Restoring the soul of America
On August 29, 2005, the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history occurred when Hurricane Katrina hit Southeast Louisiana. Four parishes, including New Orleans, were severely damaged. Families were torn apart, lives and homes were lost. The State of Louisiana will not rest until people are home and safe in a restored City of New Orleans and in the other communities that make up our unique culture. As Governor Kathleen Blanco said, “We will rebuild New Orleans and the surrounding communities of Southeast Louisiana. We look forward to returning your hospitality in a safer and more secure Louisiana: vibrant, just, and diverse, her cultural wealth restored to the world.”
We have already begun the monumental task of rebuilding New Orleans and the surrounding parishes in Southeast Louisiana. On Sept. 20, I unveiled “Louisiana Rebirth: Restoring the Soul of America,” a strategic plan to rebuild Louisiana’s tourism and cultural industries in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
There are four key results crucial to the recovery of the state. For each of these results, the plan identifies strategies, ways to track down the results, next steps and ways to help. The results are:
1. Rebuild Louisiana to worldwide preeminence as a top tourist destination.
2. Make Louisiana’s Cultural Economy the engine of economic and social rebirth.
3. Build better lives and livelihoods than before for all Louisiana’s people.
4. Make Louisiana’s recovery the standard for high performance, accountability, and ethical behavior.
Through a successful completion of these results, Louisiana can once again get on track to becoming the beacon of the New South – a community where differences unite us; diversity is a strength; a place with strong family and cultural roots, but progressive; and a dynamic economy.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina created an indelible moment in not only the history of Louisiana, but that of the nation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared Hurricane Katrina had become “the most destructive such storm to ever strike the United States.” Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding was a disaster of epic proportions. The cost in human lives, the dislocation of families, the destruction of communities, and the loss of property exacted a toll that can never be repaid. Lives and livelihoods were lost, and the poorest segments of the city suffered greatly – though all New Orleanians suffered in one way or another.
Now, many efforts are underway to restore and rebuild Louisiana. Families are being reunited. New Orleans will be the first city in the 21st century to be reborn and redesigned, even rejuvenated, in a way that will be inclusive of all people. We know it is not just about historic buildings. The soul and character of New Orleans, of Louisiana, is based on its people, on the creative and cultural economy we now have a chance to truly develop. We will rebuild; we will be reborn; we will restore the soul of America.
This disaster has presented Louisiana with a historic opportunity to build back better than before. In doing so, we will demonstrate to our fellow Americans and the world that we can be a model of response, rebuilding, and reconciliation.
To accomplish these lofty goals, we will be guided by these important principles:
• We will rebuild on the historical and cultural roots of Louisiana, making them stronger along the way.
• We will rebuild our communities and the lives of all our citizens to levels that exceed those prior to Katrina; we will settle for nothing less.
• We will rebuild using the talents, labor, ideas, and assets of our own citizens; we will welcome assistance but, first and foremost, Louisianans will lead the rebuilding effort.
• We will rebuild in a manner that is culturally sensitive and recognizes the strength that comes from the diversity of all our heritages.
• We will rebuild to preserve and magnify the awe-inspiring and unique natural resources that make up Louisiana.
• We will rebuild recognizing the comparative advantage that Louisiana has with its multifaceted, deeply rooted, authentic, and unique culture.
• We will rebuild so that those less privileged in our midst have a markedly improved quality of life as a result of this effort.
• We will rebuild in a manner that expects everyone to contribute to the effort in some way, each according to her or his own talents and resources.
• We will rebuild in a way that recognizes that all parishes in Louisiana were affected by this disaster, even those that were not heavily damaged.
• We will rebuild using the highest standards of accountability and performance management, thereby earning public trust in our governments.
• We will rebuild in a manner in which all decisions are accessible by the public.
For each of the results of the four-part plan, we have identified strategies, ways to track our results, next steps, and ways to help. Overall, we know that to achieve these results:
• People need new images of Louisiana, to replace the weeks of negative images on television. We will mount an immediate public relations campaign and a longer-term national and international advertising campaign to show the rebirth of Louisiana to the world.
• People need information, so we will establish a central clearinghouse for information and referral about our activities in the Office of the Lt. Governor.
The latest information will be posted on our website, www.crt.state.la.us, and we will establish a dialogue for information-gathering, feedback, and dissemination of information. Our libraries, state parks, and welcome centers will continue to serve as information hubs in communities.
• People need resources to recover, so we have established a Cultural Economy Foundation for contributions. We must be able to sustain all displaced persons, including those displaced artists, musicians, writers, and displaced businesses that makes up the Cultural Economy. We will help establish tax and other incentives for rebuilding. We will seek aid from public and private sources.
