The arguments heard in Detroit in recent years echo those that were made here at the time: The New Orleans population had been contracting long before Katrina and would certainly be much smaller afterward; even the billions of dollars in federal recovery aid would be insufficient to rebuild the whole city; those who came back would be stranded in parts of town lacking services like police protection and streetlights.New Orleans’s population, around 370,000, is less than 60 percent of what it was 50 years ago, when the city’s footprint was smaller. When New Orleans was still mostly vacated after Katrina, many here doubted the population would even recover this much and questioned the possibility of rebuilding over such a large area.“You can’t bring it all back at one time,” said Mr. Canizaro, now keeping a lower profile. “We didn’t have the resources.”Those who lived in the neighborhoods that were at stake in the plan were staying on couches and in guest bedrooms in Atlanta, Houston and Nashville, and focusing intently on how to get home. Decision makers may see a disaster as “an opportunity to finally get things right,” said Richard Campanella, a geographer at Tulane University, but during those times, “everyone else craves normalcy.”
Again, I don't think Detroit's situation is a very good comparison with New Orleans. I don't know that "shrinking the footprint" is the right idea for Detroit either. It sounds like a bad idea, but I don't know enough to say. The difference with our situation, though, is between shutting down largely abandoned neighborhoods and telling disaster victims they aren't welcome back because our "decision makers" want to "get it right" whatever that might mean.