streetcar A Street Car named Desiré

commanders palace Commanders Palace

leah chase Leah Chase


Reporter warned NOLA
Before Katrina struck;
Now Gustav; Follow
His warnings: Nola.com

Rebuild Pompeii, I Need the Graft
Ah, Pity City.
The Wall Street Journal’s headline (Dec. 7, 2005) gave me encouragement. New Orleans is seeking corporate sponsors for Mardi Gras. If Wal-Mart and the Disney Corporation can save that lost city, then I intend to rebuild Pompeii. If Katrina’s wasteland can be recycled, why not rehabilitate what Vesuvius left?

Just think of all the lava lamp plants we could put back in business. Wal-Mart is my first choice as a corporate sponsor for the simple reason their stores were prime targets for Katrina vandals grabbing bedding, water and shopping carts. A side benefit with Wal-Mart sponsoring the rebuilding of Pompeii retail: All lava lamps would carry the imprint of Made In Italy, not Made In China.

Since I am not privy to numbers left by Vesuvius devastation, I will apply a plan for rebuilding New Orleans, starting with what’s left.

Big Easy is not so big anymore. Also, it is sinking behind levees never intended to contain a Level 5 hurricane. To rebuild the city is something akin to transplanting hemorroids. I’ve experienced New Orleans many times over the years, few of them without concern for my safety. I once advised conventioneers to avoid the city unless they had their Muggers Express cards handy. As a convention city, exhibitors always had trouble with casual labor demands. Hire three roustabouts to do the work of one. Hire a fourth to plug in a convention center exhibitor's booth lamp. At least one major convention, the International Council of Shopping Centers, gave up on New Orleans for reasons of street safety and unionized labor demands. The only thing ICSC moguls miss: New Orleans restaurants.

I concur. Over decades I went for the restaurants. I will do that again. circumstances permitting.

Here’s my New Orleans solution: Save the good stuff. The restaurants that make Creole-Cajun cookery a reason to go in the first place; the French Quarter for the touristy bars, and, yeah, Mardi Gras.; the Times-Picayune because that newspaper has been sounding doom alarms for decades to no avail; and the sea port which barges in most of the concrete this nation vitally needs.

Before all that, New Orleans is a great place to use fair and balanced eminent domain to get lasting recovery in place. The now familiar Ninth Ward, under water for weeks, below sea level beyond repair, and populated with uninhabitable row houses, should be bought and turned into Government Greens. If those Nonth Ward residents are not returning, then now is the time for Uncle Sam to really give them reasonable buyouts. Their worst problems, immediate problems today, the second anniversary of a sustained disaster waiting to happen again, is to convert what's left to Government Green. A park sans housing. A playground.

My proposal is to save what works. Food. Restaurants, Tourist destinations beyond a sunken city. A pity city. A demoralized city beyond repair. As for keeping what is left...In my BK days of visiting New Orleans, Before Katrina, there were 1,882 restaurants. Restaurants & Institutions magazine today estimates there are 850 left. I can make do with that number as reasons to go back.

Disney has a record of running entertainment venues. Beyond the docks, lease the city to Disney for a buck a year. If for no other reason, Disney knows theme park security.

Fire FEMA. Hire Hilton to work the dozens of existing chain hotels wanting to stay the course.For a food sampler of whtg is happening, visit a new restaurant, Melange, inside the renovated Ritz-Carlton. The menu offers a collection of dishes representing the best of the city, all signature recipes representing NOLA's best. R&I magazine headlined the story, Say Yes to NOLA.

And that police department? Hire Wackenhutt if Disney balks. The challenge: New Orleans is now No. 1 in murders and last when is come to convictions. If a hard nozed personality is needed to get things done, my man is General Russel Honore. He was the first-on-the-scene brass when the water was still rising. He saw armed troops arriving by truck. It was his stern dressing down that lowered their weapons as if they were marching into Iraq. Honore at least brought a few hours of peace to a pity city.

Canal Street? Welcome Wal-Mart on one side, Target across the street. Zone out legally all the T-shirt shops except one. Devote one alley block to sanitized tattoo parlors as a tourist need.

A street car named Desire? Keep it. But build this nation’s first all encompassing monorail (elevated, of course) network serving all wards and districts.

