Oct 112012
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

The 2012 Republican Party platform is a voluminous document that is filled with wisdom and purported wisdom. But, sadly, one of the few possible subjects of Republican wisdom that is omitted is the fate and future of American cities. Now, to be fair, the platform does excoriate the City of Washington D.C. as an example of every urban failing that can be attributed to the incompetence of Big Government – i.e., the Democrats.

But, the fact of the matter is that American cities, including Washington D.C., Uptown New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, are filled with Republicans. And, in many cases, as often occurs in Uptown New Orleans, these registered urban-living Republicans reside right next door to conservative Democrats who regularly and predictably vote Republican in Presidential and other elections.

Indeed, in some of the reddest states in America – Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas – you will find some of the nicest urban neighborhoods in New Orleans, Metairie, Little Rock, Jackson, Natchez, Birmingham, Mobile, Dallas and Austin – chock full of Republicans along with Democrats who are very comfortable voting for Republican candidates.

So, what’s the problem? Surely the GOP bigwigs who write the platform are as aware of this population truth as we are. Danae thinks the problem is that philosophically, Republicans at the highest level of their political party are filled with disdain for the myths about urban life – a squalid mix of poor minorities living in slum-like crime-ridden conditions where welfare queens cavort in bright red Cadillacs and students get free lunches at school.

Now, in truth and in fact, there are troubled neighborhoods in every urban community that we know about, including New Orleans. Indeed, in New Orleans’ unique neighborhood set-ups, there are such neighborhoods adjacent to some of the nicest residential streets in the Uptown area. And, it isn’t unusual to see such down-at-the-heels neighborhoods gentrified not just in New Orleans but in cities around the nation as suburban dwellers decide they would enjoy an urban environment for all the reasons that we all know very well or young pioneers come along who have a hunger to convert what had once been considered a slum occupied by the impoverished into something much nicer, such as a row of rehabbed shotgun doubles that have been taken from the bottom of the economic heap to quite pricey.

So, our question is why is it a problem for the Republican platform to acknowledge these known urban realities? Why can’t Mitt Romney talk about using federal funds (perhaps taken from the shutdown of PBS and Sesame Street) to fix city sidewalks, replace aged sewerage infrastructure, improve buckled streets, and provide health care for the uninsured. Once again, Danae says that for the GOP to take a progressive view of the urban spaces that are also home to Republicans and their conservative Democratic and Independent allies, they would have to admit that their disdain for urban spaces is based on myths and, sometimes, bigotry.

In the same context, Governor Bobby Jindal is no fan of New Orleans and other urban dwellers in south Louisiana. The folks in St. Tammany Parish are shocked about the impact of the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital. There are almost no beds available in the region for mental health patients.

That’s really too bad. As many Republicans in Uptown New Orleans could tell the bigwigs of their party, there is much to be said for city living and the need of any community for strong quality-of-life services. No Republican President since the late Richard Nixon has made a conscious effort to help America’s cities. Mitt Romney seems to be edging toward a centrist view of American life.

Even though the reduction in national unemployment has in part mitigated Obama’s poor performance in the first debate, we still think that Romney has pulled ahead. Tonight’s Vice Presidential debate could help move undecided voters one way or another. Perhaps, if Romney wins on November 6, there will be room in his heart to care about America’s cities, the home of millions of American jobs that contribute significantly to the country’s tax base.

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. They currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board and District B City Council candidate Dana Kaplan, and 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.

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  • Uptowner

    I’m a pretty conservative (registered rep) uptown dweller. As much as I would like to see $ spent on improving infrastructure (S&WB especially!) the federal gov’t spending is absolutely out of control and needs to stop. Maybe cut out some of the handouts (like the Obamaphones) and spend that money on necessities like a properly working sewage/water system. Just my two cents, I’ll be in the minority of Orleans Parish voting Romney

  • Owen Joyner

    Whoa, lets be fair here. You cannot blame the plight of cities on republicans. It was urban programs promoted by democrats which resulted in a monolithic underclass that they could count on for votes. The republicans went along with arrangement and became the party of the city- fleeing suburban middle class. As far as New Orleans is concerned, both parties stink.

  • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

    No fake story there Trey. Even the folks that benifit from the program refer to them as “obamaphones.”

    The fake story that shoud give us more pause for concern is that of a video and the lack of security that got an ambassador and three team members killed in Lybia..

    And yes, there are still only one hundred pennies in a dollar and simply printing more dollars is not the answer for the challanges this economy faces. Katz and Columbus aren’t asking the right questions. No doubt there would be more money for streets and sewer if not for the culture of corruption that has been such a part of NOLA and parrish history.

