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Portions of NPR Interview of LA Lt. Gov. LANDRIEU - 9/6/05

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BLOCK (MELISSA BLOCK/NPR): How much of the city of New Orleans would you say is salvageable and how much will have to be bulldozed?


Lt. Gov. LANDRIEU (Lieutenant Governor MITCH LANDRIEU, Democrat, Louisiana): Oh, that's a good question. Most of it's under water. If it stays under water for a long period of time, what remedies are possible is really anybody's guess. Every tragedy gives us opportunities. As you tear down something, you have to rebuild it back again. And it gives you an opportunity to think about, you know, urban planning mistakes that have been made in the past. And, you know, we're going to go through that entire rebuilding process. It's going to be a challenge politically, economically and socially. And, of course, all of that infrastructure's got to be set up, so that discussion can be had and that rebuilding can begin.


BLOCK: I wanted to ask you about that because I'm wondering if you really have to fundamentally rethink New Orleans. The poorest people in that city have always lived in the lowest areas. Do you think this is a chance to really reconsider the whole physical shape of the city?


Lt. Gov. LANDRIEU: Well, I'll mention a couple of things about that. First of all, one of the things that troubled America so much was, you know, we didn't really have to see the poor because they were dispersed. And, you know, everybody got a pretty good glimpse of what all--a lot of poor people look like standing together, and I think it made America feel very uncomfortable. We looked in the mirror and we didn't like what we saw.


Now people are going to talk a lot, as you have already started: Who's got the blame for not moving people out of where they are? There's a much larger question because poor people get trapped, but they get trapped in poor education, they get trapped without transportation, they get trapped without technology, they get trapped without the things that many other people have. And that trap puts them in front of the convention center and in the Superdome. And so the country has to ask itself, you know: `What are we going to do relating to poor people, and what public policies are we going to put in place now that they're standing right in front of us and we can't ignore it anymore? And what have we done in the past that hasn't done particularly well?'


For example, the city of New Orleans, this metropolitan area, has been before Congress testifying for 40 years about the need for higher levees. We've been testifying forever about coastal wetland restoration. And, quite frankly, the country and the political leaders have turned a deaf ear. And so, you know, when we start talking about the issue of responsibility--when you have responsibility, you have accountability--it's going to have to be a very broad discussion in terms of how all of that stuff works.


You know, I think you have to--every time you have an opportunity to create something from nothing, you rethink all of the assumptions that you had before. You try to leave behind the negative things that you did and kind of emphasize the positive things so that you can build on those. And I'm going to try to do that in the next couple of months.


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