I wanted to give a “hat tip” to the mayor of Fresno, CA over a week ago, when this story first broke: Hurricane evacuees unwelcome in some communities
The title is a bit misleading (at least it was to me). They weren’t saying the evacuees themselves aren't welcome, but rather that a large influx of people who will need assistance for a while would strain the local infrastructure. Fresno’s mayor, Alan Autry, was undeterred by the challenge:
"We are all Americans," Autry said while in Louisiana. "If something happens like this, you put a map of the U.S. up there, and erase all the state lines."What a wonderful attitude. In light of a Brookings Institution report released yesterday, Mayor Autry’s desire to reach out is all the more striking, since Fresno, CA is the only major city with a higher concentrated poverty rate than New Orleans. CNN summarized the Brookings report, which looks at cities with concentrated urban-poor areas.
Unsurprisingly, New Orleans ranks very high (second) on the list. However, the city is not unique with the problem, which is shared with Louisville, Kentucky; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. Together with Fresno, these are the top five.
Mayor Autry, who had paid his own expenses to fly to the New Orleans area, hoped to invite up to 400 families to come to his California city. His heart certainly is in the right place, but I'm not sure that will be enough. I wonder how that is working out?
Note: I also recommend reading Brookings’ view on how New Orleans, a city with an historical culture of integration and mixed populations, ended up in the situation we saw as a result of Katrina. The .pdf file available at the link above is a truly interesting read if you have a block of time.