Saturday, October 01, 2005

If Your Name's Not On The List, Don't Expect To Get In

Those loose-cannon radicals at HUD offer a prediction as to who will be included in the 'new' New Orleans, and who will be left outside looking in. Hint - it's exactly the same people it's always been.

"It was an incredible thing to witness," said one participant in the Dallas meeting, who did not want his name used because he was talking about a private gathering. "The mayor stood there on the phone, nodding and jotting down notes, as if Joe were passing on bullet points directly from the president."


Blogger Management said...

By Brian DeBose
Published September 30, 2005
A Bush Cabinet officer predicted this week that New Orleans likely will never again be a majority black city, and several black officials are outraged.
Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."
Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly took issue.
"Anybody who can make that kind of projection with some degree of certainty or accuracy must have a crystal ball that I can't see or maybe they are more prophetic than any of us can imagine," he said.
Other members of the caucus said the comments by Mr. Jackson, who is black, could be misconstrued as a goal, particularly considering his position of responsibility in the administration.
"I would beg and hope that the secretary, if that is what he is saying, would re-evaluate the situation," said Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat.
Mr. Jackson, whose remarks were reported by the Houston Chronicle, said New Orleans might reach a population of 375,000 people sometime late next year with a black population of about 40 percent at the highest, down from 67 percent before Hurricane Katrina sent a storm surge that overwhelmed New Orleans levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.
The population of New Orleans before Katrina was a little less than 500,000, surrounded by large, predominantly white suburbs. The largely black Ninth Ward and the predominantly white middle-class Lakeview section near Lake Pontchartrain were overwhelmed by floodwaters.
Mr. Jackson, a former developer and longtime government housing official, said the history of urban reconstruction projects shows that most blacks will not return and others who want to might not have the means or opportunity. His agency will play a critical role in the city's redevelopment through various grant programs, including those for damaged or destroyed properties.
In the storm's aftermath, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, charged that relocating evacuees across the country was "racist" and designed to move black people, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, out of Louisiana. The state elected its first Republican senator, David Vitter, in nearly a century in 2004.
Both the preacher and the congresswoman suggested that the residents be housed at the closed England Air Force Base at Alexandria, La., to keep them closer to home.
Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, said Alphonso Jackson's remarks and the prospects of real-estate speculators and developers in New Orleans are "foreboding."
"Gentrification is a demon that is looming on the landscape, and we have to be aware of it and vigilant. ... Right now, I don't know if the resistance to it is strong enough," Mr. Rush said.
He said a history of forced removal of blacks from their homes and property cannot be ignored as the reconstruction moves forward.
Two weeks after Katrina, the Congressional Black Caucus issued an eight-point action plan that calls for residents to get the first right of return to the area, that New Orleans residents get first choice of construction jobs and rebuilding contracts and that voting rights be protected.
Many evacuees from the Ninth Ward will likely never be able to return, Mr. Jackson said. He told Mayor C. Ray Nagin that it would be a mistake to rebuild that part of town, the lowest-lying section and prone to flooding.
Mr. Davis said that despite history, he does not think New Orleans will see black migration similar to black migration from Mississippi after the 1927 flood that inundated hundreds of thousands of acres in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many black farmers and field hands fled to Chicago, Detroit and other cities for a better life in the Midwest.
"New Orleans is not a plantation, not a farm, and I think there will be many efforts to make sure there will be affordable housing and construction job training for residents to rebuild and have the option to return home," he said.

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Blogger Management said...

In the end, Jackson is right. Most of the NOLA poor black residents, now dispersed across the country, will plant roots elsewhere. The first people to resettle in the Big Easy will the the well-heeled residents that lived there before (many whose homes were on higher ground and didn't flood). They will be in there with the well-funded speculators, who will rebuild the city in a way that will squeeze out any chance of affordable housing existing. We all know it. There will be lots of discussion and proposals and lip service about it, but in the end, you'll see a shiny, new whiter New Orleans, with the "right kind" of black population sprinkled in (as in, not poor), you know, Mayor Nagin's crowd, the black bourgeiousie.

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Blogger Management said...

