Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Orleans, Drowning in the Sands of Time

After the PR offensive, what? Having disappeared from the headlines, New Orleans is dying of neglect. The Washington Post recites the sad litany of failure:
Some 250,000 devastated businesses have applied to SBA loans; only a couple hundred have been approved. Isn't that as lackadaisical a response as FEMA's? If these businesses can't get short-term loans, they're going to close up, and there go the jobs that might enable more folks to return.
Some 284,000 homes were destroyed by the hurricane. Some people got flood-insurance payments, while others in the same neighborhood were denied. Major portions of the area have no power, and the local electric utility is bankrupt. The health care system has been crippled, with only two hospitals partially reopened. The first regular public school reopened only yesterday. Some banks can't decide whether to rebuild. Companies like UPS and Burger King have jobs available, but few takers because there is no housing. Much of the $62 billion okayed by Congress remains unspent.
But there are signs of life emerging, like plants growing between the cracks of broken pavement. The Washington Post reports that New Orleans is offering free WiFi access in two neighborhoods starting today. Here we see the local digerati sitting on boxes outside a cafe. It is much easier (and cheaper) to create a WiFi network from scratch than it is to rebuild the the much less exciting infrastructure of roads, electricity, water, sewer and flood protection.
(1st photo: Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times)
(2nd photo: Eliot Kamenitz -- The Times-Picayune)

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