Today’s announcement that young people are moving to New Orleans in greater numbers than other Southern cities is just another notch in our city’s new success story. While there is an overall trend toward Southern migration, we are the most desirable city on the nation’s must-move-to list. Where else can you dine at a different fabulous restaurant or food truck every night and hear a wide range of live music in dozens of clubs? Or spend hours taking in the sights from a streetcar, pedicab or paddlewheeler?
If you are a sports fan, moving to New Orleans this year means you’ll be here for the 2013 SuperBowl and the Women’s Final Four, along with plenty of opportunities to cheer for our home teams – the Saints and the Hornets. And let’s not forget the multi-million dollar world-class motor sports complex that Laney Chouest has just opened in Westwego. Make the most of Mardi Gras by joining a krewe. Do up Jazz Fest right with the Big Chief package.
There are always the naysayers who complain about the not-so-perfect part of New Orleans, like the lingering odors or Bourbon Street. But New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson said in a recent interview with Allan Katz, that we ought to call a halt to our usual New Orleans self-flagellation of all the things wrong with the Crescent City and focus on the progress being made since Katrina which has helped fuel the young adult population boom.
“New Orleanians are the most resilient, the toughest, the most determined and stubborn people in America,” says Clarkson. “Seven years ago, 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater. Today, we are preparing to welcome major multi-million dollar investments by Costco on Carrollton Avenue, by Walmart neighborhood market in Gentilly and a super-Walmart in eastern New Orleans. Look at our rebuilt neighborhoods. In Algiers, the new Federal City is home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard installation in the U.S. and a tremendous U.S. Marine Corps installation that produces more than $3 billion a year for our economy. All indications are that we are enjoying a banner year in tourism with expectations of more than 9 million visitors by year’s end. There are 12 NORD pools open this summer with certified life guards and swimming instruction programs. In Le Petit Theater, we have just saved for posterity the oldest community theater in the United States and preserved the historic Vieux Carre corner where it is located. All of this is far from our usual low expectations of us. It also reflects well on the vast majority of our elected officials, who are not on the take, not corrupt and not incompetent.”
Ray Nagin, please take note.
Clarkson says in hindsight much credit could go to former Councilman Arnie Fielkow who saw the value of public-private partnerships and pushed for the creation of the New Orleans Business Alliance and the new, revived New Orleans Recreation Department. Although it has gotten little media recognition, Clarkson says the Business Alliance has played a leading role in convincing retailers like COSTCO and Walmart that New Orleans is retail-starved and will be responsive to new stores in the region. “Our Business Alliance people know how to talk retail to folks like COSTCO and Walmart in ways that we lay people who aren’t in retail simply don’t know,” says the Council President.
Clarkson also thinks great credit goes to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his administration. “Mitch gets it,” says Clarkson. “He sees the big picture but he is also involved in the thousands of daily details of government. Mitch can be hard-boiled and he wants things the way he wants them. But that’s true of all the great mayors. I tell Moon and Verna that they used their kitchen table as a classroom to prepare a future mayor for the job. And, just like his father, Mitch can be a tough demanding mayor who insists that people at City Hall toe the mark.”
Clarkson will never forget the nationally-known TV news star who stuck a microphone in her face during the aftermath of Katrina when the city was in ruins and asked, “And you think you can rebuild this city?” in a tone that made it clear the reporter didn’t think there was a chance in hell that New Orleans could ever be rebuilt.
“When they write the histories of New Orleans and the United States 50 years from now, the rebuilding of New Orleans will be one of the great chapters in our city’s long history,” says Clarkson. “We ought to ease up on beating ourselves just for a moment to pause and reflect on all that we have come together and accomplished in the wake of the worst storm in American history.”
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. Robert Billiot.