People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Two sides of a coin

Posted by schroeder915 on November 19, 2005

New Orleans has some tough decisions to make on an array of issues in which a wide range of views need to be included in a frank debate of their merits and faults.

The creation of the Louisiana Redevelopment Corporation would use federal Treasury bonds to buy damaged homes. The majority of an estimated 275,000 homes on the Gulf Coast destroyed by Hurricane Katrina are in New Orleans. What will happen if owners choose not to rebuild or fix those homes. Will some neighborhoods become blighted?

Representative Richard Baker (R-Baton Rouge) has introduced a bill to Congress to compensate people for their homes, and then sell them to developers.

Can Congress be depended upon to provide the funds necessary to rebuild New Orleans? The LRC takes care of this scenario using a market approach, but will the LRC lead to gentrification? Will the uniqueness of New Orleans’ various neighborhoods be turned into a bland landscape of multiplex condos, like the Pres Kabacoff honky project abomination that replaced the (equally abominable) St. Thomas housing development? Isn’t this just a scheme to give developers an opportunity to make a bunch of money at the expense of people who were previously homeowners and who loved their neighborhoods? There’s quite a bit of uncertainty about what the LRC will lead to, and a lot of pressure to get a bill for its creation passed.

I don’t think there’s enough information on the table yet to adequately consider the proposal. I haven’t heard enough about the downsides of the proposal – and I find that particularly unusual and discomforting.

On Friday, the Urban Land Institute endorsed the idea of a private development corporation.

A Times-Picayune editorial praises the state takeover of the Orleans Parish public school system, a move I support:

The truth is that almost anything would be better than the old system, which had a truly miserable track record. Finances were in such disarray that the state forced the system to hire outside managers last summer to try to stop the hemorrhage of money. Sixty-eight of 117 city schools were failing under the state’s accountability standards before the storm.

But can the state really do a better job, asked this letter writer:

I think that it is strange that a failing state is going to take over a failing school system.

This letter writer wonders as well about the state’s ability to teach children:

Louisiana is looking for a quick fix for the Orleans school system’s problems. The proposed charter schools have no proven record and offer little for teachers.

Except for the oddball with crony friends, almost every single resident in the New Orleans area is unified on the issue of getting rid of parish levee boards, consolidating them into a regional agency. Toward that end, a bill that was initially challenged by cronyistic politicians has survived in the Senate.

Some would say that the local levee boards ensure their accountability to their local constituents. Most people, however, agree that it’s time to clean house. These guys are plain lucky they don’t get “tarred and feathered” as was offered in a discussion I heard last night, especially since another faulty levee problem was found, this time in the London Avenue canal. This letter writer agrees:

What a shame it is that Sen. Francis Heitmeier and his cronies would play politics with our lives and the financial well-being of our businesses.

The Louisiana legislature is considering a bill (Senate Bill 44) which would create a statewide building code that would make homes able to withstand hurricane force winds and flooding. Sounds good – I like it. It’s working to save homes in Florida.

Michael P. Fagan wrote in a listserv discussion that there is more to consider:

There’s 2 sides to this issue. Stronger building codes, greater resale value, safer homes – HIGHER COSTS!!!

If the costs of these upgrades pushes the cost of the rebuild out of the reach of the person rebuilding, you have created another homeless person in Louisiana.

Some people ride a bike instead of a Lincoln because that’s all they can afford. Then along comes some well-intentioned person who says, “we have to make things safer” and demands higher safety standards for all vehicles, bikes included. Before you know it, the guy on the bike has to have enforced side panels, anti-roll bars, traction control devices. And the guy on the bike is left walking.

After Andrew went through Florida, over 3,000 homeowners were left homeless because they could not afford to upgrade to the new standards. Land speculators and investment realtors bought up their homes and property and now those former homeowners are now renters.


2 Responses to “Two sides of a coin”

  1. S said

    If it happens in the ideal way, I think Richard Baker’s idea is the best I’ve heard so far. (Tho, of course, I can’t stand him, but).


    Spitting in a Wishing Well

  2. Schroeder said

    I agree — and Garland Robinette (WWL) likes the plan — who I respect even though I have my differences.

    I really just want to hear the downside. The scenario I’m worried about is a bunch of developers go in, buy a bunch of lots, consolidate them into larger lots, make expensive cookie cutter suburban houses, and price them out of the market for average people.

    I wish I could say that jobs here could support that kind of thing, but that’s not reality.

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