Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creating Prosperity

New Orleans has been in relative economic decline for more than a century it has actually lost population since about 1970 and economic power since the the 1980's. Katrina and the Federal Flood merely moved us along the same trajectory at hyper speed.

Politicians talk of "jobs" but all too often they mean jobs for their supporters, often by taking them away from their political rivals. Giving a job to my brother in law, by taking it from someone else's.

Politicians talk of "Economic Development" usually giving money to some well connected developer for a project of dubious economic viability or utility. There are high density apartment developments around town nearing completion fueled not by demand for housing but by low interest government financing. All too often economic development has failed to have any meaningful impact often failing to even find takers.

Just to mention two failed projects, the Hotel at the Piazza d'Italia, which was supposed to take up one corner of the site and fund the maintenance of the Charles Moore designed Piazza. No takers.
The World Trade Center Hotel, for years the city have been looking for re-developers to take on re-purposing the 1960 Edward Durrell Stone tower, with no luck. Recently the city threw the remaining tenants out, resulting in the closure of more than one consulate in New Orleans. Great economic development move.

Yet over the same time a large number of new hotels have opened nearby including the Lowe's (on the other corner of the Piazza), the Ritz Carlton, the Astor Crowne Plaza, The Renaissance Arts' hotel, the Convention Center Hampton Inn, and Harrah's hotel to name a few.

All too often economic development in New Orleans has been worse than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It has been assuring the First Class Passengers have a seat in the life boat.

I recently became aware of a new acronym BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). It accurately describes the Gauntlet people have to run to do anything here. There are outright obstructionists for any initiative, often proxies for local fixers, often well meaning people who like things the way they are, often simply inertia and bureaucratic bungling.

We need a new way of looking at the future. We need to stop being afraid of change, and start embracing it. By fearing change we have created negative change all around us.

1 comment:

Pistolette said...

I'm not sure where to go with this. I agree with you, yet somehow the people here have no faith in themselves or the city when it comes to big economic changes, so even when something good is proposed they say "that will never work", or "wait until city hall gets a hold of that, they'll be nothing left".

We've just been bitten so many times we're not bothering to stand up anymore.