Saturday, January 14, 2006

On disaster recovery and rebuilding shattered communities

Last month, the L.A. Times reported that the generous aid following the tsunami has produced unintended consequences: "'I think we're creating a begging culture,' said Palitha Abeykoon, a consultant with the World Health Organization. 'Everything is free, people come for breakfast, lunch, take a nap, all at the camps, then get a $5 handout. It's no good, like giving a hungry man a bottle of whisky.'" As the Feds rebuild New Orleans, what are the odds we avoid a reprisal? From what I've read, they're not so good, unless we find a way to involve the "victims" in the rebuilding efforts so they turn their tragedy into "victory." Just a thought, but how feasible would it be for unemployed evacuees who intend to return to New Orleans to come before the reconstruction ends as part of the rebuilding? Not just a wage laborers, but as stakeholders. Ultimately they're the ones who lost everything and they're the ones who will be replenishing what remains, so why not give them an opportunity to reclaim the ruins as their own. Instead of returning to rebuilt rental housing as tenants of the government or low-income slumlords, why not let them rebuild their dwellings as private residences? They would be paid less in up front cash outlays, but they'd reap the long-term economic rewards of sweat equity. Isn't this how the returning exiles rebuilt Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah? What have I been smokin? This has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of actually happening in our current political climate. Or does it?


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