September 29, 2005
A Mogul Who Would Rebuild New Orleans

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 28 - Many of the business elite of New Orleans seem preoccupied these days by what some here simply call The List - the chosen few Mayor C. Ray Nagin is expected to name on Friday to a commission to advise him on the rebuilding of the stricken city. Almost certain to make the grade is the real estate mogul Joseph C. Canizaro, the man best known for bringing high-rises to the New Orleans skyline.

Mr. Canizaro has emerged as perhaps the single most influential business executive from New Orleans. One fellow business leader calls him the local Donald Trump. But Mr. Canizaro derives his influence far less from a flamboyant style than from his close ties to President Bush as well as to Mr. Nagin, and that combination could make him a pivotal figure in deciding how and where New Orleans will be resurrected.

Mr. Canizaro has not only secured a coveted spot on the commission, those who have seen the list said, but he has played a critical role in shaping it. At a state Senate hearing held in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Mr. Nagin confirmed that he would be naming an advisory panel, but that he had not completed a list.

New Orleans is a town where generally it helps to have local roots that go back at least one or two generations, if not back to the days before the Louisiana Purchase. Mr. Canizaro first arrived in New Orleans in the mid-1960's, when he was in his 20's.

Yet despite his status as a relative newcomer, Mr. Canizaro's stature has grown because of his political influence, the force of his personality and his record of public service to the city where he has lived for 41 years.

Like Mr. Trump, he has celebrated the ribbon-cutting of buildings that have achieved iconic status in New Orleans, and has faced down bankruptcy, only to emerge so financially strong that he recently moved into a home that Lt. Gov. Mitchell J. Landrieu described as "perhaps the nicest house in all of Louisiana." That home, which took four years to build and resembles a European palace, was severely damaged by three feet of water that flooded his neighborhood just west of the city.

Mr. Canizaro is inclined to view the flooding of New Orleans as both a tragedy and an opportunity. He notes that the city's schools were substandard, its housing stock crumbling and its crime rate among the nation's highest. "I think we have a clean sheet to start again," Mr. Canizaro said. "And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities."

Like many in the city's establishment, Mr. Canizaro declined to give his vision for a new New Orleans. But many locals expect Mr. Canizaro will use as a starting blueprint a report from the Committee for a Better New Orleans that he and other civic leaders have sitting on their shelves. In 2000, he started that committee, which brought together more than 100 business and community activists to talk about everything from the poor state of the city's schools to the high crime rate and preponderance of dilapidated buildings.

"Joe was very involved, coming to every meeting, really pushing people to come up with concrete proposals," said Norman C. Francis, the president of Xavier University, the nation's only historically black Catholic university. "Joe is a can-do guy; he's a go-getter, a doer," said Mr. Francis, who co-led the committee with Mr. Canizaro.

Over the years, Mr. Canizaro has socialized with the president, a man he describes as a friend. And Mr. Bush no doubt appreciates the hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Canizaro has contributed to the Republican Party, according to campaign finance records. In 2004, he attained Ranger status in the Bush campaign - someone who raised at least $200,000 for the president's re-election.

Mr. Canizaro said he was not acting as a formal intermediary between the president and local leaders, and had not spoken directly to Mr. Bush since Katrina struck.

But he said he had kept in regular contact with Mr. Bush's top aides. "I've been having conversations with people around the president, for guidance and direction and commitment and support," he said. "I've been trying to help out in that way."

The city's other business leaders assume that his connections are sterling. One prominent local business leader, who declined to be named for fear of jeopardizing a slot on the commission, was downright giddy that his name was on a draft list of names Mr. Canizaro was circulating last week.

"From what I understand, Joe is the prime mover on this thing, at least as far as the business members' portion of the commission," this person said.

"The general perception is that Joe, as someone locally who has the president's ear, will be playing a particularly critical role as we start getting down to the work of rebuilding the city," said J. Stephen Perry, a former gubernatorial chief of staff who now heads the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. While Mr. Perry is expected to be an important player as the city rebuilds, his name was not on the list as of midweek.

Since Katrina, Mr. Canizaro has spent much of his time in Utah, where he owns a second home. In mid-September, when the mayor invited a group of business leaders to Dallas to discuss the city's future, the mayor took the time for a phone conversation with Mr. Canizaro.

