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The Issues: Challenges and Opportunities

The Loss of Coastal Marshes Helped Make Katrina the Storm of the Century

by Mike Tidwell, author, Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast

The Core Problem

To fully understand the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina and how to prevent similar disasters in the future, you have to first understand something the American media have failed to adequately explain in all these months of intense press coverage. The media have uncritically accepted the very weird fact that the city of New Orleans lies mostly below sea level. And because the city is below sea level, it filled up with water when the hurricane levees broke. But here’s the question: Why in the world is the city below sea level to begin with?

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A Tale of Two Cities

by Stephen Perry

Today, New Orleans truly tells a tale of two cities.

The most celebrated and historic core of the city remains intact, both physically and spiritually. The eclectic mix of cultures, arts, architecture and all the sensual indulgences that define the New Orleans experience continue to flourish, as they have for centuries.

In other areas of the city, community and infrastructure have been battered, but the soul of those neighborhoods perseveres in other ways: it shows through in the resolve of our citizens to return, rebuild and recover despite immense challenges. Those residents and business owners, along with our elected officials, wrestle daily with the most difficult questions about the revival of New Orleans’ hardest hit areas. Their path may not be imminently clear, but their vision is our vision: a new New Orleans that blends the very best of this great city’s past and fulfills its bright promise for the future.

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The New Orleans You Don't Know

by Harry Shearer

We know New Orleans. We, who see it on TV and in beer commercials, and in "Girls Gone Wild" videos, we know what New Orleans is: it's the more humid Gulf cognate of Vegas, a sin city where tits are bared and drinks are to go and the clock is a stranger. Except that casinos in New Orleans, instead of being the engine that drives the economy, are weak sisters always on the verge of bankruptcy and begging for tax forgiveness. And except that Vegas is flush with new construction and expensive TV ad campaigns.

So what about the New Orleans we don't know? The city has let the commercial and video makers define its image to the rest of the country for so long that it's hard to imagine a pitch being made for one of the many varieties of the "real" New Orleans. Because it would involve freedom but not license, pleasure for the senses instead of obliteration of the senses, and, most crucially, belonging to a community instead of visiting a high-security sinspot where "what happens here stays here".

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New Orleans: An Intellectual City

by Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J.

When people think of New Orleans, they often call to mind the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, world class restaurants, jazz, the port and shipping, or the energy industry. Aside from pictures of college students who come to visit and party, people don't think of New Orleans as a college town. But it is. New Orleans is home to fourteen colleges and universities and thousands of students. These institutions represent the full spectrum of higher education in the United States. There are national research universities like Tulane, public universities like the University of New Orleans and Southern University, small undergraduate colleges like Our Lady of Holy Cross, historically African-American universities like Dillard and Xavier, Jesuit universities like Loyola along with well known health care research institutions like LSU, Tulane, and Ochsner. In New Orleans one finds the spectrum of American higher education.

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Thinking about the Future of New Orleans

by William J. Byron, S.J.

After three post-Katrina visits to New Orleans, including an on-the-ground inspection of the famous lower 9th, I'm hopeful, but hesitant to make any predictions. Ray Nagin has been re-elected to the toughest job in municipal government in America. Mitch Landrieu is more committed than ever to the resurrection of his home city, and will do all he can to help as he continues to serve as Louisiana's lieutenant governor. Both, I suspect, would acknowledge that the locus of decision-making in this mammoth recovery effort is still hard to find. During their recent run for mayor, one observer said to me, "Whoever wins is going to find himself sitting like a kid in the back seat of a car with a toy steering wheel in his hands. It won't be connected to anything."

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Louisiana Health Care System Focus of Redesign

Louisiana Departmnt of Health & Hospitals
The battered health care system of Louisiana is the focus of a comprehensive redesign effort by state and local stakeholders being formalized today. Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, and the members of the effort -- the Louisiana Healthcare Redesign Collaborative, chaired by Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise -- committed to the process at a Charter Signing ceremony today.
The collaborative, which will initially focus on the greater New Orleans area, is committed to developing a blueprint for the redesign of the state's health care system through a proposal for a large-scale Medicaid waiver and Medicare demonstration program, to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by October 20.  HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt encouraged establishment of the collaborative and agreed to support its efforts by removing impediments to progress and rapidly reviewing the proposals it develops.

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