbalance, among others. "The solutions to reducing vulnerability of urban areas, therefore, are not found on the drawing board alone, and lie in improving decisions made in managing the growth and development of cities" (2005, 50). On the other hand, according to Vale and Campanella (2005, 345-47), the very notion of urban resilience in the wake of a disaster has been less typically driven by planners or any authorities than by property owners, in a sort of socioeconomically productive form of denial. Consequently, they put pressure on authorities to rebuild cities as they existed before disasters. As will be shown, homeowners would play a central role in blocking plans for a smaller New Orleans footprint. A chronological account of the birth and evolution of that proposal is presented below.
7 The planning process: From shrinkage to"clustering" The first formal smaller-footprint plan was introduced in New Orleans in late November 2005 by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a Washington, DC-based policy think tank with membership largely taken from the real estate development industry. It sent a group of 50 architects, real estate developers, academics and elected officials to New Orleans for hearings. The team interviewed some 300 residents and held a "town hall" style meeting. It later presented its recommendations to the Bring New Orleans Back Commission (BNOB), which had been created after Katrina to serve in an advisory capacity to Mayor Ray Nagin. The BNOB, in turn, consisted of leaders from government, business and finance, religious institutions and the legal community. To most ULI members, closing or limiting redevelopment appeared only rational. All they needed to hear, really, was that most flooded sections had been built on drained swampland, and had long ago sunk below sea level from subsidence (Hart 2007). The team consequently suggested rebuilding in stages, with immediate rehabilitation suggested for areas that remained largely dry after Katrina or which were more lightly flooded, with moratoria on rebuilding elsewhere. The ULI team simultaneously recommended the creation of a quasi-public recovery authority granted eminent domain powers. The agency would have the power to decide whether to allow rebuilding or force buyouts based upon factors including the extent of flooding in the past fifty years, the possibility of future flooding, and historic value. Residents and evacuees of flooded areas reacted badly to the ULI's recommendations--about as badly as, or worse than, they reacted to earlier post-storm talk of moving the city's beloved New Orleans Saints professional football team to San Antonio, Texas. Residents of these areas felt as if planners wanted to punish them for failures of the federal hurricane and flood control system, failures not acknowledged by the federal government until the release of an interagency study in June 2006. It
8 soon became clear that New Orleans City Council members found the ULI's proposal objectionable regardless (Mann 2006). The BNOB leaders decided, based upon the harsh reaction, to move on. In so doing, they consulted with planner John Beckman of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based firm Wallace Roberts & Todd, who had worked with the city previously. He suggested that closing large swaths of the city was "planning for failure" (Mann 2006). Even so, he went on to propose another rebuilding moratorium, this one lasting four months. What made his proposal distinct was that it required citizen participation. During the moratorium, neighborhoods would be required to prove their viability, even if most residents had not returned. Finally, Beckman recommended the creation of another recovery agency with eminent domain and buyout powers. These plans were quickly rejected. It is essential to understand, first, that the BNOB proposal's viability hinged upon the receipt of billions of federal dollars. Unfortunately, legislation proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives by then-Rep. Richard Baker (R-Baton Rouge) that would have provided these billions never made its way to the president. In January 2006, President Bush signaled that he would veto the larger recovery bill on the grounds that its potential long-term expense–up to $80 million–was far too high (Baum 2006).2 The commission received a death blow when Nagin, who was soon to face a reelection battle, publicly distanced himself from its proposals (Baum 2006, Mann 2006). Two other planning processes followed the BNOB, including a New Orleans Council-funded effort called the New Orleans Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan, more popularly as the Lambert Plans, after a Miami, Florida real estate consultant who helped steer the project. This was a linked series of plans created by flooded neighborhoods. To the council's dismay, the Greater New Orleans Foundation challenged the plans' legitimacy on the grounds that a more authentically citywide plan was required for receipt of federal recovery funds. This led to a local, state and federal agreement to back
