The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is almost upon us, and wouldn't you know it - some Chicago Tribune op-ed columnist used the tragedy to wish the same fate on Chicago so the city could be magically restored, just like New Orleans was.
Envy isn't a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak...read on
See, that's all it took. A horrendous natural disaster that wiped out over 1800 lives to restore the city.
It would be hard to call a city that survived Katrina lucky, but McQueary insists that the hurricane "gave a great American city a rebirth."
The column naively assesses the city's gains as a result of the hurricane: the "overthrow" of a corrupt government, a smaller city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, "detonated labor contracts" and a school system unburdened by teachers union demands.
Today, New Orleans rates 14th in the nation for political corruption (which is only respectable relative to Chicago's first-place ranking); furloughs cut costs, but in some cases simply pushed the burden elsewhere; and a report out Thursday by the Cowen Institute at Tulane University shows the post-Katrina school system is still in flux. But the city finances, at least, are in better shape than 10 years ago.
Those lives are part of the calamity that the editorial says enabled New Orleans to "hit the reset button" -- yet they go virtually unmentioned.
The "thousands of lives lost" were overwhelmingly among New Orleans' most vulnerable. Residents without access to a car -- largely the poor and elderly -- were the most affected. Black residents made up a disproportionate share of the hurricane victims: roughly one in three residents from the hardest-hit areas was black.
The most objectionable passage -- which was later changed on the sly -- was especially out-of-touch with the real-life human toll of Katrina. Per the op-ed:
That's why I find myself praying for a real storm. It's why I can relate, metaphorically, to the residents of New Orleans climbing onto their rooftops and begging for help and waving their arms and lurching toward rescue helicopters.