Monday, September 05, 2005

My Grandfather's Plan for New Orleans

I just spoke with my grandfather, an 82-year-old child of the Depression who also fought in France during World War Two. We were talking about the Katrina disaster and grumbling over yesterday's New York Times story reporting that Halliburton subsidiaries have already been awarded government contracts to rebuild military bases damaged by the storm. Then, he mentioned an idea he had for rebuilding the city of New Orleans. The following is not my own original idea - it's his, and I'm just laying it out, which he can't do because he and my grandmother refuse to buy a computer.

The problem of what to do with and for the hundreds of thousands of people - maybe millions - who have been left homeless and jobless by Katrina is perhaps the most significant facing the government in the storm's aftermath. Instead of bringing in some immense developer to reconstruct the city, why not create a modern-day Works Progress Administration to oversee a civilian-led rebuilding of New Orleans? Thousands and thousands of refugees from the city could be hired to do the construction of homes and buildings, giving them not only money, but a sense of ownership and pride in the rebuilding effort. Many of the city's residents were jobless or at least desperately poor to begin with. I can't think of a better idea both for rebuilding the city of New Orleans, and also lending a hand to the people of that city who were already down, and have been knocked out by Katrina.

He's going to be writing a letter to the editor of the New York Times today (and faxing it, of course) and calling his elected officials tomorrow. I hope someone bothers to listen.


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant.

CCC helped America get back on its feet. This may help New Orleans get back on its feet without devastating its community.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Would you mind identifying yourself? Just curious who is reading.

I'll relay the praise, though.

-- Jersey Perspective

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Mark M McNabb said...

A public works project is a fine idea and there are small scale building trades programs in most states as well as Homes for Humanity. I believe most will want some hand in rebuilding, if nothing more than to keep the mind busy from worrying over other matters. I hope that is done on some basis.

The issue for the lowest of the low ground and for city planners is how many people should you put in harm's way if the city chooses not to evacuate or evict them prior to such a deadly event. Consider that FEMA and the administration, given the loss of one or possibly two days of critical aid to downtown for whatever reasons, declared Lousiana a Disaster Area on Saturday but the Mayor didn't require a Mandatory Evacuation until Sunday afternoon after the casino booked a big night. My other reservation is that given the area's reknown for graft, should the program be run from outside the state instead?

I believe Uptown, the Garden District, and most of Metarie will begin rebuilding before November. The worst hit areas of the city will have to rebuilt with massive aid and to modern standards which will be an improvement for those lucky enough to return to the City That Care Forgot.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger simdog99 said...

Hey, I think your grandfather is on to something in allowing this kind of ownership in rebuilding their city. I believe this would solve the problem with some of the poor people in this area. Why not give them the work and rebuild their lives.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Greg said...

hey Sam, Greg from GeniusNow. Your grandfather has a very good idea, there, and Senator Harry Reid is proposing something similar, as well as a whole package.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Greg -

Thanks for checking out the post. Any more info on the Reid proposal? I hadn't heard anything about it but would be very interested.

Sim -

I think this actually fits in quite well with the President's "Ownership Society." I know that sounds as if I'm mocking Mr. Bush, but the premise of the idea - that people should have more stake in their own lives - is a good one. The people of New Orleans would feel a real sense of pride, and it could be an effective way of actually lifting them up individually, in a financial sense.

Mark -

You're probably right that there would be a need for some sort of large, industrial leadership of any citizens construction project. But I think having the people of New Orleans as the ones using their hands is certainly possible, regardless of the organization's power structure. I need to find out what the regulations are regarding union rights in government projects to see how this particular effort could go around competing with union workers.

My grandfather will be very excited to hear about all of your praise for his idea, after I'm able to explain to him exactly what a blog is.

-- Jersey Perspective

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I love your grandfather's response to the situation. I think that would be the best thing to do. However, I'm sure if you asked him if he thinks that people today would take pride in doing something like that, he'd agree with me that the people living in today's society are more focused around the "what's in it for me" mindset. Your grandfather game from a great generation where great things were accomplished simply because "they needed to be done". I'm sad to say that society today has pushed people out of that mindset and created a crippling dependency on the U.S. Government to solve all of their problems. Whereas your grandfather's generation was willing to do what it would take and pull everybody together to get it accomplised, my generation says "It's the governments fault that I'm homeless and I should get some money for what I've been through."

At 8:42 AM, Blogger MyManMisterC said...

With all the military bases that are being considered for closure, why not put the the survivors there. It would be perfect for temporary housing. Could also lead to jobs in the areas.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


My name is Michael i am one of Jacks old friends from paris just checking out this website. Anyways thats a good idea but wouldnt it be more cost benifical if the government just highed immigrent works because they could just pay them less then americans. Also the mass majority of people would have no idea how to even begin to rebuild a house so it would take even longer to rebuild because they would have to get some kinda of basic crash course on how to do it.

I do think that your grand dads idea is really good i am just trying to see the other side of it.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Ad Fontes said...

Wonderful Idea...but it will never happen. There's no money in it for the friends of Bush & Chaney, so it will never get off the ground. Am I cynical? Perhaps, but I'm a realist. Just watch who makes all the money on this national disaster.

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous njcons said...

My 70 year old mother said exactly the same thing the other day.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Sam said...


It's the mentality of those who saw this kind of venture work in the past. When I expressed delight at the imaginativeness of his idea, my grandfather seemed pleased, but also acted as if his reaction was nothing more than second nature for someone of his age. I wonder how many grandparents have thought this up...

-- Jersey Perspective

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Tryska said...

I was thinking along the same lines as your Grandfather. (of course i always jump to the idea of Public Works projects, but that's jsut the porgressive in me, I guess.)

In any case - I was thinking of bringing back the old idea of Guilds as well. With a Few Master Craftsmen and Craftsmen and Apprentices - and starting soem sort of netwrok like that for knowledge transfer to those who may be unskilled but willing. It would add an interesting layer of chracter to the City's culture along the way as well, and help rebuild that sense of community, and perhaps one of opportunity as well.

I hope your grandfather does send it on to the NYT - my mom wanted me to send my ideas on a new New Orleans in to our papers as well.

At 4:33 AM, Anonymous Online Wong PoK√©r Hu said...

I think it's a good idea. Not only can it create jobs, but also help rebuild the community as well.


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