More than 15 months after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Ray Nagin is ready to open a city office to direct New Orleans' recovery, with a leading regional planner and disaster recovery expert in charge.Ed Blakely is Nagin’s choice for recovery director. From what I’ve read about Blakely on the internet, he is as good a choice as any other person not from the New Orleans area.
Nagin said in a recent interview a recovery director previously didn't make sense because "I couldn't really communicate to the person their authority, how the money was flowing, how (the recovery) would be set up. All that clarity is in place (now)."
The city has made strides, Nagin said. "I just need somebody to take me to the next level."
He penned this online opinion a couple of weeks after Katrina hit:
There is little doubt that the “essential” New Orleans will be rebuilt and probably resettled. More than one third of the residents will not return for a host of reasons, including the traumas of the incident. But most will return. The best way to cater for this is to rebuild the city section by section, so large numbers can come back and resurrect their neighbourhoods again.Reading that opinion piece, he seems to understand what “community” is – although, he might have to unlearn a few myths:
In this process each neighbourhood should be rebuilt with locals taking part, including working with one another, to help rebuild their homes and parks. My experience is that this process binds neighbours back to the neighbourhood. Therefore we should avoid contractors doing all the work.
Physical inputs and planning designs from the community - and even from the children - are therapeutic and make the community a community again. The communities we rebuilt in Los Angeles and Oakland are stronger today than they were before the events.
Obviously, the central business core will need to be rebuilt too. It should be rebuilt around some form of New Bourbon Street, just like San Francisco created New Montgomery Street after the 1908 fires that destroyed the entire city.The “old” Bourbon Street is still there, and I don’t see a lot of business taking place there. Lots of businesses, but not a lot of business. You know what I mean.
I’m not sure, though, that Blakely will be able to do anything:
Blakely said he knows from past experiences that "leadership makes all the difference." In New Orleans, he said, the recovery has been bogged down by the number of bureaucracies and people involved and by the lack of a modern, citywide master plan.What does that say about Nagin? If we accept that “leadership makes all the difference” and that “the recovery has been bogged down,” then shouldn’t we assume that Nagin up to this point has been a poor leader? Conversely, if the recovery’s slow pace is due to “the bureaucracies and people involved” and not Nagin, then shouldn’t we assume that Nagin is powerless to the forces around him and, in fact, the leader of nothing when it comes to the recovery?
By the future recovery director’s own admission, he is either dealing with an ineffective leader or an impotent one. Let the recovery begin!