The characteristics of a community are sharing common interests, locale, and perspectives. A community is defined by its boundaries and infrastructure. It could be a city, neighborhood, village, or even a workplace. To prosper in such an environment the people within must function as a cohesive unit, able to be “sensitive to the multiple and overlapping interests with which he or she must work.”
Author, Roland Warren in his book titled The Community in America (1963), devised a five point system for assessing a community:
- Production – Distribution- Consumption. Basically the economic aspects of the community as a whole entity.
- Socialization. Knowledge, future planning and people’s acceptable or unacceptable behavior within the community.
- Social Control. Rules for individuals, corporate entities, and government agencies to abide by; also referred to as “boundary maintenance.”
- Social Participation. Obviously, participation of the residents is essential for the community to be viable.
- Mutual Support. Lastly, to “share the journey,” and to promote team effort in all necessary areas. According to Warren, “some would say that this is the primary reason for the community (except for mutual support, why not live as a her it?).”
Understanding the community through this five point system is paramount, however, you must also recognize the “relationship among the functions.” There are two patterns of integration; the “horizontal pattern,” and the “vertical pattern.” The horizontal pattern includes people, organizations and institutions that “focus on one or another of these functions,” with common interests. The vertical pattern takes those in the horizontal pattern that fit into a “larger arrangement of external relations.” To simply this framework, Mr. Warren states, “the horizontal pattern strengthens the common focus; the vertical pattern strengthens the ability to spread one’s interests more broadly into the community” (Filipovitch, 2004).
This research paper will complete a community assessment on Gretna, Louisiana is using Roland Warren’s five point system. It will depict a typical community environment, economy, and functioning patterns. But, before we delve into the “nuts and bolts,” of Gretna, we will contemplate its history.
Gretna, Louisiana is located across from the Mississippi River from New Orleans to McDonoghville. The land area is 3.5 square miles with a water area of 0.36 square miles. In l790, the Ursuline nuns received the land from the Spanish governor. It then exchanged ownership several times until l836 when Nicolas Noel Destrehen had it surveyed and called the village Mechanikham. The village included a railroad, foundry, ferry landing, church, and small residential lots. In l838, the St. Mary’s Market Steam Ferry Company developed a village directly below Mechanikham and called it Gretna, which shortly included both towns. Vegetable and dairy farms comprised most of the land and “with the shipbuilding industry on the river,” Gretna prospered rapidly.
By l945, Gretna was thriving with hundreds of houses, steam mills, hotels, lumber companies, factories and more. She was the Jefferson Parish seat (an administrative center for a county or civil parish), since l884, and became a city on August 20, 1913. John Ehret was its first mayor (Swanson, 1975).
Gretna, LA Community Assessment – Five Point System:
Production – Distribution – Consumption. Gretna’s economy has been a stable one, since its onset as a city, and even during these times where our nation’s economy is shaky at best. The statistics reported here are based on Gretna’s most recent census completed in 2000. The top five industries were retail trade with 936 stores, 13.6% of their annual revenue with ll.9% for Louisiana; manufacturing with 554, 8.1% for Gretna versus 10.1% statewide; professional, scientific and technical services with 312, 4.5% for Gretna and 4.6% for LA; wholesale trade with 232, 3.4% Gretna and 3.% LA, and information with 159, 2.3% Gretna and 2.0% LA (all business.com.2008).
An individual’s average income was, $15,735, in 2000; presently it’s $28,065, with LA’s average at $32,526. A family income, is on average $31, 881, with LA being $39,774. A home’s standard costs is $164,000 in Gretna (2008) compared to a state average of $136,600. Gretna’s unemployment rates is 4.8%, a job increase of 3% from 2007 (epodunk.com. n.d.). The Economic Development, Office of the Mayor oversees economic development in Gretna. The department works closely with the private sector to accommodate a “successful history of promoting locations.”
Socialization. The 2000 census showed Gretna to have a population of 17,423; an estimated population of 16,301 was noted in 2007, with a decrease of 6.39%. A portion of this decline is attributed to a high rate of deaths with nine per thousand people for the parish rate, compared to a nine per thousand statewide. Between 1999-2001 there were a total of 12, 259 deaths, 3,057 from cancer. Going back to the census data make and female were equally listed as 50% of the total population; and the average age was 36.99, compared to 35.25 for LA. Families represent 61.6% of the population, according to the census (trulia.com. n.d.). Gretna has a predominately white population with 56.3% and 35.5% African American. Louisiana has a 63.9% white population and 32.5% African American.
