Doing those Thanksgiving week lists common to the news media is, to me, a helpful exercise. They are good for thinking through where we have been and putting things in perspective. And on those nights when there is too much crime in the news and the political debates get ugly, it’s good to be reminded of decency and hope.

Here, in ascending order, is my list. The best part about this exercise is that there were so many other worthy mentions that were left out. May the list continue to grow.

 

5. NO HURRICANES

Not even a heavy rain or a big wind.

(As though there was a trade on the misery index, winter was pretty frigid – including one of the worst ever Carnival days.)

 

4. FRERET/O.C.H. REVIVALS

If you’re not used to it, yet get ready for the new hip phrase “O.C.H.,” which refers to that part of the former Dryades Street that was renamed after Civil Rights Activist Oretha Castle Haley. This strip has been a study in decay and blight, but it's coming back with restaurants, galleries and even a converted use location where boxing matches are held. Café Reconcile, which was created to provide restaurant industry training to disadvantaged youth, speaks for the spirit of the area.

Freret Street, a once great commercial strip that fell into white flight blight, is back. Restaurants are usually the first measure of a rebounding neighborhood, and Freret has many new ones, including the populist Dat Dog. Last year a revised Krewe of Freret even returned to the parade route. Like the parade, the street is once again drawing a crowd.

 

3. NEW MIXED HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS

Where housing projects once stood, there are, in many places, new developments that are more attractive and humane in scale and design. People who live in these mixed-use developments have a better shot at a better life. If these places are to survive intact, the participants will also need better opportunities, but having a decent place to go home to is a good first step.

 

2. HOSPITAL COMPLEX RISING

Drive along Tulane Avenue and see the difference that the rising hospital development is making. The combination of a VA hospital complex and the university medical center has triggered an economic upsurge in the Mid-City area. There are those who still question the development’s long-term sustainability, but for now there can be no questioning of the new life it has brought to the area. A sign of the changes going in the right direction: A building on the comer of South Scott Street and Tulane Avenue that once had a reputation for violent crime is now Treo, a art bar that specializes in craft cocktails. The neighborhood is improving.

 

1. SCHOOLS IMPROVING

Public education is getting better. There are those who want the charter schools and overall reforms to fail, but the reform surge is too strong to be denied. For the first time, perhaps forever, people are excited about the direction of local education. Katrina blew out the bad wood that was holding education back and allowed for experimentation and changes. As today’s students become adults we will be a much better city.

 

 

We cannot stop hurricanes, but we can prevent a backslide in other areas. In life as in weather, we have to be smarter and continue to build better barriers.

 

                                                                                    

 BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.

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