Monday, January 23, 2006

This Ain't Complicated, It's Just Hard

Nicole Gelinas at City Journal thinks that New Orleans must look inward instead of outward as we attempt to rebuild our city. She notes that New Orleans problems have been around long before Hurricane Katrina blew ashore, thus the recovery will be long in coming too. But the solutions are not complicated.

The cumulative tragedy of New Orleans is the slow but violent wasting away of a strategic port city with a legacy of priceless physical assets. Those who care about New Orleans often fret that the city’s underclass youth grow up in isolated neighborhoods and attend execrable schools in an insular city that offers no opportunity. They’re right. But New Orleans offers no opportunity partly because it has no real private economy to speak of besides the drudgery of tourism and the violence of drugs. That’s why two early post-Katrina local moves are promising. The elected school board voted one month after Katrina to convert all 13 schools on the city’s smaller west bank to charter schools to get them up and running again quickly, while the mayor has asked the governor to help him create a citywide charter system, to be run in partnership with foundations, universities, and businesses. In addition, Nagin has proposed that the federal and state governments slash income and business taxes in New Orleans and in surrounding areas across the board, so that the private sector can pump new investment into the city.

The federal government can build floodwalls that hold up during storms—and the feds can commit to assuring personal safety while New Orleans rebuilds its city and its tax base. But only New Orleans, and Louisiana, can build a city that holds up day after day.

President Bush vowed to rebuild New Orleans but the federal government can do little more than deliver the cash, the hard part of rebuilding are the parts that cost no money at all.

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