On the eve of Katrina, New Orleans was a distressed city by most measures, writes Gelinas, with rampant political corruption, high crime and poverty rates, pervasive unemployment, crippled infrastructure and failing public schools. Gelinas says that residents disbursed by the storm have returned to the city with a new sense of civic pride and conviction that local government can work effectively, which have been more important in rebuilding the city than federal relief funds.
Population is now 80% what it was before the storm, and local unemployment is below the national average at 7.5%. Though crime has returned to pre-Katrina levels, the city is making concrete strides to address it and other problems areas, Gelinas says.
New Orleans's citizen-driven renaissance may offer lessons for the rest of the country as it struggles to recover from the economic recession, Gelinas writes:
"New Orleans's recovering economy contrasts starkly with that of the nation as a whole, where investors remain paralyzed-shocked by the financial and economic collapse, terrified of arbitrary Washington actions, and crowded out by government activity. And in many ways besides investment, strange though it may sound, New Orleans provides a model for the rest of the country in the wake of the financial crisis."