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  • I'm a writer, journalist, and the editor of The Gambit, the alt-weekly newspaper in New Orleans.

    Journalism: My work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Globe & Mail (Canada), The Times- Picayune (New Orleans), The Oregonian, and Willamette Week, as well as in magazines including Details, Vogue, Publishers Weekly, and Portland Monthly.

    Publishing: Tight Shot, my first novel, was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Its sequel, Hot Shot, was roundly ignored by everyone, but was a far better book. I'm also a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

    Stage: I was a member of the Groundlings and Circle Repertory West in Los Angeles, and am a playwright (see "Stage" in the right-hand rail).

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November 26, 2007

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Ranger Bob

Wow.

Presume you're working on your rebuttal op-ed.

HOPE you're working on your rebuttal op-ed.

Kevin Allman

This is my rebuttal op-ed.

No desire to "engage in a dialogue" with the author or the Oregonian over this piece. None at all.

I'll just be here listening to my recordings of "post-adolescent African Americans hooting on trumpets and tubas."

Ron T

The fact is, sadly, that New Orleans exists in a location that should never have been developed in the first place. It is extremely geologically unsound, sinking at several cm/yr, and will continue to do so. It's absurd to build on top of its destruction, which will just happen again... and then, again. Why throw good money after bad? Nature intended the entire area to be a swampy wetland. Best to let it return to what it was meant to be.

doctorj

Ron T - Another great American advocating abandoning a great American city. Where do these people come from? I guess we need do abandon the Mississippi Gulf Coast while we are at it. Sheesh!

The big picture

Kevin,
You still haven't answered the first question: why should New Orleans be rebuilt in the face of sinking land and rising sea water? What do we do if it happens again?
Besides, you trust the government to get it right this time?? The corp of engineers has been screwing up project after project from coast to coast and New Orleans is no different. I can say without a doubt that any private firm with enough sense wouldn't build it because they wouldn't be able to guarantee its effectiveness.

Tim

It's a loaded question, I would say a trick question: why should New Orleans be rebuilt in the face of sinking land and rising sea water?

First of all, we should agree that whatever criteria we use to decide will be equally and totally applied to all of America. So when you pose the question, "Why rebuild when it's just going to happen again?" keep that in mind. Remember that California is regularly consumed by fire and periodically flattened by earthquakes. Remember that the outer banks get washed away every few years and that tall buildings in New York City attracted multiple attacks from religious nuts. Remember that tornadoes chew up towns across the midwest and that there's not a damn thing you can do about it but pay attention to the radio warnings and hunker down when you hear that train sound.

Second, we have recognize that New Orleans is a port--one of the most significant ports in America and the most important port on the largest river in North America. So unless somebody invents urban levitation, yes, it's going to be close to sea level. Some people want to flip off New Orleans and say they're stupid to live so close to the water. But it seems obvious to me who is stupid when they criticize a port city for being on the water!

Now these are just scratching the surface. I think it's also important to remember that New Orleans is almost 300 years old. And in 300 years, it's been flooded by the Mississippi River and battered by hurricanes with some regularity. But somehow the city has survived. And thrived. And grown. It strikes me as either total cowardice or more likely laziness for any 21st century American to whine, "Oh, protecting New Orleans will be too hard and too difficult. Why can't they eat their little french donuts in Cleveland?"

But here's the real reason New Orleans will be saved: BECAUSE WE CAN. I said earlier that this was a trick question, and I believe it is because it presupposes that this is an impossible mission or a lost cause. I say it is very possible to protect New Orleans. Look at the Mississippi River levees. New Orleans has been safe from annual flooding from the river for going on 80 years. IT CAN BE DONE. Look at London and Amsterdam and Rotterdam--all major cities BELOW SEA LEVEL, facing the same sea level rise predictions as we are. They just weathered a big storm and closed the sea gates near Rotterdam to successfully protect their prize port city. IT CAN BE DONE.

Let's quit asking defeatist questions like, "Why fight a losing battle?" Let's instead ask, "Since when have Americans given up without a fight?" Let's ask, "What will it take to make it right?" Let's ask, "What can we learn by protecting New Orleans that we can then use to protect other coastal communities?"

Peace,

Tim

Israel Bayer

Thanks for this.

It's getting some attention over at Blue Oregon as well.

