Frustrated with the way reconstruction in New Orleans is being handled I've written up a policy paper that critiques the dominant paradigm for post-Katrina planning and redevelopment and offers up a simple policy to achieve maximum justice.

You can download a draft of it here: The Failure of Good Intentions

My intentions with this paper are to influence and hopefully chip away at the ideological frames that the dominant school of thought is using to reshape New Orleans: namely that we must take advantage of this "opportunity" to deconcentrate pockets of poverty and desegregate residential areas of the city by building mixed-income developments.

While these goals sound laudable, they are in practice bound to fail. The good intentions of planners, architects, and academics are causing a great deal of harm that could be avoided. In their quest to build a better society, the experts and their seemingly logical theories of poverty and urban social dynamics are creating great obstacles to the homecoming of tens of thousands of families. Furthermore, some parties in the city are using liberal social scientific theories and the professionals that proffer them to legitimate their agenda of clearing out some sections of the city of their pre-Katrina populations of poor and predominantly black communities in order to build more profitable hotels, housing, tourist attractions, and offices, without a care to those who will be displaced in the process.

All in all we need to promote policies that allow for the right to return and the right to rebuild communities, even the most troubled and oppressed communities like those found in public housing or Central City. These communities must be respected and incorporated into any process that will shape the future of the city. This means that the people need to come home. Now. There can be no just or effective reconstruction to build a better New Orleans without the people of New Orleans. If policymakers will not bend to this need, it is very likely that highly disruptive protest movements will step in to fill the void. This is perhaps the best hope for the future of New Orleans.



Christian Roselund said...


This is not good intentions. HUD knows exactly what it is doing, per the River Garderns/St. Thomas model that Alphonse Jackson declared last fall.

Darwin BondGraham said...

Hi Christian,

I agree. HUD's policies over the past several decades have helped to decimate public housing across the nation. They are effectively withdrawing from the public housing game and committing themselves to subsidizing upper-income housing and urban development schemes. But I think one reason that they're doing this is because many HUD officials and many academics who have helped create the theories that HUD is utilizing to push this transformation actually do have good intentions. They really do want to help the poor and disenfranchized out of the poverty trap.

A lot of politicians, academics, planners, architects, and more affluent citizens of New Orleans want to help also. They have good intentions. But their intentions are refracted through dominant ideological frames that put "personal responsibility" and a "culture of poverty" at the center of the debate about why some are poor, some are rich, and why there is hypersegregation in our society.

I'm aiming this paper at people with good intentions who still believe it's possible to solve chronic poverty, crime, homelessness, etc., through the spatial reconfiguration of the city.