9 yet another citywide planning effort, the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP). Deliberative meetings were held beginning in August 2006 within 13 planning districts and citywide, as well as in multiple cities to involve more Katrina evacuees. This process reintroduced the footprint issue in an understated, albeit clumsy, manner via survey questions. At the first citywide meeting, for instance, participants were queried as to whether they considered keeping the city's pre-Katrina layout as "important" or "very important," or the reverse. A majority of the mostly white, middle class crowd answered that it was not very important. Later, more demographically representative gatherings led to a seeming consensus in support of "clustering;" that is, for increasing density within more populated or rapidly recovering sections of flooded areas (UNOP 2007a, 5). In March 2007, after the UNOP's approval by the city Planning Commission, the city's then relatively new "recovery czar," planning professor Ed Blakely, produced a detailed, neighborhoodcentered recovery plan based on the clustering concept. His plan was to spur neighborhood development by encouraging commercial development in 16 zones in all major city sections. By mid2008, however, funding for the plan seemed doubtful. A matter of perspective: Rationality, science and NIMBYism What had gone wrong here? First and foremost, planning leaders failed to deliberate and engage with citizens, and thus reconcile their perspectives with those of citizens who had returned to flooded areas (ones more likely to be homeowners). A headline in the city's Times-Picayune newspaper for an article about the ULI plan suggested that there should have been no such problem. It read, "Experts include science in rebuilding equation: Politics noticeably absent from plan." Politics ended up entering the equation anyway, for residents saw at least some of the science as either not applicable to their situation or up for debate.
10 Among reduced footprint advocates, talk of levee failures was cast aside in favor of what was termed a common-sense admonition against building below sea level. Advocates pointed to late 19th Century maps of the city as showing that the city's dry and lightly flooded sections corresponded remarkably to the city's older footprint. Accordingly, they saw the city's future in its past. Ironically, though, it had been the audacity of building a city on such an unlikely site that lent New Orleans much of its initial cachet (Lewis 2003). Admirers saw it as an oasis of civilization in the harshest of environments, not a model of sustainability. The question now being asked was, in effect, Is there no place to draw a line, no limit at which residents can agree to stop fighting nature? In pondering the matter, one could do worse than to first consider Eastern New Orleans, site of some of the deepest post-Katrina flooding, and to consider in more detail the claims of residents that the area was deserving of rehabilitation. Sections that had been unsettled until the late 1970s had sustained heavy flooding in earlier storms, including Betsy in 1965 and Camille in 1969. Meanwhile, the Michoud fault line, located south of the area's residential sections, was leading the area to sink faster than any other part of metropolitan region. The area also sits perilously close to Gulf of Mexico given wetlands loss at Lake Borgne. The evidence against the residents' claims was thus strong. Its predominantly black middle class populace was nevertheless more likely to blame post-Katrina flooding on past engineering decisions that they felt exacerbated any natural problems. More to the point, residents blamed their home turf's flooding on a "funnel effect" created as storm surge was pushed into the area via an interconnected series of shipping channels to its south and west. These included the city's Industrial Canal, which physically separated Eastern New Orleans from older sections of the city. Winning particular scorn here as a "hurricane highway" was the seldom-used Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO), which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed to traffic in 2009.
