April 11th, 2007

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Candid Savior

Dr. Edward Blakely, the New Orleans recovery chief, is pissing some people off around New Orleans. Oliver Thomas, New Orleans City Council President, says that Dr. Blakely needs to focus on his original mandate which does not include making comments about NO citizens, their culture or behavior. Charmaine Marchand, LA State Representative, says that Dr. Blakely's commments are poorly timed and don't do anything to help resolve the current situation.

Dr. Blakely has a long and distinguished background in Urban and Regional Planning and an international reputation in the fields of Urban and Regional Economic Development.

Before his Sydney appointment of Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, Professor Blakely was Dean of the Robert J. Milano Graduate School at the New School University in New York. He was also Dean of Urban Planning at the University of Southern California in New York. For the last 22 years, has been on the Faculty and Chair of Urban Planning at the University of California at Berkeley.

He helped coordinate planning after the 1989 Bay Area earthquake and the 1991 Oakland wildfire. He has been involved in regional planning projects around the world, advising governments in Shanghai, China, and cities in Eastern Europe and South Africa. While serving as dean of the Milano Graduate School at the New School University in New York, Blakely coordinated the school's recovery following he Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack along with providing policy guidance for 100 Black Men of New York with respect to participation of minorities in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

I think that Dr. Blakely's comments in this New York Times article needed to be said and the people who don't like what he's saying are part of the problem. "He referred to the city’s racial factions as 'a bit like the Shiites and Sunnis,' calls the civic elite 'insular,' and says the newcomers he wants to draw here will be impatient with local 'buffoons.'"

Dr. Blakely commented in another article, "The 'lower-income population' now 'trapped outside the city' may not be coming back. New Orleans 'won’t be the same' when the dust settles, he asserted calmly, suggesting that a new population with more 'energy' may replace the old."

And he said, "We have an economy entirely made up of T-shirts," in a speech at the University of Sydney this week. "That is our major import and export."

I hope Dr. Blakely sticks around because we need someone with no ties to the local politicians or power brokers to speak the truth about New Orleans and the hurdles to recovery whether they are financial, cultural or political. The mayor of New Orleans, while certainly a buffoon, better hope that Dr. Blakely stays because hiring him could be the one and only thing Ray Nagin did right post-Katrina.