More Census Crap…

Well, more census numbers came out again – I don’t even want to get into the numbers because it doesn’t matter. The fact that it doesn’t matter is what I want to talk about. The fact that every time some group releases findings on population, city and parish officials quickly dismiss them as not being high enough is more important. I kept wondering why this was the case and it turns out there are several good possibilities as to why officials want the numbers to be higher.

(might as well pack a lunch cause this is another long-ass post)

Relationship to crime

This is a pretty obvious reason the city/Parish would want the numbers higher since taking the number of murders and violent crimes per a higher population results in a lower per capita murder rate. Fair enough. But to accurately gauge the crime rate, you need accurate numbers. And if the numbers can’t be dead on accurate then let’s assume crime is the higher of the two numbers. Why do I say this? Well, from the standpoint of the citizen I need to be well informed of the crime rate of an area if I’m thinking of moving there. I mean, let’s face it, if I’m under the impression that crime is significantly lower and move to an area then it certainly won’t take long for me to see the truth so why not just be honest. And from the city’s standpoint getting a good reading on crime or taking the higher numbers as fact shows the public that you’re in touch with what’s going on and that you’re serious about doing something about it. Trying to spin the numbers and convince people that the crime isn’t as bad is just insulting to everyone.

Federal funding

I don’t really have too many specifics on this one but I’m aware that it is a factor. Obviously, the Federal Government is going to distribute funds for things based on population when it’s practical to do so. What exactly this involves I wouldn’t know. But if I had to guess I would think it would be things like HUD and WIC programs. We certainly don’t want to lose those resources for the people that need them. But the things that are population driven are that way for a reason. If we take more federal money for WIC programs by claiming that there are 30,000 more people living here than actually are, then we could be harming people.

For example, take a group of families that use WIC benefits that relocated to Houston and haven’t been able to return home: For the last, almost two years, they would be receiving benefits from the Houston pool of WIC money while that same amount of money sits in the New Orleans bucket all that time. It seems to me, that the money should follow the people who need it, so when New Orleans reports a lower population and Houston reports a higher population then the money from the Feds will end up in Houston. I know this is a gross oversimplification but I’m a simple man and this is the way I see the world. Don’t let the occasional use of big words fool you. If someone has more specific information I’m all for it – clue me in cause I’m really just guessing.

Congressional seats.

Ah politics. Man I just can’t get excited about politics. I can get angry about it, but not excited. But here’s, again, my rudimentary understanding of the situation: From my Social Studies classes I remember that the House of Representatives has representatives from each state based on population. States are divided up into congressional districts. I guess, but I’m not sure, that if population in one district drops then they redraw the congressional districts removing one. And presumably the reverse is true. Now obviously now more than ever we need strong representation in Congress and since we can’t do much to change our representation in the Senate, that makes The House all that more important. On the other hand, if we were to lose one of our congressmen I think I could live with that.

It has occurred to me that when people talk about this in reference to congressional representation that they may be talking about it at a state level but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t think, however, that it would be all that important to lose a representative at the state level…really. And I didn’t grow up in Louisiana so I’m not all that familiar with how the State House works. I’ve always assumed it has something to do with bribes, favors, corruption, or who you’re related to….but that’s just silly. I don’t know why I would think that.

Tax Revenue and Demographics

When Metroblog’s own Heather Buck posted this article I sort of nodded to myself and thought, ‘eh, it’s not surprising since I always figured only about half the population of New Orleans provides 80% of the market value anyway’. I was surprised by the low number of comments to that post. I guess everyone either thought the same thing I did or they just found the whole thing really baffling and didn’t know what to say about it. I’ve given more thought to some of the points she and the other commenter’s made about things in general being more expensive and I’m rethinking my original thoughts on the subject. Something is missing. Some piece we can’t see or something. For one thing, it can’t be as simple as I’d thought since (to quote Ice T) “Shit ain’t like that!” so I don’t know what to think of that whole thing but it seems to me that it wouldn’t be good for the city for the population numbers to be any lower than necessary if the revenue is almost recovered since it suggest that there was a whole bunch of people in New Orleans before the storm that were contributing little or nothing to the tax base.

Image

And this is really what it comes down to in my mind. Image and nothing more than that. The city/parish wants to project this idea that we’re in the middle of a huge sweeping come back. That the city has a lot to offer and people are breaking down our doors to get here. And that the mayor’s promise to bring everyone back is being fulfilled.

