I had some extra time this weekend and I went back into my earliest blogs. They started in June, 2009. What a depressing walk down memory lane!
It’s been 3 years. Three whole years and all but a few of those blogs could be run again today. The city has stagnated in a crime-ridden cesspool of bureaucracy and bull.
In 2009, I was writing about then-Mayor Nagin and then- Chief Riley. One was crazy and the other was incompetent. Both seemed evil for the city and its citizens. Well, they may be gone, but much has remained the same under their successors.
The city is still experiencing murders on an almost daily basis. Other violent crimes are committed relentlessly: armed robberies over iPhones and X-boxes; carjackings for less than popular year and model vehicles, sometimes for the purpose of a joy ride but more often for the purpose of being used in another violent crime; beatings; rapes; domestic violence hasn’t slowed a tick. The number of guns and the amount of ammunition to supply them has not slowed in the least. No neighborhood is immune; no age bracket more or less likely to be affected; no activity considered sacred.
The homeless still roam; the mentally ill still create a steady stream in and out of the few remaining mental health beds. Without statistics, I can’t verify my misgivings, but I think the number of attempted, and unfortunately successful, suicides has risen. I also can’t tell whether domestic violence incidents have risen, or more are just being reported.
The general public, in large part, blesses each day that they and theirs are not the victim of a crime. People still run inside at the signs of trouble rather than surging in heroic numbers to stem the tide of violence or even to aid the victim. “It’s someone else’s problem” is still the mantra.
The police, despite valiantly trying to do more with less, are still impugned for the most part. Officers are trying to mount an attack on the bad guys in cars that have no spare tires, no jacks, bleeding radiators. Often they are driving on fumes trying to reach any city gas pumps that are in operating condition. Line-ups in 2009 and 2010 were often given by phone because the number of units to be called out would slow radio traffic. Now, the line-ups in most districts are a couple of limping cars and maybe a supervisor or two. Foot patrols are culled from the ranks of units on the streets and often have to make a mad dash back to their car to respond to a serious crime in the area. The few vehicles with operating in-car computer systems are highly valued for running identification records and determining the course of a crime from written comments. The voices of those officers without this technology can be heard making pleas for help from those who have it.
Those crimes that are heinous enough to draw the public’s attention still receive rhetoric and statements and planning and meeting, and little more.
Where are the sweeping reforms promised during campaigns? Where are the no-miss methods promised during appointments? Where are the changes for the good that we all thought were about to stabilize the city?
New Orleans was, somewhere back in history, a city of grace, mystery, romanticism, and commerce. She was the jewel of the Mississippi. She was the lazy, laid-back haven of seersucker suits and polished shoes, of porch-sitting and family gatherings. She was electric, perfumed, and appealingly naughty.
Today she is dark with evil, spewing the stench of irresponsibility and carefree morbidity. She can no longer roll with the punches. Each one leaves a sucking chest wound. She is a shell.
I was so hopeful when I chose the online name Pronola. I was ready to be an instrument of change. I desperately wanted to see my city rise from the muck and mire of the Katrina days. I joined in battles against apathy, bureaucracy, mismanagement, malfeasance, and plain stupidity. I cared and as New Orleans lay gasping I was determined to put every skill I had to work to not only resuscitate her but to help her regain her luster.
I am a changed person now because my city has done nothing to change. Pronola may now be a misnomer.
RIP, the NOLA of my hopes.