Recovery 2.0: Reimagining New Orleans

We need to put our country’s best brains and experience to the question of what to do with New Orleans.

We should see a cooperative effort — or perhaps a competition — among the country’s best urban studies programs, architecture schools, economics departments, MBA programs, engineering and environmental programs and their counterparts in industry, with a few (the few) competent politicians thrown in (read: Rudy).

This is not as simple as pumping out, digging up, and moving back in, of course. There are complex engineering and enviromental issues: Can this city be made safe from the water and the pollutants that took it over and at what cost? There are blunt economic questions that must be asked: How many people can this place support when it had no industry aside from tourism before the storm and when residents will stay away in droves after the storm? There are social issues we’ve not begun to grapple with: How can we improve the prospects of minorities trapped in the poverty, crime, and injustice that took over this city? What is appropriate public spending and what is merely the product of cynical political ass-covering? How do we make sure that money reaches its goals? What is the appropriate and fair public policy for this and future disasters? What is a new vision for the city?

This could start at a grandiose level: a foundation brings together the best and brightest.

Or this could start at our level: someone starts a weblog or a wiki with an idea and a challenge to share better ideas. Big thinking can come from small starts, from anyone anywhere.

And we need big thinking that is unafraid to ask the hard questions and come up with imaginative answers. Perhaps New Orleans should be a new planned community. Or it should be all but abandoned and its residents helped with relocation elsewhere. Or it should finally go all the way and become the Vegas of the South with entertainment, food, gambling, and conventions at its core. Or turned into an economic development zone that creates opportunities where so few existed. Or what?

Recovering from Katrina needs more than water bottles and helicopters and buses. It needs strategy, imagination, the intelligent use of capital, real and political. We can’t leave this to the governments that made such a mess of the city — at every level, yes, every level. We need to need to help our fellow citizens in New Orleans find a better future. For tomorrow, it could be our town.

: This is about the positive: building the appropriate future. But it also about preventing the negative: corruption, patronage, pork. Glenn Reynolds spotted this scathing criticism of Louisiana’s pols in today’s Post:

The state’s representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone — more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. For example, their bill demands $7 billion for rebuilding evacuation and energy supply routes, but it also demands a separate $5 billion for road building and makes no mention of the $3.1 billion already awarded to the state in the recent transportation legislation. …

The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a system of political patronage. The smart response would be to insist that, in the future, no Corps money be wasted on unworthy projects, but the Louisiana bill instead creates a mechanism by which cost-benefit analysis can be avoided….

…Congress should ignore the Louisiana bill and force itself to think seriously about the sort of reconstruction that makes sense. Katrina has exposed mistakes of policy: water-infrastructure programs that made flooding more likely, and levees and insurance schemes that encouraged human settlement in dangerous places. Now that Congress is getting ready to spend tens of billions on reconstruction, it must seize the opportunity to correct those past errors.

Do we trust Congress more than the legislators of Louisiana? Barely, perhaps. Mark Tapscott urged that the entire process of reconstruction be thick with FOIAs. He’s right. We have to watch these people.

: Note that I’m not saying I have any experience to contribute to reimagining New Orleans or accounting for the money; I’m just a gadfly journalist. But I know there are brilliant people in this country who can set the agenda that government does not have. I’m eager to see them help.

: Note also that I’ll be posting what I hope is a simple agenda for next month’s Recovery 2.0 meeting. I hadn’t intended to raise anything so grandiose as this but who knows what people will want to bring in.

  • http://ruthcalvo ruth

    When the city of Washington, D.C., finally put in the Metro system, it required excavating – and required closing down – great portions of the downtown as it went in. Nice thought that before all the building starts going in, there might be a hard look at what underground structures might be helpful.

    When the Norfolk bridge tunnel was built, a mammoth tube first had to be strung across the Chesapeake Bay. Sounds like a good plan to avoid the problems of building underwater.

  • John

    Unfortunately, at the moment the local political reaction to Katrina seems to be simply ask Congress to throw money at the problem, which doesn’t even pass the smell test at the Washington Post.

    Just simply ponying up a bunch of bucks for pet projects than it many case will have no connection with creating a safer New Orleans is not the answer. But the people who want to re-think the concept of how New Orelans should be recreated, from its infrastructure to its deomgraphics, don’t have all that much time to formulate a plan, since pressure will start to mount in the near future for Congress and the Bush Administration to do something, even if it’s wrong-headed and wasteful, or face the process of being rebuked for dithering with the post-Katrina recovery in the same was FEMA was attacked earlier this month for its alleged inaction.