People moving here and the population rebounding suggests in some way that the quality of life in New Orleans is good and that things are moving along nicely. It suggest that there are good paying jobs, nice places to live, working street lights, good schools to attend, and that crime is low. Take any criticism against the city and the best trump card against the argument is, “Then why are so many people coming back?”.

Conversely, If the numbers stagnate or begin to decline then it suggests that any argument against the city is true. I do believe that in the next year we’re either going to see population numbers level off if not fall a little. I hate to say it, but I think it’s the natural swing of things. The good news is that something like that might make the city leaders work a little harder to improve the quality of life here in New Orleans. Really, the exodus from New Orleans, or at least Orleans Parish, began well before Katrina sped that process up drastically. The reasons people were leaving before Katrina are the same reasons people are leaving now – quality of life.

We would not be doing ourselves any favors by looking at quality of life in terms of pre and post Katrina. Fact is, we need to look at quality of life in terms of what other cities have to offer because that’s how people really look at quality of life. Sure it would be nice to have PreKatrina New Orleans back in some ways, but now people have seen alternatives and they’re comparing PreKatrina New Orleans to wherever they are now and deciding to stay where they are. Businesses have been choosing other states over Louisiana for years. And families have been choosing other cities in Louisiana over New Orleans for some time as well. And for all the charm and other things touted by the city and residences as being “the reason we live here” I do believe you can enjoy those things without all the bad that necessitates that sentence as an excuse. And I fear that many long time residences of New Orleans have found through evacuation that New Orleans is a great place to visit, but maybe there’s a better place to live. Family would have been the thing that kept people here; but they’re whole families have moved so now it keeps them there. At this point in our recovery it would be very difficult to convince those people that they’re wrong for living somewhere else. But if we improve the quality of life here, people will be knocking each other over trying to move here and we won’t have to say a word to convince them and we won’t have to spin numbers to validate a lie.

20 Comments so far

  1. paulp (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

    Image

    I have spoken to many customers who come back to visit relatives who still live here. I have noticed a large number of these people are from St Bernard Parish. One woman in particular moved to some small town in Alabama and was coming home for a few days to convince her son and his family to move there.

    She said it was like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. She said moving there was the best thing she ever did and was dumbfounded as to why she never moved away thirty years ago. She talked about never having to lock her doors or walking down to the grocery store looking over her shoulder. Everyone there was polite and crime did not exist on any level.

    This scenario has probably occurred a thousand times over to many other families who left after the storm. It’s no one’s fault, they simply like where they landed and the “quality of life” is beyond anything they had imagined.


  2. Dan F (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 1:52 pm

    Jack,

    The political seats that would be lost would be federal from my understanding. The House of Reps (thieves would be a better term)seats that each state has is based on state/local population.

    I think the state reps stay the same. That may be wrong though, will do some research on to that fact.

    One question though….do the 701 releases count in the census? I mean if they get outta jail free, they count as a citizen right?


  3. Jack Ware (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

    Good example of my point Paul. I don’t mean to shit on NOLA. But damn, a little self examination wouldn’t hurt too much.

    And Dan, anyone released on a 701 is counted once for each person they’ve killed. That seems about right.


  4. Ray (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

    You example of an ideal place to move is rural Alabama?

    Alabama’s rural ares have been losing population for years on end, decades even. And are you talking about north Alabama or, say, the black belt counties? The areas that have been gaining population are urban areas–Huntsville, Baldwin County (Mobile’s version of St. Tammany—across Mobile Bay; Daphne and Fairhope, Gulf Shores, etc.).

    Please note that the The Univ. of Alabama made the front page of the NY Times a year or two back for having to recruit out of state, given cutbacks in higher education and a shrinking population of educated young adults.


  5. Paul p (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

    No, not my ideal. I was paraphrasing what I was told by a retired woman who moved to rural Alabama after the storm. It was only one story of several that I hear on a weekly basis. The place wasn’t the point. The point was, that when some people left, they liked where they were better than where they came from. She could have been in Idaho. It doesn’t matter. Displaced people are realizing that the grass is greener sometimes and that living in a backwards po ass state isn’t the best way to live. That is what I meant. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Alabama. By the way, Louisiana is losing it’s rural population as well.


  6. Ray (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

    Then why’d you bring it up in talking about what a backward, poor-ass state this is? What was your point? Alabama has some beautiful areas, more diversity of geography than most people from outside the state imagine and many great people. Rural areas are often misunderstood by urbanites everywhere, and discounted, even though they can have vastly better functioning governments and provide sounder educations, etc., than most of what you’ll find in urban America.

