How to Make NOLA Great in 2020

Be Jeff Thomas

Sales taxes are regressive.  People with money only really notice when they make big purchases.  But for poorer people, sales taxes stealthy but steadily erode available cash.  People with higher incomes are at best only marginally affected by sales taxes.  Much like regressive sales taxes, punishment based criminal laws stealthy but steadily erode the stability of New Orleans neighborhoods and eventually the city as a whole. And Poor people also are impacted more buy these regressive laws, while people with money hardly notice.

When people have to post bail or worse suffer jail time for marijuana possession or loitering or carrying an open container of alcohol or even playing loud music then our city becomes less stable[JT1] .  Studies show that just having to go to court much less getting locked up can send people’s lives spiraling.

These regressive measures are rooted in the past when a racist mischaracterization of the nature of black men was pervasive amongst lawmakers. Today, Louisiana is still one of the biggest incarcerators in the world and New Orleans is still the biggest supplier of black bodies for the prison cells.  The good news is that the current crop of local legislators are conscious of these factors and are willing to rewrite the arcane laws that incentivize police harassment.  Further our new police chief is focused on violent offenders who plague us all and has a force that seems less inclined to engage in unnecessary agitation.

New Orleans should be an enriching city for African Americans.  Every policy and regulation possible should support this notion.  And given the egregiously regressive and burdensome past, city government should fast track currently available solutions.   A simple look at the current condition of the plight of hard-working African Americans in the city is ample evidence for urgent need for change.

Our current paradigm has created and sustains the crime plagued, underperforming city we all wring our hands about. 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.  People who own their homes are nearly 90% less likely to be commit crimes as compared to those who rent. Though the murder rate is lower, shootings have increased.  African Americans in NOLA die at alarmingly high rates especially for young people.  We have to change serious and deeply entrenched problems quickly.  It can be done with surprising ease if a coordinated attempt is implemented.

THE POSITIVE 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 forces will dramatically reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of all our citizens.  With access to good paying jobs and providing pathways to home ownership, then crime will drop precipitously.  Working men, who earn living wages, will increase city coffers via property and sales taxes.  Needing fewer police officers, more money can be shifted into jobs training programs that will prepare young people to enter the workforce.

SWB JOBS PROGRAM

The Sewerage and Water Board can be the greatest jobs program in city history.  With billions of FEMA dollars scheduled to be spent repairing the crumbling infrastructure, the board must hire, train, and demand excellence from the repair people.  From the street hustler to the street plumber, our men must be transformed by new opportunities.  Work financing for home purchases can be matched with local banks who can partner with the city and water board.

HOME OWNERSHIP

85% of people who commit crimes do not own their homes. Neighborhoods where people own their homes are cleaner, safer, and provide ancillary activities (kids sports programs, block parties, etc.) that promote healthier living.  Living wages help people qualify for mortgages.  City provided home ownership classes motivate and inspire people to save for down payments and improve their credit scores.  Soft second mortgage programs should be expanded.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS

Working families need close and convenient good schools for their children.  Our experiment with charter schools must shift to emphasizing local school excellence.  Good neighborhood schools reduce stress, increase participation and reduce dropout rates and strengthen families.  Parent/school partnerships are easier when parents can access school personnel close to home.  Friendly rivalries centered around athletic and academic achievement can transform the educational process in the Bowl.  Businesses can offer cash prizes to the students who perform best and the schools that achieve great success.

COMMUNITY POLICING

New Police Chief Shaun Ferguson has risen through the ranks and 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.  Currently our style of governance contributes to criminal behavior.  Arresting and jailing people for minor crimes, even for just short periods has dramatic results that create more crime.  Instead, community policing operates in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect.  Too often, police have operated with a rigidity and oppressiveness that have stifled the community support they need and deserve.

For too long New Orleans and other municipalities have focused on fines and fees to finance government.  Often the police are the arbiters of who gets pulled over and issued a ticket.  Further, rigid rules and immediate late fees from municipal utilities create stress.  In the 21st century our cities must uplift the lives of the citizens who make these places home.

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