We've already seen what some people think about rebuilding New Orleans, like Dennis Hastert:
It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.
"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview about New Orleans Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.
Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the suburban Chicago newspaper, said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild too. Stubbornness."
There are "some real tough questions to ask," Hastert said in the interview. "How do you go about rebuilding this city? What precautions do you take?"
Asked in the interview whether it made sense to spend billions rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he replied, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me."
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
But other ideas about rebuilding New Orleans are beginning to come out as well. Clay Risen considers the question on The New Republic:
The first principle in rebuilding New Orleans should be to reduce the risk of future catastrophic flooding. The levee system that Katrina compromised was built to withstand a Category Three hurricane. Given the city's experience with Category Four Katrina, overengineering for a Category Five shouldn't be a question. Many of the most flooded neighborhoods will need to be bulldozed and the ground under them razed. A related idea should be to improve the sustainability of the bayous and barrier islands to the south of New Orleans, which will help sap the power of future hurricanes before they hit the city. And, while the city itself should obviously stay where it is, planners should be willing to consider relocating some of the most flood-prone neighborhoods (which also tend to be the poorest sections of town), perhaps even closing off East New Orleans and Chalmette to future development.
Beyond mere safety, the rebuilding process must inspire public confidence. While New Orleanians will undoubtedly want to return home, many will be hesitant to do so unless they can be assured that there is an unencumbered power structure in place to oversee the city's recovery. In some cases, it might be possible to place such power in the hands of local and state authorities. But New Orleans was, in many ways, a disaster before Katrina, the victim of decades of state neglect and local ineptitude. In this case, only Washington has the wherewithal to oversee the reconstruction. "There's really only one entity who can do that here, given the economic realities, and that's the federal government," says Thomas Campanella, a planning professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Vale's co-author on The Resilient City. "There's going to be some private sector investment in certain areas, but as far as the vast infrastructure and housing for low-income residents, it has to come from the federal government."
But rebuilding physical structures isn't enough--residents need to know that they will have a way to make a living. Any rebuilding efforts should therefore include job prospects as well. New Orleans's largest employers, the shipping and tourism industries, won't fully recover for years. Thus, a corollary principle should be to use New Orleans residents as much as possible in the rebuilding effort, on construction crews, and in support staff, even if this requires some job training. This, in turn, will assure the commercial sector that it will have a labor force to draw from when it eventually returns.
Another principle should be to keep as many changes as possible in the background. Toughen up building codes, but in ways that take into account local architectural traditions. Push for more mixed-income neighborhoods, but recognize that residents will revolt if they are forced to move into drastically different living patterns. Push for a city with less corruption and crime, but also recognize that what made New Orleans such an attractive place to live was precisely its down-at-the-heels, not-quite-clean reputation. "I hope we don't end up with a sanitized New Orleans, with the French Quarter and the Garden District and tourist sites surrounded by acres of bulldozed shotgun and camelback houses," says Campanella. "I'm worried that a themeparking of New Orleans could take place," a result akin to the artificially aged "old town" sections of Cologne, Düsseldorf, and other German cities destroyed during World War II. Such a New Orleans may look more attractive to outsiders, but it will eviscerate the soul of the city.
And, while a strong federal role of unprecedented proportions is clearly necessary, it shouldn't be so large that it chokes off private investment. Oddly enough, it is often immediately after a disaster that a city experiences its greatest growth, not only because it is starting from close to zero but also because the opportunities for investment seem so wide open. Guiding these forces, rather than competing with them, should be at the center of any rebuilding effort.
Perhaps the most important principle is to respect the persistence of urban memory. A city is not just a collection of streets and buildings; it is a population of individuals who have strong attachments to their ways of life and patterns of living. Places like New Orleans's impoverished Eighth and Ninth Wards "were real and vital places with wonderful social fabrics, where the people had roots that went generations deep," says Campanella. Ignorance of local patterns of life led mid-century planners to tear down inner-city slums and toss residents into soulless projects. Contemporary planners recognize the need to study such patterns and incorporate them into new housing efforts, and the same should be done in New Orleans.
This is not to argue against trying to make the next New Orleans a more equitable place. But it is to say that overly ambitious planners may find their efforts thwarted by the very people they imagine they are helping. Ironically, the same attachments to place and lifestyle that militate so strongly against relocating New Orleans are the exact forces that will stand in the way of any effort to radically refashion the city as well. So the new New Orleans ought to look a lot like the old New Orleans--only better.
Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how "to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic". The council's wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels.
Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: while their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatised French Quarter (where only 4.3% of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down. "For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans's reputation means a great place to have a vacation, but don't leave the French Quarter or you'll get shot," Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labour organiser told me the day after he left the city by boat. "Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification - poor people."
Here's a better idea: New Orleans could be reconstructed by and for the very people most victimised by the flood. Schools and hospitals that were falling apart before could finally have adequate resources; the rebuilding could create thousands of local jobs and provide massive skills training in decent paying industries. Rather than handing over the reconstruction to the same corrupt elite that failed the city so spectacularly, the effort could be led by groups like Douglass Community Coalition. Before the hurricane, this remarkable assembly of parents, teachers, students and artists was trying to reconstruct the city from the ravages of poverty by transforming Frederick Douglass senior high school into a model of community learning. They have already done the painstaking work of building consensus around education reform. Now that the funds are flowing, shouldn't they have the tools to rebuild every ailing public school in the city?
For a people's reconstruction process to become a reality (and to keep more contracts from going to Halliburton), the evacuees must be at the centre of all decision-making. According to Curtis Muhammad of Community Labor United, the disaster's starkest lesson is that African-Americans cannot count on any level of government to protect them.
We can already see indications that the Bush administration plans to go with their normal "business as usual" scheme of things in his suspension of prevailing wage laws in the afflicted area, allowing for larger profits to the connected companies (such as Haliburton) which will get the rebuilding contracts.
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i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
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Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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