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Title: Oral History Interview with Jacquelyn Clarkson, June 9, 2006. Interview U-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Clarkson, Jacquelyn, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hamilton, Pamela
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: ## Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2008.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-06-12, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Jacquelyn Clarkson, June 9, 2006. Interview U-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s. Southern Oral History Program Collection (U-0228)
Author: Pamela Hamilton
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Jacquelyn Clarkson, June 9, 2006. Interview U-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s. Southern Oral History Program Collection (U-0228)
Author: Jacquelyn Clarkson
Description: 88.5 Mb
Description: 22 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 9, 2006, by Pamela Hamilton; recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Note: Transcribed by Emily Baran.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Jacquelyn Clarkson, June 9, 2006.
Interview U-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Clarkson, Jacquelyn, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JACQUELYN CLARKSON, interviewee
    PAMELA HAMILTON, interviewer

[DISC 1, TRACK 1]


Page 1
[START OF DISC 1, TRACK 1]
PAMELA HAMILTON:
This is Pam Hamilton. It's June 9, 2006, and I'm here with—.
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Jacquelyn Bricktell Clarkson, known as Jackie Clarkson, former councilwoman, city of New Orleans, immediate former councilwoman having served sixteen years in public service, eight in the Louisiana legislature and eight on the city council.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Are you a lifelong resident?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I'm generational and my grandchildren are here. My great-great-grandparents were here and my grandchildren are here, so we are very generational and very devoted, devout natives, love this city and everything it stands for, especially the fact that it's the multicultural capital of America.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Can you tell me a little bit about why you first decided to run for city council?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Well, I ran for city council first and then I went on to the legislature and then I came back to the city council, which is most unique. It's because my father had spent some years in city government and had created the recreation department here, and he did it in the 1940s post-World War II, and made our recreation department in this city one-of-a-kind in the nation. It was athletic and cultural, black and white, when nothing else in the country was like that. So I was raised with that kind of passion for my city and as I reached my mid-fifties and I'd had several successful careers—one being wife and mother, and one being as active in everything civically as I could find, and one being business and real estate and having led the whole state board of realtors—I was looking for another career at age fifty-four or fifty-five and decided that I had plenty to offer my city and I wanted to return and take my father's legacy back to city hall. So I did.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
During Katrina, you remained in the city?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes I did, on duty at ground zero with the mayor for a week.

Page 2
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Can you tell me what that experience was like?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Not one we expected, for sure. We'd been through a lot of hurricanes here and a lot of floods. We never dreamed this one would be the big one and we thought we were very prepared. We were in a city hall command post that was supposed to withstand those winds. We were in the Hyatt Hotel across the street that was supposed to withstand those winds. City Hall started swaying. They made us leave there. We got to the Hyatt and all the windows blew out. I wasn't scared, strangely enough, because I had all the first responders with me, you know, the police chiefs and fire chiefs, and you don't get scared when you have people like that around you. But I was scared for the city. I knew it was desperate, and I was very scared that we didn't have enough help. I knew we didn't have enough help. We were promised a lot of help in the press conferences prior to Katrina, but it wasn't there and suddenly it was Tuesday morning and nothing had arrived.
We had everybody that was a first responder or could volunteer with Coast Guard that was already stationed here, because we have the largest Coast Guard command in the country here, fortunately. We had the Coast Guard in the helicopters and boats. We had police, fire, and EMS and everything we could get our hands. And the National Guard that were already here with their high-water vehicles and boats, and Wildlife and Fisheries came in with some boats. That was all we had and we were saving thousands and thousands and thousands of people, but we were losing people too, and we only lost like thirteen hundred people and we probably saved, between the Coast Guard and the police and fire, fifty thousand people, which you never hear about or read about. They're trying to quantify it now. They know the Coast Guard saved over thirty thousand. I know the police probably saved eighteen thousand, the police and fire.