Save my faves: Preservation Hall Jazz Band (*)
Jax Brewery? Pearl Beer?
The New Orleans Saints?
Café du Monde? One has to go there to understand.
Commander’s Palace? The nation's premier destination restaurant.
Paul Prudhomme above all others for the sheer weight of his personality and touristy culinary value to the city.
Emeril Lagasse? Invite him to return and run a restaurant.
Dooky Chase? Leah Chase managed to get it up and running after five feet of water in the place. Declare it a national treasure. Always, this is my first night dinner choice on all visits. To understand, go.
Stella. the restaurant.
Stella, Tennessee's Stella
Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street. Designate it as a Historical District thus giving it Federal protection.

Look at my plan thusly: To rebuild New Orleans as it was in early 2005 equates with implanting replacement wisdom teeth. Newspapers call it Sunken City.

(*) Life's Irony: Marvin Kimball, 97, last founding member of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, died March 17, 2006, in Charleston, S. C., where he was living with a daughter after being forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

TALK Topic: Network Faculty GG 101
The slow recovery
Aug 23rd 2007 | NEW ORLEANS
From The Economist print edition

Two years after Katrina, New Orleans is still a shadow of its past self
A CASUAL visitor to New Orleans today might be forgiven for thinking the city had regained its feet since Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29th 2005. The old sections of town most favoured by tourists—the French Quarter and the Garden District—look much as they did in the summer of 2005 or, for that matter, the summer of 1905. Here there is little evidence of the storm that changed the city for ever.

But plenty of visitors these days wander beyond Bourbon Street's cheesy T-shirt vendors (many now selling Katrina-themed gear) to the parts of town that were flooded. Often they have come to help: thousands of good Samaritans, secular and religious alike, have descended on the city. Any progress made in the past two years is owed mostly to them, along with the hardy locals who, faced with an unholy combination of government apathy, incompetence and corruption, have become committed DIYers.

The recovery thus far has been a hodge-podge affair, with islands of rebuilding amid seas of neglect. Most of the districts that were flooded now contain a mixture of renovated homes, gutted houses awaiting repair while their owners live in trailers outside, buildings that have scarcely been touched since the storm and empty sites where homes once stood.

In general, wealthier neighbourhoods, such as Lakeview and Broadmoor, where people were able to tap their own resources, have seen more progress, though few areas have recovered substantially. The poorest sections, such as the Lower Ninth Ward, are still almost completely barren, with the removal of most of the storm's wreckage the only positive sign. In short, New Orleans has a long way to go.

The reasons for the slow climb-back start at the top. Regardless of academic arguments over whether New Orleans is a sensible place for a city, the federal government has much to answer for: it built and guaranteed the levees that failed the city, though they were designed to withstand much stronger storms. Then it oversaw the shameful response to the flooding. Yet rather than rushing to make amends, the Bush administration and Congress have forced Louisiana to beg for aid. It took a year to approve a $10 billion grant for flooded-out homeowners. The fund will soon run out, well before the last applicant is paid, yet neither the administration nor Congress has offered assurances that the deserving will all be treated alike.

The federal government's attitude towards flood protection has also been less than reassuring. Given what happened during Katrina, a top-notch levee system is surely the linchpin of the city's future. But even the minor improvements Washington has promised have been slow to materialise. As the city enters the height of its second post-Katrina hurricane season, many of the levees have yet to be improved. Many of the promised changes will not come to pass until 2011, so those rebuilding in vulnerable parts of town are making a four-year leap of faith.

Legislation passed by Congress to set up a Gulf Opportunity Zone had promise, but has done little so far for the New Orleans area. The federal government set aside billions of dollars to subsidise interest rates for private projects in devastated areas across the Gulf coast. But much of the money has been gobbled up by opportunistic developers. Only one-tenth of 1% of the $4.5 billion in projects approved thus far in Louisiana are in New Orleans.


The state has made things worse by handing federal money out slowly. Louisiana's “Road Home” aid programme for homeowners is better known as the “Road to Nowhere”. So far, less than a quarter of the roughly 180,000 applicants have had their money.

New Orleans itself, which last year awarded its exasperating mayor, Ray Nagin, another term, continues to suffer from government that is at best inept and at worst corrupt. In the past ten weeks the former city-council president and the former school-board president have both pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. But the barrage of headlines about crooked politicians overshadows the more banal realities of life in a broken city. The criminal-justice system has been unable to deal with the city's murder rate, now by far the highest in the country. Accused killers routinely walk free without being tried. Other city services are spotty. Many libraries remain closed, and firefighters are still working out of trailers. Building inspectors are hard to come by. The sewage and water infrastructure is near collapse.

