Planners have to get much more specific about both the ends and the means of rebuilding to ensure the equitable redevelopment of poor communities. Many observers have raised the prospect that a rebuilt New Orleans will resemble a Las Vegas or Disneyland on the Gulf, dominated by the entertainment and tourism industry, favoring luxury housing, and planned by a group that even The Wall Street Journal labeled ''the power elite." Clearly, that is an outcome to be avoided.
An extensive body of social science research concludes that racially segregated and high-poverty communities undermine the life chances of families and children, cutting off access to mainstream social and economic opportunities. We must avoid resegregating New Orleans' poor and minority residents in isolated and distressed neighborhoods. But the alternative cannot be simply displacing them through land grabs that "gild the ghetto," as the most exclusionary urban renewal schemes of the '60s did.
The active involvement of New Orleans residents -- along with business owners and professional planners -- is a prerequisite for equitable redevelopment. Urban planning and other fields offer concrete models for using 21st-century information and communication technologies as tools of inclusion -- tools for organizing a maze of issues into agendas that groups can tackle, demystifying development choices and jargon, simulating a range of development scenarios, projecting results, and supporting citizen deliberation and voting to get the best and most legitimate ideas off the ground. Negotiated ''community benefit agreements" and other tools help ensure equitable outcomes, but a strong process is key to ensure equitable decision-making. Both are crucial, given the deep divisions and mistrust so evident after the storm [. . .].
Does equitable development = gentrification? Does anyone know the outcome of last week's inclusionary zoning meeting? Oh, and even the big minds at the Brookings Institution made the connection between New Orleans' recovery strategy and our policy needs here in DC - a great, quick read.