Page 3
They don't know how much of that is double-counted, but we know there were at least forty to fifty thousand people saved by all those who were already here on the job.
No one arrived from outside until Thursday evening and I watched it all. I watched these masterful people, most of them—most of the Coast Guard, most of the other military, most of the first responders or city employees—losing everything they owned and not looking back one minute, Pamela, not even turning an eye or turning their head. Half of them didn't know where their families were. They knew they were losing everything and they never stopped. They went day and night, no food, no water, no rest, nothing. It was unbelievable. I feel so privileged that I was on duty, I was on my job, and got to witness some of the greatest men and women in America.
I've never thought more highly of anything in the world than World War II heroes and I rate these people right there. And I serve on the World War II Museum here's Board of Directors and I'm very close to the military, and I rank all of these people right up there with the best of world heroes. We were at war and it was an inconceivable experience. You have to had seen it to believe it, and you have to had seen it to know the real story, and the real story's never been told, and that's sad. No one has told the real heroes were our men and women on the job who risked their lives to save others. You only heard about the handful that deserted and even some of those were going to find their family, for God's sake. It was just an incredible experience and one that I actually cherish and feel very privileged to be a part of and grateful I have the knowledge, grateful I have those visions.
They wouldn't let me go out in helicopters and boats because I'm seventy years old, although I swim better than all of them. [Laughter] Because I was a swimmer. I did go in the water and help to go back and forth across from the Hyatt to the command post. We had

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command posts at both places, at City Hall and at the Hyatt; I did go back and forth. But what I did do was rescue, was evacuate people. I had information on where people were in my district. I went out throughout my district as soon as it calmed down on Monday and Tuesday morning. I knew where my district was fine. I had the French Quarter, it was fine; I had this section, it was fine; and I had downriver and along the river, it was fine. But from midway north of my district to Claiborne Avenue was not fine, and it was getting worse and the people didn't know it. They thought the worst was over and the worst was coming when the levee broke.
So what I did was I knew some of the churches, I knew the nursing home, I knew the different places that were still there by going out in the police car and going as far as I could go. I came back to the Hyatt and got on satellite phones, and thank God we had satellite; it was all that was working. Our cell phones weren't working. I had a lot of the numbers in my cell, fortunately, so I could call those numbers from the police district of that area and the police captains whose cell phones I had and that kind of thing, to find out were there people at certain places or tell them there were people at certain places and go get them. Then I would call that information across the street or walk it across the street to the Office of Emergency Preparedness and they would go evacuate them before they became search-and-rescue. So I got several hundred people out and every little bit counts and those were people we didn't have to use our search-and-rescue on. There's always a job to be done if you're willing to go to work.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Why did you stay?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
It was my job. I wouldn't have been anywhere else. My husband and my grown children and all my grandchildren and son-in-laws—and I have five daughters and some of them live around the country, several live here—but they all went to Baton Rouge. Those that lived in the city went to Baton Rouge.

Page 5
[break in conversation]
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Why did you stay?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
It was my job; it never occurred to me not to. I was very blessed in that my family that lives here, some of my daughters and grandchildren live around the country and some live here, and the ones that lived here all evacuated together to a daughter's house in Baton Rouge, which is ninety miles away and where a lot of people went. They took my husband and our dog with them. I knew the daughters around the country were in connection; one of them flew in. And between my five daughters, they took care of their own families and each other and their daddy and all the dogs, five dogs and a cat, and they also took care of my extended family, like my brother and my nieces and my aunt, and made sure they were all okay—because some of them had lost everything—made sure they were all okay, were relocated or with family, had money. I knew I could leave my entire family in the hands of five daughters. So I was privileged to stay here and do my job.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
So you recently lost your council seat to Mr. Fielkow.
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
No, I didn't run for my seat; I ran at large. I didn't stay in my seat; I could have, by technicality of the law. Although I'd served two terms and there's a two-term limit, they weren't consecutive and so I could have served my district again, but I chose to move on. I felt like the intent of the law was two terms and I moved on to serve at large and lost to Mr. Fielkow.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Were you surprised?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes, very surprised.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you have a reason why you think you lost the race?

