Video: New Orleans offers new governing plan

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/19/2006 8:14:42 PM ET 2006-01-20T01:14:42

Business owners such as restaurateur Leah Chase are still wondering when New Orleans will get down to business again.

“Chairs are not pretty when they're empty,” says Chase. “Chairs are pretty when you have people in them!”

Many blame bad city government for the mess New Orleans is in — everything from failed levees to a failed emergency response. On Thursday, the city acknowledged its troubled past and unveiled a 20-step program to fix it.

“We will begin immediately to move New Orleans beyond the legendary history of corruption and inefficiency,” said Gary Soloman of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission.

Fixing government, to many, is a tall order in a city where new figures show so much is still broken.

Take the food industry. Of the more than 3,000 restaurants in the city before Hurricane Katrina, just over a third have managed to reopen.

“You went to nothing overnight, nothing,” says Chase.

Chase, 83, still waits for the essential city inspections she needs to reopen.

When she does open, finding help will be hard. The area work force of more than 633,000 before Katrina is down more than 25 percent.

Workers won’t be back without a place to live — which brings more bad news. New Orleans requested 19,000 FEMA trailers and still, nearly five months after the storm, only just over 2,300 are occupied.

Arthur Price is one of the lucky few — sort of.

“It's been here for a little more than six weeks,” Price says. “And we just can't seem to get electric.”

A generator can supply his trailer, but it won't run his home.

“I don't know how long I can do this,” Price adds. “I might have to pack it up and move away.”

That’s something the city can't afford. The latest population figures show, of the 462,269 people who once lived here, more than 328,000 now live somewhere else.

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