    But Alabama has a ban on sex toys, a fact a person wanting to move back here desperately pointed out to me earlier this year. One of the state’s legislators was arguing a few years ago in favor of a ban on any library books that even mentioned gay people a few years ago. He was re-elected. The heaviest vote against gay marriage of any state was in Alabama. Roy Moore was elected the Supreme Court chief justice. Etc., etc.

    If your point is that Louisiana doesn’t represent that much of an improvement in the progressiveness dept., well, stop the presses.

    (And rural America in general is losing population, after a brief comeback in the 1970s, thanks to increasing global economic integration.)


  7. Brian (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

    Hell, I only landed in Opelousas and if I could make the same money there as my current job. I’d have been gone too.

    Ray,
    don’t think that Alabama is the only place that is suffering from a lack of educated young people
    http://www.google.com/search?q=louisiana+brain+drain&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official


  8. Jim G. (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 7:41 am

    …You don’t mean to ‘shit’ on NOLA??

    really?


  9. Jack Ware (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 8:30 am

    No, I don’t mean to shit on nola. I do think the general sense that ‘criticism toward our fine city will not be tolerated’ is aggravating an already bad situation.


  10. Jack Ware (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    I was looking around trying to find something positive to add to this really (in retrospect) very depressing post and instead found The Fleur-de-lis Ambassadors program .

    The city is opting to send people to other cities to tell everyone how great New Orleans is. And not that this is an inherently bad idea, it just shows very clearly that the city is more worried about it’s image to outsiders than it is for the actual experience of the residents.

    We’re the murder capital of the country, but we’re not going to deal with that and instead we’re going to send Ron Forman to Boston, or where ever, to tell people to come to the fucking zoo? Deal with the image not the problem…quintessential political bullshit.

    I feel that we are doomed.

    God Damn it.


  11. Paulp (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

    Ray? Are you fucking retarded? I personaly don’t give a fuck about Alabama. The point was, for the third time for our readers with Down’s syndrome, was that she (again, she as well as others I have talked too) said she was happier where she was now than where she was two years ago. I have heard this from several people who had been displaced and actually liked the new place better. What the fuck is all this Alabamam shit? I aint fucking moving there. It was where she happened to land after the storm. Like I said, it could have been bum fuck Egypt. Regardless, she thought it was a better place to live than a chemical covered wasteland like St. Bernard parish happens to be. Can you personally call everyone in Alabama and tell them to go fuck themselves sideways? I was telling the story of this woman. Did you ride the short bus to school?

    P.S. You judge a state on whether you can buy ass beads or not? If you need a vibrator that badly, drive down to Florida.


  12. Ray M (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

    Such a civilized, mature site. Jesus.


  13. Ray M (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

    And I don’t remember saying that Alabama was the only place with a brain drain (although you may also find out there a piece about a “brain gain” from recovery professionals), but agreeing that the state has major problems and is backward, to the point of noting that


  14. Ray M (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

    And I don’t remember saying that Alabama was the only place with a brain drain (although you may also find out there a piece about a “brain gain” from recovery professionals), but agreeing that the state has major problems and is backward, noting that this isn’t exactly big news. That state and Louisiana have much in common, unfortunately and otherwise, and beautiful places and great people are in both.

    I was just ticked to see this, yes, turning into a ragging on the city thing again. You wa If ynt typical Norman Rockwell? Do you want NOLA to turn into that? Apparently, my indicator of backwardness in social policy eluded someone here, who saw it something more personal and let loose another personal insult.

    Look, NOLA is socially liberal in many significant ways, and livelier than most places, and I see that as something worth keeping, even if a former St. Bernard resident may not. I’m presuming that others may think so as well, and that governmental reform, economic classicism (increasingly a national problem) and crime prevention are what people need to worry about here.


  15. termite (unregistered) on March 24th, 2007 @ 3:04 am

    great comment ray. yes, it sure does get old, this ragging on the city thing..again. i don’t understand why all this ugliness has to come out. we all have different opinions and views. it shouldn’t have to turn into personal insults on one another.
    for those of us who have choosen to stay and fight the fight i applaud you. but for others moving away is in their best interest. either way it’s not easy decision.


  16. jack Ware (unregistered) on March 25th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    Man, those comments got all kinds of ugly. It does go to show that there’s a lot of emotion tied up with this sort of thing though. And I don’t mean to shit on the city. I really don’t think that anyone here means to shit on the city. We all live here; it might be for different reasons, but we’re all at least deciding to be here for now. Others who read here may have decided not to live here for now; and they have their own reasons for that which are just as valid.

