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Updated 10:00 AM February 5, 2007




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New Orleans' future subject of MLK event

New Orleans isn't likely to return to its same existence before Hurricane Katrina, said a Brown University professor who will visit U-M this week as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

"I think the future city will be smaller, but the lower wage work force—especially in tourism and construction—will be at least the same share of the labor market as before," says John Logan, a professor of sociology.

The big question, he says, is whether displaced residents, mostly Blacks, will find homes in the Crescent City or will be shunted off to other places on the periphery of the region.

"This is mainly a question of what public policy choices will be made. It's possible most Blacks will not have any opportunity to return home," Logan says.

Logan is one of two panelists scheduled for a 1 p.m., Feb. 9 seminar, "The Social and Political Implications of Hurricane Katrina: Looking Back and Looking Ahead," in the Michigan Union's Kuenzel Room.

He will be joined by Michael Dawson, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Dawson contributed to the 2005 Racial Attitudes and the Katrina Disaster study that analyzed racial differences in reactions to the reporting of the tragedy, and people's attitudes toward the responsibilities of the victims to avoid the disaster. The study indicated Blacks supported federal government spending for whatever was necessary to rebuild and restore people to their homes by 79 percent, while only 33 percent of whites held that position.

Logan authored an April 2006 report that looked at displacement and asked how this affected turnout and results in the municipal elections. The report, "Population Displacement and Post-Katrina Politics: The New Orleans Mayoral Race, 2006," showed that at the time of the election a large share of the population remained displaced outside the city, and the majority of displaced persons were living outside Louisiana.

Although Hurricane Katrina reshaped the political map of the city by suppressing the vote in the poorest and mostly Black neighborhoods, the dynamics of the mayoral campaign represent a more remarkable shift in the composition of support for the winning candidate, Mayor Ray Nagin, Logan says.

"The big surprise for me—I think this is unprecedented—is how the base of support for Mayor Nagin shifted so fully from white conservative to Black working class," Logan says. "It brings a large new factor into play in terms of what policy choices are likely to be made.

The National Poverty Center, located in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at U-M, is hosting the seminar, which is part of the 20th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium. Alford Young, a U-M associate professor of sociology and Afroamerican and African Studies, will serve as moderator for the event.

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