[Mb-civic] Visions of the New New Orleans - E. J. Dionne -
swiggard at comcast.net
Tue Sep 20 04:14:12 PDT 2005
Visions of the New New Orleans
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; Page A23
PORTLAND, Ore. -- If the rebuilding of New Orleans is to be something
other than a new government disaster, a coalition of the skeptical and
the visionary will have to stand together and confront the lobbyists and
the corporate welfare artists.
Fiscal conservatives in Congress are right to worry about the potential
for -- yes -- waste, fraud and abuse if the federal government throws
off tens of billions of dollars into a haphazard and ill-planned
spending fest. If the goal is to spend as much money as quickly as
possible, the benefits will flow primarily to the well-connected, and
the result will be a new mess built on the old.
But because the rest of us are morally obligated to those whose lives
have been damaged by natural calamity and government failure, it's a
fact that the federal government will be spending a lot of money. That's
why the fiscal conservatives need the visionaries. The visionaries are
insisting that we put in the time to make New Orleans a model for a
better kind of city and the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a model for a
better approach to governing. The people of the region, not the
lobbyists, need to lead in creating an environmentally sustainable,
socially just and economically viable region.
These thoughts are inspired by one of Congress's rare visionaries. Rep.
Earl Blumenauer not only represents his beloved city of Portland but is
also evangelical in spreading Portland's gospel of "livability." That
odd but increasingly popular word embodies the idea that if governments
plan right (and in cooperation with local citizens), they can safeguard
the environment, create more agreeable lives for families and
individuals and let loose sustainable private-sector growth.
Blumenauer, a Democrat always seeking to put together left-right
coalitions on behalf of his eclectic mix of ideas, is both worried and
excited by the prospect of rebuilding the Gulf. Speaking for the
fiscally conservative, he describes himself as "a little scared by how
fast they're doing all this stuff because I don't think there's anybody
But his excitement burns through during a discussion at a restaurant in
Portland's Pearl neighborhood, an old warehouse district near an
abandoned rail yard that is now thriving. "I've been in Congress for
nearly 10 years and I've never been so optimistic that we have a chance
not just to engage in the gargantuan task of helping people in the Gulf,
but also of healing the body politic." There is an opportunity, he says,
for government to ask the basic questions: "How do you build a
community? How do you get people involved? You've got to build a citizen
infrastructure along with all the roads and bridges."
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