National Press Club

Tulane, New Orleans Officials Discuss City's Rebuilding

December 4, 2009 | By Keith M. Hill |

The recovery of New Orleans is "a work in progress," Tulane University President Scott Cowen said at a Dec. 3 Newsmaker. He and New Orleans City Council President Arnie Fielkow discussed the five things the public should know about New Orleans today.

Cowen and Fielkow are co-founders of the Fleur de Lis Ambassador Program, which is made up of more than 30 New Orleans residents who go around the country to, as Cowen put it, dispel the myths and misperceptions surrounding New Orleans's recovery.

"Some people still think we're underwater," Cowen said.

Cowen and Fielkow, both transplants to New Orleans, are unequivocal cheerleaders for the city who are optimistic about its future and see the potential for New Orleans to become a stronger and better city.

New Orleans can be a demonstration lab for other cities, Fielkow said, a place where, for exemple, reforms on how to protect a city can be studied and implemented.

In the area of economic development, New Orleans needs to diversify its economy, Fielkow said.

As part of its rebuilding process, New Orleans has reformed its public education system, Cowen said. Before Katrina, New
Orleans had one of the worst public school systems in the country. Now, instead of a school system, the city has a "system
of schools," he said.

The system has been decentralized more students have been moved into independent charter schools. As a result, "the metrics have gone up since Katrina," he said.

Public education and the levees are problems that must be fixed in order to New Orleans to become a truly outstanding
city, Cowen said.

Cowen also noted that New Orleans now has a network of community health clinics to better serve its population.

New Orleans has "the most resourceful and resilient people" of any city in the country, Cowen said. Residents do not
want handouts and are not lazy, he added, countering statements heard after Katrina.

In response to a question about the upcoming mayoral election, Cowen said that the new mayor should "look ahead
and not back" and should be able to articulate a vision of where the city is going.