The New Plan for New Orleans

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new orleans skyline

New Orleans after the storm. [Eugene Dude.Rider /Flickr]

Later this afternoon Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring Back New Orleans Commission will release its first plans for a new version of the Crescent City. Last night The Times-Picayune was leaked some of the down and dirty details of the proposal, which perhaps raises more questions than it answers. For instance, there will be a four month moratorium on rebuilding in the hardest hit areas. Residents of those neighborhoods will have to meet as communities and put forward their own plans, and make a case for the future viability of their own neighborhood.

Tomorrow President Bush is going down to New Orleans to meet with the Commission. So tonight, as plans take shape, we’re checking back in with the city and the residents who have already gone back, who have committed themselves to rebuilding one way or another, and are now in the process of figuring out the whens, wheres, and most importantly, hows.

Jon Donley


Open Source guest, show

Fred Luter

Pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Commissioner, Bring New Orleans Back

Aidan Gill

Barber at Aidan Gill for Men and Community Organizer based in New Orleans

Full List of Open Source New Orleans Shows show, 9/7/05

To Rebuild or Not to Rebuild?, 9/14/05

Beware the Developers, 9/22/05

Rebuilding the Mississippi Coast, 10/19/05

Katrina Refugees, Live from the Astrodome, 9/19/05 (web feature)

Columns by Guest Blogger, Jim Fitzmorris

What You Need to Know about New Orleans Politics, 9/16/05

Grandma vs. The Technocrat, 9/16/05

New Orleans Loses Its Accent, 9/18/05

Update, 1/13

The Commission’s Urban Planning Final Report (pdf), a glossy and fascinating 69-page document, is now online. Check out page seven for an overlay map of what the New Orleans flooding would have meant had it happened in D.C, page ten for a look at the extent of the diaspora, and page 37 onward for “How do we rebuild neighborhoods? (point three: “Consolidate neighborhoods with insufficient population to support equitable and efficient service delivery”).

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  • Potter

    I was going to ask you to come back to this since we have these new developments.

    Many want very much to come home naturally but I don’t know if some can ever come home again and be safe or should be given hope that they can. It’s cruel. Wouldn’t it be better to break such news sooner rather than later to those who lived in areas that will be wanting to revert back to nature and will never have a high level of protection?

  • Robin

    Potter – oh yeah, that’s right! Thanks for prodding us until we complied.



  • re: the future of journalism, it’s not all citizen-journalists. Yes, you can argue that citizen journalism meets the demand in crises and disasters. No one can really doubt that. The question is about all thie times in between. It’s pretty important to hear a basic statistic (as Donley just volunteered) that 70% of the city is without power.

  • Let me leave a positive comment about new media before I get back to my dinner:

    All of the photos and stories are great, but what really moves people, let’s face it, is video. Can I find on NOLA any bit documentaries– maybe some which overlay with digital maps to give me a sense of location? Has this been on TV and I’ve missed it?

    I’m sure PBS’s NOVA will eventually do this…

  • joel

    I still want to hear what the PEOPLE of N.O. want. Is no one taking opinions and suggestions from the people that count? I’m really tired of hearing about “planners” and carpet baggers figuring out where best to get their toe in the door. Once some input some the PEOPLE are collected, THEN let’s hear from those who want to instigate the action as to how they would propose, and with what means, to accomplish the goals of the PEOPLE.


  • One other completely random question that’s been bugging me for months– do the people of New Orleans have to pay taxes for 2005? I’m serious. The government (pick one) failed to do its duty, and should give a rebate. And practically speaking, for all the things New Orleanians have to deal with, especially destroyed paperwork, I’d just assume that the city (and any affected parish) can write off their taxes. That’s one tax cut this Democrat would applaud.

    Granted, having done taxes for low income residents of Roxbury, I understand how important the EITC is (a negative tax: you get money), and also, consider the workforce who get their taxes deducted automatically.

    Still the equation works for me. Your government fails you, you don’t pay. (and, like the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, it can only really work as a unique circumstance of history, and not as an everyday precedent).

  • Potter

    Where is the money going to come from for this massive levee project ( a new WPA) that needs to happen to get the ball rolling especially since we are in a deep deep hole with this war in Iraq? Something has to give.

    How come Mississippi got promised 5 times the funds that NOLA got according to the NYTimes? Could that reason begin with an R???

