When my nearly 91-year-old mother on the remote Alabama farm says she heard that New Orleans is the murder capital of the world, the secret is out.
I tried explaining that it’s just New Orleans proper, not all the surrounding areas, that it’s a per capita thing, not the total number of murders, and that with the population of the city less than half what it used to be, that is not necessarily a high number. But no matter. The damage is done.
Now the bad press is bearing fruit.
“Groups call off meetings in N.O.,” trumpeted the headline in Friday’s newspaper. Two medium-sized trade groups scheduled to bring some 6,000 visitors to town and use 12,000 rooms over a weekend and therefore help the local economy have canceled their conventions. The two associations cited the high crime rate and the problems of the city’s slow recovery from the hurricane.
Argue all we want, it’s a done deal. Point out that the National Association of Realtors brought 25,000 to town in November, that Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society brought in 24,000 in February, and the American College of Cardiology a whopping 30,000 just last week. They all reported successful meetings in our city. When contacted, spokespersons for the two smaller conventions that just canceled cited concerns over the “unfortunate events” that have occurred in the city recently–presumably, the killings–and their belief that their members will not want to journey to New Orleans for this meeting. Since both organizations have contracts with the Morial Convention Center, canceling will cost them some bucks.
A medical doctor called from Mississippi. He will be doing specialty training with a local hospital for a year or two, and wants to find employment for his wife who is a trained pastoral counselor. If they’re unable to find her a position, he says, they will live on the Northshore (anywhere from Hammond to Covington to Slidell) and he would commute. “She’s deathly afraid of moving to New Orleans,” he said.