Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Is New Orleans like Baltimore?

After the comparison with Fort Worth was just too much a stretch and, as far as policing, is obsolete now, how about New Orleans? There is a general sentiment in Baltimore, that the Big Easy has a lot in common with Baltimore, in terms of problems, and in terms of attractions.
Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)

As has been discussed on all platforms since the Mayor's new favorite police commissioner was announced, NOLA and Baltimore both have had lots of issues with their police departments which brought a federal consent decree to both, to NOLA, in fact, much earlier and possibly for even more egregious transgressions. Both cities regularly rank tops in crime and murder rates. Are there other commonalities?

New Orleans lost a lot of its population as well, although not only in a steady trickle like Baltimore, but through one big catastrophe, hurricane  Katrina which hit the city in 2005.
New Orleans cultural cliche: Music and jazz
(Photo: Philipsen)
Both cities are the largest in their state. Both dealt swiftly with their Confederate Monuments, both have a majority black population, both have now a female black mayor.  Both share high poverty rates.

New Orleans isn't doing as well with job creation as Baltimore, but home values are a bit higher there. Baltimore's metro area is twice as large as that of NOLA and, obviously, the Big Easy sits far away from the nation's capital and has no nearby city to lean on. Baltimore's history has strong German influences, New Orleans' is French. Both are port cities. Both are known for their historic architecture. Both cities know entrenched poverty and an economy that benefits some and leaves many behind. Both cities seem to be perpetually at the crossroads.
New Orleans cliche: The historic red streetcars
(Photo: Philipsen)
As New Orleans approaches its 300th anniversary next year, it ranks as the third-most unequal city in the U.S. based on income gap, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis. The metro economy is adding lower-paying jobs at a faster rate than higher-paying jobs that could build a stronger middle class. The poverty rate in the city remains a staggering 27 percent, twice the nation's rate. [...] minority-owned businesses represent 27 percent of businesses in the New Orleans metro area and get only 2 percent of all revenues generated in the city, according to The Data Center. That 2 percent hasn't changed - nationally, it's 4 percent - despite all of the post-Katrina spending.(The Times-Picayune Sept 21, 2017)
New Orleans cultural cliche: Bourbon Street (Photo: Philipsen)
Of course, the Baltimore Convention Center would be glad if it had the occupancy and conventions that NOLA can regularly attract.  Fells Point and the Inner Harbor attract day tourists, but Bourbon Street and the Mississippi  attract tourists from around the world. In fact, New Orleans residents may find it a stretch to be compared to Baltimore. Yet, they mourn the departure of their police chief and Baltimore leaders are celebratory:
Six weeks ago, I had the opportunity through the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to visit New Orleans and meet Chief Harrison to learn what was working there that may be applied in our City and region.
Within minutes, it became clear that Chief Harrison was the type of leader that Baltimore needed, that Baltimore deserved. He understood the role of a police department to rebuild trust among all as the basis for safer communities. He spoke of the federal Consent Decree reforms in New Orleans as the driver for culture changes that reduce violence. And he spoke of partnerships with human development agencies to reduce crime by empowering people. 
Ethnic diversity, Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)

And it has worked. As of 2018 and four years with Chief Harrison at the helm, New Orleans saw the lowest violent crime rates in the City since 1971. They are in the midst of exiting their Consent Decree successfully. And they've restored trust and accountability between law enforcement and the residents of the city. That type of experience and leadership is what our Baltimore Police Department and the citizens of Baltimore deserve.(Senator Bill Ferguson in an e-mail)
Median income, Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)
New Orleans is a much less densely populated city and spreads over a much larger area (about twice the land area of Baltimore). NOLA police offers about 3 officers per 1000 residents, Baltimore has 4. In spite of a hefty budget increase in 2018, the NOLA police budget with just shy of $200 million is still less than half of Baltimore's.

Endless rows of boarded houses are uncommon, but 5 years after Katrina the city counted 47,700 abandoned properties, in 2018 there were still 14,700 vacant residences, based on population that is on par with Baltimore.
Sinking vacancies in New Orleans (Report)

Even though it, too had serious leadership problems with a mayor who was indicted and sentenced, the city seems to be less inclined to self loathing as Baltimore's residents, not even after Katrina when the entire state of Louisiana was frequently compared to a third world country. Mayor Mitch Landrieu who followed Nagin was well respected not only in his city but across the US until he left office in May of last year.

All in all, in the end New Orleans may not be all that similar to Baltimore, but unlike Fort Worth it is a city with which we can identify, and maybe even one, we would like to be compared with, at least when it comes to reforming the police department.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
Downtown glitz does not spread into all neighborhoods
(Photo: Philipsen)

New Orleans on pace in 2018 to have fewest murders since 
New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison leaving to head Baltimore policeNOPD Budget presentation 2019

Also on this blog:
Confederate Monuments: Learning from NOLA?

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