• People need to be reunited with their families and reconnected to their jobs and homes, so we will rebuild the economy and help provide temporary and permanent housing. The tourism industry will employ over 120,000, the Cultural Economy will employ over 140,000. We are providing space for temporary and transitional housing in state parks. We will also help people with support services for employment, including education, transportation, and child care.
• People want to help, so we are recruiting and using volunteers and others through our clearinghouse. We are also convening a working conference on rebuilding to ask our stakeholders to develop a detailed action plan to achieve our results. We have also appointed a national cultural economy and tourism advisory board to guide us as we rebuild.
• People need to know their government is working for them, so we will measure and regularly report our progress on these results with our “Scorecard on Louisiana’s Rebirth.” We will work with the federal government to negotiate innovative ways to ensure both quick and effective response and financial accountability. We will ask independent advisors to guide and review our results and finances. We will be fair, fast, open, and honest in all our dealings; and we will lead with courage and compassion.
We will be thoughtful in the process of rebuilding, mindful of the urgency as well as the need to rethink better ways of rebuilding in the process. We will preserve the mix of unique cultures that has made us world famous; we will rebuild an even more welcoming and vibrant City of New Orleans; we will restore the other beautiful communities of Southeast Louisiana; and we will make the State of Louisiana a great place to live, work, and play. It will require all of us to unite. We will work as partners with other State agencies, federal and local governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individuals. The work will be hard but gratifying. The challenges are immense. We are up to the task.
The Scorecard for Louisiana’s Rebirth
This scorecard will rate the extent to which we got the right results to the right people, on time and on budget, with independent confirmation that the money was not lost or misused.
RESULT #1: Rebuild Louisiana to worldwide preeminence as a top tourist destination.
Indicators of Success
• Total Visitor Spending/Total Number of Visitors
• Jobs in the tourism industry
• National intent to visit Louisiana’s tourism industry is a vital economic driver for the state of Louisiana.
In 2004, visitor spending reached $9.9 billion and the state hosted 25.5 million visitors. The tourism industry accounted for 120,000 jobs statewide, of which 81,000 were in New Orleans. The entire retail, banking, professional, and services industries in New Orleans depend on the more than $5 billion of annual direct visitor spending and an additional several billion dollars of direct spin-off impact.
The challenge to re-create and surpass previous achievements will be met immediately and with every public and private resource that can be brought to bear. Our first emphasis will be on promoting the majority of the state’s tourism industry, which is still open and operating, in order to restore and retain visitor spending. Simultaneously, we will offer short-term and long-term business assistance to all tourism entities within the state. Workforce development will be an immediate component of rebuilding infrastructure. Research will be the key in determining a long-term national and international image campaign, which will be focused upon rebuilding and restoring the image of New Orleans and Louisiana. I, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, and my department will serve as the flagship for the recovery of the tourism industry for the state of Louisiana.
RESULT #2: Make Louisiana’s Cultural Economy the engine of economic and social rebirth.
Indicators of Success
• Number of jobs related to the Cultural Economy – entertainment, and performing and visual arts, humanities, historic preservation, archaeology, design, and culinary arts.
• Number of citizens and visitors accessing cultural programs and products.
• Economic impact – amount of spending by residents and visitors – attributed to Cultural Economy assets.
Louisiana’s Cultural Economy is a $202 million industry that employs over 140,000, defined as the people, enterprises, and communities that transform cultural skills, knowledge, and ideas into economically productive goods, services, and places. The goal of the Cultural Economy Initiative is to develop Louisiana’s cultural assets to create economic opportunities and a high quality of life for all Louisianians. Disciplines that make up the cultural economy include: entertainment and performing arts, visual arts and crafts, design, media, literary arts, humanities, history, historic preservation, folk life, archaeology, and culinary arts. This definition of Louisiana’s Cultural Economy reflects the state’s unique heritage, the diversity of its residents, its rich history, and its broad range of cultural products.
The outpouring of support for Louisiana following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina is evidence of the strong association and affection that people all over the world have for Louisiana’s unique culture. Louisiana has an economic asset that other states can only dream of: a multifaceted, deeply rooted, authentic, and unique culture. In Louisiana, culture generates economic value, and the state’s Cultural Economy is a significant component of a healthy, diversified economy. A comprehensive research study conducted by Mt. Auburn Associates, Louisiana: Where Culture Means Business, sets forth objectives and action plans for the economic growth of Louisiana’s cultural industries. The study stated that $202 million was the direct contribution of arts organizations and participants, with an indirect annual economic impact of $934 million.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we must make our Cultural Economy the engine of Louisiana’s economic and social rebirth. We will do so by first ensuring those cultural assets that were damaged by the storm and flooding are restored to good condition, and those assets that fortunately remain undamaged are properly conserved and maintained. We will also continue to apply our creative talents and innovative thinking to develop new and exciting cultural products and services that capture the imagination of the public. We will make investments that rebuild capacity within our cultural industries, enhance our distribution outlets, promote cultural education, and create marketing to help fuel this rebirth.