  • Ravo

    How about giving the whole area over to the enviromentalists. Let them see what they can do with it. They are always screaming,…this would give them a showcase.

    Anything is better than giving it to the LA politicians who failed for the last 60 years.

    So we are sending all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to fix the Humpty-Dumpty of New Orleans. Put it back together on a sinking wall of mud and see if it falls off again.

    President Bush has proposed a Gulf Opportunity Zone, which will test the novel idea of whether market forces can function while some $200 billion of public money is coursing through Louisiana. Louisiana political culture has run that drill for about 60 years; the result was New Orleans, before the storm.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110007305

  • http://www.geniusnow.com Greg Burton

    Actually, Ravo – that’s potentially a good idea. Not that it will happen. There have been a lot of visions and scenarios about rebuilding – I’ve got a few posts and about a dozen links (that lead to yet more links) on the topic of rebuilding NO here

  • http://orlandobound.blogspot.com John Frost

    Is it time to start talking about this now? I was wondering when the all-clear would be given.

    I’m more than a little nervous about letting the so-called ‘free market forces’ direct the Gulf Opportunity Zone. Seeing as how those forces played a large roll in destroying the wetlands that had protected NOLA in the past and as how the poor always seem to get screwed when that happens. (While there may be no humanitarian reason for keeping people poor (other than Job Security, I guess), there is certainly a ‘free market’ reason – cheap labor.) Free Market will result in the poor being directed right back to the lowest parts of the city or forced out all together. Free Market will encourage sprawl rather than mass transit. And there is little incentive for Free Market Forces to plan ahead to weather another Cat-4 or Cat-5 storm if the gov’t will just pick up the pieces and rebuild the next time one comes along.

    This needs to be looked at long and hard (I like the idea of a combined committee and contest) with safety (environmental and personal), long term sustainable economic growth, and community strength being the three pillars of any decision. If those are met, any investment made in reconstruction will pay itself back twenty-fold.

    Finally, we can’t forget those who lost everything, especially those who were willing to sacrifice everything to go in and save lives. They should be repaid for their hardships somehow.

    New Orleans, and the Gulf Region in general, will never be that ‘shining city on the hill’. But the region is important to America and dear to the hearts of those who chose to live there. We should take this opportunity to do right by them.

  • Michael

    I would expand Ravo’s sentiment, because I believe you need people who have a broader and deeper understanding of issues ecological and economic. (The latter to the point of how to spend money most wisely, seeking a more-than-money ROI for future generations.)

    With that I would nominate William McDonough (mcdonough.com), Lester Brown (earth-policy.org), and fmr Treasury Sec’y Paul O’Neill who has massive experience in big business, economy and environmental policies wrt both.

    I would also be interested in seeing someone like Andrew Rasiej, who ran for public advocate in NYC on a pro-technology platform, to inform dialogue on helping boost civic life via greater / free access to technologies like Wi-Fi.

    Who else for the list?

  • Ravo

    Greens Blocked Plan That May Have Saved New Orleans
    http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=9104

    Gregg, giving the area to the Greens will wake ‘em up to reality.
    Who knows, once awakened, they really may be able to achieve something GREAT. But as little as possible government money.

    Make them work instead with PRIVATE enterprise! (efficiency)

    The two entities have A LOT to teach each other.

    What is New Orleans today? It is the impoverished, lawless product of Huey Long’s anti-capitalist populism, cross-fertilized with every poverty program Washington produced the past 60 years.

    One of your featured links Gregg…”Don’t Refloat” details it.

    Mother Nature freed those on the vote plantations. The officials want them back for the harvest.

    Hopefully, they are now all scattered into places where dependent populations aren’t pet projects.

    Use some government money (Start with the no longer needed salaries of NO gov. officials,lol) Just a fraction of that ridiculous sum of 250 bn would go a long way to seed permanent relocation (habitat for humanity? for the able bodied of these folks) into normal communities. Give them a chance at a normal existence…to WORK at a new start.

    Some who have been dependent since birth may not avail themselves…sigh, but they’ll no doubt find another vote plantation elsewhere.

