When we wrote about our friend Ernie "the Attorney" Svenson in our chapter on "Consultants who Get It," we didn't mean that he should get hit a Category 5 hurricane that would come flying down the Mississippi River smashing and devastating the HonkyTonk city of New Orleans.
Ernie, for those of you who have not followed his incredible blogs, has been through a Homeric saga, that had him homeless and in a tent, then in Houston, Baton Rouge and now back into New Orleans, where he sees hope and opportunity rising from the squalor of today. We spoke about a week ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. I have written because I've had too many thoughts.
Most of us have recently etched memories of society disintegrating into a savage scene reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. And all that did happen, but now Ernie see a place with a rekindled sense of community, with hope that the new New Orleans can improve on some of the deficiencies of the old one.
Ernie described to me his return to a city whose population has been reduced from 450,000 to about 100,000. People who hardly knew each other now embrace on the streets. Neighbors who were suing each other are now helping each other out. Yeah, government broke down, but when you really think about it, that was to be expected.
"FEMA, simply hadn't a clue what to do about Katrina," Ernie told me. "They still don't, but when you really think about it, it's up to the people here to rebuild, to create a better school system, transportation and housing that works, and by doing it we'll rebuild the community." He thinks there will be a 3-5 year building boom and that will put people to work and make the economy healthier."
I mentioned that his local government has been heavily criticized. "Of course, there's corruption," he said. "It's government. You have to expect it. But that doesn't mean they're not doing some good. he said locally, people really respect the mayor and think the governor is worthless.
I told him that I've heard talk that the Democrats were thinking about holding their next National Convention there in 2007 and he thought it was a great idea. It would give us a goal and a deadline to get things together. The city could use that.
Ernie didn't sound any different than he did before the hurricane. He grilled me on PopTech where we had originally planned to get together and stay a few extra days to go hiking. We shared gossip about mutual friends.
Ernie was still Ernie. It was good to speak with him and to be reminded as I have so many times how life goes on and things around us change, but at the core, we stay the same.