Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blurry memory, I suppose

The mayor claims to have been making a heroic stand in New Orleans:
I have made some tough, sometimes unpopular decisions. To lead effectively, you must sometimes tell people what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. Sometimes you have to go against the grain and upset powerful people. Sometimes you have to cuss a little to get people in power to help suffering citizens. Sometimes you have to stare greed in the face and say "No, everyone has a right to return to this city, especially if they own property."(wtf?) Sometimes you have to stand up to the double standards and do what you think is right for all people and not just a chosen few.

When he was actually lying on the beach in Jamaica:
For residents of New Orleans' most ravaged neighborhoods, there is no more pressing issue than whether they will be allowed to renovate or rebuild on their property.

Now, after weeks of only glancing discussion by state and local leaders, a group of urban and post-disaster planning experts has forced the potentially explosive issue to the forefront, saying the city must concentrate its rebuilding efforts on the highest and most environmentally sound sections or run the risk of haphazard development that results in miles and miles of blighted neighborhoods.

The panel of more than 50 land use experts, all members of the Washington-based Urban Land Institute, drafted a map to illustrate areas they believe are ripe for collective buyouts or future green space , including most of eastern New Orleans and Gentilly; the northern part of Lakeview; and parts of the Lower 9th Ward, Broadmoor, Mid-City and Hollygrove. Their draft report was presented last week.

While it remains unclear who has the ultimate power to make those decisions, it appears that the ball is mostly in Mayor Ray Nagin 's court.

The mayor was not available for comment this week because he was in Jamaica taking "much needed" family time, according to Communications Director Sally Forman.

Nagin also failed to show up last week at the ULI presentation, widely viewed as the cornerstone of his Bring New Orleans Back Commission's master planning efforts. Forman said at the time that the mayor couldn't attend because he was in Washington. On Tuesday, however, she said he was in Baton Rouge at the time of the presentation, and left the same day for a weeklong vacation.

At least, that’s how the Times Picayune reported it on November 25, 2005* . When he returned a few days later, the paper reported his strong opposition:
Elected officials and residents from New Orleans' hardest-hit areas on Monday responded with skepticism and, at times, outright hostility to a controversial proposal to eliminate their neighborhoods from post-Katrina rebuilding efforts.

Even Mayor Ray Nagin , whose own commission asked the Urban Land Institute to devise the restoration plan, said he is reserving judgment on the most radical aspect: to abandon, at least for the near term, some of the city's lowest-lying ground.

"I'm not ready to concede that neighborhoods need to be demolished," Nagin said after an emotional three-hour public hearing on the Urban Land Institute plan that was unveiled this month. During the meeting, Nagin reiterated his intention to ultimately "rebuild all of New Orleans.**"

In fact, the talk of a "reduced footprint" and "green spaces" had begun two months earlier, almost as soon as residents were allowed back into the city, and that’s the first record that I can find of the mayor taking anything even remotely resembling a firm stand on the issue. He had, as I recall, made vague statements along the lines of "You know man, I think we should rebuild all of New Orleans." But, I don’t recall the mayor taking a stand until it became obvious that feelings were stronger among residents who wanted to return home than among the mix of residents and outside advisers who thought that a reduced footprint might be better. If anybody can find any record of the mayor actually saying a firm "No" to talk of a reduced footprint before it became the politically expedient thing to do, I’d love to see it.

I guess it not’s that big a deal (breaking news: Nagin exaggerates), but the suggestion that the mayor made a tough, unpopular decision strikes me as just another example of Nagin bullshit.

*Experts include science in rebuilding equation - Politics noticeably absent from plan
Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Friday, November 25, 2005
Author: Martha Carr Staff writer

**Don't write us off, residents warn - Urban Land Institute report takes a beating
Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Author: Frank Donze Staff writer

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