The city's population was recently estimated at 262,000, about 58% of what it was before Katrina. While it is still too early to pass judgment on how post-diluvian New Orleans will ultimately look, some changes are starting to become clear. Some of the city's poor, it seems certain, will not return. Many, if not most, cheap rented houses—the humble “shotguns” that predominated in much of the city—were underinsured and will not be rebuilt or restored. Working-class homeowners, meanwhile, are mostly still waiting for Road Home cheques.

Some of the Big Easy's wealthier citizens are leaving too, not for lack of housing but because their firms or their jobs have moved away. There has been something of an infusion of new blood—teachers, builders and others who have come to rebuild. Unfortunately, some of those who lend the city its unique character are finding it harder to stay. Musicians, in particular, are struggling, with fewer tourists visiting and poorer locals to rely on.

Nearly half of New Orleans is below sea level, and its lowest sections are prone to filling up with water in heavy rains, let alone hurricanes. But the government has done practically nothing to discourage rebuilding in the most flood-prone areas. City leaders dithered when confronted with the idea of declaring certain areas off-limits. Some liked to think that the issue would be dealt with by new federal flood maps, which stipulate how high buildings must stand in relation to the flood plain. That didn't happen either. In the end, most homeowners were able to rebuild precisely where they were before and still qualify for heavily subsidised federal flood insurance.

Success in New Orleans has always been measured in the taking of small pleasures rather than in gross domestic product and job creation.
Those pleasures remain, in plenty. But if the city cannot fix its larger problems, it may lose its still fragile footing.

TALK Topic: Here are excerpts from a NYTimes story, Sept. 3, giving many reasons why Uncle Sam should take over New Orleans, buy homes in the Katrina neighborhoods, create a Marshall Plan for NOLA, and save what's left of a major city.

Have an opinion: Call.

June Rees, a retired nursing professor, gave up on living in New Orleans and reluctantly moved 75 miles away to avoid skyrocketing insurance costs. The price of her homeowners and flood insurance was going to quadruple, to $8,000 a year, and it still would not have covered wind or hail damage.

“I’ve just been ripped out of it,” Ms. Rees said of leaving her home in New Orleans, “as if somebody tore me away from everything I’m grounded to.”

Insurance companies may have paid out $11 billion to Louisianians in the two years since Hurricane Katrina, but they have also become a new villain in the tales people tell about the slow recovery here. Every neighborhood is full of horror stories about companies that reneged on their promises, offered only pennies on the dollar in settlements, dribbled out payments, deliberately underestimated the costs of repairs, dropped longtime customers and sharply increased the price of coverage.

And it is not just talk. Though, traditionally, relatively few customers sue their insurance companies, about 6,600 insurance-related lawsuits have landed in Federal District Court here; 3,700 of them are pending. Few have gone to trial. Some homeowners have settled; other cases have been dismissed or sent to state courts, which are also handling thousands of disputes.

TALK Topic

Even Media plans for Katrina redux...

This from TVNewser.com:

Covering Pity City for future Katrinas…

How Katrina Changed How Nets Cover News

The legacy of Hurricane Katrina can be measured in many ways. For news nets, the metric is how they prepare to cover the next big story.

"Katrina was a particularly poignant and compelling appraisal of what we do," Paul Slavin, senior VP news coverage at ABC News told The Hollywood Reporter's Paul J. Gough. Now, at ABC, there is "a designated producer whose job it is to respond to a breaking-news story. And a so-called 'go pack' is on hand and checked regularly to make sure it's up to date."

After Katrina, Gough writes "CNN staffers surveyed the entire Gulf and southeast coastlines for a better picture of the infrastructure and places that can be used for reporting that will pay off in prep time saved in case of an emergency."

As for how the nets continue to cover the aftermath of Katrina: "NBC and CNN, in particular, have shown their commitment to the region with the establishment of full-time bureaus in New Orleans. NBC's Brian Williams, who this week made his 14th visit to the region for NBC Nightly News, said it's a significant resource commitment that hasn't been easy but has been worthwhile." =======================================================

As critical food issues mount,
call with suggestions to provoke Washington.

E-mail: thegrumpygourmet@wowway.com