Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chances For The Mississippi Gulf Coast: New Urbanism and Old Beach Postcards

It looks like the destruction of Hurricane Katrina opened the door for creating a network of walkable neighborhoods spread out across 11 towns. New Urbanists are making some ambitious proposals for the Gulf Coast, including replacing the coastal highway with a beachside boulevard, where cars share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some of the sources they are relying on in their redesign effort include century-old postcards of the Gulf Coast.

As with New Urbanism elsewhere, the primary challenge is to provide affordable housing and amenities that do not strictly serve the well-to-do. A large number of working and lower class residents lived in places like Biloxi, Pass Christian, Waveland, and Bay St. Louis. While the New Urbanists should do what they can to plan for return of the residents from these groups, the real effort needs to come from the federal government. That possibility does not look too bright with George W. Bush & Co. occupying the White House.

If the Mississippi Gulf Coast is looking just to its west, it has to see an ominous future with hurricane season just a few months away. The White House is now offering the State of Louisiana a fraction of what it needs to help its residents:
Instead of the $30 billion Louisiana says it needs to get its residents back on their feet, the White House is instead offering $6 billion, with the provision that only homeowners without insurance who live outside the flood plain would qualify.

That means most everyone who was either poor, black, lived on low ground, or in the city of New Orleans need not bother applying. No controversy there [Source].
Watching an ABCNews report on Friday night, I heard Mr. Bush insinuate that the $85 billion earmarked for New Orleans is a large enough sum. He failed to mention that most of that sum is going to fortify the levees and to help small businesses, with little left over to help residents to get back up on their feet. It would seem that the Federal government owes people on the gulf some compensation for putting them through the terrible suffering they experienced because of the failures of the Bush Department of Homeland Security (the truth of those failures is now backed up with documents just released, including some that say that FEMA stopped search-and-rescue efforts a mere three days after the storm hit). Instead, the Bush White House is acting on its Jackson Square promises in the same incompetent manner that FEMA failed to come to the aid of the Gulf Coast.

So, New Urbanists can plan, look at postcards, and do what they can for Mississippi. Without federal help for the poor and the dispossessed along the flood plains, the communities will never be able to recover, and they will only become havens for the wealthy.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. The Coast of Mississippi and New Orleans can't rebuild by themselves. Federal investment is mandatory. Transportation planning also needs to take more than highways into account. When will we learn that more roads are not the answer? Tom Barnes, Washington, D.C.