11 West of the Industrial Canal, the most contentious debate focused on Broadmoor, a National Register Historic District neighborhood that sits at what locals colloquially call "the bottom of the bowl;" that is, at the lowest point on the French Quarter side of the Mississippi River (known locally as the "East Bank") and outside of Eastern New Orleans. According to Colten (2005), Broadmoor residents had filed more repetitive claims under FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) than any other section of the New Orleans areas, largely as a result of a series of heavy rainfalls that began in the 1970s (Colten 2005, 151). Broadmoor residents insisted, however, that as a consequence of NFIP-forced improvements to its drainage system, problems with regular flooding had been largely worked out before Katrina, and that their raised-basement, wood frame homes were built to withstand such flooding better. The ULI's John McIlwain would hear none of it: There's a strong possibility that all of this (planning) will fail partly because of the efforts of people in Broadmoor. Rather than pull together to say how do we design a city that we can all live in that's better and safer for everyone, they're simply saying, 'I want my neighborhood back, the hell with you ... (Goldberg, 2006, 3). What McIlwain saw as NIMBYism, however, Broadmoor residents saw as defending a way of life and a historic neighborhood. Campanella (2006a) suggested that neither residents of neighborhoods like Broodmoor, nor the smaller footprint advocates, were ultimately wrong. People who lived in heavily flooded areas were more likely than residents of unflooded ones to see all sections as under threat--as, curiously enough, out-of-town advocates of resettlement were. Residents of "dry" areas, by contrast, were more likely to endorse a limited rebuilding, but they did not unequivocally have science on their side. Variables such as historic value were not easily quantified either, and not easily balanced against safety or sustainability goals. There was, in short, probably no way for those involved in the immediate postKatrina planning in New Orleans to create an unequivocally rational rebuilding plan.
12 This failure to reconcile perspectives by engaging with citizens gave residents of neighborhoods such as Broadmoor and Eastern New Orleans a way to protect them from conversion to green space. Racial or socioeconomic issues did not need to enter whatever debate or dialogue they had with advocates of a smaller footprint. Such seemingly unemotional arguments did not, however, assure them of receiving any help from local government after the failure of smaller footprint proposals. Instead, residents were left largely on their own. After the footprint debate: Civic engagement, mayor disengagement After the ULI and BNOB proposals failed, evacuees from neighborhoods such as Broadmoor and Eastern New Orleans were allowed to rebuild. The Nagin administration was lenient with homeowners, frequently allowing those who had damage assessments of greater than 50 percent to rebuild. Such assessments would have forced compliance with updated FEMA elevation guidelines, had any been released. Other than the winking and nodding at damage assessments, however, those who returned to New Orleans found little help from Nagin's office. His administration failed to engage with citizens, or provide them much information and assistance in the months to come. Even previously, when Lambert Plans and UNOP processes continued apace, these had seemingly no connection to anything the Nagin administration was doing. No objective observer could likely have answered a legitimate question being asked then, Who is in charge here? Citizens, with the help of charitable foundations, non-profits and universities, stepped in to fill the leadership vacuum. In a city with no history of much grass-roots engagement, neighborhood organizations were seen by many observers as being more active than ever before (Horne and Nee 2006, Nelson, Ehrenfeuct and Laska 2007). The prototype for this apparent new era was the Broadmoor Improvement Association (BIA), whose membership increased three-fold, to some six-hundred members after Karina. Soon, the organization completed projects as diverse and complex as a repopulation survey, an assessment of elementary education needs, and a probe of the city's pumping
13 system. This won the attention of Harvard University, which sent consultants to help with the neighborhood's redevelopment plans, and the William J. Clinton Foundation, which promised $4.5 million in funds and in-kind services. In 2007, the neighborhood opened a charter school, and secured an agreement to reopen its public library. Other neighborhood groups, including those in Gentilly and Mid-City, carried out initiatives in policy areas addressed during the larger planning process, including education, cultural affairs and environmental sustainability. For instance, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward was attempting to create a model of sustainable rebuilding, with assistance from the nonprofit Global Green USA. Residents were also working with scientists to restore the headwaters of the area's Bayou Bienvenue, largely destroyed by saltwater infiltration from MR-GO. Citizen-led groups advocated the creation of new green space and parkland, most notably a group known as the Friends of Lafitte Corridor, which pushed for the conversion of a defunct railway corridor to a bicycle and exercise trail. It was