Without those levees...
I've been thinking about Tim's call to bloggers, asking for everyone to speak up about the need for much stronger levees for New Orleans. And while we've all been talking about the levee problems for months, he's right - because EVERYTHING depends on strengthened levees for a safer city.
I spent two hours this morning, looking at properties for sale in NOLA – partly from curiosity (what are prices looking like these days?), and partly because I had some hare-brained idea about investing, and seeing if I could find an evacuee family who’d like to fix up something while they lived in it for a low price.
It turns out I’m not enough of a risk-taker to pull that off. It isn’t that there are no damaged properties to buy. In fact, that’s the majority of what’s on the market.
No – the problem is that without major levee protection, I don’t feel like I can safely invest in the city... and I’m already about priced out of the market for areas that fit the former, historical city footprint. As much as I love New Orleans, I can’t help with this.
How sad is that?
Without a commitment from the federal government to bring the levees up to Cat 5 protection, the future looks really dim to me – at least in terms of affordable housing. I don’t see the “Disneyfied” version of New Orleans coming that so many are worried about. Instead, I see the possibility of a well-to-do city that will, in the end, lose most of its tourism and diversity - and pretty much everything that requires lower wage workers to function.
Maybe the federal government sees this coming, but is just okay with it? It would explain Bush's silence around the Baker Bill:
In particular, he has kept silent about the legislation proposed by Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) that would create an agency mandated to buy the remains of flooded homes, allowing their owners to pay back mortgages and relocate to drier parts of the city.
Of course the White House isn't going to support the Baker Bill if they know it will mean buying out 300,000 people... and that's what they'd have to do, cuz there just isn't that much room - affordable or not - on that rarified higher ground.
IF the government were to fund the levee upgrades and wetlands restoration, the city would still be much different; the damage was just too great. But it might at least have some hope of keeping its historical uniqueness.
It has no chance, though, without those levees.