How People Can Help: 1. Louisiana Serve, which was established to rekindle the spirit of service and cititzenship, can ascertain if its members can help restore damaged homes and properties in the affected parishes; 2. Professional volunteers from national or regional organizations such as: National Trust for Historic Preservation; American Institute for Conservation; Southeast Museums Conference; American Association for State and Local History; 3. Nationally and internationally recognized artists and cultural ambassadors continue to promote Louisiana’s unique cultural heritage and assets as an irreplaceable environment for cultural industry production and development.
RESULT #3: Build better lives and livelihoods than before for all Louisiana’s people.
Indicators of Success
• Percentage of Louisianians whose family income exceeds pre-Katrina levels.
• Percentage of Louisianians living in their own non-movable housing that exceeds pre-Katrina levels.
• Percentage of Louisianian youth demonstrating grade-appropriate school readiness that exceeds pre-Katrina levels.
Rebuilding people’s lives and their livelihoods is the centerpiece of rebuilding Louisiana. People, all people, and the quality of their lives within their communities must be the centerpiece of the recovery strategy.
To rebuild people’s lives that have been so devastated requires a massive effort. Strategies for housing, clothing, food, healthcare, jobs, transportation, communications and public utilities are being developed and led by other agencies. We are planning to offer people a gateway to information that will put them in contact with the resources available to rebuild their lives. Reopening State Libraries (as an information clearinghouse); using education and training to help people rebuild their lives; accepting donations, volunteers, and recovery efforts of nonprofit organizations; engaging America’s youth in the rebuilding efforts; and provide temporary and transitional housing in State Parks, are just a few of the ways the state can help.
How People Can Help:
1. Volunteer time and expertise toward building the Cultural Economy; 2. Donate money to the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation; earmark the donation for projects that benefit the Cultural Economy effort (www.crt.state.la.us); 3.Sponsor internships or apprenticeships in Cultural Economy industries.
RESULT #4: Make Louisiana’s recovery the standard for high performance, accountability and ethical behavior.
Indicators of Success:
• Extent to which the state gets the right results to the right people, on time and on budget.
• Independent confirmation that the money was not lost or misused.
• Making Louisiana’s recovery the standard for high performance, accountability, and ethical behavior, the State of Louisiana must restore lives and livelihoods as well as earn the public’s trust in their government. This will require accountability for using every dollar of recovery spending to deliver the right result, to the right people, on time and on budget, without any of the money being misspent. Louisiana’s response must be focused, fast, fair, and fiercely accountable.
We will publicize the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation fund that is being utilized by the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which allows us to receive and distribute relief funds and will gain 501-c(3) status to ensure long-term stability and progress.
The Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism will identify and work to remove any bureaucratic barriers in the form of laws, rules, and procedures for using the money effectively to achieve results. Safeguards will be maintained to protect against fraud and abuse.
The Road to Recovery
The one thing Katrina did not impact was the foundation of our core. No matter how strong this storm was it couldn’t destroy the assets we have in Louisiana that will guide us as we rebuild. The people and culture of Louisiana are more genuine and authentic than anywhere else in the country. They still exist. No matter how long it takes us to pump out water, rebuild houses, roads and buildings and get our people home, nobody will take away our heart and soul. Because a house is not a home. Like we say in Louisiana “you’re home is where you at.” Nobody can duplicate the special uniqueness that we have in Louisiana.
We know we can rebuild. We know this because history tells us that it is so. Cities can be built back and they can be built back better than they were before – after World War II, Berlin and Holland were rebuilt, as was San Francisco after major earthquakes. Now faced with the challenge to rebuild our great city – America’s great city – we must all lock arms, lean forward, stay focused and rebuild one of America’s strongest assets so the New South can rise from the ashes of tragedy and become for the world a beacon of hope and opportunity.
As President George W. Bush said in his address from Jackson Square, there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans. It is the soul of America. This great city will rise again. It will be a rebirth, a chance to build better than before. It will take all of us – the multicultural gumbo that defines us – working together to make it happen. We will be reborn, better than before.