to stretch through a racially and economically diverse area, from Mid-City to the French Quarter. Advocates won state funding for the first segment in November 2006. What these groups did not receive was backing from Nagin's administration. Some officials with the mayor's office argued that public hearings were sufficient means of public participation and feedback. Recovery czar Blakely was a skeptic as well. While indicating support for a more structured neighborhood council system, he nonetheless suggested that he feared the groups might demand patronage or make new contributions to the city's storied history of public corruption (Williamson 2007, 32). Nelson et. al. (2007) thought that this increased activity should have been anticipated by city and planning leaders, given evidence from other recent disasters, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (2007, p 8). The activity had been further spurred, the authors hypothesized, by a distrust of governmental officialdom among New Orleans residents, with African-Americans being particularly
14 distrustful. Nagin may have underestimated the amount of suspicion that would be generated by the BNOB process. Even so, as noted by McBride and Parker (2008), he won re-election in 2006 in part as a result of black distrust of white elites, as opposed to distrust of government per se. Within months of his reelection, however, Nagin's approval ratings declined among black and white residents alike (Howell 2007, McBride and Parker 2008). Meanwhile, a survey of neighborhood group members showed disappointment with city officials and planning efforts to be particularly high, echoing other surveys. Respondents were not feeling enthusiastic about the performance of city officials in the recovery effort, with 47.5 percent believing their effort had fallen far short of what it should have been, and another 35.6 percent believing that they have not done well at all. Clearly, Nagin and other city officials had lost opportunities for gaining trust and consensus.3 By the end of 2008, it was clear that the better and bigger, yet more sustainable, city that UNOP participants had been urged to imagine and desire was not going to be a reality. To the contrary, by this point New Orleans was doing well to get major roads in flooded areas repaired. A few years before, in discussing the establishment of the city's recovery development office, New Orleans City Council Member Stacy Head had implored her fellow council members to be as careful as possible. "It's like a bad margarita," she suggested. "Once it's in the glass, it's hard to go back and fix it" (Author 2006). Perhaps the statement now fit the entire recovery process? What seemed clear was that a decentralized system of neighborhood engagement had its limits, or at least it had limited connection to the policy planning and implementation of local government administration. Neither, however, had top-down planning or the town hall system of public consultation worked. What was lacking, it is argued below, was anything to bring disparate interests and administration toward consensus in the Big Easy's civic mix. There was a disconnect here, one that appeared to be tied to the city's historic and continuing racial and socioeconomic division.
15 Fractured city: A neighborhood networks study Putnam (2007) suggested that the typical effect of such phenomena in cities with diverse population is a lower level of engagement. This is true, he suggested, even in more homogenous sections of areas that are more diverse on the whole. The increase in engagement in some neighborhoods appeared to contradict his thesis. Even so, months of observation of the recovery planning process suggested that his overarching ideas about diversity and participation seemed to fit the reality on the ground in New Orleans in many ways. What was observed was not so much overt hostility between different racial and socioeconomic groups as a more seemingly benign brand of social segregation. However, this separation likely had more pernicious effects in contributing to, as well as reflecting, what Comfort (2006) saw as the city's lack of governance, and what Burns and Thomas (2006) saw as a lack of an urban regime. What appeared to helped to explain this social separation was research on the sociological concepts of homophily and propinquity. The concepts are related in explaining how self-segregation develops. Homophily refers to a social distance between individuals and groups. According to Kulduff and Tsai (2003, 52), even small organizations are affected by this, with segregation occurring according to social variables such as race, gender and ideology. Homophily, however, may also entail geographic proximity, according to McPherson, Smith-Louvin and Cook (2001). This is closely related to the concept of propinquity, which can include geographic proximity, but may also include any behavior or work that would give individuals the opportunity to establish ties (Festinger, Schachter and Back 1950, Hallinan and Williams 1989). What matters most in influencing self-segregation is a sense of closeness, whether created by geography, a common identity or shared experiences. In Putnam's work, as well as that of Stone et. al. (2001), the effects of such separation on social capital or cooperative behavior were studied at the individual level. A social network study seemed more appropriate, however, to answering the research question here--that is, whether Crescent City
