Monday, August 21, 2006
As I've Stated before, I'm not from New Orleans, or in any of the Gulf Coast cities directly affected by hurricane Katrina. I live in Baton Rouge, an hour's drive from New Orleans.
Pre Katrina, Baton Rouge was a "city" of about 300,000 residents. In regards to infastructrue, the city is more of a Smalltown, USA type. Traffic was always bad, the roads never seemed to catch up with the population, and the drivers always thought they were in a NASCAR race rather than trying to adhere to the rules of the road. After Katrina, with the influx of refuees, problems in the Baton Rouge infastructure were exacerbated. I personally refused to drive at any point between 7 am and 7 pm until late November (nedless to say, that was probably the best semester I ever had).
It seemed that with these problems becoming worse, and a population ranging from 750,000 to 1 million, some things would likely be fixed. The Mayor-President allocated funds for the timing of traffic lights, temporary housing would be provided to the refugees, and many other solutions to local problems were proposed.
Fixing a traffic problem in Baton Rouge is always solved, in the eyes of those who make such decisions, by putting another light on another intersection. One of the busiest roads in town is Sherwood Forest/Siegen Lane. On a six mile stretch of this thoroughfare there are 12 traffic lights, none of them reliably timed for the flow of traffic. It's a mess every day, even on Sundays.
The job market in town is also awful. As a friend of mine put it, everone is hiring, but no one is getting hours. Our local economy has a lot of potential to grow in the next few years, but only if the city and its residents choose it to. So far, few new businesses have opened their doors with the exception of a new Lowes, a Best Buy, and a new movie theater. That'll be good for a few hundred jobs, not nearly as many as needed. Baton Rouge must open its doors to new buinesses, considering that many refugees are here to stay, the city now has an obligation to look after the welfare of these new citizens. Not through handouts but by convincing businesses that oportunity lies in this small town by the Mississippi River.