New Orleans still reeling
When Katrina struck, Matt Anderson stayed. He promised a friend he would house sit, and that's just what he did. The storm came, and the storm went. But, then came the flood, and Matt was left without a home for over four years.
This February, Anderson was granted a free apartment after he received the mandatory two diagnosis of P.T.S.D., to qualify for a paid-for-by-the-public shelter. "Tomorrow, there's work to be done on termites," Anderson says.
You wont find termites in The French Quarter which now boasts "more restaurants, more hotels and more stores than before Katrina," according to Anderson. So, while tourists enjoy the restoration and additional improvements, residents are still left wanting. And, many have yet to return
There are those people who see the glass half full and others who see it half empty. Then there are people like Peter Ricchiuti, who know that "the glass is just too big."
Ricchuiti, 52, has lived in New Orleans for 24 years, and is assistant dean at the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, and former chief investment officer for the State of Louisiana.
Along with many of the residents who have returned to their homes, Peter is pleased that they have built the population back up to 350,000 (pre-Katrina population was approximately 500,000), and says, "It's very odd in that the city's footprint is just too big." The current population is quite different from the pre-Katrina crowd. In Ricchuiti's opinion, the demographic is now "a little whiter, quite a bit more Hispanic, wealthier, younger, and more educated." This is precisely what Steven Pearl, a prominent local television and film producer in Los Angeles, misses most. "I miss the people," says Pearl, who are still unable to return because "there's still no home there for them to return to." This, he believes, is a result of many insurance companies refusing to pay out on hurricane insurance on the basis that it was flood damage that destroyed their homes.
Additionally, "sales taxes and property taxes have risen each year since the storm," said Ricchiuti, who added that New Orleans is "one of the very few municipalities to receive a bond rating upgrade." The bond rating upgrade ensures that loans issued to the city will carry with them the lowest possible interest rates and costs. Is it the increase in taxation that has prevented many former residents of New Orleans to return to their home?
Pearl has long enjoyed a love affair with New Orleans and recently returned to the city to oversee pre-production of his current feature film starring Miley Cirus. He hopes to have time to visit the 9th ward to see the improvements made by the Make It Right NoLa foundation. "The French Quarter looks great." Pearl said, "It's the lower 7th and 8th wards." And, that's the saddest part of this celebrated rebuilding effort, the still displaced residents.
Then there are numerous charitable organizations that have helped and continue to help rebuild the city, a perfect example of which is Teach for America, an AmeriCorps not-for-profit organization. Founded by Laura Arnold in 1990, wife of natural gas tycoon John Arnold, since its inception "over 150 Tulane alums have entered the classroom through [the organization]," said Kaitlin Gastrock, regional director of communications for Teach for America.
Over the past five years, New Orleans has seen its graduation rate consistently rise by 10 percent, and with over 400 teachers reaching some 27,000 students in the area this year and 300 alumni living in New Orleans, Teach for America has proved a success. But Kaitlin would prefer some new corps members so they can reach the downtown areas that still haven't been rebuilt.
"Teach for America is supplying New Orleans with 205 new corps members this year, and the organization is accepting applications from graduates "interested in improving students' academic and life trajectories," said Gastrock.
So, it's not for a lack of effort, but the city still bears its wounds. And, perhaps, The Big Easy will one day get her break, but today she still feels the aftershocks of the perfect storm.