March 31st, 2007
OK, I can’t come up with a New Orleans Recovery palindrome. I tried my hand at some anagrams though, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Mayor of New Orleans – A sworn loony re fame. Parish Recovery Council – A cyclone: ouch, rivers rip. Unified New Orleans Plan – A serene fill-in. Own up: nada. Army Corps of Engineers – If errors, spongy menace.
Best I could do. I’m no Nabokov.
But down to business now, The Man is Recovery Czar Ed Blakely, The Plans are the ones we’re all too familiar with already, plus the new addition of Blakely’s “It’s not my plan, it’s the people’s plan,” and The Canals, well – if the powers that be don’t start listening to vox clamantis Matt McBride, the unholy waters will flow again and the plans won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.
My initial reaction to Blakely’s announcement of his 17 target zones was, like that of some fellow bloggers who were (as usual) quicker on the uptake than me, optimistic, if guardedly so. It’s reassuring to see a commitment to the severely devastated 9th Ward and New Orleans East, and the distribution of the “Redevelop” and “Renew” areas seems reasonable. And it’s fair of Blakely to observe that New Orleans doesn’t have the best record when it comes to finishing projects, and as nice as it would be to address everything that needs attention immediately, chances are that would lead to nothing getting done at all, anywhere. (That said, it would be worthwhile if Blakely and his Parishwide Recovery Committee would let on which areas are under consideration for Phase 2 and beyond – lots more neighborhoods’ futures hang in the balance, and they deserve some idea of what to expect and when.)
Despite my hope that the announcement means that these 17 zones will see some real action in the near future, my optimism guard, as I mentioned, is up and fully armed. As Library Chronicles points out, the Blakely Plan isn’t much longer on specifics than anything else we’ve seen (and the financing is fishy: notably the “blight bonds” and the unlikely waiver of the requirement of the 10% match for FEMA projects). There’s a general opacity to it that doesn’t augur well if it continues.
A Recovery Czar who says in response to reporters’ inquiries about what development in the 17 zones might look like:
“I have a very clear idea” of how the zones will develop, he said. “Developers make a lot of money by getting those clear ideas early and getting the jump in the game. And that shouldn’t happen in the newspaper. You’re a newspaper reporter, not a developer.”
and a Mayor who follows (not surprisingly) with:
“I don’t want to get into specific dates and specific projects with you guys because I know what you do with that: You come back later and you talk about the things that we haven’t done.”
don’t sound like executors of a “people’s plan.”
And for that matter, I haven’t yet found a comprehensive list of who is serving on the Parishwide Recovery Committee, or when and where their future meetings will be held (I would think their proceedings would fall under the requirements of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law). Also, Blakely has called the UNOP “a critical part of [the] process” (falling somewhat short of explicitly endorsing it – and while we’re on that topic, is the Parishwide Recovery Committee the same as the Parishwide Recovery Council, or is it a pointed snub? I’ve seen it referred to as both), and he seems to invoke it as the basis of calling it “the people’s plan,” but if the UNOP and/or other previous planning efforts are going to be the sum-total of public participation, I’m concerned. Not that I think we need to be put through any more magic-marker-and-red-dot exercises, but the UNOP has its share of woolly bits that could be stretched to fit plenty of interpretations of “the will of the people.” The public deserves comment periods and scrutiny of plan particulars in the media, mainstream- and citizen-varieties. Any developers worth their salt should be able to cope with that.
So, my fingers are crossed that we can get some positive action without more secrecy, otherwise, I’m afraid New Orleans Recovery = CRoWN EVERYONE A LOSER (OK, I cheated on that one – it was just too close to resist).