At 1:30 p.m. on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina grazed the mostly evacuated city of New Orleans, reserving its most devastating force for coastal Mississippi, just to the east. During the next two days, the federal levees protecting the city failed in multiple places. Sixteen hundred people died in the metropolitan area. Residences and businesses in 80 percent of the city went underwater. Public officials warned residents and business owners that they might not be able to return for two to three months. The scope of devastation in certain parts of the city made ever returning questionable for many residents. Grievous failures of coordination among local, state, and federal governments exacerbated the collective misery, adding general confusion and uncertainty about the city’s very future to deep personal anxieties about homes, jobs, schools, and neighborhoods.

What follows are accounts of the post-Katrina transformation of New Orleans by three of its leaders. None had met before these events but became trusted allies and later friends in the crucible of the events they describe. James Carter recounts the creation of an office of independent police monitor to address a longstanding history of racial bias and brutality. Nolan Rollins offers an account of how the governance of a major economic organization was transformed for the benefit of the whole city. And Gregory Rusovich explains the role of diverse, action-oriented coalitions in addressing a range of key issues, including criminal justice reforms and holding elected officials accountable for campaign promises.



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