Thursday, June 01, 2006

Remember This Advice From Charleston?

Save the heritage that remains of New Orleans

Over the following months, even years, as Charleston pulled herself back together, we learned that ironically, a historic community's greatest threat may not be the storm itself, but rather the often short-sighted, economically driven redevelopment that can follow. Insurance money and government grants can do wonderful things for preservation when in responsible hands. When not, they can afford to tear down what's left of the irreplaceable.

Our historic and architectural legacy is what made Charleston the city it was before Hugo hit, and we made the commitment, as city leaders and citizen preservationists, to not accept any but the highest preservation standards in recovering from Hugo


You might recall this Times Picayune article that appeared around the same time:

No one here has really given voice to the option of saving what you've got.
....

The storm took away so much, I know. But now you have an even greater risk of losing what's left in the redevelopment process."


The advice was specifically limited to historic architecture, but it would certainly seem fair to say that it has more general implications. While I don't pretend to have anything new to add to the old discussion about saving what should be saved while changing what needs to changed, it does seem that opening up the decision making process now would minimize the recriminations (for the painful decisions that need to be made) that are to certain to come later. I certainly know that the answer isn't to just fall into lockstep behind a mayor who seems particularly averse to sharing information. I should point out that Howell's views have not changed much since the beginning of the year (updated link pdf). It's been nine months since Katrina, the mayor's been out of town at least three times that had absolutely nothing--nothing, zero, donut hole--to do with city business, I think that it's time for Howell to get past the Hobbesianism. It's certainly time to get past the emergency powers.

That's not just sour grapes over the election and today's inauguration. It's been two full days (but time for three nights' evening news) since the announcement of the city's redevelopment plan. Somehow, I have yet to hear word one from the administration or question one from the media about the remaining 47 percent:

About 53 percent of the project's financing would be private. Developers now need to work with public agencies, explore tax credit projects, approach foundations and seek additional investors to put together the rest
.

I'd happily move on to other topics if the mayor started sharing information or the press started asking questions.

Actually, I do have reason to be optimistic on that last point--three reasons, in fact, and I'm gonna share them with you:

Reason number one: As head of the city's "100 day" panel Rob Couhig promised to make transparency his first priority.

Reason number two: Couhig added that, " My goal at the end of the 100 days is that... (and) that there is better understanding for what the future portends in the city of New Orleans"

Reason number three: Couhig...whatever.

A couple of closing notes:

It would be wrong to mention historic preservation without mentioning a recent city council decision:

The debate was longer and more emotional this time, but the New Orleans City Council's second consideration of a request to demolish a three-story, at-least-century-old wooden building at 1508 St. Charles Ave. resulted in the same decision: permission for the owners to tear it down, despite preservationists' objections.


I won't wax indignant without knowing the facts of the case, but coming from a lame duck council, one member of which called the issue, "a very tedious situation for the council and myself"...

If you're familiar with this blog, you can guess the second closing note:

One can only hope that the millions of dollars spent upgrading the building that houses city government are better spent than the hundreds of thousands (more actually) that were spent upgrading the top level personnel that run it.

Comments:
I think the Mayor's actual phrase was "zero-donut egg" which, of course makes so much more sense.
 
Nice points, especially considering that we have been told there is a grocery store coming on Claiborne/Carrollton..saw the site plans and it is all Walgreens..
 
You're right, it wasn't just the vehemence with he insisted on it, but the phraseology that I remembered. But I can't be the only person who thought Couhig's schtick (sp?) started to wear thin, he went from seeming like a very good debater to seeming like a salesman, IMO.

Since, Nagin made it a campaign issue, I'm surprised that nobody in the media thaought that it was fair game to look into Nagin's dealings with his backers. especially Billboard Ben. Since the conversations that I describe in a comment here occured under conditions in which my memory could have been fuzzy, i did confirm that the did occur.
 
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