The Right Role for the Feds in Hurricane Recovery

Rebuild Infrastructure: The Bush administration and Congress are busy trying to outdo each other in an effort to throw money at hurricane recovery. The coyotes think everyone should take a breath and figure out what federal role makes sense in long-term (and chronic) disaster recovery. The principal that the coyotes work from is that the federal government should do those things that have strong interstate benefits and that, in effect, tie the country together. Also, the coyotes favor contributions to infrastructure building and maintenance rather than non-investment entitlement contributions. Following this principle and given that the Gulf Coast has strategic significance, especially regarding energy production and key ports like New Orleans and Houston, the coyotes favor a primary federal role in building and rebuilding infrastructure; to wit, the Port of New Orleans; wetland restoration in Texas and Louisiana (which would help prevent the type of catastrophic flooding seen after Katrina); levee repair and upgrades in New Orleans; and repair of key bridges and federal highways. Because of the strategic importance of oil production facilities and refineries, the federal government could play a role in assisting in their repair. However, it might be more advantageous to focus on a) establishing national standards for refined products that would override at least some of the expensive state standards and b) setting tougher national mileage standards for vehicles as a more efficient way of reducing the pollutants moving into the air. In addition, the federal government could surely make a contribution, with funds and coordination, to improving disaster communications between governmental entities. The coyotes are less enamoured of tax breaks for businesses building in dangerous areas and of compensation to homeowners who insist on living in disaster-prone areas without appropriate insurance. On that score, the coyotes think the federal government could require flood insurance (federally provided, if necessary) on mortgages when the property in question sits in a flood plain. Without this, homeowners should not be compensated for water damage. With the emphasis on building infrastructure, businesses and individuals will feel safer in moving to and investing in New Orleans and other areas. Without this focus, enticing businesses to invest in "enterprise zones" and begging residents to move back is borderline immoral. Wile. E.

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