A grand revival for New Orleans

Published on Monday, 16 December 2013 22:03 - Written by

How about some good news? In this bleak midwinter, with ample evidence of government shortcomings and societal failings, there’s a bright spot just a state away. New Orleans is experiencing a nearly miraculous rebirth, and it’s largely because of good policies and the good hearts of Americans everywhere.

Former Clinton advisor James Carville has started writing a column for The Hill, and his first offering is about his hometown and its recovery.

“A persuasive case can be made that the best American success story of the 21st century is the New Orleans turnaround — a city and region that weathered Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, then the Great Recession, then the BP oil spill, and more,” Carville writes. “According to the U.S. Census, New Orleans is the fastest growing major city in America. Forbes magazine called it the nation’s No. 1 ‘brain magnet.’ You can’t ride into a neighborhood in the city without running into construction, both public and private.”

There are solid reasons for the rebirth.

“The economy is strong, bolstered by billions in investments in infrastructure and the largest port system in the country,” Carville explains. “Companies from GE Capital and national retailers are once again investing here. Entrepreneurship is nurtured — according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, per capital business start-ups exceed the nation by 56 percent. And the all-important tourism industry is back. According to a recent study, the city welcomed more than 9 million visitors in 2012, a number not seen in nearly 10 years. Those visitors spent $6 billion, the highest visitor spending in the city’s history.”

Public-private partnerships have continued long after the federal government sent billions of dollars flooding into the city after Katrina. And they provide a good model for other distressed areas.

Louisiana always has been notorious for shady dealings and shadier politicians. But post-Katrina, good governance has become a real goal.

“The mayor and the City Council work well together and have now passed four balanced budgets in a row, improved bond ratings, cleaned up corruption in contracting and improved basic government services,” Carville notes.

The results are shown in the city’s vastly improved public education system.

The renaissance in the Crescent City is heartening, particularly at a time when people express such doubt in the ability of government (and business) to get anything right.

“The upbeat public mood in New Orleans is particularly striking given what is happening elsewhere in the United States, as voters express historic dissatisfaction with Congress,” Carville writes. “With more than 70 percent of Americans believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction and Congress earning all-time low approval ratings, the optimism among New Orleans voters and the confidence that it places in its government stand out. Couple that with its progress on key, objective outcomes, and it’s easy to see why New Orleans should be a heralded success story during a very difficult time for our country.”

Carville is absolutely right. There’s little enough good news these days.

Let’s celebrate it when something actually works out.