Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The New Politics of Post-Katrina New Orleans


Social justice activists in the city note that he’s the only candidate to talk about the city’s problems as systemic. Discussing the city’s tourism-based economy, Perry said: “New Orleans has a system that is almost designed to be oppressive.” He described a workforce subsisting on minimum-wage jobs and a public housing system that subsidizes employers who pay unfair salaries. “If we paid people a living wage, then we could really transform our city,” said Perry.

A native New Orleanian, Perry founded a fair housing center in Mississippi before becoming director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center in 2005. His central promise is to reduce the city’s murder rate by 40 percent in his first term, saying he would do this by focusing the police department’s resources on what he says are “one or two hundred individuals” who are responsible for most of the violent crime in the city and away from the nonviolent offenses that he says the department currently focuses on.


Like I've said here a couple of times before, the politics of New Orleans are impenetrable to me. I mean, understanding local politics for any city requires a lot of homework, but the Times-Picayune, the big local daily here, doesn't provide much context, and when it does, it's from a very mainstream, establishment oriented perspective. What's a recent left-wing transplant to the NOLA area to do?

The above linked short essay from CounterPunch, in support of the little known progressive mayoral candidate James Perry, does more to make me understand what's going on here than two years of reading the Picayune have. Don't get me wrong. It only scratches the surface, really, providing two or three ideas I'm able to fit into my overall understanding of the American political dynamic. But given the information blackout I'm suffering down here in the Crescent City, that's something, to be sure.

I think I might email the guy who wrote this and ask him what I should be reading.