Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Couhig Confused About Redevelopment

From the Philly Daily News' Stu Bykofsky:

This came in response to me asking if it is wise to rebuild the entire city.

To the same question, lawyer Couhig gave me an answer as long as a Ryan Howard home run*, but didn't directly answer.

"You're saying 'no,' aren't you?" I asked.

Couhig didn't reply, but he smiled. I guess there are some things that you don't want to be quoted as passing through your lips.

It is sad that it is unclear for Mr. Couhig whether or not New Orleans should be rebuilt, given that he serves as Secretary of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, one of the most powerful city agencies responsible for helping neighborhoods recover.

More specifically, NORA charged with combating blight by taking acquiring abandoned and storm damaged properties and putting them back into commerce. According to its website:

Its powers include acquiring real property through negotiation, gift, or expropriation; disposing of said property by sale or lease; borrowing money; issuing bonds; and providing security to support slum clearance and neighborhood development.

NORA has the power of eminent domain to acquire private property. Yet what NORA actually does with that power is a little bit more difficult to describe. We know that NORA has been waiting on the Road Home program to deliver thousands of properties into their hands. We know that they're supposed to put those properties back into commerce.

Eminent domain acquisition can be tricky but putting properties back into commerce once they've already been acquired should be less so.

If my understanding is correct, NORA has only recently begun selling properties within the last few months.

This is NORA:

The magnitude of the devastation and the scale of the impending redevelopment effort require NORA to take an even greater role in rebuilding New Orleans’s neighborhoods. By initiating official Community Improvement Plans throughout the City and by fully utilizing its finance, property acquisition, and strategic planning capabilities, NORA will be assuming a lead role in the revitalization of this great city.

Is it appropriate for Mr. Couhig to continue serving in such a powerful and influential redevelopment position if he is not willing to state whether or not he favors the core mission of the very redevelopment agency for which he is Secretary?

I was able to reach the Philly Daily News over the phone about the article he wrote and about his interview with Mr. Couhig. Mr. Bykofsky was very clear about his characterization of Mr. Couhig's evasiveness related to the rebuilding question and stands by it.

I explained to Mr. Bykofsky why his article and Mr. Couhig's comments were so cringe-inducing to many New Orleans residents.

It does not help our city's image that Mr. Couhig's waffling impression of the importance of rebuilding our city is being broadcast in a major newspaper. We have a 'brand' problem here and it hurts us when prestigious city power players go 'off-message' by adopting national right-wing talking points that blame Katrina victims and attempt to absovlve the federal government and Bush administration of liability for the failed levee system and pathetic emergency response.

Mr. Couhig may attempt to explain himself by claiming that his comments to Mr. Bykofsky as published in the article were meant to be critical of local government's failures, not New Orleans citizens. However, this would belittle his own contributions to our political failures. Oyster has defined a "Couhig Conservative" as a conservative New Orleanian that stategically interferes in Democratic Party politics to swing elections toward the weaker, less competent candidate. I spent a good hour laughing and crying at old posts by the shellfish tagged 'Couhig Conservatives.'

Mr. Couhig should be forced to step down from his position at NORA. And Mr. Couhig's future use as a public representative of New Orleans should be seriously limited.

*A Ryan Howard Home Run is often impressively long


bayoustjohndavid said...

Sounds like Couhig's still stuck in a post-Katrina mindset; he needs to adjust to post-post-Katrina realities.

During the mayoral campaign, I got the impression that most of the candidates were hoping that the ACoE would declare everything east of the Industrial Canal off-limits, or, at least, unsafe. It would have made things a lot easier on the city budget, but you can't tell people not to go home because the city can't afford it. Well, Couhig thought you could. It's a moot point now because those neighborhoods are being repopulated; shows how out of touch Couhig is.

I don't like Couhig on the NORA board because he often sounds like he wants to bulldoze and rebuild most of the city. But I think you're being a little too hard on NORA, the mayor has been playing budget games with the agency and giving authority to ORDA that should go to NORA. Nobody would call me a Couhig apologist, BTW; I've probably harder on him than anybody -- even Oyster.

NORA Hound said...

The next NORA Board meeting is
Monday, July 14
Capital One Tower
201 St. Charles Ave.
52nd Floor Board Room
6:00 pm
Meeting are open to the public and if you can see through the bullshit the view of the city is fabulous.

Angele said...

I'm also not a Couhig apologist, but I agree with his newer strategies. I fault him for taking so long to wise up...

It's wrong to exclude neighborhoods that want to rebuild, but the city has given very limited resources to NORA. What bayoustohndavid says about giving authority to ORDA is true. What do you do as an organization with limited resources? You become completely over-extended and ineffective, or you focus in on the few things you can do well. Right now, for the first time since I've been paying attention to NORA, I'm actually seeing promising results in the parts of Central City they've focused in on.

Now if NORA can reduplicate these efforts in other areas of the city, even if through focusing in on each needy neighborhood one-at-a-time, I would have no complaints.