The temptation might be to accept the latest federal appropriations as the much-sought relief. It sounds like a lot of money and will help with housing and local infrastructure, but unfortunately, the total pales in comparison to Katrina's toll. According to credible sources, the actual cost soars to $30 billion when you outline the real needs. Among the requirements are levee and flood protection, coastal wetlands mitigation, the local match for hazard mitigation, the costs to colleges and universities (some of which were decimated), local public services (police and fire protection, for example), electric utilities, and other infrastructure work that is not fully determined.
While the dispensation of federal appropriations seems to be changing with each day's posting on the Web, this much is clear: Our largest natural disaster deserves a heroic response from all our citizens. New Orleans alone, the fulcrum, remains vital to our commerce and to our national soul. That city takes its place among the great cities, not only of this country, but uniquely on the world stage. The Mississippi Gulf Coast, struck with commensurate disaster, deserves equal, full attention.
Our immediate response as architects always seems to be design. In this case, we should be acting to provoke leadership and keeping the pressure on our elected officials. We need vision, direction, and commitment at all levels as never before. While an ever-present war continues to demand our sons and daughters, our national treasury, and our emotional energies, it is time that the allied communities ofdesign professionals rise up, speak out for the cities we have helped to design and build in this country, and find the political will to revitalize an indisputable lodestone of American culture— the Gulf South. Design will come later.
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