If New Orleans is to be reborn, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, it will have to engage in some ruthless triage. That was the 'œbold' message in a report last week by the city's rebuilding commission, which recommended that about half the city not be rebuilt unless a 'œsufficient number' of former residents return to their neighborhoods within a year. The proposal immediately generated angry accusations of racism, largely because the areas of the city likely to be razed and turned into parkland are in the low-lying districts mostly occupied by African-Americans and the poor. Unfortunately, there's really no other practical choice, said The New York Times in an editorial. The poor districts were built on old swampland, below sea level, and it would be foolish to move thousands of people 'œback into harm's way, especially when it's unclear how much hurricane protection the city will have in the coming years.'
'œLet the funeral march begin, because the old New Orleans is dead,' said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. The so-called rebuilding plan makes it official: The 'œheart and soul of black New Orleans has in effect been wiped off the map.' And unfairly so: How can any of the city's poor be expected to return when their old neighborhoods remain sodden disaster areas of wrecked homes and mounds of garbage? It was the residents of these neighborhoods who cooked for the tourists, and created the city's music, and made New Orleans the country's 'œmost distinctive city.' Now only feeble echoes of the real New Orleans will be left, in a city that has shrunk from 462,000 residents to just 144,000.
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