When working on the house, it felt that we were simply helpers to the Habitat employees who had to explain every process, whether we were learning to use tools, paint correctly or mix concrete. We had the privilege of leisurely conversing while pulling out the fence posts, as we engaged in a sort of tug-a-war with a stubborn metal rod deeply entrenched in the soil.
“I want to be as candid as I can be without losing my job,” Eric Shaw stated with frank humor as he began his talk “Planning, Institution Building, and Long-Term Recovery in the State of Louisiana,” which he delivered to a packed audience in Lewis auditorium last Friday afternoon. The young, Harvard-educated hired gun brought in from previous urban planning positions in D.C., Miami and Silicon Valley, he was in the unique position of a technocrat who was running not to be elected to public office, but rather to create a new public office. Still, he had to carefully negotiate paying lip service to the stance of disinterested academic expertise while playing kiss-up to the interests of his political superiors.