    The point to my original post though was just sort of my opinion on why the census numbers are always contested by city and parish officials. And I think the fact that it’s contested is a real indicator on how the city is looking at the recovery at this point.

    I can’t imagine anyone living here or reading this would be in favor of turning this place into Houston or Atlanta, but there are some things that need to change. Some of those changes are issues a lot of places are facing while others are unique to us.

    Paul’s example of someone choosing rural Alabama as a place to live because of what it has to offer as far as limited crime, etc, is actually a really good example. If the example had been Austin or Charleston since they are similar in some ways (musical presence, architecture) it wouldn’t have seemed so odd to me – understandable even on some level. But Jesus, we’re losing out to rural Alabama? That can’t be good.

    Either way, New Orleans has some issues to deal with and we’re all quite aware of what those things are. I don’t think anyone finds the murder rate ‘charming’ so we could live without it. Other issues can be a little more controversial but no one (here anyway) is suggesting NOLA should be turned into a resort town where no one really lives here or anything like that.

    Things get heated and that’s fine, but at some point it becomes unproductive. I don’t think people come here and read through all this shit to see people insulting each other – this isn’t reality television. I know when I see that someone posted a comment I’m hoping it’s one of those really great comments that adds a lot to the discussion and when I get there and see it’s just a bunch of insults going back and forth I start to lose interest. I don’t need that kind of ugliness. I’m cool with uncomfortable truths but I guess a lot of people aren’t and take any criticism as me shitting on the city.

    I’ll try to make sure I don’t address any real issues going on the in city unless it’s a flower show. Maybe I’ll start doing movie reviews or something.


  17. Gus (unregistered) on March 25th, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

    Kudos Termite & Jack Ware.
    This ‘poo’ throwing gets on my nerves.
    Let’s give it a rest people.


  18. Jae (unregistered) on March 28th, 2007 @ 1:00 am

    I’m a student working with the city counsel on retention of young professionals in New Orleans. I am trying to get a sense of the opinion of the people and I have 2 questions for you all:
    1. Why have you chosen to stay in New Orleans?
    2. What makes you feel like moving?
    Also, if you have any idea where I can get some other good, logical opinions on why people are leaving/coming back, I would appreciate it.


  19. Jack Ware (unregistered) on March 28th, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Well, JAE, next time your talking to city council tell them I said to grow a pair and try and reign in that loose cannon of a mayor….lol

    1. I’ve chosen to stay because I have a very interesting sense of adventure. Plus, I’m the ideal candidate to stay for the rebuilding in that I don’t have any kids and am not married so it’s just me – there’s no one else to consider in the decision and it would be easy to bail if things get too crazy. I also have construction skills that allow me to rebuild the house I bought after the storm without the need for contractors, which isn’t much but it’s one less blighted property. I’m also a software engineer which allows me resources to rebuild the house and generally participate in the market. Again, not a big thing, but it’s my little contribution to the market not being stagnant. Ultimately though, it’s just a great opportunity to say I was a part of the whole thing; in other words, it will be a good story when I’m old.

    2. The challenges you face living here in NOLA are tough sometimes. Albeit in small ways, the little things get to you after a while. They would be a lot easier to tolerate if there were more obvious signs of progress. Things like crime and the lack of obvious signs of recovery have the opposite effect and seem to amplify the weight of these little challenges. Also, there’s stress that if I lose my current job, is there another comparable position for me out there? Probably not in the city but being in IT I can always take a “road warrior” job and still live in nola….maybe. Then there’s the idea that I’m dumping all this money into a property and the value of that property is contingent on the recovery of the city as a whole as well as the recovery of my little neighborhood. Crime, lack of jobs, lack of reliable infrastructure, shitty schools, etc. all impact the value of that property and its easy to feel like a chump for dumping all this money into something that may be seriously devalued for the next 10 or 15 years (or more) due to a sluggish recovery. The impact of lack of leadership, the lack of vision our leaders on every level display, and the even more insulting lack of vision of the residents of nola are troublesome. Not that all leaders or citizens lack vision on an individual level, but the “make it like it exactly like it was” voice is the loudest most of the time. I more and more think our ‘great opportunity for change’ has passed us by while we were all fumbling around with our immediate needs – and that is exactly why I feel leadership has failed.

    There are good reasons to stay and good reasons to go. My situation allows me the luxury of playing it by ear. Were I married or had kids the math all changes and I’m not so sure I’d be here now. But it’s those two income, 2.5 kids, home owning people we need the most to stabilize things. I just can’t see where, in their position, I would choose greater New Orleans and certainly don’t think I’d choose Orleans Parish…but that’s me and everyone’s different.

