Sunday, December 04, 2005

New Orleans Tries To Get Residents To Please Come Home

New Orleans city officials have gone on a nationwide campaign to get crescent city residence to come back to live and rebuild their former homes and neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands of people have not returned and a bunch of folks including me think that most of these former residents will never return to New Orleans. The pain would be too great and the rebuilding effort isn't going to be smooth with the government and insurance companies still fighting over who is responsible for what when it comes to paying for all this damage.

I've written before about my belief that home is where you live for any given period of time. Once a family relocates to a new city, enrolls their kids in new schools and finds employment, everyday they are in this new place it begins to feel more like home. Why spend three months rebuilding your life and then throw away all of that invested time to return to a wrecked house and neighborhood that might not be inhabitable for many more months? New Orleans will be reduced in size from around five hundred thousand people to around one hundred thousand for the foreseeable future and I don't think pleas by the city mayor and other leaders will have much of an effect on former residents.

One subject I haven't heard discussed in the media is what is going to happen to the mortgage companies in this area when they are hit with hundreds of thousands of defaults from former residents who will not continue to make their payments when there is no house to live in. Many of these people will seek bankruptcy protection and without any collateral to secure these loans, many institution will be forced into bankruptcy themselves and the domino effect will continue all around the country. Many believe that the housing market while appearing strong, isn't as strong as many might think and with these major loan companies possibly seeking a federal bailout like the airlines have requested in the past it will further add to the national debt.

The federal government is in tremendous debt already and how they continue to add to this amount without it effecting everyone in the country is hard to imagine. Billions of dollars are already being spent on the war and other social programs each month and a corporate bailout of financial institutions will just add to that already soring figure. Hopefully, my predictions will not come true, but if I'm thinking about this possibility, I'm sure plenty of bean counters in the various state and federal agencies have thought about it, too. The government has got to figure out a way to stop the out of control government spending and start paying down our debt or we're in for real trouble someday. It's so much easier for them to spend money than to save it. Politicians are just like their constituents, they love to spend and hate to save. However, the government should set an example of how to do things right instead of digging a deep whole of debt that our children will someday have to repay.

The bickering between government and insurance is not helping the effected areas attract folks back to the hurricane zones. In fact, I think it's having the opposite effect. It's encouraging folks to stay away and recreate a new home somewhere else. There has still not been a firm decision on whether or not to build a multibillion dollar state of the art levy system which can withstand category five storms. Would you want to move back to an area where the government hasn't done it's part to secure your home in the event of another terrible storm? Of course not.

It's time for the government to show some action in these areas and when they do many people will return while other will relocate to New Orleans all on their own. However, without the basic infrastructure of levy's in place, it's just not going to happen because people are not that stupid. The only residences that have returned in great numbers so far have been the people that were not flooded out in the first place. Sure the French Quarter and downtown district had damage from the hurricane, but the majority of the city was destroy by the rising water when the levy system failed. It's wrong to ask these people to come home before a solution is in place to prevent the same flooding from happening again.

This is the classic example of the cart before the horse story we have heard many times before. People don't expect absolute guarantees when it comes to safety, but don't expect them to return home, spend hundreds of hours of their own time rebuilding while at the same time the government isn't doing it's job to learn from past mistakes and correct the problems that only they can address.

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