Gretna, along with LA took many years to become integrated, and still has situations where racism is a controversial issue. One recent incident occurred three days after hurricane Katrina hit. The Gretna police force blocked the Mississippi River bridge that connects their city and New Orleans. This trapped thousands of, mostly black residents, in the flooded city. The decision was upheld by the City Council and was initiated after a mall was set on fire August 31. Critics claim it was racial; officials sincerely deny the claim. Gretna was overwhelmed with evacuees from New Orleans. Mayor Harris said, “We took care of our folks. It’s something we had to do” (Rainey, 2005).
Social Control. Every community needs rules, and individuals or organizations maintain them. Gretna’s large police force was established in l877 and consisted of one chief and three patrolmen. It was governed by the New Orleans Police Department rules. In 1913, Gretna adopted their own rules for a Police Department, and regulated employment. The total number of crimes in 2007 were 17,706, with a decrease of 17,291 in 2008. Theft had the highest number of offenses with approximately 9500 in 2007 and 9800 in 2008. Violent crimes in 2008 were 1.04% higher than the state average of 0.7%.
The Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility Gretna houses a total of 1262 inmates, with 1112 occupancies in 2008 (jpso.com.2009). The Fifth Circuit Court represents Gretna. It was created by Act 32 of the l981 Louisiana legislature and signed by Governor David Treen. Included in this jurisdiction are four parishes: Jefferson, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist. In 2000 the circuit court had a permanent place in the Judge Lawrence A. Chehardy Courthouse. The court hears approximately 290 cases per year.
The Gretna Fire Department in 2007 was comprised of 18 paid and 138 volunteer firefighters, they responded “to over 400 fire, rescue, public assistance and mutual aid requests.” “The David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1 is the oldest, continuously active, volunteer fire department in the United States” (gretnala.com.n.d.).
Social Participation. Education is supreme in all communities. Gretna reports 11% of their “residents age 25 and older have a bachelor’s or advanced college degree.” Public schools, K-12, number 28 and private 43. Gretna public schools spend $5,240 per student, compared to the nation’s average of $6,058 (2007), with an average of 16 students per teacher.
There are 37 churches of various denominations in Gretna. Baptist is the dominant faith and has 15 churches throughout the community. Next highest is the Church of God with 5 locations, 4 nondenominational, and 3 Catholic. Participation in all churches is in context with Louisiana and the surrounding states. One of the churches, St. Joseph Church and Gardens, established in l857 is also a tourist attraction. Its architectural design and new Meditation Garden draw hundreds of tourists a year.
Mutual Support. “Sharing the journey,” as Roland Warren states are really done in all of the five functions. Education and churches are certainly participatory, and so are Gretna’s social clubs; particularly the German-American Cultural Center, founded in the 1800’s. Gretna’s residents are proud of their Historical Complex, annual Heritage Festival, and Mini-Military Museum. Tourism boasts an annual income of $62,620,645 in 2008. Every nuance of a community needs its people to participate to be successful, and thriving.
In conclusion, Gretna easily satisfies the five point system devised by Roland Warren, making it a viable community. In assessing Gretna, we have seen its economy remain stable, population slightly decreases along with Louisiana (-2.9% from 2000 census compared to 2007), and it has remained a primarily white populous. Gretna has also implemented changes in the wake of hurricane Katrina. The Jefferson Parish Department of Emergency Management (DEM) monitors the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather wire and radio. As the threat increases the DEM goes into action mode and staffs the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). At this junction the EOC issues standby notices to shelters, red cross, etc. Because there is a long lead time for weather related disasters, the warnings are issued through news releases.
The Emergence Alert System would be used, cutting into cable television and radio with further instructions. A three phase evacuation plan for southeast Louisiana was devised for 50 hours before the storm, then 40 hours, then 30 hours. An “Emergency Re-Entry Plan,” providing a similar “phased return of evacuees” (gretnala.com.n.d.)