  • ralph phelan

    Figure out how much all this is going to cost – I know it’s in the billions. Just take that much cash, divvy it up among the former residents of New Orleans, and tell them to go live wherever they want. If some of them want to restart the town on their own dime, fine. But they get to pay for the levees and all the other costs associated with choosing to live under sea level themselves.

  • Rob

    The very last thing we need is a giant overreaching “plan”. You simply can’t plan things on this scale ahead of time. Hell, you can’t plan things a tenth this scale ahead of time. At best, you can set guidelines and direction, then let the process sort itself out.

    Remember, most of what you want to rebuild is private property. Those people own it and can jolly well do what they want with it. Perhaps they will be restricted in what they can do if they want to qualify for government funds, but I would not support confiscatinig the property under eminent domain.

    Also, any grand “rethinking” of New Orleans would mean tearing down structures that weren’t significantly damaged by Katrina. Does that seem fair or reasonable? Good use of government money?

    I think the rebuilding should be far more practical and not involve nearly so much “big thinking” as you tout. “Big thinking”, for example, got us the baggage handling system of the Denver airport. Remember too, that it is graduates of those “urban studies programs” who have given us some of the very worst urban planning ideas.

    Everyone loves the idea of starting over fresh, but no one really has any experience in it.

  • Ravo

    P.S. The Greenie and private enterprise are natural enemies. But without government money….

    If the greenies need the private enterprise money, and if private enterprise needs the greenie approval…wow…what could they come up with? :-)

  • penny

    With that I would nominate William McDonough (mcdonough.com), Lester Brown (earth-policy.org), and fmr Treasury Sec’y Paul O’Neill who has massive experience in big business, economy and environmental policies wrt both.

    Excuse me, but wasn’t Paul O’Neill the rather insipid and failed Treasury Sec’y canned as soon as politically possible. He was also the numbskull that toured Africa with Bono mouthing that more money should be thrown down that rathole of decades of wasted aid money.

    Louisiana, I read this week ranks third statewide in corruption. Even the WaPo has taken issue with their greedy legislature’s aid demands.

    You’ve got to ask yourself just what has Louisiana been doing with their oil and gas revenues all of these years? It shouldn’t be such a poor state with those resources.

    Sorry, but while I think the victims need assistance, I’m not willing to run the federal deficit through the stratosphere for some grand plan driven by emotion and greed.

  • Ravo

    just what has Louisiana been doing with their oil and gas revenues all of these years?

    Just a guess…
    Mmmmm….they run huge plantations at a loss? The main harvest is votes?

  • Rob

    It’s interesting to hear “environmental” concerns being voiced so loudly. It was those very concerns which derailed the protection of New Orleans that the Corps of Engineers tried to do back in the 1970′s.

    Also, no “wetlands” will protect NOLA from a twenty-foot storm surge. No matter how you want to spin that fable, it’s not going to change the fact that downtown NOLA is less than ten miles from open water and only twenty miles from the open Gulf of Mexico.

    And I hate to float this turd in the punchbowl, but if we’re going to spend a couple of hundred billion bucks to make NOLA hurricane-proof, what are we going to do for Miami or Houston? If Rita had crawled up the Houston ship channel as a cat-5 (the way Alicia did as a cat-1), huge segments of Houston would have been destroyed, including lots of refineries.

    There is just no way to make the US coastlines hurricane-proof.

  • Ravo

    There is just no way to make the US coastlines hurricane-proof.

    And that’s the best reason right there to keep the government out of it.

    Leave it to private enterprise…their risk, …their reward.

  • http://www.geniusnow.com Greg Burton

    Ravo – actually environmentalists and private enterprise SHOULD be natural allies. It’s an artifact of our accounting system that they’re not. I highly recommend Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, btw – he gets flack from both sides. I also follow a lot of environmental economics discussion.

    People are under the impression that corporations have higher profits as their primary goal. In reality, that’s a strategy towards getting higher valuation. If actual social costs were accounted for, a “green” strategy would yield greater stockholder value, and we’d see more corporations acting more “responsibly” because it would be in their self interest. Markets are good things – I believe that one of the major roles of government should be to insure that they operate fairly and efficiently.

    Much of the impetus for stronger emissions regulation, for example, are coming from large corporations. They understand the need, but don’t want to be put at a short-term competitive disadvantage. Completely understandable, even if it blows up the “us vs them” rhetoric that too many people on both sides love. If you’re interested, I can get some more links for you on these topics. Or just read my blog – I write about some of these issues fairly often.

