Houston the next model for New Orleans?Joel Kotkin has an editorial on New Orleans in today's Sunday Los Angeles Times in which Houston figures prominently:
I don't think Joel is suggesting that they bulldoze the French Quarter, but that the new vision for New Orleans should think of tourism as a important aspect of their city (like New York or San Francisco), but not its primary defining industry (like Orlando or Las Vegas).
Forget crawfish étouffée -- look to ugly Houston for a vibrant economic model.
By Joel Kotkin, Joel Kotkin, an Irvine Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of "The City: A Global History" (Modern Library, 2005)
BECAUSE THE OLD New Orleans is no more, it could resurrect itself as the great new American city of the 21st century. Or as an impoverished tourist trap.
For all these reasons, New Orleans should take its destruction as an opportunity to change course. There is no law that says a Southern city must be forever undereducated, impoverished, corrupt and regressive. Instead of trying to refashion what wasn't working, New Orleans should craft a future for itself as a better, more progressive metropolis.
Look a few hundred miles to the west, at Houston — a well-run city with a widely diversified economy. Without much in the way of old culture, charm or tradition, it has far outshone New Orleans as a beacon for enterprising migrants from other countries as well as other parts of the United States — including New Orleans.
Houston has succeeded by sticking to the basics, by focusing on the practical aspects of urbanism rather than the glamorous. Under the inspired leadership of former Mayor Bob Lanier and the current chief executive, Bill White, the city has invested heavily in port facilities, drainage, sanitation, freeways and other infrastructure.
At least in part as a result of this investment, this superficially less-than-lovely city has managed to siphon industries — including energy and international trade — from New Orleans. With its massive Texas Medical Center, it has emerged as the primary healthcare center in the Caribbean basin — something New Orleans, with Tulane University's well-regarded medical school, should have been able to pull off.