Saturday, September 24, 2005


Fat Tuesday is Feb. 28, 2006, but the Mardi Gras hubbub starts in early January. Have a little faith, a little power, a little justice, and it can happen.

Sounds like a lifetime away, but it's only five months and a few days. You know New Orleans plans to be alive and kicking it by then, barring any more natural (or unnatural) disasters.

But at what cost? Our smarter and younger brother recently wrote about the rush to repopulate New Orleans -- a hurry-hurry approach that backfired when Rita neared.

Rushing the job isn't smart. But neither is delaying and denying the inevitable, a stance we're starting to see is some conservative circles. The federal government may wind up spending $300 billion in Louisiana alone, to repair damage caused by Katrina and Rita. A lot of people -- liberals and conservatives -- understandably don't want to pay the bill, and question whether we should sink more money into a city below sea level.

But no one asked whether Homestead, Fla., should have been rebuilt after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. A quarter-million people were left homeless, and no one suggested that the government not rebuild what those people had lost.

We happen to believe that living along hurricane-prone coastlines is not a good idea, and if you choose to build or buy there, you should have to pay through the nose for insurance -- if you can get insurance at all. You're at high risk, just like a 17-year-old driver with a cell phone.

But New Orleans is a special case, with history that predates our nation. It has one of the world's busiest ports. It has Tulane and Loyola. It provides a lagniappe to the national culture, and we're not talking debauchery, though you may if you wish; a mere mention of the city's name evokes music and food and dialect, all delicious.

The resurrection of New Orleans cannot wait until every neighborhood is dry. Block by block, economic engines must be restarted as soon as possible, even while there's debate about whether other parts of New Orleans should be reconstructed.

It's the only way to make sure there's a Mardi Gras worth enjoying next year.

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