Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

10 Years after Katrina, Author Examines New Orleans

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

10 Years after Katrina, Author Examines New Orleans

Article excerpt

When reporter Gary Rivlin arrived in Louisiana days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, he was not looking to describe what had happened.

He was looking ahead: How, and indeed whether, New Orleans would be rebuilt.

Katrina hit Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005, displacing about 1 million people along the Gulf Coast. The storm's death toll was 1,836; about 85 percent of those deaths were in Louisiana.

Rivlin takes note of the disastrous levee breaches, the human suffering and the breakdown of law and order, but his focus is elsewhere.

Instead, he took on the daunting task of charting the political, class and racial forces that determined how New Orleans would go forward.

The result, "Katrina: After the Flood," arriving 10 years after the storm, is a gem of a book well-reported, deftly written, tightly focused. It's a book that will appeal to the urban planner and the Mardi Gras reveler.

This book does require your attention, as there are a lot of moving parts: multiple government agencies and multiple politicians and civic leaders with conflicting and shifting alliances and motives.

New Orleans itself is not the easiest city to capture in words. Nor is it a city that worries too much about planning for the future. As Rivlin writes, New Orleans "is a town where for most long- range planning meant deciding what to do that weekend."

He cites a Times-Picayune columnist who wrote, "There are only two things people around here plan for in an entire year, and that is what costume they're going to wear on Mardi Gras and which Friday they're taking off work to go to Jazz Fest. The rest just happens."

The backbone of Rivlin's book, though, concerns some serious New Orleanians neither politicians nor bureaucrats trying to make the city livable again. (Remember, 80 percent of the city's housing stock had been under water.)

Most notable of this group is Alden J. McDonald Jr., president of Liberty, the city's largest black-owned bank and a national success story for serving the black community.

The bank's headquarters on the largely black east side of town was surrounded by water, and several of its branches were inundated. …

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