Pleasant surpises and the same, ‘dead’ voters |

Pleasant surpises and the same, ‘dead’ voters

Steve Katz
A member of the South-East Louisiana Task Force steps into a home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Friday, March 3, 2006. The South-East Louisiana Task Force was checking areas for the missing after Hurricane Katrina using dogs and checking structures themselves.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Note: Mary Sue and Steve Katz are part-time Vail residents whose home in New Orleans was severely damaged and flooded by Hurricane Katrina. They have been traveling back and forth between Vail and New Orleans since the storm, and writing about their experiences.NEW ORLEANS – My seventh trip to New Orleans was the first post-Katrina visit during which I was pleasantly surprised. Mind you that none of these pleasantries were personal. The city and economy are moving forward.From a personal standpoint things there are still a mess. My neighborhood is still without power and no construction is underway. The building in which I’ve had an office since 1984 will not be repaired and is closing permanently.

Our offices were fine – we survived as if nothing had transpired. Sadly we were not the norm and the economics of the equipment room, roof damage and insurance issues are apparently too much to handle.I spent a large part of the trip looking for a new office and may have found one. I don’t look forward moving after 22 years, but I have no choice.I had though this damage was going to ruin the retail and professional sectors. I was wrong. So far, only doctors seem to be indelibly affected. Lawyers and accountants are busy with business both routine and Katrina-related.Retail depends on business. Two friends in the jewelry business are having record years. Appliances, furniture and kitchenware are flying out of the stores.

Insurance money is coming in and being spent. Anyone in the building business will be as busy as they choose for the next eight or more years.In a way Katrina created a cleansing of poorly engineered buildings and levees. It also eliminated unproductive citizenry who not coincidentally occupied those buildings. Crime is significantly lower in New Orleans, although it is higher than in the nearby cities of Houston, Atlanta and Dallas, where police have been vocal in blaming New Orleans for exporting its blacksheep. We’ve recreated the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980, in which Cuba emptied its jails and sent the prisoners to Florida in the most deceptive political maneuver since the Trojan horse.All futures are uncertain, but in New Orleans it is murkier than most. Our welfare economy has been minimized. We have the chance to rebuild with a fresh start, fresh planning, fresh engineering and the support of a national infrastructure that surrounds us.The obstacles are political – even the demographics are political. When asked if the upcoming mayoral vote will be legitimate, I answered “The same dead people that have been voting in Louisiana will just keep voting”

While I thought my response very “Louisiana,” the question of who votes, how absentee ballots are handled, the opportunities for corruption all loom over the city. While there are three major candidates, there will be more than 10 on the ballot.Ray Nagin is the incumbent. I actually think he did a good job, though his “chocolate city” comment made him a national laughing stock and for this alone his candidacy cannot be supported. Couple this with his lack of connections to Washington and we move on to candidate No. 2. A late entry, Mitch Landrieu is the lieutenant governor. He is the son of Moon Landrieu and an accomplished local and national politician. His sister is Sen. Mary Landrieu and his other sister is an elected judge.While he is the favorite, the knock on him is that while running for mayor he is already running for a higher office.

The third candidate, Ron Forman, resurrected New Orleans’ “live museum,” also known as the Audubon Institute – a zoo, aquarium and nature center. He is an excellent administrative executive who knows how to raise money as well as cutting the fat at City Hall. His best asset has not been publicized yet – that is the fact that being mayor is his ultimate political goal.This may be our most important election – ever and I will discuss it in future articles. Vail, Colorado

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