It will be years before New Orleans regains the half-million population it had before Hurricane Katrina, and the population might never again be predominantly black, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said Wednesday during a visit to Houston.While there is much talk of how Republicans have been hurt by Katrina, on the ground where you count the votes, the demographics have switched away from the Democrat's slim margin of victory in Louisiana to favor Republicans and that switch is likely permanent. The black voters who are not coming back are also less likely to automatically give their support to Democrats, since they can see, it was primarily Republicans who have helped them since the storm in states like Texas and elsewhere.
"Whether we like it or not, New Orleans is not going to be 500,000 people for a long time," he said. "New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."
He said he isn't sure that the Ninth Ward, a predominantly black and poor neighborhood devastated by flooding, should be rebuilt at all. If it is, the new construction should be designed to withstand disaster, he said.
In a meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, the housing secretary, who is black, also criticized the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other black leaders, saying they were stirring up racial animosity in their comments about Katrina.
"I wish that the so-called black leadership would stop running around this country, like Jesse and the rest of them, making this a racial issue," the HUD chief said.