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« Lead by Following | Main | A Sign of the Times for Political Leaders? »

Aug 8
Reg Stewart Sees Hope for New Orleans

Reg Stewart ... the Senior Health Project Coordinator for Quality Improvement at Strong Memorial Hospital ... recently traveled to New Orleans -- armed with a Brain Based question.  I asked Reg a few weeks ago, “What can you find at this point in New Orleans that might give us hope?"

“Not much,” Reg said, when he returned. “The area is 90 percent in the same shape it was immediately after the storm.”

Reg described what he saw as ... “Destroyed properties… with no rebuilding yet in many neighborhoods....” 100_0661.JPG

Apparently, everybody’s waiting for decisions from the politicians – to see how they want to rebuild the city. In the meantime … what you see in New Orleans is almost exactly as it was immediately after the hurricane. Reg said, “I saw water marks 15 to 20 feet in most cases and higher in some…."

“Politicians are holding up the rebuilding at the moment because they have not decided what they want to rebuild and how.” I asked Reg about the progress with insurance companies and was told,  “They are also playing their games – because many want to avoid paying claims.” They are blaming the loss primarily on “water damage from floods and not the winds and hurricane…” which frees them from responsibility since most were not insured for floods.  It seems that the federal government is now involved to persuade insurance companies to pay their policies.

“It's really sad,” Reg said.

I asked this highly respected leader,  to tell me more about the people, and Reg replied... “The people in New Orleans are still without electricity … and with no power… it’s unhealthy and unsafe there.” I was told that people who got their businesses up and  going again… "can only stay open in day because it’s so unsafe without lights at night."

It surprised Reg to see a huge reduction in one of his favorite spots … the French Market.  “It’s only one-third it’s size… with very little enthusiasm there. “You no longer see any vegetables and fruits.” Most vendors have left the area, and Reg predicted there will be “no French market at all … soon.”

Most businesses in the French quarters simply have not re-opened. In that area you see “lots of construction,” unlike other more annihilated sections. Reg sat with his daughter outside in his favorite spot … the  Café DuMonde … for beigne and Café Ole.

New Orleans was depressing and so Reg and his daughter left… as did many of its residents. On the way out … they saw water flooded its way past the outskirts of the city. Reg’s relatives lived in the Basin Street area – with its new brick homes –meticulous – "my sister's house was her mansion – and now her whole neighborhood is demolished and deserted."

“A few daring souls got FEMA trailers and parked these in their yards. But the Basin Street neighborhood is basically gone.” Once beautiful  brick homes now stand in ruins with broken windows and water damage everywhere. "There used to be mini-marts and shops and these too have closed and stand ready to be demolished."

Reg told me he is “still optimistic that it will come around.” He holds out hope because, as he put it… “This is an opportunity for the city to be shaped in a different fashion.” Reg sees hope, if …“the inhabitants of the city could become real contributors to their city and to society…”  He senses that if people can find meaningful ways to contribute and not merely be part of other people’s contributions, New Orleans can be a better city than it was before the storm.

I wholeheartedly agreed with Reg’s concluding statement to my question about hope's possibility… “Unfortunately we have natural disasters … and we can turn these into opportunities for the future….”  What do you think?  

comments

Indeed not much has changed in New Orleans since Katrina hit but there is still hope and Reg Stewart is optimistic and he is pretty much showing that there is a ray of light above the New Orleans inhabitants. The City and his inhabitants need all the support they can get and although after an year little has changed there is still hope.

Jackie, thanks for stopping by. It was important for me to hear about New Orleams from Reg, because he does amazing community projects here in Rochester and he inspires many of us about what is possible. As we band together we can do so much more -- and we are all needed to help build community! Do you know the area?

Great post Ellen. We at KMM are interested in learning more about New Orleans and what the opportunities are to help. Citizen journalists will seek the truth. Check out NewOrleansTruth for more on this story.

Hal, thanks for your kind comments. I did know about the KMM initiative, and was quite excited that I'd given Reg the "brain based" questions and invited him to take to New Orleans ... a month earlier.

I was also even more interested in his story because of the buzz from KMM now:-) He is such a thoughtful man, and I appreciated the way said it as he saw it ... but also brought the wisdom that builds solutions and adds hope too. What an exciting time to be part of KMM!

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