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Extended Interview: Cynthia Hedge-Morrell

As part of a series on post-Hurricane Katrina housing in New Orleans, NewsHour correspondent Betty Ann Bowser interviewed New Orleans City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell about the council's decision to tear down damaged public housing projects after the hurricane.

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    Councilwoman, why did the council vote so overwhelming to approve tearing down all these projects?


    You know, Katrina taught us that we have to look at things differently. And when we can't go back and just accept status quo, to move people back into some of these housing developments where we know there are health issues — asbestos, lead paint because they were built in the 1940s — would have been criminal, because you're putting children back into this kind of situation.

    And so sometimes you have to make the tough decision, and I think that probably in my career, that's going to be one of the toughest decisions I had to make because there are a lot of people — I equate it to someone who's been married and one of the spouses was abusive. But then you know you get divorced, and after a while you might have some problems and you start thinking, well you know maybe he wasn't that bad. And it's because you have that nostalgic look at the situation and for some reason it looks like it wasn't as bad.

    Now, the same people that are fighting us on this were the people that prior to Katrina were fighting us about the conditions of this. They were telling us that it wasn't a good place for children to be. You know, they were concerned about lead. They were concerned about asbestos. They were concerned about the fact that the kids around here never got out of this complex. They went to elementary school here, they went to junior high school here, they went to senior high school. So there were many, many, many problems and I'm not even getting into the drug issues and other things because I think sometimes people that live in public housing they become the pawn of other people.

    So you know I'm not saying the people that live in public housing, that that's the reason they have a problem, but I think that what we want to do is moving forward, we want to make sure that every person, no matter what their income level has an opportunity to have safe and healthy housing, have an opportunity to better their circumstances, and better the life changes of their children.