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

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Just lay it on the line!

An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times brings out some things already much discussed, but it must have said them differently, because some swirling thoughts finally gelled for me.

The writer points out – correctly – that promises were made in Jackson Square back in September that were not kept:

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

He also points out other truths, though, among which is the complete lack of a coherent plan coming out of Louisiana… and New Orleans.

They must, as quickly as possible, produce a comprehensive plan for putting New Orleans back together. Which schools will be rebuilt and which will be absorbed? Which neighborhoods will be shored up? Where will the roads go? What about electricity and water lines? So far, local and state officials have been derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan. That is unacceptable.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the issue.

It occurs to me that until Nagin et al answer precisely the questions the author asked about putting New Orleans together, it’s likely the federal government will continue to stall.

Why not say, “Without Cat 5 levee protection, we’ll only rebuild the higher ground neighborhoods, With improved levee systems, however, New Orleans will rebuild entirely.” ???

It seems that Mayor Nagin can't, for whatever reason, commit. That's too bad, because if he'd just say, "the plan submitted by the Urban Land Institute is what we'll go with until we have a vastly improved levee system", he'd put the onus back on the Feds.

As the editorial points out, the citizens who were (ARE!) displaced by Katrina deserve honest answers - as do the Americans all across the country who's taxes are going to pay for it.