Page 6
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I have a reason, yeah, because I didn't expect to be called a racist. That's about the furthest thing from my vocabulary and from what you can say of me. I have a lot of faults, but that's not one of them. I grew up with a father that created a recreation department of black and white in the 1940s and his best friends were black and they were in my home; that's hardly a racist. We all have best friends that are black; we do, my children do, my grandchildren do. It's just not, we've never been in a white world. I don't have a racist bone in my body. But I fought to keep trailers out of neighborhoods and I was accused by a lot of the press as being a racist over that.
Well, the neighborhood I fought the hardest for, I'll take you to see. It's one mile from here. It's a home-ownership, African-American neighborhood that I cherish. It would have been a disaster to have trailers in there right up against their bedroom windows. Dead-end streets locking in all the traffic would have been a nightmare. It would have ruined the property values. I fought for all my neighborhoods not to have trailers. I didn't say, "No trailers;" I said, "Let me find you better places for trailers," and I did, much better places, not only for the neighborhoods, but for the people in the trailers. I found them places with more space, more privacy. They could be fenced, secured, lighted. They could have play areas for the children. And that's all I was asking to do of FEMA and the mayor, was to make the trailer parks more livable for the trailer residents and more livable for my neighborhoods that weren't destroyed by Katrina. They were back to life; they were back to jobs; they were back to kids going to school. At one point, they wanted to put them on parks and playgrounds. Well, I had all my children home here in Algiers, in this neighborhood. How do you put trailers on a playground where you're putting children who are in school and playing sports after school?

Page 7
So I fought to keep the lifestyle of especially this community, Algiers, intact, because it was the only full community in the city and we had to start somewhere. But I didn't fight to not give people who were displaced a home in trailers. In fact, I created three thousand trailer residents that were much better trailer villages. Well, that was used against me on black radio and I was called a racist. I wasn't prepared for that. First of all, I didn't know it was going on for a long time, which was naive. And secondly, I just didn't think it would make that much difference. It never occurred to me anyone would think I was a racist. Isn't that naive? So yes, I was very surprised and very upset, but life goes on and I brought five lives to city hall and I took them home with me.
From being a wife and a mother and a grandmother and a businesswoman and a civic activist, those lives all came back with me, all my important boards, like the National World War II Museum, the Cancer Center—because the big work I did in the legislature was women's health, especially cancer, you know—the opera, the symphony, the jazz orchestra, and especially my New Orleans ballet that I put in the recreation department, gymnasiums for all the little children in the housing developments; I stay on all those boards. So my love has come with me, my family and my boards and my business, my loves. All I left behind was one job.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
So you still have plenty to occupy—
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Oh yes, yes. You can see I haven't even had time to organize my boxes. Heaven knows where they're going.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Well, what sort of role would you like to play in the rebuilding of New Orleans?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
The same, actually, the very same. Be a watchdog for neighborhoods that are being invaded because they weren't affected. Keep the quality of life in neighborhoods, protect neighborhoods. Protect historic preservation; don't let developers who see an opportunity of

Page 8
investment in this city—which we're going to have, fortunately, we're going to have fabulous investment opportunities—don't let those developers come in and ruin our historic preservation, which is a common thing that happens here. Make sure that they preserve the residential integrity and the historic—. We have a city that's going to be three hundred years old and you don't tear down and call it progress in every case, so I'll be watching for that. My business is real estate, so I will be still in that marketplace of neighborhoods and development, and I'll be watching for the people that don't want to treat my city right.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Are you concerned with—are there examples in the past?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes, definitely, very definitely, where they've tried to destroy the historic quality and the intrinsic value of our preservation. And we're on the National Historic Trust as one of the endangered species, they worry about it so much. There's billions of dollars coming into this city from investment, rightfully so, and people just think whatever you develop new is good. A lot have that mentality, and that's not true. If you could have seen this city the day after Katrina, what was standing was the oldest part of the city; whether it was rich or poor, it was the oldest part of the city. So obviously there was a quality there. Whether it's the location and the structure and the codes, there was something to be said for the history of this city and the way we built it. So I will remain vigilant with that.
I will remain active on all my boards, which are some of the most important boards in this city and especially the World War II Museum, the D-Day Museum. It has become a national prominent museum and I've been on it since before it opened. I also will remain very active with the joint Cancer Center board of Tulane and LSU, Tulane University and Louisiana State University. We're going to have a joint Cancer Center of the two universities, a private and a public university, which is a rarity. It's going to be one of a kind in the country and it's

