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The Sinking of New Orleans’ Soul

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Monday, August 13, 2007
New Orleans, Louisiana


Another politician goes down today. And the malaise continues to hang over the head of New Orleans. Not from Katrina. But from another tragic example of the dismal failure within the political leadership of this once great city.

New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas was hailed as one of the areas shining lights. A political leader that could build consensus between blacks and whites alike. He towered over the crowd when he spoke. He was articulate and knowledgeable about how to move New Orleans forward. And he was at the top of most lists when it came to handicapping the next Mayor’s race. Now, he will become little more than a footnote in the Crescent City’s troubled past.

The bigger concern is just how many hits can this city take? You see, after so many hits, the weight becomes even heavier. In Minneapolis, it was the physical weight of a defective bridge. In New Orleans, it’s the psychological and the emotional toll that has bogged down so many New Orleanians who have been let down by their leadership time and time again. And too many are saying enough is enough.

The list of failures and disappointments has a long tail post Katrina. It begins following the storm with FEMA, and the dismal federal and state response to an overwhelming local crisis that for many continues today. There is a gumbo of derelictions that centers on a dysfunctional criminal justice system that includes a District Attorney who lives in a bubble of incongruous ineptitude and contradiction, and whose former law partner kept marked bills in his freezer.

At least the Mayor of New Orleans is not worried. After all, it does “keep the brand out there.” What is it with this guy Nagin? Does he have a core of advisors that sit around all day trying to come up with a new verbal faux pas that will be more outrageous and do more damage than his diatribes of the weeks before?

New Orleans own Walter Isaacson, former editor at Time magazine, wrote a book review in a recent addition to the New York Times about a book entitled “Are We Rome?” The author compares the rise and fall of ancient Rome to the fate of America today. Put aside America, plug-in New Orleans, and the comparisons are eerily similar.

An over extended and untrained police force, private companies obtaining “sweetheart deals” from the political leadership, an underclass rife with social problems that were ignored, a breakdown in family values and family commitment, an arrogant ignorance of those in the outside world that could have been of great help, and finally, but most importantly, widespread corruption within the political ranks. It all relates today, right here at home.

No, New Orleans will not go down for the count. But it looks to slowly drift into a cosmos state. We’ve read a lot about the sinking of the soil. But there is also the sinking of the soul, where well-meaning citizens shake their heads and wearily determine that they just cannot take it anymore. As the city’s population spreads, and fewer refugees return, the I-10, I-12 corridor continues to suck away the bright, dynamic young leadership that at one time was an integral force in the makeup of the New Orleans business community.

No longer. Until the present political landscape is wiped clean, sad as it is to observe, this once great city is becoming more and more irrelevant. And this is truly an American tragedy.


“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period
of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people,
but the appalling silence of the good people.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at http://www.jimbrownla.com.Also, tune in Jim’s radio show on thenew995fm.com from

New Orleans. It is streamed live on the worldwide web at www.thenew995fm.com from 8:00 until 11:00 am, weekdays.

1 Response
  1. Robert Kelley

    Change begins with You and each person who reads or hears Your communications and cares/loves the State of Louisiana…that includes me. MLK’s quotation was on the mark! and it begs the question…”Where are the good citizens who have the courage to ask questions and express what they really want and the integrity to clearly communicate to avoid misunderstandings?”

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