A Sixth Anniversary Redux
(Email written less than six months after Katrina. Lest we forget how things were for thousands of us trying to take action in a void of all but insane planning committees.)
A commission, unelected, refusing individual input from citizens, has been formed to recommend to the mayor a plan for “rebuilding” New Orleans. They are mostly money men and developers who really want to make millions off this and get rid of the riff-raff that has obviously been holding New Orleans back from its true destiny.
They issued this week a report including a map of all the areas that are “flood prone and badly damaged” and, therefore, must justify their continued existence. All of New Orleans East including our neighborhood is cited as blighted. So is most of Gentilly, where our friends live, and, of course, the 9th ward and a few other areas. These areas are “flood prone” because they flooded this one time from failed levees built by the Corps of Engineers and approved by local hacks on the levee boards. Numerous areas of uptown and Algiers, etc. that flood regularly, but didn’t this time are exempt.
The plan is to impose a four month period starting in late February during which no one in these “yellow zones” would be permitted to do any work on their homes to rebuild. Those who have rebuilt would be subject to possible loss of all expenses already incurred, and those in process would be stopped from making any effort to begin or continue these efforts for a total of 10 months from the date of the storm. Existing permits (such as ours) would be revoked. The practically non-existent neighbors in each area would then have to prove they could meet the following guidelines.
Sustainable Neighborhood Guidelines
– Neighborhood population: 5,000 to 10,000
– Commitment to return: 50% of residents
– Reasonably efficient delivery of public infrastructure, services and utilities
– One to Two 8-K public schools and a shared public high school
supported by approximately 11,000 people
– Places of worship
– Reasonable access to convenience retail, health, cultural, and
– Park and open space
– Connection to the city by convenient public transit
– Contiguous relationship with at least 2 other neighborhoods
– If there is undeveloped land, the neighborhood planning teams will
make recommendations on its use.
Obviously, people who haven’t returned, and aren’t permitted to be in the neighborhood, would find it particularly difficult to justify their existence. We and many of our neighbors who already hide from the police and military now, by turning off lights when they see blue lights flashing. If targeted neighborhoods can’t justify themselves, homes and neighborhoods will taken by the city (in our case and many others with no compensation – yes, you heard that correctly) and be bulldozed.
Here it gets hazy for obvious reasons. “Developers” will then be allowed to have the property to develop something, with some chance for former homeowners to have right of first refusal to buy back “whatever” is built.
Most of the city, outside of uptown, mid-city, the warehouse district, the French Quarter and downtown, will simply be raked clean and given to developers by right of eminent domain. Just in case the imposition of the right of eminent domain might meet resistance or seem overly harsh in public light, the decision that it is not “reasonably efficient to deliver public infrastructure, services and utilities”, will mean one can stay, but without water, electricity, sewerage, and waste pickup. Ergo, same outcome.
So, in essence, if the city is allowed to become a lawless, third-world dictatorship, a majority of its citizens will be tossed out on the streets, their homes taken by force and given to the wealthy for making more money. With the Supreme Court stacked and Bush in office and Republicans running congress, allowing suspension of the US constitution seems likely enough. Our best bet is to try to find some place that is still part of the United States or a democracy that works in another country.
Please do what you can to tell America and Americans that they are seeing an effort at a localized coup d’état for the first time in American history.
Thank you for caring, as so few seem to.