    Currently, our system rewards reactive, after-the-fact approaches rather than proactive, risk-reduction approaches. It’s a complex issue, but it does go to the argument that our budgeting and priority systems are broken. Changing that requires a great deal more than the stale reformulations that both the “left” and the “right” provide us with.

  • jeff m

    The only public involvement should be the Corps of engineers building a levee at the normal high water mark (ie somewhere above sea level and normal high river level). All land on the low side of the levee should be condemned permanently. It can be covered with grass and made into a park or something. Tough luck for the property owners on the low side. They knew their land was below flood level.

    Beyond that. Map out new perimeter expressways. Condemn the property necessary for this. Build the expressways.

    Compensate the property owners on the low side of the levee about $10 per acre and offer them a bargain purchase price on similar sized pieces of state or federal land in the vicinity. Compensate the property owners displaced by the perimeter road fair market value.

    Do nothing else besides expediate building permits.

  • tom

    if you build in a floodplain,expect to be flooded,if you build on an earthquake fault,expect earthquakes,if you build where hurricanes hit,expect hurricanes,however the tax payer should’t have to pay for stupidity..cavate empter..let the buyer beware

  • http://katrinacoverage.com Katrina Coverage

    What a wonderful plan! Unfortunately, Our Leader and others have already started on their own plans, which will probably end up being something most Americans don’t want.

  • YetAnotherRick

    Do not [re]build it. Not [t]here.

  • Harry

    Rebuilding the physical infrastructure of New Orleans is a simple task compared to getting its residents to build the “intellectual/emotional infrastructure” necessary to stop tolerating corruption and demand that state and local officials take their responsibilities seriously. The passive “someone else will take care of it” attitude found in NO and Louisiana was the biggest factor in that debacle, and I have no clue how you get people to start taking responsibility for their lives after generations of “letting the good times roll.” How do you get an entire state to understand that sometimes the good times roll over you??

  • fred lapides

    It seems just plain silly to consider how to make things better for the impoversished, assuming that any will rwill return, while at the same time ignoring the same poverty problem throughout the nation. How can you “fix” poverty in New Orleans and ignore it nation-wide? Additionally, the pockets of extreme poverty exist in a number of communities along the Gulf region, and in Texas too. Or do we simply build a new city and keep the poor out?

  • http://way.nu Jonathan Peterson

    “How many people can this place support when it had no industry aside from tourism before the storm”.

    Jeff, do your homework. New Orleans is the biggest port in the United States and the 3rd largest in the world. Over 50% of our exported grain goes out through New Orleans, and a significant portion of our natural gas and oil come in through there.

    That such a critical resource was so poorly protected is a political battle we can fight if you want, but not rebuilding isn’t an option unless you are willing to raise gasoline prices by 30% and cut our food exports by half.

  • http://way.nu Jonathan Peterson

    FWIW – before getting all hot and bothered about the Gulf Opportunity zone. Similar rules have been in place in western Mississippi for more than a decade and 20 years earlier the Tenn-Tom waterway was a similar government pork trough that did little for the northern MS/AL corridor. None of which has done much for the endemic poverty in the state.

  • Marina Architect

    Congress is holding the 100B plus of funds. I’d invite as many of them as possible. In fact, it’s a good opportunity for politicians to step and show some class.

    Allbaugh’s Contractors want to make money by building a trailer park ghetto. Stop them before you do anything. That’s why we need Democracy 2.0 before we can do anything.

    For this to succeed it has to be a confluence of engineering, new urbanism and architecure. Look into New Urbanism, with 100B on the table, a lot can be done. Don’t let Congress piss it away.

    That bridge to nowhere is still being built with a cost of over 200M. All the noise we made and it’s still being built. Without Congress on board, Recovery 2.0 is going to turn into a “Bridge to Nowhere 2.0″.

  • K

    These discussions confuse NO city with the shipping function of the general area.

    The ports at the mouth of the Mississippi are very important and among the busiest in the world.

    The city is not vital to the ports. And the ports and shipping facilities were not much damaged.

    It is natural that the people of NO want massive aid. But it really doesn’t matter if the city is restored. It is/was living on nostalgia and welfare, much of it old slums, with some life support from tourism themed around jazz legends and pagentry.

    In other words “I like it” but in the way that I like a good magic show. I neither believe it or consider it important.

    As for a rebuilding plan bringing in the best engineers, academics, and planners – “Lord deliver us from such madness.” I guess the academics, etc. want some of those big federal checks too.