Page 9
going to be nationally designated. And a lot of the legislation that led to that, I was a part of in the legislature. And some of my best legislation that I loved, that I did for women's health, involved genetic testing and gene therapy consortium. So that is my love and I will stay very involved in women's health and cancer.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
What are some of your accomplishments during your time on the city council that you're most proud of?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Number one would have to be preserving neighborhoods and historic preservation. Number two would be federal city. That's retaining our military here, and we're going to be building in Algiers a mini-Pentagon. We saved our Algiers naval base from being closed by Congress, which is rare, and I was a part of that, a big part of that. We're now going to have all of the military combined in a joint reserve base at the Algiers naval base, and build, as I said, a mini-Pentagon that's going to be a federal city which will have not only all of our strategic commands of military, but it will also be the footprint for Homeland Security. It's going to be right there on the Mississippi River. That's going to be a major, major ordeal.
The other one is the Cancer Center. Of course, I did that in the legislature but I continued its progress on the city council. The other thing on the city council would be the bio-innovations part of the bio-med Cancer Center where we broke ground and made sure we expedited the process of the first building of the bio-innovations of this Tulane-LSU consortium.
The other thing would be helping with Hollywood South because I was a part of the legislation at the legislature, one of the main coauthors, and then I went with the mayor and for the mayor to Hollywood to recruit some of the Hollywood business and that's a biggie and that's here to stay and will stay. And I can continue my interest in that through my daughter,

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who is an actress and a pretty prominent actress, if I may say so myself: Patricia Clarkson, who is an Academy Award nominee. So I do stay involved in that world and can still encourage, I can still go recruit films here through her. I can go to Hollywood and she's in New York, but I can go to New York or Hollywood and still go speak on behalf of my city to bring films here.
So I'm very proud. What it amounted to was I preserved neighborhoods and quality of life, preserved the historic integrity of the city, [was] very active in all of the cultural and performing arts, and that to me, preserving the multicultural integrity of this city was critical because we are the multicultural capital of America. I serve on every board. I serve on the jazz orchestra, the symphony, the opera, the ballet, and the LePetit Theater, the oldest community theater in America, and we have the oldest opera in North America and the birth of jazz, and I'm involved in all of them.
I've helped promote that and helped promote the Tennessee Williams Festival and a lot of our creative arts here and a lot of our visual arts. I preserved our artists on Jackson Square. They were all but gone and I did the legislation that brought them back and created an artists' colony around the fence. We were down to twelve artists instead of our hundred and sixty-five and so I brought that back; we're now back up to our hundred and sixty-five artists and working our way to two hundred that we can have licensed.
I think retaining the neighborhoods, retaining the historic value, retaining the culture and especially the multicultural and diversity of our culture, and therefore that includes all its history, its very fabulous history of this city; in addition to that will be retaining the military, which is worth 4.5 billion. In addition to that, it's called jobs, jobs, jobs; that's what we've brought. It's quite a record, quite a record to lose on, huh. [Laughter] I'm still a little shocked.

