New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was in the news this week, unfortunately calling for his hometown to return to being a "Chocolate City" and suggesting that the storm that wiped out so much of the city was retribution from God. It was those remarks that made headlines and Nagin apologized for them. At the same time, however, his Bring Back New Orleans Commission was releasing its sweeping plan of action. Nagin was right in the sense that New Orleans' tragedy was of biblical proportions--108,000 houses under at least four feet of water, as many as a quarter of them Creole cottages, shotgun houses and other dwellings of historic significance. The Commission's plan includes a number of public infrastructure initiatives, from strengthening levees to building a new light rail system that would spur local development. The plan also includes $18 billion worth of tax incentives, below-market loans and outright purchases of property, designed to get New Orleans' housing stock habitable again. All of that's necessary to save New Orleans' rich cultural heritage. That's worth writing about a lot more than Nagin's silly "Chocolate City" comments.
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