There are a few metrics that give us a sense of where New Orleans stands relative to a half-year ago before Katrina. The Times-Picayune tells us that population is at 41% in the City, then gives other measures for the metro area: the labor force is at 68%; 91% of hotels are open, though many rooms are occupied by locals at FEMA’s expense. Restaurants are estimated at 37%, while hospital beds are at 50%.
Would it be useful to have one number that represents a composite of the measurables, with a lot of informed subjectivity? Dr. John Vinturella calls that number the Hospitality Index (HI), and suggests that it represents how New Orleans is faring in terms of its “hospitality” toward people who live in the City, those that expect to return, and other visitors.
Dr. Vinturella lost two houses and a car in the storm, but assures us that his loved ones are well and that he was adequately insured (assuming that the insurers will eventually pay reasonable claims). With all the misery inflicted by the storm, Dr. Vinturella feels personally lucky, a victim of only “massive inconvenience.”
The informed subjectivity comes from his experiences as an “urban warrior,” fighting his way through packed streets looking for a grocery, a gym, a dry cleaner, a barbershop, and a restaurant where wait time is less than an hour. All the while he is living in an unfamiliar part of town and paying exorbitant rent.
The HI may be thought of as a measure of how inviting and supportive the City feels to its constituents relative to some norm representing New Orleans before the storm. We hope that, on some characteristics, the Index can exceed 100%, that is, where performance in some categories is better than before the storm. Ethics in government and effectiveness of the public school system come immediately to mind.
The Index will be maintained by Dr. Vinturella on his blog nobulletin, nicknamed “NOBull.” For HI to remain useful, Dr. Vinturella needs a lot of input from his readers on businesses closed and open, the rental and purchase housing markets, and services weak and strong, particularly in the public sector. You can email observations and anecdotes to Dr. Vinturella.
“The impact of Katrina can be better understood ‘on the ground.’ Imagine, after six months, that related stories totally dominate the news. Mail delivery is not yet daily, and only first-class mail is being delivered in the City. ‘How did you do in the storm?’ is still the City’s most frequently asked question.”
NOBull is updated on Sundays and Thursdays.