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PAMELA HAMILTON:
When you talk about bringing people back to the city, I attended a city council meeting on Thursday and a group of ACORN members were there and they were concerned that some residents won't come back, that the city isn't making an effort to attract, to prepare their neighborhoods for their return. Do you think that the city is doing all it can do?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
No, no I don't. I didn't think that when I was there and I don't think it now. And I think a lot of it has to be done by the administration; they're in charge. The city council gets blamed for a lot, but we're very limited in what we can do. And for nine months, the mayor was under executive order where he declared disaster emergency order, which gave us even less power as a council. I didn't feel there was enough being done, not at all. I mean, just like the trailers were all so debacled. Why didn't we make that a pleasant experience? Why did the administration, the council, and FEMA, why didn't the mayor and FEMA include us from the beginning? We know the neighborhoods; we know the people.
Some of the other councilpeople have fabulous ideas. Ms. Murell had the best idea: instead of putting four hundred trailers on a playground where you want to put children, put four hundred in one neighborhood, because four hundred people, no one person's going to come home to one trailer in their driveway. Four hundred people in four hundred driveways that are all contiguous to each other and will come home together, and put in special fencing and lighting. That wouldn't have been any more costly than all this debacle with trailers. Give four hundred people the opportunity to live in a trailer on this own driveway so they can make a decision about their home, whether to rebuild or not, and so they can have time to go through their personal belongings and see if there's anything they want to salvage, or see if they want to gut their homes, or see if they just want to give it up. Give them that opportunity.

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There was just so much more that could have been done better, in my opinion. I think FEMA is the biggest disaster in the history of America and God forbid if we ever have another tragedy again. I hope whoever is president, whoever is governor, and whoever is mayor will ensure that we bring in the federal troops immediately and we don't depend on FEMA. We depend on ourselves and the federal troops, and the federal troops bring us all of the communication ability and all of the generation ability for power, all of the lifesaving ability, all of the sustaining, all of the ability to rescue, save lives, and restore lives. And leave FEMA out of it, because FEMA was a disaster, a bigger disaster than Katrina.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Who should be taking the lead in rebuilding the city?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
The mayor, but the neighborhoods should have a lot of say-so. The mayor should be empowering the planning commission to do the planning, the master planning, and it should include every neighborhood. Every neighborhood should have the opportunity to say, "I want to function as a single neighborhood," or "I want to function as—." Some neighborhoods are doing it like five and six neighborhoods together. Some neighborhoods are doing it with as many as sixteen small neighborhoods together. Every neighborhood should say, "This is how we vote. This is the majority of our vote to do it this way," and whichever is reasonable, I mean, within reason. Whether they want to do it individually or collectively, they should have that ability and they should be given the place to do it, a facilitator, and a professional planner, and let them write their plan. And then professional planners and not politicians should put that into a master plan and it should have the force of law. That has to be led by the administration. We have no authority over that, the council.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
How important is the French Quarter, which is in your district? How important is that to the revitalization of the city?

Page 13
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Probably as important as you get because it's the front door. It's the reason there is a city and it's the reason we have a tourism industry, which is our main industry, and it's the reason we have what's one of a kind. That's why the Historic Trust thinks it's so phenomenal. It's a residential neighborhood of top quality, almost three hundred years old, and one of the most wonderful commercial districts in the history of America. It's got buildings, museums and history and architecture and art galleries and antique shops to die for. It's got night life and food and music unmatched anywhere in the world, all of that in one twelve-by-twelve piece of ground. It's an incredible, incredible piece of real estate. There's nothing like it. Even in Europe, there's nothing like the French Quarter, and its preservation and its balance will be the most significant thing to the future of this city. Then all the other neighborhoods will follow right after.
We have to bring in business; we have to bring in jobs; we have to bring in bio-innovations and technology; we have to bring, we have to retain military; we have to build our port; we have to bring in homeland security; we have to bring in all types of diversity in jobs and not destroy neighborhoods. It can be done. All of the jobs that I told you that I was so proud to be a part of leading, none of that destroyed neighborhoods. We don't have to have bars on every corner to have business; that's an absurdity. Bourbon Street's enough. We don't have to make a Bourbon Street out of every street in the French Quarter.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
So did the city provide economic opportunity for its citizens before the storm?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Not enough, no, and I don't know that they really ever can. We're not a rich city, but I think there are going to be these opportunities now. But I'll tell you the biggest disaster done with FEMA is their hiring out-of-town contractors when we had local people dying, starving to death, and dying for a job, dying to work. We're known for some of the best

