Friday, July 21, 2006

Power Outage

Couldn't post Tuesday and Wednesday, then a loss of electricity (seemed to extend from the bayou to Broad, maybe past that)at 11:00 last night wiped out a lengthy link-filled post. Quick summary:

Gambit Weekly Poll: Jeffrey at Library Chronicles had a good idea, but don't overlook best lie by a local politician. I know what I'm voting for.

Informed Sources: Last Friday night, Clancy DuBos said that Greg Meffert has said privately that even he doesn't know what Nagin's going to do next. No transcript available, but did anybody else hear it? This was three days before Meffert's voluntary resignation.

Gertrude Stein: I can't be the only T/P reader to have made the connection:
New Orleans needs a rebuilding czar, ideally someone without ties to the city, who can spearhead the stymied recovery process and exercise final authority over the nuts-and-bolts rules of how residents can return home, an internationally renowned urban planner told a citizens advocacy group Saturday.
Ed Blakely, an urban affairs professor who led recovery efforts after Oakland's 1988 (sic?) earthquake and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, said success in those and other massive rebuilding efforts resulted from leaders' swift action, sometimes laying out recovery plans within 24 hours of a disaster, and their willingness to install a single chief to guide a comprehensive plan "so that you're not moving home by home."

"It should not be a local person," said Blakely, who paid his own way from his home in Australia to address the African-American Leadership Project's summit in Central City. "They (should) have no baggage, but they have to have a real human touch to know where people are coming from."

Blakely said such a leader would be less likely to be influenced by historical, cultural and political factors that can sway the decisions of local residents on issues including which geographic areas, if any, should be off limits to rebuilding.

Not that he's campaigning for the job or anything. I'll try to add to this on my lunch break, no criticism of Oakland was intended.

Finishing up that last point: I've never been to Oakland, so I have no idea how well Oakland's recovery was handled, but I do have to wonder whether we want to bring the man who headed Oakland's recovery to be the city's recovery czar. It sure sounds like he was campaigning for the job: New Orleans needs an out-of-towner to head the recovery, said the out-of-towner, who made sure that the reporter knew he was here on his own expense. It would be interesting to hear what anybody from the area has to say; I've emailed a friend in Oakland, but no response.

I did love the way the event's organizer disguised a harsh criticism of the mayor, as a milder criticism of the city council:
Mtangulizi Sanyika, the AALP's project manager, criticized the council for taking a back seat in the recovery effort since Katrina and for frequently failing to step in when Mayor Ray Nagin has made conflicting statements about the process or remained silent on some issues, such as exactly which sections of eastern New Orleans may be situated on dangerously low ground.

"There has been a lack of process from Day 1," he said. "From the beginning, the city of New Orleans has acted paralyzed. . . . We've gotten so many mixed messages that we are thoroughly confused."

He also revealed a potential problem in bringing in a non-New Orleanian to head the recovery:
Sanyika suggested, for instance, that the council adopt a formal definition of "a low-lying neighborhood," as well as catalog, once and for all, which neighborhoods will be allowed to rebuild in their pre-Katrina locations.

That sounds sensible, but either the city rebuilds as if it's going to have adequate levees, or it doesn't rebuild. Also, I can't imagine any definition of low-lying that doesn't include most of the city. I have to wonder if Sanyika is aware of the existence of the Esplanade Ridge, or other very thin strips of land that suffered little flooding, even though they were surrounded by much deeper flood waters. Another question would be whether a practical definition of low-lying neighborhood would entail on a moratorium on new development in low-lying (but undamaged) parts of the westbank.

I'd argue that the real reason that the city doesn't want a clear cut definition of low-lying is that resettlement decisions have as much to do with city budget as elevation. Others have more cynical explanations.

The Greg Meffert story is very intriguing. I hope to hear more about this. I hope Meffert airs his dirty laundry.

As for the rebuilding czar, YES!

Get those bastards in City Hall out of the process. We need a czar, or I think better, a rebuilding corporation -- an independent non-profit entity to oversee the process, disseminate information, evalute progress.
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Meffert to say anything. He could make Nagin look bad, but he'd hurt himself in the process. Still, I thought it was funny that Frank Donze laid the groundwork for blaming Meffert, if they should have a falling out. I wonder if Donze's pro-Nagin reporting is deliberate, or if he's just easily manipulated by his sources and the people he covers. I suspect a little of both. In the past, Donze has written, "One thing the mayor has always been steadfast about..." When, in fact, it would be something that only the mayor said he had been consistent about.

I'm inclined to disagree with you on the czar, but not too strongly. I'd rather risk missing the opportunity for major improvements than risk bringing in a Robert Moses (or Batt in sheep's clothing) or any one person with the authority to do publicly what may have been done privately to that Baptist church.
whats your take on all this in relation to the mayors omnipotent "emergency" powers?

i still dont understand the city councels influance these days but i am trying to understand.

thank you for your blog and the other new orleans blogers who are at least providing info for new orleanians who are starving for information.

info is power .

hopefully you cats are awaking the sleeping giant , i.e. the locals.

please excuse my spelling errors . im a reader not a writer.
We will participate in the Unified Process but I have reservations about any outside organization usurping City Government. We may have a deeply flawed system but there is someone to blame at "the end of the day"

Why assume that the Unified plan is not subject to the same level of corruption and infighting.

What do you think about the selection of Duany and Acorn?
Gentilly Rick, as I understand it the city council can rescind the mayor's emergency powers at any time. Either they don't want the rsponsibility, or the new council isn't feeling confident (or angry) enough to challenge him yet. Don't worry about spelling, there's no spell check on comments, like there is on posts.

Karen, I agree with you totally. An outside expert almost gave us a riverfront expressway. As long as we demand enough needed changes, I'd rather risk missing the opportunity for major improvements than risk mistakes that can't be undone. I haven't had the chance to really study the plan, but I find it odd that a city that couldn't afford to pay or wait for an audit is bringing in so many experts; I suppose the Rockefeller Foundation is paying for it. I've never known what to think of Acorn, at least Duany would probably oppose the Walgreen's plan. Thanks for the work that your group is doing and I also appreciate the coverage that you and Third Battle of New Orleans are giving the issue. I grew up right off of Claiborne, between Broadway and Carrollton, I'd hate to see what once seemed like the center of the universe turn into another suburban intersection.
Karen, I attended those public presentations that I could when Duany's volunteer group did the Gentilly charrette, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about the New Urbanists...they accuse them of wanting to tear everything "real" down in order to build in it's place "Disney" versions. From what I've gathered, that's almost entirely based on the "planned" community of Seaside. But not much about Seaside really applies to our situation. There, everything had to be built from scratch. Here, Duany put much emphasis on the idea of saving every single bit of existing housing stock that could possibly be saved, even if in some cases it would mean that FEMA would require (since we didn't really know then) it to be raised eight feet or more. Now, I must say, Duany (at that time) had these ideas for N.O. west of the Industrial Canal only; he felt we would possibly have to wait for adequate Corps protection to be "certified" east of the Canal for some time. But the big thrust behind his "New Urbanist" ideas was simply that the "plan" should always be driven by the idea of making neighborhoods as pedestrian friendly as possible. The antithesis of suburban living. His mantra was "Why would people want to live 30 miles from their work when they can live a couple of miles and be served by public transit?" Which is another of his big to make public transit attractive enough here that people will actually want to use it as they do in many other cities.
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