16 neighborhood relations were as fractured as suspected. The method presented a means of studying relationships or ties between individuals or organizations. To gather data for the network study, a survey was administered through Internet and mail formats from December 2007 to June 2008. There were eighty respondents in total, representing some sixty-five organizations from all sections of the city. Fifty group leaders completed a long-form questionnaire with nineteen questions, and another thirty completed a four-question short form used for confirmation of reported ties.4 Several interrelated working propositions related to network structure informed the survey design, ones that are summarized as follows: Proposition 1: Neighborhood organizations were more likely to work together or cooperate with fellow neighborhood groups if they were geographically close. At the same time, they were more likely to work together or cooperate if their members were of similar average socioeconomic status or racial makeup. Geographic closeness and demographic similarity were also seen as being tied together. Proposition 2: The effect of shared interests was also likely to have a significant impact on neighborhood relationships. Flooded areas had more of a shared interested in recovery and rebuilding, for instance, than dry areas did. Planning meetings had not, however, brought neighborhood groups and members together with cohorts from largely unaffected areas of town, except in superficial ways. Evidence from the social network study backed these expectations. Only in rare cases, it appeared, did neighborhood groups stray far from bordering territory. Respondents from flooded neighborhoods, meanwhile, did not list groups from largely dry sections as being among those their organization worked with at least once a month, nor did the reverse occur. This was despite the fact that "worked with" had been defined as broadly as possible, with simple exchanges of information about public meetings counting. A network graph was developed from the survey, and is shown in Figure 1.2, following a mapping of the clusters' geographic location in Figure 1.1. The clusters are encircled in matching patterns on the map and network graph.
Figure 1.1 Map via Greater New Orleans Community Data Center/Knowledge Works
Produced with: UINet 6 for Windows, NetDraw
18 Confounding features: Natural physical and built landmarks, such as bodies of water and infrastructure, also acted as possible psychological barriers. Two clusters of neighborhood organizations in two large sections of the Crescent City, for instance, reported no ties to groups elsewhere, nor were linked to them reported by leaders of other city groups. These clusters were located in Eastern New Orleans (more particularly its largely black, middle class sections, not including the largely Vietnamese Village de L’est neighborhood and tiny Venetial Isles neighborhood at the far eastern edge of Orleans Parish) and the Lower Ninth Ward, which were geographically isolated from the older city by the Industrial Canal. Neighborhood groups in Algiers, located across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter (known locally as the "West Bank") also reported no ties to groups in the rest of the city. Similar barriers, including cross-town freeways, appeared to enhance separation between flooded and dry areas across the river. For instance, a large cluster in the north central part of the city, taking in flooded areas of Gentilly, Lakeview and Mid-City, was tied to Uptown neighborhoods by only one reported link.5 The flooded area cluster had several ties, however, to a cluster stretching to the south and east, taking in groups including ones based in the French Quarter and the predominantly black Treme district (which, as noted below, was claimed by three organizations). Ties with government: Network analysis methods were better suited for the study of relationships between groups than the study of ties between these groups and government institutions and elected officials. No official or administrator could have been expected to recall all groups with which he or she had worked or cooperated at least once a month. Even so, the literature on civic engagement and social capital suggested that cross-sectoral ties--between government and community groups, private organizations and the like--were essential. At the same time, city officials and administrators were more involved in post-Katrina recovery efforts than private sector actors.
19 Consequently, neighborhood groups leaders were asked a series of questions about their ties with local government. The study's results were unsurprising. A network graph taken from data on ties between neighborhood groups and local government demonstrated that these organizations had their strongest ties with the New Orleans City Council and its members. However, they also listed working almost as frequently with the City Planning Commission. The relationships are shown in the graph in Figure 1.3 below. The council and CPC are represented as the two large dots toward the center of the graph. Less central to the network was Mayor Nagin, whose node is located to the left of Blakely’s, as well as those of the council and the CPC. Council members surround the network in a nearly oval pattern, a fact which mostly demonstrates that individual council members (five are elected by district, and another two at-large, with one elected in 2007) are typically deemed more important by specific constituencies than city at large.
