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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Something Messy's About to Hit the Fan in NOLA

Rebuilding recommendations are starting to come out, now, from commissions and experts, and the proverbial “doo doo” is about to hit the fan. It's been coming, of course, and everybody has been gearing up for this for weeks.

While yesterday’s proposal contains many excellent ideas that are likely to be widely embraced, I doubt that they will sizzle the front pages and coming debates the way this paragraph portends:

Tackling what is certain to be the most controversial aspect of any rebuilding plan, the contingent from the Urban Land Institute said Friday that the city should use its original footprint, as well as lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, as a guide in determining what areas are most logical for redevelopment.
The Urban Land Institute et al put together a map with three color-coded “investment zones” – and I’m very worried that Zone 3 in particular is going to bring everything to a screeching halt.

In those neighborhoods, the panel emphasized that all homeowners should be compensated for their property at pre-Katrina values. They also stressed that if the worst-hit areas are allowed to redevelop in a scattershot way, homeowners will begin to rehab houses on partially abandoned streets, creating the shanty towns with little to no property value.
Compensating at pre-Katrina property values is a good idea, and nobody wants “shanty towns” (a very real possibility). That doesn’t change the fact that the plan doesn’t bring those neighborhoods back, or their people home, any time soon – and at the end of the day, that is the battle line that will be drawn.

Rational? Realistic? Feasible? It won’t matter, because for the neighborhoods and communities affected, it means that their roots are gone – that their “temporary” locations are permanent. For many families, generations of hard work and commitment will be wiped out.

Sadly, while I agree with (and totally understand) the emotion, I can’t see any future in trying to rebuild the city all at once; it makes sense to do it in stages.

Get ready, everybody. It’s going to be a nasty battle. Will logic and reason prevail?

Should it?