Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dealing with Natural Disasters, The California Way

In thinking about what can be done to recover from Katrina, the methods used to recover from one of California’s major disasters, the 6.7 earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994, are instructive. I remember with pride how local contractor C.C. Meyers rebuilt the freeway in Southern California in record time, and this article by former Governor Pete Wilson, from today’s Wall Street Journal, shows how that method can work in New Orleans.

I also appreciate his final suggestion about using a nonprofit corporation, working in concert with local government (which is what we propose for the management of the Parkway) as a strategy to administer the public’s trust effectively.

The Californian Way:
Lessons for New Orleans from the post-1994 earthquake rebuilding.
BY PETE WILSON Tuesday, September 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES--Natural disasters, like wars, test human mettle and bring out the best in many people--courage and selflessness, acts of heroism, and great generosity to afflicted neighbors and total strangers. Sadly, but very predictably, they also generate political opportunism and partisan finger-pointing that is worse than counterproductive. Practitioners of the "blame game" typically do far more to exploit than to assuage the pain of the victims with whom they so gaudily sympathize. Katrina has certainly been no exception, providing an especially absurd and contemptible example of charging the president with racist neglect.

Rather than point fingers, I presume to offer a few practical pointers that I hope will be useful to those who are, or may in the future be, challenged to lead their constituents on the hard road back to recovery from a natural disaster.

In early 1994, a major earthquake (measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale) jolted the residents of greater Los Angeles from their slumbers and knocked houses off their foundations. Within seconds, the Northridge earthquake reduced to rubble the overpass bridges of Interstate 10, Los Angeles's major east-west artery, and thereby instantly shut down the most heavily trafficked freeway in the world. I was advised that it would require some two years and two months to repair the bridges and restore the I-10 to use. For as long as it remained unavailable, it would mean not only driver inconvenience on a dramatic scale, but delays that would translate into economic dislocation conservatively estimated to cost $600,000 per day. The interruption to the life of the nation's second largest city would be of a plainly intolerable magnitude and duration.

Instead, we completed the repairs and reopened the freeway to its normal heavy traffic in just 66 days. How? We did two things.

For the rest of the story: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007252