Produced with: UINet 6 for Windows, NetDraw
20 It became apparent during the planning stages of the social network research that the method would be limited in demonstrating some crucial nuances of intra-city relationships in New Orleans. Questions were thus added to an original, long-form study to flesh out the data (with a short form sent later to non-respondents as a means of confirming reported ties), including one dealing with overlapping boundaries. Most respondents noted that their boundaries overlapped with those of several other groups.6 Another issue was the loose definition of "neighborhood organization." Officers of a few groups reported that they thought of their groups as non-profits engaged in community development and post-Katrina recovery, not neighborhood organizations. Given the fact that established nonprofits with citywide outreach saw them as such, they were included in the network study anyway. Only the absence of Beacon of Hope, a group established by residents of the Lakeview neighborhood after Katrina (identified as "Beacn" on the network graph), changed the network graph's structure, for it had a major bridging role. With the backing of the area's neighborhood association, this nonprofit had provided Lakeview homeowners with information and resources for rebuilding, and also organized area clean-ups and the like. Within three years, it had established outposts in the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly areas. If not for this organization, the Lower Ninth Ward would have been as isolated on the original network graph as Algiers. Harnessing Civic Engagement: Policy and Research Recommendations Given that this is a case study, it would be improper to make generalizations about other American cities based on the evidence presented in this study. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans were such massive events, however, that it hardly seems inappropriate to list a few broad lessons of potential relevance to other cities. These lessons are aimed largely, but not exclusively, at cities with more diverse and divided populations, or with great socioeconomic disparities. They are especially worth being heeded by cities that are more likely to face natural disasters, although it must
21 be recalled that cities everywhere may be more likely to face crises in future years, given the effects of global climate change: Invest in citizen engagement: In the absence of a cooperative, cross-sectoral network in an urban area, the introduction of a radical, even transformational policy solution such as the reduced footprint proposal is likely to waste time and civic resources. The importance of land-use management to urban resilience, however, suggests a need for greater effort at forming such coalitions, one governments at all levels would be wise to encourage. Discussions underway in 2008 to form a citywide citizen participation system in New Orleans thus had the potential to create an organization that could overcome collective action problems posed by the decentralized nature of the city's neighborhood group activity. The effort did not have any governmental backing, although it did have funding from national groups, including the Rockefeller Foundation. It appeared doubtful that the effort would gain legitimacy with neighborhoods, however, without being backed in some way by local government. It is thus suggested here that federal, state and local governmental officials should at least consider providing seed funding to such organizations or creating fiscal incentives for local governments to formally recognize or join forces with them.7 A thoroughgoing effort to bring as many citizens into local land-use decision-making as possible may sound idealistic, but it could have practical benefits. As Boin and 't Hart (2005) suggested, it certainly was to the benefit of leaders in crisis situations to engage with critics. Leaders cannot enact radical reforms, ultimately, without attending to building constituencies in support of them. Science will not trump the political art of persuasion on its own. Persuasion is tied to leadership, however, something New Orleans was lacking. Remember that urban government structure matters: The bold proposal to shrink the city's footprint would have never won much attention locally if not for Mayor Nagin's creation of the BNOB. There was no other actor with enough governmental authority in New Orleans to broker among local
