Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans—the most culturally distinct city in the United States—is still struggling with the storm’s consequences. Rivlin offers a survey of the long, slow recovery. His account suffers from the absence of an analytic overview of New Orleans’ economic structures and prospects before and after Katrina. Nevertheless, a clear and somewhat disturbing picture of the initial recovery does emerge. Government at all levels proved ineffective, and local government was hopelessly corrupt. The wealthy, mostly white business interests that had long dominated New Orleans achieved most, but not all, of their goals. The African American majority, mostly poor but also containing a strong middle class, suffered disproportionately but organized effectively enough to prevent the outcomes it feared most. The foundations, urban planners, and upper-middle-class reformers who flocked to the city spent large sums of money but, Rivlin argues, had relatively little impact. Divided, disorganized, and still desperately poor after the storm, New Orleans seems once again to have successfully frustrated the efforts of outsiders to reform or reconstruct it.
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