  • Franky

    Yeah that’s all very interesting – but today’s my birhtday.

  • dries

    Perhaps we should build another International Freedom Center in NO? just to prove that bad weather patterns are americans’ fault.

    4 years later, we cannot build a single edifice at WTC. at his rate. new orleans will take a century before anything happens, while La. politicians keep on stealing & being (occasionally) locked up for it…

  • Jim S

    “The city is not vital to the ports. And the ports and shipping facilities were not much damaged.” Wow. I guess all of the employees who work there are going to live in tents and have their food and everything else they need airlifted in or something, huh?

  • K

    re: Jim S

    You confuse the shipping function of the area with the city of NO itself.

    Historically NO was the BIG port. But now shipping facilities exist for tens of miles around NO. I saw the figure that NO itself has about 3000 people working at its port facilities but there are over 100,000 elsewhere in the region who do so.

    The original topic was rebuilding the city proper into some sort of paradise. That will benefit many, so we can expect wonderful claims will be made about how America cannot exist without the great flow of Mississippi commerce and the cultural richness of jazz, Mardi Gras, and above-ground burials.

    The truth is that the Mississippi commerce will continue even if not one acre of NO is rebuilt. Some shippers will have to adjust but that is what business does.

    I favor helping the city rebuild. Either do that or utterly raze it. But don’t just let it rot. And don’t rebuild it as a massive social experiment for urban planners? And why fear that we couldn’t live without this very old and very battered few square miles.

  • Hank Gordon

    Just a suggestion, but if people are going to rebuild the city, how about moving it about 100 miles more inland? How stupid could you be to go right back to the same place and deal with all of the same problems. Let the delta regenerate while you sit back and create your beautiful city again. (shuttle service to the French Quarters is optional)

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/mt Alan Kellogg

    Divide Louisiana between Texas and Mississippi, and sell New Orleans to Disney for a theme park. We could then add Guam as the 50th state to replace Louisiana (Puerto Rico won’t make up it’s mind about statehood for generations), and life would be better for everybody all around.

  • Dillinger

    Venice Orleans

    I have long had this dream of building a re-creation of Bourbon Street a la Venice Italy.
    Not like I’m a big land developer or anything, just a dream I have.

    I had considered someday starting my amusement park down in Venice, La. or somewhere land was cheaper. It just wouldn’t have been feasable to consider doing something like that in New Orleans. Until now.
    After seeing that entire areas of New Orleans may have to be bulldozed and rebuilt, I suddenly realized that this may be the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Imagine a Mardi Gras parade with floats that actually do!

    We could take some of the lower lying areas, perhaps around the 9th Ward and create a brand new small French Quarter with canals. Of course there would still be street access basically to what would be the backsides of the buildings.

    The main drag would be a network of canals with extra wide pedestrian walkways on either side, rows of storefronts with large connected balconies allowing people to walk along the main mall out of the sun or rain. The architecture should be absolutely stunning, like a Mardi Gras poster, beveled glass, brass gaslamps, arched pedestrian bridges, very detail oriented. We could have contests among architects to see who can come with the most flavorful New Orleans style architecture. Water would be kept sparkling clean using a Living Machine system designed by Ocean Arks International. http://www.oceanarks.org/

    There would be lots of alcove style doorways, mini stage areas, and gazebos offering good accoustics and shelter where street performers can ply their trade. I also envision an area similar to the French Market which has rows of fancy umbrella carts. We can make it easy for returning residents to get small business loans to start a variety of small cart sized businesses. Imagine not just Lucky Dog carts, but also beignet carts, jambalaya carts, oyster carts, gator on a stick, masks, etc. Small business training and assistance will be provided. If you are succesful with your cart, you can save your money and work your way up to your own small storefront. We should have an area set aside for artists, away from the music and noise and encourage the art scene we used to have in Jackson Square 10 years ago before the brass bands took over and made it impossible for over 100 other performers to conduct business over the volume. No offense intended. Keeping that in mind, we should designate interspersed areas for louder acts like brass bands, drum or amplified acts.

    This would certainly do wonders to not only bring scores of tourists back into New Orleans, but bring commerce into even more areas of the city. I would personally like to see an area such as this open 24 hours as well, like Las Vegas.

