Big Easy Rebuilding Won't Be So Easy

As New Orleans officials strategize over just what the Big Easy will be in a post Katrina world, one wonders if they’re simply rearranging chairs on a Titanic.

This city is dreaming big as it puts together a blueprint for its rebirth in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, considering such audacious ideas as re-creating a long-gone jazz district, building a network of bike paths and commuter rail lines, and establishing a top-flight school system.

In the coming days, beginning Wednesday, a commission appointed by Mayor Ray Nagin will unveil a grab bag of ideas that could become part of the master plan for rebuilding this devastated city, a task unparalleled in American history.

Committees and subcommittees of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission were invited to think big, with little regard for the price tag. That will be dealt with later, when New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast divvy up the $29 billion in federal aid designated for hurricane recovery and reconstruction.

And what a party that will be! State, city and national organizations and grass-roots groups have their own ideas for how to rebuild the city. Watch the personalities and personal agendas collide. Tickets are on sale now!

This is all well and good – dreaming dreams, throwing costs to the wind, communicating hopes and desires. One problem still exists though – the faulty levee system. Until this safety mechanism is completely rethought, redesigned and rebuilt, plans to install bike paths and a jazz district will be a complete waste of time and money. 

The rebuilding of New Orleans has to be taken seriously, but given the history of the state of Louisiana, it’s too easy to believe that the transformation of the Big Easy will end up being the big land grab of the century. 

UPDATE: The fight has begun.

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