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Monday, September 19, 2005

Tom Carter And Einstein

I think Tom Carter is asking some excellent questions and making some apt observations on the situation in New Orleans. Regarding Mayor Nagin, Tom expresses what I was thinking:
First the totally botched evacuation of his city, then his profanity-laced street-talk interviews, followed by his aborted order to evacuate the city by force, and finally his surprise announcement that he is re-opening parts of the city for up to 180,000 people to return immediately.
Vice Admiral Thad Allen spoke up and said this proposal seemed premature. Then, as Tom notes:
I just heard Mayor Nagin responding on Fox News to VADM Allen's comments. He said, "Maybe he's the new federally-crowned mayor of New Orleans, I don't know."

Remember, this is the same Mayor Nagin who was raving and cursing about the lack of federal presence. Now he's got it, but it seems he doesn't care about it.
That's the problem. If the city and state authorities haven't done what they needed to do up till now, should we move people back in before it has been done? There aren't the municipal services for these people (e.g. no water, no hospitals, no garbage collection), and we don't know if the levee system will hold up against another storm - even if that other storm only brushes by NO. There hasn't been time to pump all the water out and survey the system.

I think it was Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I support federal funds for rebuilding NO as far as it is safe. I don't think we can just hand out large chunks of money and believe that it will automatically be spent in such a way as to protect the lives of the people who are there. The federal government doesn't have control over Mayor Nagin or LA, but it does have control over its funds. I hope the funds come with some effective controls and scrutiny as well as a precondition of doing the type of disaster planning that should have been done in the first place.

This is a difficult situation which will not improve on its own. It has to also be said that the Democrats of LA and NO have a vested interest in protecting their political base, and it is quite possible that there is substantial political pressure on President Bush to pass out a ton of money. It is very possible that if the Bush administration lobbies for a more cautious schedule and more federal involvement the Democrats may use this as the pretext for an organized set of attacks. Let's hope that the interests of the people of New Orleans will not be forgotten in the midst of political posturing.

I am not sure that luring people back into a potential death trap is the best way to protect the people's interests. In the long run, it should make sense for New Orleans and LA to cooperate with the federal government to develop a strategic plan. I don't see any indication that Nagin recognizes this. SC&A is worried about the city administration's priorities as well. Carl of NOFP takes a typically comprehensive look at the history of New Orleans. If the past turns into the future, more people will die. .

Update: There is more involved than just the city of New Orleans, of course. Post Katrina Louisiana has an assortment of local links for the parishes and surrounding cities, including Slidell.

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