    I am very concerned. as I’m sure many of you are, that there will be a huge rush to build quickie, cube style housing using all generic Home Depot hardware and suddenly, Bang! everything looks justs like any other suburban housing, Anywheresville, U.S.A.. Starbucks, The Gap, Borders ,etc..
    Not that I don’t appreciate what they’re doing up in Humanities Plaza, but for God’s sake don’t send any of those cubes to New Orleans. Send them to Baton Rouge or Mississippi, or Alabama but if you are going to be sending anything here, please have some consideration for the distinctive architectural heritage that is New Orleans. If you look at the reconstruction of San Francisco after the big fire, they did a good bit to preserve the look of the original architecture in a kind of cosmetic way: basically taking cubes and tacking on a Victorian face. I think if we are going to rebuild, we need to think beyond the Home Depot box and consider going the extra yard at the design stage. We need to basically recreate the hardware store of the past from which to draw our building materials, equipped with ornate railings, cast lamposts, fancy street sign holders, etc. and subsidise it somehow so it costs the same to the builders to make fancy buildings which compliment the building guidelines.

    I realize of course that the cost of rebuilding old style housing using lots of wood like it’s an endless commodity has become very expensive as well as environmentally irresponsible. However none of us wants to end up with a city of plain brick cubes like the old housing projects either. Maybe we can’t have cast iron French balcony railings. But perhaps fiberglass or other modern materials might be more feasable. We can’t have lot’s of extra wood brick-a-brack on all our buidings, but replica cornices can be cast from recycled materials, nailed on and painted over. We cant have big pillars made out of solid wood, but we can cast the same out of steel and cement and have a a new New Orleans which is not only built to look, but built to last.

    It is clear that we should lay an all new fiber optic and underground power grid. I advocate laying an interlocking system of underground tunnels like under Disneyworld which would allow quick security and emergency access to any part of the city, even during the busiest Mardi Gras. The new ground level of the 9th Ward and other low lying areas should be raised 20 feet, not just build higher levees. I am talking about probably the largest landfill project in the history of America. If Japan can build an airport in the ocean by moving a mountain, America can raise the 9th Ward.

    Considering summer temperatures of 110 and 120 percent humidity, let us also keep in mind that building generic, single family cube style houses like they’re building up in New York will require a lot of air conditioning to keep them cool. That will waste more energy in our new city, which of course is exactly what George Bush and the power companies want.
    The true challenge in designing the future architecture of New Orleans is to introduce the concept of environmentally sound and sustainable housing while doing as much as possible to maintain the look and feel of the Big Easy. Backsides of houses facing the sun are fitted with solar, while the front, shady side maintains a distinctive Mardi Gras style look.

    I believe we can turn New New Orleans into a model city which other cities will copy for generations to come. On the other hand, we can also let our government, and good old American greed screw it up royally.
    We need to have a plan. A Big Plan, not just a whole bunch of little ones.

  • will lopez

    I do fill that New Orleans is esential and should be rebuilt just the way it was, but done right this time. New Orleans was surrounded by a levee system designed to withstand a category 3 hurricaine which it has always done quite well. The reason for this is because theese levee are over 40 years old. However, I like to think that we have progressed as a nation and now have the ability to build a category 5 levee system. New Orleans has the ability right now to pump up to an inch of water per hour out of the city, this is without uprading and adding pumps. If the nation would want to we could completely rebuild New Orleans in such a way that if another Katrina were to occur it would be a several hour inconvience for its citizens. Sadly though Louisiana is the poorest state in the country. It is the United States version of a third world country. I know because I have lived here my entire life. What is even even worse is like New Orleans, it has probally the most natural recources of any state or (as New Orleans is concerned) city in the entire country. At one time New Orleans was predicted to rival New York in both size and importance. Obviosly the two cities have strayed far apart since then. But i firmly believe that New Orleans if given the chance again can over time rise to that level. So I ask another question. How badly does the nation care about New Orleans??

  • Phil

    As a native New Orleanian I find it very distressing to see so many commenters quoting a large variety of half-truths based on either assumptions or bad information sources. Please don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

    Here are some facts you can rely on:

    The Sept 06 2005 CRS Report for Congress states and I quote that “the flooding in New Orleans was predicted but the extent of inundation was uncertain.”

    Why was it predicted? Because Mega-storms (which began with Hurricane Andrew) were a new phenomenon which began in the 90′s. The vintage levees and floodgate systems were thought capable of withstanding a fast moving category 3 hurricane but a 4 or 5 were in question. New Orleans was clearly not prepared.

