Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hard Decisions for New Orleans

That's the name of an editorial published the other day in The New York Times. The writer agrees with the sentiments of my recent post about the need to make better choices as we rebuild New Orleans.

Do we need better, higher, superior levees? Yes indeed. Do we need to elevate our homes to lessen the chances of repeat flooding? Yes indeed.

Does it make sense to restore a flood-ravaged house its exact pre-Katrina condition? Here's what The New York Times says:

"Even with a commitment from Washington to build optimal protection against the fiercest Category 5 storms - which hasn't happened yet - the work would take years to complete. Residents should not be encouraged to gamble with their insurance checks for political or emotional reasons."

To paraphrase General Honore, let's not get stuck on stupid. Partly out of ignorance and partly out of arrogance, we built the majority of our city below sea level, below the 100-year-flood elevation, below any reasonable measure of safety.

Now we're rushing to make the same mistakes again. Even as we curse the inadequate hurricane protection system, even as we hear the president dodge questions about federal commitment to significantly improving our levees, we just go on.

I love this city so much, it hurts to see all the destruction and suffering all around us. And it hurts to think that in 6 months, or in 2 years, or in 5 years, we'll have to go through it all over again.


dillyberto said...

Do you think the rally on the levee will be worthwhile on Saturday?

Tim said...

That's hard to know. Certainly Everyone who lives and works in New Orleans wants better levees. So protesting in front of the local Corps of Engineers office is a bit like preaching to the choir. They don't need to be convinced, and it's not up to them anyway. The money and the directive to build higher levees will come from Washington. But hopefully, the rally will get on national news where I hope we can gather sympathy and support.

Schroeder said...

Tough call. I'm afraid that without adequate insurance or federal assistance, the issue will be decided by economics, not choice. To me, that's perhaps even more tragic.

Mr. Clio said...

Assuming (big assumption) we get funding and commitment for levees and wetlands restoration, the city should pull back some. If people don't want us to force them out, no problem. Let them decide in a property-rights, free-market atmosphere. Want insurance? It's gonna cost ya. Want electricity and gas and water and trash pickup? That's really gonna cost ya. Want police protection? Again, it's gonna cost ya.

Government and utility companies have no obligation to treat all areas exactly the same. That's what zoning, properly done, is all about, and zoning is a good thing.

Then let's see how many people want to move in areas that are unsafe.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Saw a yard sign yesterday for a rally at the Corps of Engineers, Sat. 11 am. In all the chocolate talk, that's the first I had heard of it. I'd hate to see it get lost. info at levees.org. Thought I'd pass it on.