Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dreaming of NEW New Orleans (First Edition)

For quite a few years I've advocated rebuilding American urban cities one by one in the fashion of a Marshall Plan. The federal government should have a Department of Marshall Plan with a permanent budget, fold the HUD into this new department. One city at a time and we have the perfect city ready to be rebuilt. Marshall Plan city number one, New Orleans to include towns along the Gulf Coast to the east.

I think The Marshall Plan Department (MPD) should have at its core a large public works department in the mode of Roosevelt "get to work programs." This would allow local residents to gain jobs and work experience as well as using the knowledge they have of the city layout. I'm not happy at the choices of Bush for rebuilding New Orleans, no-bid contracts with Halliburton and Bechtel for instance. I wouldn't have a problem if workers from these corporations work for the MPD rather than for their companies, as contract workers. We need predominently local entity(ies), one that runs at a balanced budget , not an outside entity that wants profit.

MPD should have a task force of representatives from the different interests of New Orleans to help guild rebuilding decisions. Groups of people like the entertainment industry (Bourbon Street), environmental (barrier reefs), fishing (shrimp), office business, levee building (Corp of Engineers), etc. must be able to have input.

I would include a high state official in the task force to liason with New Orleans. I would suggest Lt. Governor Landrieu. He was helping in the boats, rescueing people early on in the aftermath. I think Kathleen Blanco should resign along with George Bush among others. Or she should drop a job level, she and Landrieu could switch jobs. Mayor Ray Nagin should be involved, but he needs to take a step back and let the task force come up with some ideas. I'm still not sure if Nagin should also resign, I'll give him some credit as he faced an impossible situation, with all power gone, all communications out, streets flooded to block police and fire, and certainly confusion in government heirarchy above his level (FEMA, etc.).

Certainly represented on the task force are neighborhood leaders. The people moving back into New Orleans should be part of the process of redesigning the residential areas. A neighborhood that houses workers from the Bourbon Street and downtown business district area should be located nearby. If people can work closer to home, then evacuating the city will be easier. Roads should include bike lanes to save gas within the city. And a mass transit system that is safe and reliable.

I'm essentially proposing building from the ground up, so the low lying areas of the city should be considered future flood areas. Build pylons and structures that sit above the flood area. Under the structures could be built flood-out areas that are expected to fill with water during a flood. Pumps would be permenently installed at that level. The storage could be basically basements for less essential items that could be moved quickly. Or the whole flood areas could be filled in with earth with good drainage technology within the land.

I'd like to see many of the new homes and neighborhoods outfitted with solar panels, green roofs, and wind farms nearby to cut back energy costs. Sure there is plenty of oil and natural gas nearby in the Gulf of Mexico but it won't last forever. Let's think ahead and build an infrastructure that will be adaptable to the future ways of doing energy. Install a few hydrogen filling stations and begin to promote cars (tax incentives) that use hydrogen. There are plenty of new ideas for rejuvenating older cities. Plan for plenty of open park parcels and even parcels for gardening plots.

The working poor and people of poverty need better living space. Their neighborhoods should be thought out well. Mass transit through the areas. Homes must be above the flood level. The houses and apartments should have a desireabilty, use plenty of mixed styling/sizing to attract various groups to the same neighborhoods. Former residents must have some input and choice of how the blocks should look. Walking and bikeriding access should be incorporated throughout the city.

Marshall Plan Department, it's time to begin on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. In a few years the department can move on to another urban city, I would suggest Detroit, but there are other choices.

(first part in an ongoing series of looks at the New New Orleans.)


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