22 interests on controversial citywide issues, and single-handedly create such a commission. He was, legally speaking, a strong mayor. He failed, however, to engage with citizens even after those in flooded areas demonstrated renewed vigor and vibrancy. Whether there was an alternative to mayoral power here was unclear. The City Council and the City Planning Commission (CPC) seemed well respected among neighborhood groups, and certainly had more ties to them than to Nagin. These ties made sense at an intuitive level, however, given electoral and administrative incentives pushing commission and council members toward involvement in Helco-like land-use policy networks with neighborhood groups. Two City Council members were atlarge representatives. The legally weak council's funding of the more neighborhood-friendly Lambert Plans, however, reflected the majority of the council's greater concern with district-level constituencies. That recovery process' legitimacy was successfully challenged as a result.8 Meanwhile, Stone, et. al. (2001), suggested that while active mayors can be crucial to effective citywide policymaking, what ultimately matters most is having a strong governing coalition. They did not, however, address whether the election of an engaged mayor is possible without such a coalition. What is deserving of more research, then, is not only whether coalitions exist, but how they can be more easily formed, and how and whether the structuring of local government institutions may hinder or encourage their formation. Further social network research in a variety of cities could shine a light on how such coalitions are built. Seek harmony between governance and citizen empowerment: The majority of urban policy and resilience specialists whose work was surveyed here stressed the importance of urban governing coalitions to the creation of more resilient or sustainable cities. Other observers suggested that more effective governance may come through devolution of power to the neighborhood level.9 In post-Katrina New Orleans, though, wealthier neighborhoods generally did not suffer as greatly from the divided status quo as much less fortunate ones. Yet Lewis and Mioch (2005) thought the lower-
23 income areas deserved more attention, given the links between poverty and urban resilience. Improved citywide governance and neighborhood cooperation were likely to benefit these areas more. It may nevertheless be more helpful to see consider neighborhood group dynamism versus citywide governance in something other than an either-or fashion. In New Orleans, more long-range post-Katrina bridges had been built between neighborhoods by the Beacon of Hope organization than any other group. At the same time, research of intra-city neighborhood ties in other cities could well show that the geographic separation of neighborhood clusters in the Crescent City is not especially peculiar--with patterns only, at the least, more exaggerated than what is seen in more demographically homogenous cities. What may then be more important is empowering lower-income neighborhoods (including ones more populated by renters, as well as homeowners) via assistance in community organizing, or looking at alternative means of organization, as through churches and other religious organizations. Learn from and harness the power citizen-driven recovery: Comfort suggested a model of governance that enables urban resilience must not only include all sectors of its population, but also do so in a “socio-technical framework that enables individual and organizational learning” (2006, p. 8). Certainly, the New Orleans recovery experience suggests that planners must engage citizens in discussing technical and scientific matters in as rational and deliberative a manner as possible. That being said, it could prove difficult to pull off such deliberation anywhere after future events as powerful as Katrina, if evacuees are again scattered throughout North America.10 The experience of the neighborhood organizations in helping residents find their own way back home, and organizing evacuated residents via Internet message boards, could be instructive. Leaders from other parts of New Orleans as well as elsewhere, meanwhile, could learn much from post-Katrina experience of neighborhoods such as Broadmoor, and from this develop models for organizing neighborhoods in even the most seemingly dire situations.
24 The overarching message of this study and the recommendations above is that city leaders-including elected officials, administrators and urban planners--must not only engage with citizens and neighborhood groups but work to increase intra-city ties among them. They must do so or risk diminishing the chances of affecting future policy change, including change on issues likely to be increasingly critical importance in coming decades, particularly environmental sustainability. Certainly, fiscal and intergovernmental issues would probably have slowed New Orleans' recovery, even with more intra-city ties and cooperation. Still, ideas such as clustering and green space creation are more likely to take hold if embraced by an engaged and cooperative citizenry, one empowered by its government and and trusting of it in turn. This should be as true of local as state and federal government decision makers, ones more likely to be influenced by the sort of national opinion leaders and pundits who first pressed for a smaller New Orleans after Katrina. Ultimately, however, no government leaders are as likely to resolve thorny recovery issues after a disaster than those individuals who choose to return to their neighborhoods, even in places as rough and uncertain as post-Katrina New Orleans.