Page 14
tradesmen in the country. We had tradesmen in this city that built—multicultural tradesmen built this city before America was a country, for God's sake, and they couldn't come here and find skilled labor? I don't believe it.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
There seems to be some backlash from some citizens about the number of immigrants who have come to the city to participate in the rebuilding efforts. What are your thoughts about that?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I resent it, especially the illegal ones, and they would just march in and take over our parks, the trailers. I had to get police to get them out, and terrorizing neighborhoods, looting neighborhoods, it was terrible. It's all we needed was more police help, having to help, having to watch out for that, for goodness sake. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you have an idea of what New Orleans should look like this August, a year after Katrina?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
First of all, all the debris should be gone; all the debris should be gone and everybody's houses should be gutted. There's just no excuse for that. We wouldn't let this happen in a foreign country, so why would we let it happen in New Orleans? And that's a huge disappointment to me, both on the part of the federal, state, and city government. We tried and we have a contract with waste management garbage collection that took over for the Corps—the Corps were doing it, they were doing a magnificent job. When waste management took over, it was just a disaster and we paid seven million dollars. That contract was done by the administration, seven million dollars for a job that was poorly done. Number one, the federal government should have left the Corps here to pick up debris and garbage for at least a year to eighteen months, not nine months; that was absurd.

Page 15
Number two, our city should not have embarked on any contract without it coming before the council to have it ratified so we could have make it performance-based. Because we didn't know what anybody could handle post-Katrina and if they couldn't perform, then there should have been a revocation of that contract. I'm very disappointed in all of it because the city has not—we could have everything cleaned up at least with more planning going on. If the city council hadn't started the neighborhood planning, there wouldn't have been any.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Well, tell me about the neighborhood planning and what the city council started.
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Well, the city council funded it and got the neighborhoods going. Some of the neighborhoods were starting on their own, so we just followed their lead and got them going with getting together. In fact, in several cases, we brought in people to help them with it free of charge. In one neighborhood, a woman that lived there worked for the planning commission, so she did it free. In another neighborhood, another one worked for the planning commission; she did that free. Then in another neighborhood, one of the councilpeople had someone volunteer to come in from out of state and do it. So we just started using all our resources because we worked closely with the neighborhoods to get the neighborhoods to come together and do planning and to start finding what we could free, and then we found money that had been held in escrow for housing and that the city had never created a housing plan for; so we turned it over to the neighborhood planning.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
The neighborhood planning, this is separate from the mayor's—
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
—Bring Back New Orleans commission.
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Right.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
So why was it important for the city council to set up this neighborhood—?

Page 16
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Because the mayor's Bring Back New Orleans committee was never doing any neighborhood planning. They were doing everything in a—don't ask me what they were doing because in some cases, they weren't going to bring back some of the neighborhoods and we were afraid of that and we all voiced our opposition to that. We wanted everybody to come home. Everybody should have the opportunity to come back to their private property; that's constitutional. And I was just vehement about that because I'm a realtor. I used to go fight, and the Realtors' Association, when I was state president, sent me to Congress to fight for private property rights. Now I'm going to tell people they couldn't come home? That was against my religion, much less my policy. [Laughter] We couldn't have it and we all fought against it and we were accused—that's one of the things we were all accused of in the race, was that we didn't get along with the mayor. No, when the mayor won't bring everybody home, when the mayor won't put trailers in the right places, when the mayor won't start neighborhood planning, we aren't supposed to get along with him. [Laughter] We were elected by the people. We don't work for the mayor. That's a real bone of contention with me, as you can tell. And I will stay involved in all of that.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
How?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Through my own neighborhoods that still include me and through my friends on the council who need me the most, like Cynthia Morell and Cynthia Ward Lewis. I'll do anything they need for me to help them and they have the two devastated areas, and I will be at their side if they need me.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Why do they need you the most?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Well, they wouldn't need me the most; their districts need them the most, and if they need my help, [it's] because of my sixteen years of a lot of zoning and planning and having

