|Man Without Qualities|
Monday, September 19, 2005
Parallels between what happened in Santa Monica following the 1994 earthquake and what is going on now in New Orleans may be increasing. As noted in a prior post, the 1994 earthquake seriously damaged many rent controlled apartment buildings in Santa Monica, and elected officials in that city pressured building and safety workers to permit residents to reoccupy damaged and dangerous structures. Those Santa Monica elected officials were justifiably concerned that their core voters would have to leave their rent controlled apartments and the city itself if the residents were not allowed back into their old apartments. The ploy did not work, the officials were right, and many lost their jobs in the following elections.
Louisiana Democrats are now justifiably terrified that the displaced and overwhelmingly Democratic New Orleans voting base may not return to Louisiana at all. Indeed, prior posts have noted that many former New Orleans residents who have been evacuated to other states are telling pollsters that they do even want to return to Louisiana. What are a mayor and an increasingly desperate governor to do?
Well, the mayor of New Orleans thinks it would be just fine for almost half the evacuees to move back right away - notwithstanding the absence of an assured clean water supply, emergency services, safe levees, completed drainage of the city or any ability whatsoever of the governments involved to assure the safety or well being of those returning. Louisiana governor Blanco didn't object to hizzoner's proposal. Indeed, she hasn't even gotten around to requiring state agencies to limit spending and focus on essential needs, including the rebuilding and recovery. Let "les bon temps roullez!" Only the dour federal killjoys have been complaining about the obvious madness of an early reoccupation of the city, complaints that drew no public support from the governor and tart responses from hizzoner, who has nevertheless had to reverse himself:
Under pressure from President Bush and other top federal officials, the mayor [of New Orleans] suspended the reopening of large portions of the city Monday and instead ordered nearly everyone out because of the risk of a new round of flooding from a tropical storm on the way. .... The announcement came after repeated warnings from top federal officials — and the president himself — that New Orleans was not safe enough to reopen. Among other things, federal officials warned that Tropical Storm Rita could breach the city's temporarily patched-up levees and swamp the city all over again. ....Nagin said he had wanted to reopen some of the city's signature neighborhoods over the coming week in order to reassure the people of New Orleans that "there was a city to come back to." .... Under the mayor's plan ... a total about 180,000 of New Orleans' half-million inhabitants [would have been allowed] back. ... Nagin saw a quick reopening as a way to get the storm-battered city back in the business of luring tourists. But federal officials warned that such a move could be a few weeks premature, pointing out much of the area does not yet have full electricity and still has no drinkable water, 911 service or working hospitals. .... The concerns were also echoed by the top federal official in charge in New Orleans, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who went on one news show after another to warn that city services may not be able to handle the influx of people. Before reversing course Monday, a clearly agitated Nagin snapped that Allen had apparently made himself "the new crowned federal mayor of New Orleans." .... But officials with the Army Corps of Engineers said the repairs to the levees breached by Katrina are not yet strong enough to prevent flooding in a moderate storm, much less another hurricane.... Earlier in the day, as residents began streaming in at the mayor's invitation, cars were backed for two hours at an Interstate 10 checkpoint into the city. ... It was clear that at least some of the traffic was headed to sections of the city that had not yet officially opened.Is it too much to ask whether hizzoner's plan - and the governor's failure to object to it, despite its obvious lunacy - might have something to do with the desire of Louisiana Democrats to get that core constituency back into New Orleans before they get used to living somewhere else?
Just asking. I have no proof, of course. Just asking! Really!