    • Trey

      I’m familiar with all of the election year talking points.
      But just so you know, the “obamaphone” you speak of is a federal program that subsidizes telephone service (not the actual phone) for eligible recipients. The program has been around since Reagan. If you have an ideological problem with it, that’s fine. But throwing around the term “obamaphone” exposes you as a sufferer of ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome).

      • Uptowner

        I mean, Mr. Obama hasn’t exactly been responsible with his spending. Regardless of the phone example, are you capable of realizing that? The current rate of spending will undoubtedly bankrupt the country

        • Trey

          I could probably be persuaded that the current rate of *deficit* spending could cause long term damage to our economy. But I would also argue that deficit spending is precisely what you need in a downturn.

          The idea that the US will go “bankrupt” is sensationalistic. We are still the sturdiest economy in the wolrd and everyone wants our dollar and our debt.
          And spending growth has actually been moderate over the last 4 years compared to the spending that was done under Bush. Also much of the increase is expected when you have an employment crisis–more people relying on the safety net, which has been with us for almost 80 years! And what is the answer to increased deficit spending that reasonable policymakers and economists recommend? Increased revenue, specifically roll back of the Bush tax cuts.

      • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

        I am very familiar with the history of the program Trey and am positive I don’t suffer any form of mental delusion as to the term obamaphone.

        The last series of interviews I conducted with folks applying for the service, 38 of the 50 recipients refered to the service as obamaphones. Their term Trey not mine; and if my math is correct that calculates to 76% with not one mention of Reaganphones in the bunch. Come to think of it Trey, I very much doubt there has ever been such a reference in the 625 interviews my team has conducted with regards to this program.

        Like most folks Trey, I am not opposed to offering a hand up; but am very much opposed to unlimited handouts with no personal responsibility or accountability attached.

        So by your logic Trey, if I do suffer from “ODS” then one could conclude that 76% of the people taking advantage of this program also suffer from this malady and perhaps you do as well.

  • Uptowner

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio

    Sounds like she’s been getting a free phone. That’s one of many absurd government waste programs put together by liberals. Do a little research, that’s no “fake” program.

    Mr. Turner hits the nail on the head here; the real underlying problem here is the local culture of corruption rather than blaming the feds for nola’s infrastructure problems.

    • Trey

      Yeah, it really sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

      For information about the “Obamaphone” meme, take a look here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/cellphone.asp

      • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

        Interesting…

    • Trey

      Also, the program is subsidized from fees attached to your bill, not general fund tax dollars. And I would not be at all surprised if phone companies lobby for the program because it increases their customer base. That’s a problem, but its a problem with a regulatory system captured by lobbyists, not a “liberal” vs. “conservative” problem.

      • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

        On this we agree Trey.

  • Owen Courrèges

    The fundamental flaw in this piece is that it assumes that Republicans are gung-ho about having the federal government pay the tab for local infrastructure improvements. This is the opposite of Republican philosophy; the GOP believes that federal spending is out of control, that federal taxes need to be cut and that issues relating to local infrastructure need to be worked out at the state and local level. It’s not that Republicans hate cities (although that’s not where their voting bases typically are); it’s that Republicans generally don’t believe in federalizing funding for overhauling local services.

    • Trey
      • Owen Courrèges

        Trey,

        That’s just a phenomenon I like to call “I’m just participating in a system I didn’t create.” A person might not support a tax break, or an entitlement program, but still take advantage of them because they acknowledge existing realities. With the stimulus, gobs of money were going to be spent regardless, and local politicians who thought the federal government was throwing too much money around had the option of either requesting stimulus money, and risk being labeled a hypocrite, or refusing to do so, changing nothing and acting against the interest of their constituents (who are taxpayers and will thus pay for the stimulus either way).

        Thus, it’s perfectly consistent to propose institutional reforms while advocating for your constituents’ interests within a system you didn’t create and don’t support.

        • Trey

          Ok but when have the republicans proposed “institutional reforms” when they are actually in power? Medicare part D anyone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Philip-Johnson/100000250750769 Philip Johnson

    It is the communities responsibility to fix its own streets and sidewalks. We pay taxes for that purpose. If the administration can’t provide services for our taxes then we should vote them out. I don’t see that party affiliation has much to do with administrative competence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

      Well said Mr. Johnson.

