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New Orleans


New Orleans is a city that has been the centre of national attention for the past few years though not for all the generally positive things that many people associate with this southern United States coastal city.  The city itself is near Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico.  The city of new orleans is generally known for the new orleans jazz festival, the new orleans saints (a sports team) and of course New Orleans Mardi Gras.  In addition there are a number of famous and quite nice new orleans restaurants and new orleans hotels available for the visiting tourist.  One of the oldest cities in the United States of America, New Orleans was named after Phillipe the second, Duke of Orleans in France.  New Orleans is perhaps one of the historically most rich cities in the United States and is known for the decisive battle of new orleans that occurred in 1815 when American forces defeated the British.  However, in recent years New Orleans has been less known for its attractions like the New Orleans Saints, but was rather the centre of controversy and damage after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina flooding left many homeless.


Part of the extensive media coverage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina did not focus just on the scope of the disaster itself, but rather used the disaster in order to engage with some of the many problems in governance and political will that seemed to be uncovered by the reaction to this disaster.  One issue that immediately came to the fore was race.  It could not but helped be noticed by a number of commentators and views of the Katrina disaster that many of the people left behind by the evacuation of the city of New Orleans were poor black people who by being left in the city were ultimately the biggest victims of the chaos created in the wake of the hurricane.  This gained public attention in a number of ways, but one of the most notable was when outspoken musician Kanye West broke from a scripted televised appearance to talk about the tragedy and indicting President George W. Bush, saying in essence that West felt that the President did not care about black people.  This obviously caused some controversy in the media and helped many in the media take the issues surrounding race, obviously long seated in areas such as the southern United States, and bring them to the fore in order to further bring them into the realm of public debate.


Another target of controversy was the government agency FEMA, which was notably criticised by many for being woefully under prepared for the disaster and ultimately being roundly accused of incompetence after rescue and rebuilding efforts proved ineffectual in some cases.  One of the worst cases of incompetence that was widely criticised in the media was the amount of money spent on FEMA trailers that were supposed to be shipped in as temporary housing for those people displaced and left homeless by the hurricane.  Perhaps worst of all was that in some cases the trailers ended up being too large to fit in the lots where they were intended to go and as a result they were ultimately unable to be used, lying vacant in places of no use to the individuals who needed them.  Cases such as these ultimately led to a shake up at FEMA, the results of which are most likely ongoing.


The construction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have led to much speculation as to their success.  Many people who left before and during the hurricane disaster have moved back, but the city has still yet to achieve the same population levels that existed before the hurricane.  One of the ongoing difficulties that has affected the revival of the city has been a difficult problem with the level of crime.  Crime in New Orleans has for a long time been a problem for which this city has been infamous.  During the hurricane disaster there was significant looting that was noted and reported by media covering the disaster.  After the hurricane it was and continues to be one of the biggest challenges for the mayor of the city who has made numerous pledges to reduce the crime rate in New Orleans in order to improve the city’s reputation, particularly its reputation as a welcoming and inviting destination for tourists all over the world.


The future of New Orleans depends on a number of issues.  One of the primary ones is the way in which the city bounces back in the midst of the present reconstruction efforts.  The amount of money being spent and the level of planning that has went into reconstructing New Orleans has made it of particular interest for those involved in urban planning and urban renewal as it is rare that such projects occur on such a scale in North America.  There has been some criticism that the vital reconstruction of the levee and pump system that functionally protects New Orleans from flooding has not been sufficiently reconstructed.  In some areas of the city there has been significant and noted improvement in the attempts to protect areas from the risk of flooding and from the ability to prevent severe flooding as was seen after the hurricane.  However, some areas of the city have yet to see that same level of protection be extended to them and as such there is hope that the city of New Orleans will do its best to improve conditions as much as possible.


Disasters of the scale of Hurricane Katrina are rare in North America, making New Orleans particularly notable in having suffered from one.  Often in the media America is seen lending a hand to other nations that are suffering from major natural disasters and as such there was particular attention paid to America’s ability to deal with its own citizens as opposed to those in a foreign country.  Ultimately the future success of New Orleans is directly tied to the future success of the reconstruction effort that will cement America’s reputation in dealing with its own citizens in times of crisis.