Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me."

Those were the words of Denny Hastert, then Speaker of the House, when asked right after Katrina if it would be wise to rebuild New Orleans below sea level. He made a quick retreat from those comments just hours later when he was bombarded with criticism.

The counterargument goes that you must rebuild in the same spot because of the historic and emotional significance to the victims.

Two years after I’m thinking Hastert was right the first time. There was an AP article today bemoaning the fact that businesses are not coming back to the big easy. I think it is hard to make rational business decisions in the face of high insurance rates, crime that was bad before the storm and is worse now, and a dysfunctional local government.

The federal government has rung in with a new VA hospital complex which should add to the economy, but there have been major employers who have chosen not to rebuild, primarily oil and gas companies.

Some will come back, of course. The two major industries before the storm were government jobs and tourism. Those will rebuild. But it doesn’t look good if you’re looking for a solid, self-sustaining, economy.

Perhaps if they had chosen to build a brand new city inland from the present location (read: above sea level) things would have been different. It would take a PR campaign, but a futuristic city like Brasilia just might work. It could be a modern, planned city with all the high tech advantages and green features.

But Hastert was cut off before anyone could even consider the possibilities. So, we will all pitch in our tax dollars and help throw good money after bad.

Mona Charen editorialized on the New Orleans subject in our paper today. It is worth a look.

On a related note, there is a large electronic construction sign in the middle of the road just before I get on the tollway. It has been there for a few days. It flashes “Storm Damage?” and “Call 847-XXX-XXXX” The fact that it is a hazard sign and it is parked in the middle of the road tells me it isn’t a message from insurance companies.

No, it is a sign that should read, “Call this number for free government money!” I guess not enough people are calling in for federal disaster relief and they are fishing for victims.

Last winter when Denver was hit with three major snowstorms, Paul Harvey read an essay about FEMA and the high plains. Snopes didn’t like it, but the message is true, at least for the residents. Like they always do, Denver residents picked up snow shovels and went to work taking care of their own problems.

I miss Ronald Reagan.

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