  • joel

    Why don’t they rebuild the whole city on top of a levee. One with the area equal to the area of the city that is below storm surge reach. The Mississippi has been bringing down the topsoil of the great plains ever since the prairie grasses got poughed under and been dumping it just off the end of the delta since the Corps of Engineers wouldn’t let it nourish the lowlands and bayous. What hasn’t been brought down river is trapped upstream of every dam. Let this material be dredged at the expense of the Depts. of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Navigable Inland Waters, and who else was in league with them, etc., from these locations where they deemed it should be allowed to accumulate and build a platform that would keep the feet of N.O. out of the water till later in the 21st centrury when the Greenland and Antarctic ice melt. The refuse of just one open pit mine, barged down the Ohio R. and Mississippi from Appalachia would probably suffice since there don’t seem to be any plans to put it back where it belongs and rebuild the mountain it once was.


  • elphaba

    I only listened to a little part of the show as I was driving home. One thing that caught my attention was someone talking about “Little Brother” is watching you. It was referring to a website (I think) where people could report government corruption, mismanagement and incompetence. One of the contentions was that Louisiana had and has major corruption at all levels and this was a big part of the problem. I think the idea that “Little Brother is watching you is a great idea and has potential everywhere. Think of how many people know first hand about some form of corruption. For example, I have a friend in the dairy business. She was telling me of a big diary that got an “environmental” bill to pay dairies to reduce, probably particle emmission, I’m not sure. The bill was passed and the big dairy got all the money before any other dairies even had a chance to apply. The big dairy went out and bought all new trucks with the money.

    “Little Brother” needs to watch Big Brother.

  • elphaba

    First off I want to say that I expect that the poor and black of New Orleans are getting the short end of the stick. This is not morally right. I can see the rich and powerful turning the city into a playground for the well to do. To their minds Hurricane Katrina, Hurrican Katrina cleaned out the trash. I do not agree with this kind of thinking.

    Luckily we have an electoral system and people can vote the bums out. The corruption is not just at the federal level, or even the state level. Corruption at the local level is there with the consent of the local people. I was in NJ and I heard people complaining that the local police cheif used the car for his own personal business. Their attitude was “what do you expect, politicians are corrupt.” Then vote them out! I know that local politics can be very effective because I have seen and participated in local politics. It isn’t easy because the people who profit from the sweetheart deals have a direct monetary incentive to have their lawyers, consultants etc. at the planning dept, board of supervisors, etc. The public at large have their own jobs and lives. They don’t get paid to advocate for themselves and direct money isn’t at stake. It is hard, but it must be done. What happened in New Orleans is a prime example of what happens if you don’t fight.

    Small groups of people who use their voting power effectively have tremendous power. Money doesn’t walk up to the polls! Real grass roots movement scare the hell out of politicians. I have seen grassroots movements win when outspent by tens of thousands of dollars. Individuals must start taking responsibility for themselves.

    Katrina was a major disaster. Government at all levels failed. Everyone should be demanding that there be a full-national, state and local-investigation. Where is the homeland security response to a major event? There needs to be a highly public 9-11 commission style report and the public needs to demand to know the details. Instead, the public has allowed the politicians to blame everyone else. By pointing fingers at the other levels, they ducked responsibility. Ultimately folks, the responsibility rests with the public. The government is us!

    I read a National Geo article several years ago and there was a photo of a man with a pole at street level demonstrating where 16ft was. Katrina was predicted for years. What would happen if a major hurricane hit was not a secret. I don’t think we should rebuild in places that are below sea level. The polar ice caps are melting. Sea level is going to rise. The warming of the ocean is causing bigger, stronger hurricanes at a higher frequency for a longer duration each year.

    Instead of trying to conquer the environment, we need to look at it and decide how best to work with it. In the coming future of climate and environmental changes we will desperately need to be flexible to survive without imploding and crashing. The Netherlands are often cited as an example of what could be done in New Orleans. They have such limited land mass they have no other options. Can we honestly say that about us?

    I agree it is infuriating to think that the rich and powerful are going to get assistance rebuilding their casinos, upscale shopping and homes while the poor who suffered the most will be left to fend for themselves. This issue of social justice doesn’t make good environmental planning. If the poor are allowed to come back to their devestated neighborhoods and rebuild, what happens the next time? Clean up the lowlands and let them become environmentally valuable wetlands and open space.

    Affordable housing in the US shouldn’t be cheap housing because its in a dangerous location.

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