Home > News > La: Is New Orleans Worth It?

La: Is New Orleans Worth It?

Please before I get any hate mail…this is not my opinion it is a piece I found in a Florida newspaper..

Those who love New Orleans say Hurricane Gustav is proof that the billions of dollars spent to protect the city and bring it back to life after the devastating 2005 storm season was worth it.

But what if Gustav had been stronger, a category 4 instead of a 2, and hit the city directly instead of 70 miles to the west? Would it be worth the cost to rebuild New Orleans again if the storm caused widespread destruction as Katrina did?

“That’s a question that was there before and after (Hurricane) Katrina, and I think is going to come to the forefront again,” said Don Powell, who oversaw the Bush administration’s effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Since Katrina ripped through New Orleans three years ago, the federal government has devoted at least $133 billion in emergency funds and tax credits for Gulf Coast disaster relief. Much of it went to rebuilding and better protecting New Orleans from future storms. How much more will be needed after Gustav – or Hurricane Hanna, as that storm creeps up Florida’s eastern coast – is unclear.

Former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., infuriated Louisiana lawmakers when he suggested in 2005 that a lot of New Orleans “could be bulldozed” after Katrina and questioned the wisdom of rebuilding it. More dispassionate observers note that no matter how much is spent, New Orleans will continue to swallow federal dollars with each gulp of the Gulf or Lake Pontchartrain.

“New Orleans didn’t rise up in the ground from where they were before,” Harvey E. Johnson, deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said shortly before Gustav’s landfall. “They’re still below sea level. So you’re still going to get water inside of New Orleans. And they know that.”

A study last month by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, concluded that 72 percent of the city’s households that fled Katrina returned to New Orleans, as did 90 percent of its sales tax revenues. However, as many as 65,000 blighted properties or empty lots still mar the city, and house rents are up 46 percent.

To die-hard residents and other devotees of the Big Easy, the money poured into the Gulf Coast to continue oil production, preserve local culture and, most importantly, strengthen levees showed that New Orleans could withstand another battering by Mother Nature.

“It’s a soup bowl and it’s not safe,” said Beverly Cigler, a public policy professor at Penn State University, referring to the city’s cup-shaped geography.

Local political eagerness to develop property in New Orleans instead of protecting wetlands, which serve as a natural storm buffer, has hampered safety, said Cigler, co-chair of a Katrina task force set up by the American Society for Public Administration. Levees, meanwhile, are still three years away from being fully strengthened. And since there are differing levels of elevation throughout the city, “some places are safer than others.”

“My own personal opinion is that you shouldn’t rebuild in areas unless you can make them safe,” she said. “And nobody’s had the willingness to confront these kinds of issues.”

Of course, these opinions are from idiots that do not live in or around New Orleans.  So what do they know?

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  1. Beverly Cigler
    4 September 2008 at 6:48 am

    I think that you did only a cursory read of the news article, which quotes me and others. NO ONE was suggesting abandoning, bulldozing, or not rebuilding NOLA. In my case, accuracy was offered. NOLA is in a soup bowl and is not safe. Levees can be built but we are 3 years away from completion of that project so just relying on a structural option is not full safety.

    The city has varying levels of elevations, with some areas obviously safer than others. There are non-structural options, such as building codes, wetlands restoration, wiser zoning and subdivision regulations, etc. that can enhance safety along with the structural options.

    In my opinion, it is very unwise to rebuild the parts of the city that are most vulnerable until the mix of structural and non-structural options is implements.

    Another blogger initially took offense to reading the article you only reprint partially and misinterpret. After I responded to his blog and sent him articles I’ve read, here’s what he did:

    September 03, 2008

    Misperceptions and Apologies

    Apparently, there is a lot of that going on – around the country, around New Orleans, and around this blog.

    Professor Cigler has sent me some articles that she has written about Katrina and the way that humans interact with their environment. She has handled my rude comments with class, and I am sorry if I offended her. There have been other professors who truly believe that New Orleans should not be rebuilt. After a more careful examination of the article in which she was quoted, it is clear that she is simply posing a realistic question that others have asked, too. I am inclined to agree with her position – New Orleanians should not rebuild in areas unless they can be made safe. She is not advocating for the abandonment or razing of New Orleans (even if the sentence following her quote is “Yet abandoning New Orleans hardly seems an option either.”)

    Restoring wetlands is an important part of this which Professor Cigler advocates for. Also, smart planning and levee design are part of her approach. In fact, it’s hard to find fault with much of what she says in her papers and articles. Professor Cigler understands that much of the country is in harm’s way and does not even realize it, something New Orleanians know all to well.

    Professor Cigler, I would like to publicly apologize for using inappropriate comments to criticize your opinion. My use of profanity was made after a cursory reading of the article, without an critical eye or ear. I am thankful that you have been in contact with me and have corrected my erroneous view. You are a much better person than I, and I appreciate your time and your contribution on this argument. It’s hard to hear that your hometown and home to your family and friends should be left for dead, and clearly you are not one of those saying that. My sincerest apologies for any ill feelings.

    The previous article will be removed completely.

    – – – – – – – –

    I would be pleased to send you or any of your readers some of my widely accepted work that has been judged by many as unbiased and certainly not based on being stupid.

    Thank you.

  2. 4 September 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I would be glad to read anything that you would like to send. Please feel free to forward all to me. Thanx for the comment. The main crux of the piece was what Hastert had to say. My intention was to enlighten people and to see what the people who live in and around New Orleans has to say.

  3. borntolose1974
    4 September 2008 at 12:24 pm

    First off we don’t always necessarily CHOOSE where we live. Sometimes that decision was done by someone generations before we were born. But I don’t really see what the difference is in the people that choose to live in hurricane territory, tornado alley or on the west coast where they might “fall into the ocean” any day from an earthquake. We all have obstacles to deal with and as the people from the south and the gulf coast have shown on more than one occasion – WE ARE SURVIVORS. We have survived being kicked by better than Gustav…………….

  4. Bev Cigler
    4 September 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I’ll need a direct e-mail address that can accept attachments of articles. I’ll then send some of my publications.

    Bev

  5. 4 September 2008 at 1:27 pm

    bev…my email is in the mail

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