Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Orleans, Two Years On

Katrina and the aftermath aren't over yet. Well Katrina is, but the pain lingers on.

When the people who were convinced the phoenix would rise from the ashes (or the swamps in this case) decide to leave, I wonder how much should be done.

Eve Troeh - who was covering New Orleans for NPR is pulling out. Crime has gotten to be too much. A friend was murdered, others mugged, she was attacked. Time to go.
I just hauled my things out of New Orleans in a big truck. I am still in love with the city, but it's hard to trust it. Maybe we'll both heal, and the relationship will rekindle. I don't know what - or how long - that might take.
My favorite source for crime statistics, the FBI, is letting me down. The Preliminary 2006 Uniform Crime Report lists 2255 violent crimes in New Orleans. There is however some disagreement on the population of the city. The FBI says there were a bit more than 431,000 people in the city in 2006. That would produce a violent crime rate of 523 per 100,000. Other sources have other numbers.
City leaders say fear of crime ranks up there with fear of another Katrina as reasons only about 60 percent of the pre-storm population of nearly half a million has returned.
That figure yields a violent crime rate of about 750 per 100,000.

No matter which number you use, things are not getting better.
Earlier this month, police released figures showing that violent crime overall was up 12 percent for the first half of 2007, compared to the same period for 2006.
One result of the rising crime is rising interest in self-defense.
Crime is a constant topic of conversation in New Orleans, where many say they are arming themselves for the first time.
Aside from the crime issues, you have to ask the question, "Can we protect NOLA from a major storm?"
Is it feasible to realize such levels of flood protection around New Orleans? Yes, if we re-engineer with natural defenses in mind. How much will it cost? Probably in excess of $100 billion. How long will it take? Probably 50 years or more. Is it worth it? [my emphasis, Z-Deb]
The author of this article says "yes." I am not so sure. NOLA is a major seaport, but aside from that - which is mostly back in business today, what is the economic value of the rest of the city to the rest of the country? The French Quarter is back in business - but then most of it didn't flood.

The portion of the city behind levees is 13 or so feet below sea level, and sinking. Move to higher ground.

Living in certain parts of the country comes with certain risks. Earthquakes, fires and mudslides out west, tornadoes in plains states, hurricanes in Florida, the Gulf, and parts of the South. If you choose to live in a place that is known to be at risk, and choose to live there after everything is wiped out, why should I (or anyone else) support your choice, when moving a small distance would mitigate a large portion of that risk? Some risks can be insured against. Some risks, like hurricanes and earthquakes are getting harder to insure. That is life.

In the part of the Midwest where I grew up, building on floodplains was heavily regulated, sometimes forbidden, and usually too expensive to be practical.

When the disastrous Mississippi flood of 1993 destroyed whole towns, the federal government tried to get people to relocate away from the river.
To keep Valmeyer alive, the mayor needed to find a safe haven. Fortunately, he did not need to look far. A five hundred-acre site became available on this bluff, three hundred feet above the Mississippi, and just a mile and a half away from old Valmeyer. To support the relocation, the mayor had to negotiate his way through a maze of twenty-two state and federal agencies. His ultimate success demonstrated how far the federal government was willing to go to remove people from the banks of the Mississippi.
Why should it be any different now?

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