Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bringing Back New Orleans in Four Months OR ELSE

I wish it were bringing back New Orleans in four months or less.

Instead, the report that will be presented to the Mayor today says they have four months to prove their neighborhoods can “reattract ‘sufficient population.’”

The report does not specify what the threshold will be to satisfy that requirement, though some commission members have indicated they'd favor a requirement that well over half of residents signal a plan to return.
I like this part of the plan:
The report is silent on the mechanics of how planners would seek input from displaced residents.
Aren’t they the ones we need to ask if they are coming back or not?

I like this part, too:
In hopes of helping people make their decisions, the panel is urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release within a month the advisory floodplain maps the agency is now creating.
Having to meet new elevation requirements and how much your flood insurance will cost are important variables in deciding whether or not to rebuild.

I don’t like the sufficient population criteria. We don’t know yet who wants to come back. Not who *plans* to come back. Who *wants* to come back. Not every family can bounce back fast after a disaster like Katrina. Four months might not be enough time for a lot of families to make plans to return, even if they want to.

And if they can’t, the Crescent City Bulldozing Corp., I mean Redevelopment Corp., will come a-knockin’:
The corporation's powers, as envisioned by the land-use panel, would be broad. It would be the central authority empowered with executing the redevelopment plan developed by the mayor and his commission, meaning it would buy properties and "dispose" of them for redevelopment. It would have the power of eminent domain, but only to be used "as a last resort," the report says.
Scary.

I am not saying we rebuild every house in every neighborhood in New Orleans. But, before we make plans for a city of 250,000, we need to do everything possible to make sure that it is not 350,000 that want to come back. Otherwise, we will be shutting the door on our own people and essentially saying they don’t fit in the new New Orleans.

According to the T-P article, here’s a summary of the plan to be recommended:

- A four-month period to decide how many residents are coming back and where

- In the meantime, a moratorium on building permits in hardest hit areas

- The assumption that “not every neighborhood will be sustainable”

- The creation of a public agency to buyout and in some cases take property in areas that won’t be rebuilt

- A plan to buy homes in areas that will not be rebuilt at full pre-Katrina value minus insurance settlements

- Homeowners not in buyout areas getting full value for their damaged homes if they buy a new house in the city

- Designating “neighborhood planning areas” that must “prove their viability to rebuild” by attracting a “sufficient population”

- Meetings for residents of these planning areas held in New Orleans

- Parks:
…depending on whether those areas fail to recover fully: Broadmoor, Gentilly, the 7th Ward, the Lower 9th Ward and two sections of eastern New Orleans between Chef Menteur Highway and Interstate 10.
- Umm, infill development areas?
The report also recommends that a number of large tracts be demolished and repackaged as "infill development areas" for commercial or industrial projects with housing for workers nearby. The dozen sites identified in the report include a number of public-housing developments, including one in Central City in the vicinity of the C.J. Peete and Guste complexes; a huge parcel in the area of the Florida and Desire complexes; and another around the St. Bernard complex.

Other areas are identified as "infill" sites as well, including the portion of the Lower 9th Ward on the lake side of North Claiborne Avenue.
- Also, “a light-rail system, large mixed-income neighborhoods and new parks that double as additional flood protection”

- Outside of its scope, but still recommended: wetlands restoration, closure of MR-GO, pumping stations near the lake, and one levee board

I think that’s everything. Nagin, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and the White House all have a say before it goes into effect.

My question is: Do the people have a say?

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