"It was an incredible thing to witness," said one participant in the Dallas meeting, who did not want his name used because he was talking about a private gathering. "The mayor stood there on the phone, nodding and jotting down notes, as if Joe were passing on bullet points directly from the president."

Mr. Canizaro, who earlier this year hosted a fund-raiser in his home for the mayor, tiptoed around the topic of his behind-the-scenes role. Only when pressed did he acknowledge that he is fully engaged in the creation of the advisory council: "The mayor and I have spoken numerous times about getting the commission together," he said, but he stressed that ultimately the mayor, and no single private individual, would fill out its roster.

"This is the mayor's thing," he said, over a breakfast of ham and eggs in Baton Rouge last week. "I'm just doing what I can to help."

Mr. Canizaro is on the short side but has a strong jaw and steely gray hair and a clipped, authoritative way of speaking that suggests he is accustomed to giving orders. At breakfast, he was constantly in motion, his leg bobbing as he played with his eating utensils and fiddled with whatever was within reach.

Of course, other business leaders are expected to play a central role in the rebuilding of New Orleans. One is Donald T. Bollinger Jr., who runs Bollinger Shipyards, based in Lockport, Miss., and who confirmed that he had been asked to serve on the commission.

Mr. Bollinger, who splits his time between homes in New Orleans and others scattered around the Gulf Coast, is also prominent in Republican circles in Louisiana. His résumé includes a long list of community activities, including a stint as chairman of the local United Way and a turn as the head of Citizens for a Better New Orleans.

"I'm a friend of the president's, but I don't know if that was the governing factor in my name ending up on the list," Mr. Bollinger said.

The list also includes several prominent African-American business leaders, including Alden J. McDonald Jr., the chief executive of the Liberty Bank and Trust Company, and Daniel F. Packer, the chief executive of the New Orleans subsidiary of the Entergy Corporation, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University, who first arrived in New Orleans in 1998, is also expected to be named to the mayor's commission. "A few decades ago, New Orleans was the kind of closed community where unless you were born and raised here, you couldn't have much influence," Mr. Cowen said. "In recent years, that's clearly changing. As a result, people like Joe Canizaro and others can have much more influence than they would have had a decade or two ago."

Mr. Francis, the Xavier University president, said he, too, had been asked to serve on the mayor's commission but declined because he had already committed to serving on a similar group being formed by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

While in New Orleans last week to visit his home and check on his various business interests, Mr. Canizaro met with Mr. Nagin. Among other things, he stressed his belief that any commission must consist of an equal number of representatives from both the black and white communities.

"We in the business community must realize that we need to work with the balance of the community, particularly our African-American associates, to help develop a plan for the revival of the city," he said. Unless the discussions encompass a more wide-ranging group, he said, stabbing a meaty finger in the air to drive his point, even the best-intentioned efforts would probably fail.

When asked if he thought racial balance might prove controversial with conservatives, he responded, "I can assure you the president feels the same way."

Mr. Canizaro, the oldest of eight children, said he left Biloxi, Miss., in 1963 because he felt his opportunities there were limited. In the ensuing decades, he has built a number of large projects that have come to define New Orleans, including the 500-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and an office-condominium project called Canal Place. He is best known for constructing a cluster of high rises on Poydras Street, including the Texaco Center and LL&E Tower, which helped create a new corridor of commerce in the central business district.

Mr. Canizaro thrived through the first half of the 1980's, when the city was awash in oil money. But when oil prices dropped sharply in the mid-1980's, some of his more ambitious projects sat largely empty, and more than a few tenants were forced to break their leases.

"I definitely went through some hard times," Mr. Canizaro said. "I came close to bankruptcy."

He survived through a combination of stubbornness - he refused to lower his rents - and the good will of some creditors, including Citicorp, that did not demand repayment of their loans. After surviving the downturn of the 1980's, he diversified by forming the Firstrust Corporation, a bank holding company that acquired banks in and around New Orleans, and in 1998 he founded Corporate Capital, a venture capital firm.

3:09 AM  

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