    As far as getting other opinions, you could look through our blogroll over there on the right. You could also do some searches on Technorati.com to see what kind of blog static is out there. No promises on how logical or good they’ll be though (hell, I doubt my own logic and goodness – stupid existentialism). But really, that’s only going to expose you to a cross cut demographic (the digital demographic) since you have to have the money to buy a computer and you have to be able to read. That filter might be good for some things but the other side of the coin needs to be looked at too – the analog demographic as I like to call them. And the only way to do that is to get out there and talk to people. City Council should be doing that anyway to know the people they represent so it just has to be a talking point and good questions have to be asked.

    My bullshit on here has to be taken with a grain of salt really. I’m not a good representation of the city’s population – I’m closer now than I was before the storm for good or ill. All opinions have to be weighted properly for good decisions to be made, and sadly, that doesn’t happen a lot of the time. A lot of the time the loudest voice or a lawsuit, or politics drive the decisions.

    I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. You can email me if you want to talk about this more offline.


  20. Laurie (unregistered) on March 28th, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

    Hi Jae, I’ll tell you why I’m not in New Orleans right now. I am one of the young professionals you speak of, whose brain has drained from nola. There are two major issues for me – the crime and the good ol’ boys network.

    Crime – Over a 3 year period (2002-2005), I was held up at gunpoint, my boyfriend was kidnapped at gunpoint, I was chased and assaulted by a neighbor upset that I was walking my dogs, my boyfriend’s car was broken into, the bottom floor of my apartment building was broken into, I found homeless people sleeping on my porch twice, there was a man prowling in my yard once, my neighbor’s car was stolen, my parked car was wrecked by a police car during a chase, and my boyfriend and I were both viciously beaten by a gang. Of these incidents, the police showed up, but refused to write a report about, the gang incident and about the neighbor assault while dog-walking; they never showed up for any of the vehicle incidents; and they caught the guy who held me up at gunpoint, but the prosecuting attorney had no idea what was going on with the case and the defendant was acquitted. The GDSD (Garden District Security District) responded to the other incidents and were wonderful! I have nothing but good things to say about them., unlike the NOPD. I just can’t do this anymore. I can’t live my life knowing more crime will happen to me and the police/prosecutors won’t do a damn thing to rectify it or to keep it from happening again.

    Good Ol’ Boys Club – There is a pervasive attitude in New Orleans that who you are related to or who you know is much more important than how good you will be at a job. I found it very difficult to find a good job in New Orleans despite the fact that I am well-educated, intelligent, and extremely efficient and hardworking. Why? Because my daddy doesn’t ride in Rex. I never made my debut. I’m not related to anyone “important.” I don’t have my own waiter at Antoine’s or Galatoire’s. My last name isn’t well-known around the city. Time after time, I struggled and watched as complete idiots were offered jobs over me because they knew the right people. Think George W. Bush – privileged brats promoted far above their abilities. I once saw a girl get hired with no relevant experience. Why? Maybe the answer lies in her cover letter, which said: “Hi XXX! It was so great running into you and your sister at the mall recently! I hope you’ll call me for an interview – I’d love this job! Tell XXXX I said hello!” She had letters of recommendation from 2 former members of Congress who knew her family. She ended up being terrible at the job, but who cares? She KNEW people! This culture is suffocating New Orleans. It’s why it’s been in decline for decades. The brain drain will continue until it is addressed. I love New Orleans – it’s my home. My family has been there close to 300 years. But, it breaks my heart to see this nonsense continue. When will we rise above this? When will we let competent people lead the way? How can anyone expect progress when this is how the city operates?

    Right now, housing is also an issue but it’s really those two that are the big ones for me.

    I’ll eventually be back. I love it too much – it’s in my blood. But, right now, I need to better establish my career and take a break from the stress of all that crime. And I hope that my beloved city can get its act together while I’m gone. I’d love to stay and help fix it up, but I just can’t afford to do that now – monetarily, mentally, or emotionally. I completely respect everyone that is there doing it, but I can’t right now. Give me some time to save up some money and clear my head and I’ll jump right back in there to help with everyone else!

    I apologize to everyone else for the long rant in a comment, but I don’t see any contact info for Jae so I guess this is the best place to answer her questions. I hope she does pass this on to the City Council. (I assume she means council, not counsel, right?) I, too, am willing to talk more about this offline. I love our city and it’s important to me that we try to identify the problems so they can be effectively addressed.



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