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Q&A: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

SS: How do you think New Orleans is doing now?

RN: We’re doing better. Every day we get a little bit better. We probably have half of our population back, but there are so many other people positioned close to New Orleans that are coming in and out of the city working on their homes. We only need two things right now. The federal government is supposed to reimburse us for repairs to our infrastructure. If we get that money flowing in a big way, it’s going to be good for us. There is also the state-run Road Home program, which issues grants to help people rebuild their homes and their lives. We’re still waiting on both, but once those funds start coming in, the city is going to be fine.

: How do you restore hope in those who have lost faith?

RN: I try and stay positive. We’re now at the point where people can see, touch and feel the changes. They can see all the debris is gone. They can see the city is cleaner and familiarity is returning. They can see where resources will come to their neighborhoods, and that will keep them hopeful and moving in a positive direction. No other city has gone through what we’ve gone through. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, totally evacuated. It’s going to be at least a seven- to 10-year rebuild cycle.

SS: Can other cities learn from this crisis?

RN: I hope so. Number one, I hope the nation will learn how to respond to a disaster such as ours better. We’ve gone through an incredible process, and I hope we can teach the nation some things there. I hope this doesn’t happen to another American city, but if it does, there will at least be a model. Right now, there’s no blueprint, there’s no playbook — we’re inventing everything we’re doing as we speak.


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