A NEW New Orleans

Joel Kotkin in the LA Times discusses will New Orleans come back as a “new American city of the 21st century. Or as an impoverished tourist trap.”? Sadly, even before Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, local leaders seemed convinced that being a “port of cool” should be the city’s policy. Adopting a page from Richard Florida’s “creative class” theory, city leaders held a conference just a month before the disaster promoting a cultural strategy as the primary way to bring in high-end industry. This would be the easy, bankable way to go now: Reconstruct the French Quarter, Garden District and other historic areas while sprucing up the convention center and other tourist facilities. This, however, would squander a greater opportunity. A tourism-based economy is no way to generate a broadly successful economy. As Kotkin points out elsewhere, “hip loftsters will stay lonely, for suburbs still seduce.” Back to New Orleans’ choices: New Orleans should take its destruction as an opportunity to change course. There is no law that says a Southern city must be forever undereducated, impoverished, corrupt and regressive. Instead of trying to refashion what wasn’t working, New Orleans should craft a future for itself as a better, more progressive metropolis. Look a few hundred miles to the west, at Houston ― a well-run city with a widely diversified economy. . . . Houston has succeeded by sticking to the basics, by focusing on the practical aspects of urbanism rather than the glamorous.