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been in real estate thirty-seven years. So I know the comprehensive zoning code; I know neighborhood planning; I know urban planning, I've done extensive amounts of it; plus my District C that I had is known for the most amount of land use and zoning issues. We always had more than fifty percent of the city's agenda, every council agenda. I have had more than a world's experience in land use and zoning and master planning and so they know they can call on me and I'll be there for them.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
What do you think that New Orleans will look like ten years from now?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Oh, we'll be totally rebuilt in less than that and I hope we'll preserve all the old sections with all its authenticity. I hope we keep the old sections authentic and that the new sections that we build, we build with great regard for the surrounding neighborhoods, and that we build to bring in, to make sure we enhance the neighborhoods that they're a part of, and that we try to bring decent jobs—not just minimum-wage jobs—we bring decent-paying jobs. I think this city is going to be better off than it's ever been in ten years.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
So you think those things that you've just talked about, bringing jobs, you think those things will happen?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes, absolutely. If you could see the spirit in this city, if you could have seen the spirit that was here two days after Katrina, you'd know it will never die, never.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
What was that spirit?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
We're coming home and nobody's stopping us. We don't care if there's water; we don't care if there's electricity; we're coming home. This is our city and we're coming home to rebuild our city. It was there immediately. It was wonderful and it's still there. Katie Couric said it on Thanksgiving Day at the Macy's Parade. We had a big float in the Macy's Parade, one of carnival crews, Orpheus, and they had a band, one of our jazz bands, and a big float with

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some of our Mardi Gras people advertising that we would have Mardi Gras this year. And so on Thanksgiving Day, we were telling the world in the Macy's Parade, "Come to the Mardi Gras in February." And Katie Couric, she had tears in her eyes and she said, "You know, everyone always knew that New Orleans had a heart and a soul, and now we know they have a spirit." It was so obvious. There was no telling anyone they couldn't come home to this city.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you think that the demographics of this city are going to change any?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Not much. No, I think it'll be pretty much the same.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Because that seems to be one of the things that the people at ACORN were concerned about.
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I think there are a lot of people—not a lot of people, there are some people who would like to see it change. But I don't think it'll happen and I don't think it should happen because the only way it can happen is if people are forbidden the right to come home, which is tragic. So why should it happen? I hope it doesn't happen.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Who are those people who would like to see the city change, the demographics of the city change?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I'm not going to say. It's just my opinion. I don't want to say it; I'm sorry I even think it. [Laughter]
PAMELA HAMILTON:
How has the storm changed the work that you do?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I haven't taken a day off and I took very little before, but I haven't taken a day off and I wasn't tired one day. It gave you a whole new perspective of how fortunate you were to have a house, to not have lost your pictures, to not have lost your family members, more importantly not to have lost your family members, but I mean just something simple like all your pictures were there. It gave you a whole new lease on life so the devotion was even more

