Friday, October 20, 2006

More on the City

There are a few points on the state of the city I forgot to make yesterday, so here's another post on the state of the city. I'd also like to say I hope to get some pictures up soon - I have a disposable camera I'll use next week and get developed, and then you can see some of this for yourself. So, more on the city:

- BAD NEWS: The New York Times and the New Orleans Times Picayune have both run recent front page stories on the fact that recovery is tough for renters. The Louisiana Recovery Authority has set aside $7.5 billion for homeowners in recovery money, and $859 million for landlords, but nothing for the actual renters - even though roughly half the city's pre-K population rented rather than owned. Things are only getting tougher, as post-storm rent has gone up 70%. Renters are tax-paying citizens, too: they are subject to sales and income taxes, and property taxes do affect the rent they pay.

- GOOD NEWS: The return of City Park is an interesting one. It's a large, pretty park in the middle of the city, and I'm told the crime there isn't terrible. I've driven past, but I've yet to actually walk around it. It's nice for a city park, but the city has largely ignored it's recovery. The golf courses there are uncut and unused, and many trees are still down. However, local residents, I'm told, have pulled out their own lawn mowers and tools to cut the sports fields so they can use them again. Hooray!

- BAD NEWS: If you talked to me after my trip down here in March, you probably heard me rant about the difference between FEMA trailers and "Katrina cottages". The trailers cost taxpayers $75,000 each to build and install, they're small and cramped (especially if you work from home), and they're terribly dangerous during storms. There is a better way: FEMA could buy cottages for about $60,000. These buildings can easily fit a family of four, they're safer than trailers during inclement weather, they can be expanded and remodeled, and you can build them almost as quickly as you can transport a trailer here. I can't see any advantage to the trailers. So why isn't FEMA building these cottages? Because its federal mandate says it can only build temporary structures, and the cottages are permanent. Congress needs to get on the ball and change that. It will save the taxpayers money AND benefit the citizens of Louisiana Mississippi.

- GOOD NEWS: Although many neighborhoods are still without electricity, as evidenced by the four-way stops that have replaced traffic lights in the lower ninth, New Orleans East, and St. Bernard Parish, power is still available. I learned the other day that many recovery groups and FEMA trailers are powered by temp polls the city sets up for them in front of their property.

- GOOD NEWS: While many other cost-of-living elements (like rent) have skyrocketed, gas is relatively cheap, as it always is in this part of the city. The average price seems to hover around $2.15, though I've seen it everywhere from $2.10 to $2.30. You can even get it for a mere $2.01 on the West Bank.

- BAD NEWS: The side streets, and even some of the main streets, are bumpy and flood easily, though I'm told this was a problem before the storm. I would imagine many of those massive potholes around the levee breach in the Ninth Ward are new. It would be nice for the Chevy if those were fixed. I do see crews working on ninth ward infrastructure fairly routinely, but I doubt they're focused on potholes. That's ok; there are bigger fish to fry- like rent control/assistance and FEMA trailers!!!

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