  • Joseph Dingineer

    The federal government helped to kill the cities after the second world war. Millions were spent to construct an interstate system which freed up the American people in the cities to move to the newly created suburbs. The more interstates were built, the more the racists in the cities moved away. The GI bill also helped to mechanize farms. The GIs came home from the war, bought tractors and equipment and left their workers unemployed. The farm wokers had no choice but to go to where there “could be” some work, in the cities. As these farm workers moved to the cities, the cowadly city racists moved away. Mr Katz has an excellent point. The feds have a responsibility to fix what has gone bad – thanks to the consequences of short sighted 1950′s policies. Developers got rich, haters moved away from the cities and those that stayed were saddled with the burden of maintaining a city that has half the tax base it had in 1950.

    • Owen Courrèges

      Joseph,

      There was a trending towards suburbanization even before World War II, the G.I. Bill, and the interstate highway system. As more and more people began to own cars, and automobile technology improved, people were bound to start moving to the suburbs. Now, federal policies definitely sped up the process quite a bit, but I think the demand was already there and that vast suburban growth was inevitable.

      I also think attributing all suburban growth to racism is massively overstating the case. Cities did a poor job of keeping their residents via high taxes and excessive regulations. Even then, it is natural for a city to expand its boundaries, but in most areas annexation law did not permit cities to expand as citizens moved further out. This not only bled the tax base, but also stymied political reform because those who were frustrated by the system could simply leave. However unfortunate, though, none of this creates obligations on the part of the federal government to dump money into cities.

      • Joseph Dingineer

        I disagree! The cities were sitting ducks once the automobile became more affordable and the interstates were being constructed. Add the influx of people who were uneducated and only capable of farm labor and the city starts to be abandoned by the tax base.

        New Orleans was somewhat lucky because it was surrounded by water. More New Orleanians stayed put than many American cities. And besides, somebody has to work the port and the related industries.

        I do not see this as an issue to dump anything into cities. The cities are central to a metropolitan area because they were the location of the initial industry. Here it was the port. A shame the port is run by the state and New Orleans has to beg the state for a piece of the revenue stream. The container trucks clog our interstates and the city gets peanuts from the state. The Feds get the offshore oil revenues and Louisiana gets laughed at! The wetlands die slowly into the Gulf thanks to the carelessness of the feds, the shipping industry and the levees that line the Mississippi and you are critical of the thought of the feds investing in the cities?

        Do you think the nearby suburban parishes care
        about what the sprawl has done to the city? You should really consider that they may actually be parasites that feed off the host while killing the very host that brought them to life in the first place.

    • http://www.facebook.com/edmond.turner.3 Edmond Turner

      Joe, the Interstate System was first described in a Bureau of Public Roads report to Congress, Toll Roads and Free Roads, in 1939. It was authorized for designation by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, with the initial designations in 1947 and completed in 1955 under the 40,000-mile limitation imposed by the 1944 Act. President Eisenhower didn’t conceive the Interstate System, but his support led to enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established the program for funding and building it.
      President Eisenhower’s support was based largely on civilian needs—support for economic development, improved highway safety, and congestion relief, as well as reduction of motor vehicle-related lawsuits. He understood the military value of the Interstate System, as well as its use in evacuations, but they were only part of the reason for his support.
      The primary justifications for the Interstate System were civilian in nature. In the midst of the Cold War, the Department of Defense supported the Interstate System and Congress added the words “and Defense” to its official name in 1956 (“National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”). However, the program was so popular for its civilian benefits that the legislation would have passed even if defense had not been a factor. In my opinion, this is one of the few initiatives federal government has gotten right.

      Now, as to your point on the shift from manual labor to mechanization on the farm. By your logic, I can suppose you would rather pay $5.00 for a dozen eggs, $7.00 for a loaf of bread, and $10.00 for a gallon of milk? That is exactly what you would be doing if farmers did not take advantage of every production efficiency at their disposal. Add 50% to the cost of getting those goods from the producer to your point of purchase because you don’t have the interstate road system as part of the supply chain. I think you would squeal pretty loudly if that was the current reality.

      Also, could it be that the cowardly city racist you refer to simply wanted to exercise their right live in a single family dwelling with a little acerage and better schools rather than a crowded tenament? That perhaps they had worked hard and sacrificed to be able to finally afford this choise as an option? And even if there was a racial motivation in the choise to move to suberbia, so what. I don’t have any more of a problem with that than I have with a Mexican or Chinese or black family choosing to move in next door to me on St. Charles Ave. And, if they should decide to paint their house pink and purple and I can’t live with it, I will exercise my choise to put up a for sale sign and move.