CBS’ James Brown takes a critical look at the impact of the Super Bowl on the progress of recovery in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, both the poorest part of the city and the hardest hit by the flooding following Hurricane Katrina. More than seven years later, the city put plenty of resources into sprucing up its tourist centers and transportation assets, in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVII, played last night. The Lower Ninth has not seen nearly as much attention, which has some local leaders questioning the priorities of the political class in the city and state:
Community leader Patricia Jones told CBS News’ James Brown that in New Orleans, it is a tale of two cities: the city characterized by a refurbished Superdome and the tourist-jammed French Quarter versus the Lower Ninth Ward, the city’s poorest area. She says the Lower Ninth is making a slow recovery in part because the city government and other authorities are dragging their feet.
“Count the years, eight. For us, that’s real. For every apology, it’s not enough. All we know is that we’re not home and these are people making decisions at the policy level that trickle down to regular folks and it hurts.”
Pastor Fred Luter, who grew up in New Orleans and leads one of the city’s largest churches, “For those of us from there, it’s disheartening, discouraging, and a lot of us ask, ‘Why?'” Luter said of the slow pace of progress in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Luter added that he believes the delayed cleanup is a not a matter of economics, or race necessarily. “I think it’s priorities, I really do. We made it a priority to re-do the airport, we made it a priority to clean up downtown. It was a priority because the Super Bowl was coming, well, the Super Bowl is just one day, it’s going to be gone. Let’s make that same priority now for other areas of the city that need it really bad.”
Undoubtedly, the city needed to rebuild its commercial base in order to provide a steady tax stream to proceed with the rest of the repairs needed. But Brown asks a pretty tough question about whether the city put the game ahead of its people, and the answer isn’t terribly complimentary. It’s a good segment for CBS and for James Brown, and kudos for raising the question — although I notice they didn’t raise it last week before the game, which CBS televised.