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intense to the job, because I felt like I had other people's lives I had to put back together, because my life was spared. It gave me a much greater intensity and I didn't think I could get more intense. [Laughter] I didn't think I could work any harder than my twelve, fifteen hours a day, but I found I could go twenty and I loved it.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you think that this city will provide more educational opportunities?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes, I really do; yes, I do. And I think because of the jobs that'll come here through the military with Federal City, with other federal components coming in, we will have the capacity to put other federal jobs in that area and that's going to be higher skill level, the bio-innovations. And Hollywood South alone, the jobs that come with Hollywood, you don't have to be the talent, but this city's known for its talent. First of all, Hollywood finds a gold mine in talent here. And then secondly, the next layers of jobs are all high-paying jobs and we have a city that just is attuned to that industry because we just think entertainment. I think the skill level that's going to be there in those jobs is going to be phenomenal for our young people. So there's going to be both the higher level of education and higher level of job training, which I think is fabulous.
In fact, that already started with the chancellor of Delgado, our community college. We had already started a training program at Delgado College, which is going to be in the film industry, for every layer of jobs in the film industry, especially the grips and all the construction and electrician, where they can just have highly-skilled—. So when Hollywood comes into town, they don't have to bring a lot of people with them. We'll have the skill base crews waiting here and that'll give us the infrastructure to recruit more business. So I see a huge—that was ready to happen anyway, some of that, and now this will exacerbate it for the better because too many leading people in Hollywood have told me personally, because of my

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daughter, they know her, like George Clooney or Sean Penn that she's done movies with, they've both said to me, "Ms. Clarkson, we'll come tenfold now because we want to help rebuild your city." That's wonderful.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you ever talk to anyone who's concerned about coming to the city—
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
No.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
—since it has suffered a disaster?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Yes, yes. As a matter of fact, I had a long conversation with the National Association of Realtors because I still belong to them. I sat on that national board when I was state board president of the realtors here and I'm still a realtor and I'm back to my real estate now. Before I left the city council, they were deciding whether or not to keep the convention here. They had a planned convention next November and they were going to back out and so we met with them, with all the hospitality industry and the convention center and the evacuation people and everything, and I was part of meeting with them.
They had all these questions they wanted answered, like, "Will you have enough hotel rooms by then? Will you have enough restaurants open? Will you have enough services? Will there be enough entertainment? Will there be enough room in the convention? Will the convention center be redone by then? What if there's another hurricane?," because that's right at the outer edge of hurricane season. "What is your new evacuation plan?" And on and on and on. We answered every question; we were ready for them, and they're coming. The librarians are here next week, the libraries' convention. They didn't have too many doubts, but it took a little bit of convincing of them. The realtors had great doubts and they're coming, twenty-five thousand strong in November. And most of our conventions for this next year are holding, but we had to go do our homework.

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We had to go do our due diligence and say, "Look, yes we're going to have this ready and have the convention center ready and all the hotels ready and the restaurants ready and the theaters ready. And we're also going to have evacuation plans and we're also going to have this and that," you know. One of the big things that we're doing now is the airlines shut down at Katrina and now they're going to make a concerted effort to start flying. They're not going to shut down and they are going to fly people out of town so that people who are here visiting, if there's a hurricane, can expect that they're going to give them instant plan trips out of town, no questions asked, no "What ticket do you have? Where were you going?" They're going to get them out of harm's way immediately. So we've already rearranged all those plans. So yeah, we did have some questions.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Do you think you'll get fewer of those questions as time passes?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Oh yeah, they're already old. We've already been through that and we're over the hump. Nobody's even asking anymore; they're all coming. [Laughter] But the ones for the rest of this year asked and for the beginning of 2007. After that, it's fine, nobody's asking. We just need to get through this summer, so pray for us. We're ready.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Are you ready?
JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
I'm ready. As soon as I get all these boxes put away, I'm ready. Yes, I am ready. We're getting our roof starting Monday. I've not even paid any attention to my house. My husband had surgery in the middle of the campaign and so we have not been able to work on our house. So for ten months, we had an oak tree come through the house, through the roof, and we've had a blue roof and been part of the Katrina fallout. Now we're going to be redoing our house and we're going to have it ready before we get to the peak of hurricane season.
PAMELA HAMILTON:
Can you see your grandchildren living here in New Orleans?

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JACQUELYN CLARKSON:
Absolutely, absolutely, and loving it the way we have and the way my parents and grandparents—. And my husband's family came here as military. His father was a commanding officer in the navy. They stayed; they retired here and they died here. And his family's all still here; they love it too.
END OF INTERVIEW