By Jarvis DeBerry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (

In a story that appeared on Wednesday’s front page, some residents of the Iberville public housing development talked about their fears that the scheduled implosion of the nearby Pallas Hotel will make them sick. Concerns about airborne particles prompted state officials to offer hotel rooms for residents who live within a 600-foot radius of the demolition site – but the Pallas Hotel and Iberville are separated by 725 feet. So, before Wednesday at least, there was nothing special being planned for folks in the 400-apartment complex.

But forget about the residents’ health worries. Some readers were more worked up over a photograph that accompanied Wednesday’s story. It showed an 8-year-old boy at the development busying himself with an iPad. That’s a relatively expensive piece of technology. Predictably, outrage ensued.

iPad boy

Ayanna Gabriel, 12, top left, looks on as Michael Smith Jr, 8, plays on his iPad at the Iberville public housing complex in New Orleans on Tuesday. Photograph by Rusty Constanza, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

[For example, one comment said] “…the able-bodied welfare recipients that infest that place are waiting in line…to go hit the taxpayer once again….”

The idea that most people in public housing are living the lush life has persisted for at least as long as presidential candidate Ronald Reagan started using the offensive “welfare queen.” But you ought to take a walk through the Iberville if you think its residents are living like royalty. Walk through and see if you’d exchange their thrones for yours.

The sight of a kid in public housing with an iPad doesn’t offend me. Actually it gives me hope. So many poor people have no access to the digital world. They fall behind in school because of it. They miss the opportunity to apply for certain jobs. Yes an iPad is an expensive gadget, but we can’t deny its usefulness. As computers go, an iPad comes cheaper than most laptops and desktops.

Read the complete article here.