    All of this information was presented to Congress by the Corp of Engineers as early as 2002 and congress refused to act.

    In conclusion I humbly submit that HAD our government reacted quckly with the “relatively” cheap preventative effort the largest part of this disaster would never have occurred.

    In the words of Don Henley “We get the government we deserve.”

  • Karl

    I have to agree with the reply from Phil…I also am am from New Orleans and have been through many hurricanes over the years. Government failed miserabley in terms of propholactic measures, but then again it did not make the hurricane. The devistation by flood was made be nature… the looting (and yes there was more looting than the media likes to show) murder and rape was made by garbage that was already present in our “urban community”. I wonder if new mutli story housing projects will be constructed to achieve Jackson’s and Sharpton’s demographics… God knows that’s a priority….

  • Wild Bill

    After reading all of the above “suggestions” I have come to this conclusion. Those of you who know nothing about the city and have never even visited New Orleans are talking out of your rectums (as usual). New Orleans is one of the greatest historical sites in the history of the United States. The port has been actively operating and supplying goods both to and from a very large portion of the country for a very long time. Much longer than most other large cities in the US have been in existence. The cultural and music history of the area is irreplaceable. We have been an International city since the original explorers arrived. To say that New Orleans should not be rebuilt is absolutely ludicrous. Yes, there should be some planning done prior to reconstruction. Yes, the levees that protect the city will have to be rebuilt to withstand larger storms. Yes, the dynamic of the city will be changed forever. BUT…the politicians should be minimally involved in the planning and the distribution of funding (from whatever sources). The politicians (Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers, etc., etc.) are exactly the ones who have screwed things up in that area for longer than we ALL have been alive. The entire area, including the floodplains that were ruined by the Army Corps of Engineers with all of the overflow diversions, will have to be rethought prior to ANY new construction. The Louisiana coastline has been receding and being ruined by saltwater intrusion ever since the river flood plain was diverted by the Corps (through political boondoggle) to allow the land owners of all the previously almost worthless marshes and swamps to fill in and develop into towns and subdivisions (Strictly for $$$). They ruined the dynamic of the floodplain which rejuventated itself every spring when the Mississippi River would provide the entire area with new topsoil carried downriver and deposited in the swamps and marshes. This also acted a a giant filter for the water. The result being annual “flush” of the ecosystem and an attraction of food and nesting areas and spawning areas for all of those Gulf delicacies like Redfish, Speckled Trout (spotted Weakfish to you Yanks), shrimp, crabs, and oysters.
    It is my opinion that the city and surrounding small towns that provide support to the Mississippi River traffic and the incredibly large seafood industry MUST be rebuilt, but with some forethought and planning. This planning should be committee based and the members of that committee should be drawn from a wide base of interests (shipping, seafood industry, oil, soil and water conservation, for example) all with equal say so, and should be studied extensively prior to any major expenditures and rebuilding efforts are started. PRIORITY ONE: This should be cleanup of the area. Nothing else will happen until that is accomplished. Let’s spend the money RIGHT NOW that has been allocated by the government to get rid of the trash and clean up the damage. Then and only then can ANY reconstruction begin. Help those folks whose homes survived the storm clean up their neighborhoods. The process of rebuilding is going to have to come from the outskirts and work its way inward. The housing projects that have been destroyed should NEVER be rebuilt. Those folks are currently scattered and distributed throughout the Uniited States and should stay where they are, not be attracted back to a “free” lifestyle supported by government at all levels. Government involvement or not….New Orleans WILL be rebuilt by those who love it, albeit a longer timeframe. I wonder how many of you anti rebuilders would be so quick to condemn your own hometowns into non-existence if a major natural disaster were to obliterate it. As the song says “Do you know what it means…..to miss New Orleans…to miss it each night and Day?”

  • gee

    To Ruth(Sept. 27th), Underground tunnels? HUH? Parts of New Orleans are below sea level! That’s the problem! The few basements that the city had usually had water in them under normal circumstances. I really don”t think that underground is where we need to look for solutions.

  • http://CarbonateRocks.com Clif Jordan

    Why not just reroute the Mississippi River to the Atchafalaya and set up a NEW New Orleans (call it something different) on higher ground several several miles to the west. The Army Corp of Engineers has been fighting this inevitibility for years now, every time spring floods threaten to divert the main flow of the river. Let a new river course and a new planned city happen naturally.

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