November 26th, 2008
I suppose I always knew this was coming, that LSU and VA hospital site plans entailing the demolition of 70+ acres of the recovering Tulane-Gravier neighborhood were not going to be subject to change, no matter what impact they would have on recovering neighborhood, no matter what cost assessments demonstrated that these plans might very well be the most expensive and lengthy delay of restoration of absolutely crucial health care to South East Louisiana. Somehow, though, knowing that this announcement would come didn’t entirely prepare me for it. After 18 years in New Orleans, from the Duke-Edwards gubernatorial runoff through all the post-Katrina fracas, it’s now that I’m most seriously questioning why I’m still here.
I don’t have it in me just now to even begin to address all the facets of what’s so wrong about this decision, which in my opinion (not completely uninformed, I hope) will set back the recovery of desperately needed health care by years, at least as much as it sets back neighborhood, economic, and housing recovery – not to mention the recovery of hope and faith.
The Squandered Heritage post linked to above raises the question, what bells do we ring here, like the San Miguel church’s bells, to restore our city to its senses? What bells peal to the fact that this is not a Preservation vs. Progress or Neighborhood vs. Public issue, that we need not live our lives on the horns of false dilemmas, or that healthcare and industries exist to serve the people that make up communities, not vice versa? That for all the “visioning” exercises New Orleanians have gone through (and are still enduring, in the course of the public element of the current Master Planning process), the abstract vision of the future of a Generic American City’s future has obscured the view of who and what we are, and the incredible potential we have to take our very real assets and make something at least as good if not better from them, rather than further compounding the Flood’s destruction?
I don’t know what bells we have, but we’re approaching the Yuletide season, so jingle whatever you’ve got.