Saturday, January 01, 2011

Comparing Andorra to New Orleans

The principality of Andorra, located in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, and Orleans Parish, the borders of which are coextensive with the City of New Orleans at the base of the Mississippi River, share some surprising similarities.

Andorra, comprises 180 square miles.  Orleans Parish is made up of 350 square miles, of which 180 are solid land.  Now some differences appear.  The population of Andorra is roughly 84,000 while New Orleans has an estimated population of 336,644 (we are breathlessly anticipating the latest official census count).    Andorra's unemployment is essentially zero while the New Orleans-Metarie-Kenner metropolitan area clocked in at 8.1% this past October according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  While not exemplary, this is a pretty healthy rate compared to other areas of the United States, not to mention the world.  Andorra has the second highest global life expectancy rate (82) while New Orleans does not.

Similarities reappear when comparing the economy though.  Andorra's economy is driven by tourism.  10.2 million tourists visit this mountain principality every year and catering to their needs is what sustains the high employment rate.  Prior to Katrina and the federal levee failures, between 8.5 and 9 million visitors came to the Crescent City.  In 2009, that figure was 7.6 million.  85,000 people are employed in New Orleans tourism industry.

New Orleans is governed by a strong mayor charter with a city council that has its own sphere of influence.  It seems to balance out and be workable in most cases, responsive when necessary on the macro level if maddeningly bureaucratic in other aspects for the individual entrepreneur.  Andorra is a parliamentary democracy with a prime minister running day-to-day operations but the heads of state empowered to dissolve the government and call for replacement elections are two co-princes.

According to the city charter, here is how to qualify for being elected Mayor of New Orleans (Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA):
Section 4-202. Qualifications.
The Mayor shall be a citizen of the United States and a qualified elector of the City, and shall have been domiciled in the City for at least five years immediately preceding the election. 

To become a co-prince of Andorra (a sovereign European nation outside the EU), you must be one of two things.  One co-prince is the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain.  The current incumbent is Archbishop Joan Enrique Vives Sicilia, who is expected to continue in his post until the Vatican decides he is needed elsewhere.  He has been co-prince of Andorra since 2003.  The other co-prince is the head of the French Republic, this gentleman:
None other than Nicolas Sarkozy, the elected president of France.  The country that was reborn as a cradle of liberty, equality and fraternity has a prince as it's head of state, albeit a prince of Andorra, not of France.  The French did away with their own monarchy on-and-off but finally around the middle of the nineteenth century.  Andorra's constitution is a fluke of its incorporation in 1278, similar to New Orleans' history of being three municipalities in one during the early 19th century and it's just abolished tax assessor system.

Another similarity between Andorra and New Orleans:  Take this quote from Wikipedia and let it settle in: "Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain."  Substitute the word "American" for "European" and read again.

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