Ranger Bob

Why indeed should we worry about some fools who choose to live at or below sea level?

Screw New Orleans, and while we're at it, screw Venice, the Netherlands, and Bangla Desh too.

Pete Best

Thanks for the great rebuttal. I lived in NOLA from 1986-1995, then moved to Portland. The 2 cities are so different, it's almost beyond explanation. I'm going back tomorrow for the first time in nine years. I have no idea what to expect. Probably post something on MetBlogs when I'm back. Keep up the good work!

YatPundit

While I'm referring to removing public highways for parks, New Orleans would do well to remove the now-unnecessary Interstate 10 that destroyed the once-splendid, tree-lined Claiborne Avenue parkway that served as the main artery and outdoor living room through the nation's most historic African American neighborhood.

I swear, I told myself I wouldn't get sucked into responding to this jackass, but sometimes I can't help myself. Yes, N. Claiborne Avenue was lost, and with it a lovely middle-class black neighborhood. What the OP probably doesn't know is that the original proposal for I-10 was to go along the riverfront. The loss of Claiborne Avenue was a compromise to keep the bloody highway from turning the New Orleans riverfront into the St. Louis Riverfront.

Chris

Pete Best,

To the contrary, I am well aware of the original riverfront proposal. I am good friends with the man who stopped it. And who also thinks removing I-10 makes sense now. I have talked to longtime Treme residents and attended public meetings, and time and time again, removing this short stretch of I-10 is what they want most of all, though by no means their only noteworthy interest. With the completion of I-610, the I-10 leg is no longer necessary, particularly if the city chooses to redevelop properly--infilling the long hollowed out inner city. Contrary to Allman's misunderstanding that all that traffic would be thrust onto Claiborne, much of the thru traffic would simply use I-610 to BR or the Expressway to the West Bank. Moreover, the city or the feds could direct LDOT to consider this proposal. Removing freeways is not impossible. They did it in SanFrancisco after the last earthquake, and life has gone on. Milwaukie did it and it has opened up their lakefront to great success I am told. I believe Cincinatti is considering something like this, and Seattle is actively considering removing its non-earthquake proof Alaska Way elevated highway along its waterfront. Finally, many many people want this done. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but time and time again I heard support for this idea among a broad swath of people. To sneer and discount it as some Portlander's fanciful idea is ignorant and misunderstands the profound community building opportunity such a move, albeit and expensive one, could have on inner city New Orleans.

Anrhony B

While I am sympathetic to the idea of removing I-10 - it ruined large swaths of historic neighborhood, and I-610 is a perfect alternative - besides wondering whether this is really the highest priority, I also note that the existence of the elevated I-10 saved many people from the floods. Remember those images of people walking up the off-ramp to escape the water, sleeping on the highway, taking care of each other on the highway? That was I-10. If it weren't there, who knows what would have happened to them? I used to think I-10 should be removed, but Katrina changed that.

As harmful as they may be to the vibrance of the city, I-10 and the inhumanly-scaled Superdome proved to be the only things protecting many people from dying, and I think it is an error to suggest they should be removed. They may be distasteful, but for now, they are life-savers.

Amy

Hi Dear, this is your new friend Amy in New Orleans. I met Mr. Beck several times during his time here and we couldn't figure out where he was coming from. He didn't work for anyone, wasn't a resident, yet would come to planning and community meetings and participate as though he was. Now I guess we would consider him one of those people who has come through and tried to make a role for themselves, then we never see them again. Funny, I never imagined but of course it makes sense that these folks would then go back across the Mason-Dixon as self-proclaimed experts on NOLA. Well I guess everyone has a right to an opinion. I think it's very interesting that the suggestions Beck is making are two that some crooked self-interested 'planners' are making and funding themselves to make. Either I-10 to the River is all he could absorb information about, or he was hanging out with people who he is now across the country promoting projects that are paying people questionably. just sayin', kinda wierd. coincidence?

Since Katrina, lots of people have come through, maybe 70% of them the genuinely best people - we have been so blessed to be loved by these people. The other group, we have learned new words for, including "starchitect" and "eco-opportunist." We have some of those from Portland here now, and of course the Hollywood types, which have fooled the world that they are helping when in fact they have for-profit, not non-profit, developments going on. (Ya heard me?) That's also who Chris Beck was running around with when he was here.

Thanks for the excellent response. Cheers!

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