Endnotes 1. This talk was apparently fueled by media reportage, at least indirectly, including a Wall Street Journal story printed in the days after Katrina about attitudes toward recovery in more affluent sections of Uptown. According to the article, one of the city's most powerful white local business leaders suggested that the city would have to be rebuilt in an entirely different way, and this from a demographic, geographic and political standpoint (Cooper 2005). 2. Other apparent contributors to the BNOB's failure included the involvement of local developer Joseph Canizaro, a commission member as well as a former ULI chairman. Due to his vocal support of and close ties to President George W. Bush, Canizaro quickly came to be a lightning rod for criticism of the commission (Horne 2006, Nelson et. al. 2007) 3. The survey was administered via neighborhood group lists provided by a New Orleans urban planning and policy nonprofit called City-Works, along with those of the New Orleans Preservation Resource Center, a historic preservation group, and the Neighborhoods Planning Network, formed post-Katrina with the aim of assisting neighborhood groups. Neighborhood message boards were
25 added to inquiry lists. The survey was administered from late November 2006 to January 2007, just prior to the final UNOP meetings. 4. The survey was sent only to neighborhood groups, using a working definition that excluded business improvement or commercial district associations, strictly mandatory homeowners groups and condominium associations, citywide nonprofits and community development corporations. Even excluding these organizations, it was estimated that anywhere from eighty to one hundred active neighborhood organizations of varying size (many with overlapping boundaries) existed. Survey data, meanwhile, was processed via UCINET, a social network analysis program, and NetDraw, a graphical program. The option to symmetrize data in UCINET was exercised given questions about how particular answers conflicted with information gathered at various public hearings about formal ties between groups. In many cases, meanwhile, some groups allowed only one leader to speak for an entire executive board. Consequently, one reciprocal tie was counted as a full tie. Most reported ties were reciprocal, however. At the same time, even when the reciprocity of ties was more ambiguous, there was no variance from expected or recurring patterns. 5. In this case, the major barrier was the Pontchartrain Expressway, which ran between Mid-City and Uptown. More specifically, this freeway bordered an area which took in an automobile-oriented commercial district and the private, predominantly black Xavier University, as well as former rail yards converted to interweaving thoroughfares. Also in this area was a small, predominantly black and lower-income neighborhood, Gert Town. Only the Northwest Carrollton Neighborhood Organization, based in a smaller, demographically mixed area south of the commercial district and Xavier, and north of Carrollton in Uptown, linked these two large sections of the city. The neighborhood group for Gert Town, meanwhile, had no ties to any other neighborhood group in the city, but was instead linked only to religious organizations. 6. One of the more thorny cases of overlapping boundaries involved the area surrounding a citytargeted recovery zones on Broad Street, a four-lane, commercial thoroughfare that runs through some of the city’s poorest, predominantly black neighborhoods. Parts of the surrounding area are more middle class, including the Faubourg St. John and Mid-City districts. In 2008, neighborhood groups from the latter two areas formed a cooperative nonprofit with groups to the south. Three groups claimed to represent large swath of the south-of-Broad areas. One of these, the Esplanade-Treme Neighborhood Association, existed before Katrina. Still, a group formed after the storm, the Downtown Neighborhoods Improvement Association, ended up representing the area on the new umbrella organization's board. 7. Lewis and Mioch (2005) called for central governments to engage more in disaster response and recovery. Even so, they suggested that the role of local government was more crucial. They further suggested that local governments needed to make decisions only after engaging with citizens in the most inclusive way possible. 8. Nelson, et. al. (2007) recommended that cities would do well to name one designated agency, such as the CPC, for post-disaster planning processes, given the involvement of groups or stakeholders with competing priorities, appeared aimed at just such a separation. The authors suggested that this would eliminate duplication by rival agencies or authorities, as faced in post-Katrina New Orleans (2007, 45). Given the fractured nature of the city's political landscape, however, it seemed unlikely that this sort of centralization would be a solution in and of itself.
26 8. Ikeda and Gordon (2007) suggested that civic renewal in New Orleans proved that neighborhood groups needed to be granted more power to govern themselves, to the point of being allowed to secede from Orleans Parish. 10. According to newspaper accounts of the BNOB and ULI meetings, FEMA declined to provide evacuee contact information to the BNOB on confidentiality grounds.
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