September 06, 2005
Rebuilding New Orleans?
Posted by Gordon Smith

Now that the levees are sealed and the water is being pumped from New Orleans, people have begun to turn cautiously to the rebuilding effort. Or maybe not so cautiously. Last week, Dennis Hastert was looking for a bulldozer (until he retreated), and today the W$J is asking its online readers to answer this poll question: "Should New Orleans be rebuilt in its current location?" With almost 2000 votes logged, the results are running two-thirds in favor of "No."

The problem is that New Orleans is not simply a do-over. Most of the French Quarter was spared, and much of the business district will dry out and be repaired. The housing stock has been devastated, but the people of New Orleans are passionate about their city, and although it will be forever altered, they will want to return. James Carville captures what I suspect is a widespread sentiment of natives:

Maybe it comes back stronger. No one forgot how to play the saxophone or how to cook or write. Or have a good time. That's all still there. Calamities and disasters are part of New Orleans' history. This too shall pass.

The big issue -- and the place Hastert eventually landed -- was whether the city could be rebuilt with some assurance that this will not happen again. (Not that it will never have another hurricane, but that it will never have another post-hurricane flood caused by breached levees.) I suspect that the city can be fortified, and that is the direction we are likely to travel, once the rescue effort is complete.

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