In the week of the fourth Thanksgiving of the city’s recovery, we are well aware of the problems: crime and, in spots, political incompetence. The season, however, calls upon us to count our blessings and as I look back at the past year, there are many, including the following:
 
6. Return of the Roosevelt Hotel.  This is one of the true feel-good stories: a grand hotel being returned to its former glory and its earlier name. With a soft opening scheduled for next June, the hotel already has a convention booked for that month. The Waldorf-Astoria brand names will add even more prestige to an already legendary building. And yes, the fabled Christmas decorations will be back, as well as the Sazerac Bar.
 
5. Saints and Hornets. Both of the city’s major league professional teams have been expected to have championship level seasons. Both teams have played in Europe this year and, in doing so, spread the word that New Orleans, despite the impression lingering in other countries, is alive and active. From the local fans’ perspective, the city is further blessed in that two of the best young professional athletes on the continent, Reggie Bush and Chris Paul, are on the home teams.
 
4. Hurricane preparation. Gustav was an inconvenience, but at least it helped us learn about the state of hurricane readiness. The message was impressive. Refurbished levees did their part. Government at all levels was ready and knew what to do. There is still much to be done, but the Gustav episode proved that we are becoming smarter about withstanding the storms. They will always be an annoyance, but they do not have to ruin our lives.
 
3.  Closing in on corruption. New Orleans, and the state, might at this moment be the most corruption-free it has ever been. The new governor has been zealous – some might say overzealous – in eliminating conflicts of interest at the state level. A determined U.S. Attorney office has cracked down and sent to jail politicians who have abused their power. In New Orleans the voters gave the new Inspector General’s office extra protection so that its funding base and authority cannot be interfered with. The message is clear. We have become less tolerant of corruption and the corrupt will contend with the most efficient crime investigating apparatus ever.
 
2. Riding the Economy. As the nation has suffered through a tumultuous economy, we have been better able than most places to ride the waves. Among the safeguards are the flow of recovery dollars that were already coming into the economy. The port has remained busy and the tourism industry, though occasionally staggering, is still standing. Then there is the oil industry, which is still pumping dollars into the market. In the race for economic stability, we are neither the tortoise nor the hare, but rather the workhorse moving on, carefully but steadily. In the year of the fluctuating stock market, steady has been a good place to be.
 
1. Improving Public Education. Katrina provided no better result than to destroy the incompetent and fundamentally flawed public school system and to provide a chance the rethink and restructure public education. Like a junk tree toppled by the storm, now there is sunshine. Charter schools are allowing for more individual initiatives from different sources. Some schools will likely fail, but more schools than ever have a chance to get better. Other schools, under the Recovery School District, at least have competent guidance from professional management. Activist groups are bringing fresh, enthusiastic educators into the city. The Orleans parish school board still exists, operating five schools and having a chance to clean house and rebuild. It will take a few years for the effect of improved schools to be fully appreciated, but in the long run they will create better wage owners, strengthen family life and reduce crime. New Orleans will be a safer better-educated city in which its people have a better chance at making something decent out of their lives.
        
For that we are truly thankful.
                  

        Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to errol@renpubllc.com. For the subject line use THANKFUL. All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter.  Please include your name and location.

     
     
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