New Orleans Must Improve the Lives of ALL African Americans
By Jeff Thomas
Many people often say I’m too focused on race. But look around our city. Most of the big social problems are in the African American community. Murder. Car jackings. Poverty. Covid hospitalizations. Drug abuse. Unemployment. The list goes on and on and on. Fixing these problems in that part of the African American community that struggles makes the city great for EVERYBODY. So if you are black or white or Asian or Hispanic and doing pretty good want to live in a safer cleaner city, let’s fix the problems in the ailing parts of our city. Helping poor black people benefits everybody.
Good news is we can do it. And it is not that hard. New Orleans should be a sanctuary city for the poor and struggling African Americans. Every policy and regulation possible should support this notion. And given the egregiously regressive and burdensome past, city government should fast track all current, available solutions. Even a cursory glance at the plight of hard-working African Americans in the city provides ample evidence of the urgent need for change.
Our current paradigm has created and sustains the crime-plagued, underperforming city. Low-performing schools contribute to the highest dropout rates in the country. Gentrification and low-paying jobs force many into the rental market in our city. And people who own their homes are nearly 90% less likely to commit crimes compared to those who rent. Though the murder rate is once again the highest in the country per capita. African Americans in NOLA die at alarmingly high rates. Especially when it comes to young people. We must fix serious and deeply-entrenched problems here quickly. It can be done with surprising ease if a coordinated attempt is employed.
THE SANCTUARY CITY MODEL
Characteristics of the sanctuary should include
- Community-based policing
- jobs training,
- living wages
- home ownership programs
- good neighborhood schools,
- quality healthcare
- and ample business opportunities with direct access to available financing.
Combined, these targets will dramatically reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all our citizens. With access to good-paying jobs and pathways to home ownership, crime will drop precipitously. Working men, who earn living wages, will fatten city coffers via property and sales tax payments. Needing fewer police officers, more money could then be shifted into job training programs. These programs prepare young people to enter the workforce and become taxpayers.
SWB JOBS PROGRAM
The Sewerage and Water Board can be the greatest jobs program in city history. Billions of FEMA dollars are scheduled to be spent repairing crumbling infrastructure. The board must hire, train and demand excellence from its repair people. Our ability to pump water is our lifeline. We must invest in training our people to protect our property. The SWB is more important than the NOPD. SWB must pay enough to enable employees to purchase homes.
Eighty five percent of people who commit crimes do not own their homes. Neighborhoods where people own their homes are cleaner, safer. And they provide ancillary activities (kids sports programs, block parties, etc.) that promote healthier living. Living wages help people qualify for mortgages. City-sanctioned home ownership classes would motivate and inspire people to save for down payments and improve their credit scores. The soft second mortgage programs should also be expanded.
Working families need close and convenient good schools for their children. Our experiment with charter schools must shift to emphasize local school excellence. Good neighborhood schools reduce stress, increase participation and reduce dropout rates, which in turn strengthen families. Parent-school partnerships are easier when parents are able to access school personnel close to home. Friendly rivalries centered around athletic and academic achievement will transform educational achievement[ in The Bowl. Businesses could offer cash prizes to the students who perform best and the schools which achieve great successes.
Police Chief Shaun Ferguson rose through the ranks. And he is a man from our streets who now leads the men and women who patrol our streets. He says, “The community and police must form a partnership.” He is correct when he says the NOPD needs citizen support. Right now, our NOPD is dangerously understaffed. Shifting to 12 hour shifts increases presence on the streets. Good move Chief. Also moving more desk and clerical jobs from police to citizen staffing will enable more officers to get out. And top brass should patrol our neighborhoods. They are our best and brightest. They have the experience and authority to effectively decipher complex situations. Is a shouting match serious?
We know arresting and jailing people for minor crimes, even for short periods of time, has dramatic and real effects. And ironically results in yet more crime. Instead, community policing operates in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect. Too often, police have operated with rigidity and oppressiveness. That stifles the community support it needs, desires, and deserves.
For too long, New Orleans and other municipalities have focused on fines and fees to finance government. Police decide who gets pulled over and issued a ticket. Furthermore, rigid rules and immediate late fees from municipal utilities create undue stress in an already overburdened populace.