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Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Better New Orleans?

Will a better New Orleans area emerge from this disaster? It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure, it won't emerge quickly.

In our age of instant news, 10 second sound bites, and "the next big thing" everyone has probably forgotten Hurricane Ivan from last year. Unless they live in the area hit by Ivan, which still has large numbers of houses with blue tarp roofs and missing siding because contractors in the area are too overwhelmed with work to get to them all.

With large numbers of residents of the city in other areas, many already looking for housing and jobs, it's a good guess that the city won't return to it's pre-Katrina size of 450,000 any time soon.

It's a good bet many of the poor will resettle somewhere else, where ever it is they've been dropped off. This alone may reduce the poverty rate in the city, but probably isn't the way anyone thought of reducing that rate.

The big thing is some thoughtful planning now has to take place, and it has to replace emotional planning for reconstruction.

The city will undoubtedly receive huge federal block grants for rebuilding. If they chose to rebuild "as it was", they are inviting it to become a destination for tourists again, and poverty hell for citizens.

Instead they need to look at a rebuilding plan that concentrates on attracting something other than the tourist industry, and it's low wage jobs. There are going to be huge areas of the city that have to be razed, and in the rebuilding, turning some of them into light industrial parks or other types of areas that generate a tax base and provide good jobs should be priority one.

The Super Dome and French Quarter need to stay, and do need to attract tourists, as a part of the plan, but that can't be the only plan as it has been for decades.

Check back in a year, and we'll know if they chose the route that will lead to a prosperous city, or if they've decided "that's the way it's always been", which would be as big a tragedy in the long run as Katrina.

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