Monday, September 19, 2005

What Was Ray Nagin Thinking?

I'm glad to see that New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has reconsidered his apparently hasty plan to reopen portions of the city to business owners and residents. What's the rush? By all accounts, the health risks in the city are still enormous. On MSNBC, Douglas Brinkley just spoke about visiting his home in New Orleans this past weekend and smelling feces and leaking gas everywhere, seeing power lines dangling, etc. etc. It seems nuts for the city government to want to take responsibility for the illnesses or deaths that would surely ensue if people rushed back into this unsafe environment.

I don't know a lot about Ray Nagin, but it's easy to connect his ill-conceived plan with his prior background as a cable TV executive. (He had no political experience before being elected mayor.) Business people--especially those in utility-like industries such as cable--are always tempted to behave as though economic development is the priority in any situation. Nagin reportedly is concerned that businesses will begin to abandon New Orleans if there are further delays in repopulating the city.

That's a valid concern. But we're talking about lives here. Why flirt with a second, even more avoidable, human disaster?
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