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In response to Steve Chapman's article "Should we even rebuild New Orleans?"

Mr. Chapman: In your column "Should we even rebuild New Orleans?" you say this, among other things:

"Much of what is worth resurrecting, such as its vibrant culture and street life, may be fatally compromised. After hundreds of thousands of people have moved elsewhere for months and taken jobs, many are unlikely to return to a city that will be even shorter on economic opportunities than it used to be."

Should the massive amounts of federal aid voted by Congress to help the people you are talkng about provide economic opportunities only for those with connections to the Bush administration (Halliburton, Bechtel, Shaw, etc.)? Or can it provide opportunities for the people of New Orleans who want to return home?

"You could have made a case before Katrina that the best thing most residents could do is leave for someplace with higher living standards and a better job market."

Where are these places, Mr. Chapman? Is Chicago one of them? Should the poor inhabitants of all cities where there is "widespread poverty, high unemployment, a backward economy and rampant crime" simply leave? Where are they to go? Will you accept them in your own city? Would it not be better for the displaced people of New Orleans to be given the opportunity to return to the city where their families have lived for generations, helping and supporting each other in the face of the poverty, the lack of opportunity, and the crime you mention? Where they have gone to church, been married, had children, sent them to school, hoped for a better future for them?

You are entitled to your political opinions, Mr. Chapman, and you are entitled to make a career out of expressing them to the people who want to hear them. Nonetheless I think that anyone would agree that you take a very cheap shot at former president Carter in your article. In his speech "from New Orleans," George Bush cited Habitat for Humanity as one of the organizations best suited to aid the people of New Orleans in recovering decent places to live. Mr. Carter is a charter member of Habitat for Humanity and has done much to help that organization in its work around the world. Do you think that Mr. Bush would agree that Mr. Carter is incompetent? Are we to assume that the approach taken so far under Mr. Bush's impetus - awarding huge no-bid contracts to major corporate interests who are close to his administration - is the "competent" approach?

You know very well that New Orleans will be rebuilt. The question is for whom. The obvious answer is that the funding provided for the rebuilding of New Orleans should go towards rebuilding its economy as well as its buildings, for that is the only way that the lives of its people - wherever they may be - can be rebuilt.

Many of us have been thinking long and hard about how that can be done. It might be more a worthy use of your influence for you to help us, rather than simply telling us to get out of our home and never come back.

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