discussed such positive indicators as improvements in the tourist industry and health care, while others discussed the lack of progress in curbing the increased crime rate in the city and the plight of a local university that still had to hold classes in trailers because damaged campus buildings had not been fully restored.
Laska mentioned a short list of questions and topics related to recovery in New Orleans that could be relevant to researchers and policy makers, including:
What is the role of tourism in the recovery of New Orleans and how is this connected to other needs and priorities in the city?
How can the patterns of nationwide dispersal and resettlement of persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina be explained and what have been the consequences for the displaced, their new communities, and for New Orleans?
What has been the role of post-Katrina migrants, both laborers and professionals, and their impacts on New Orleans?
To what extent did disparities exist in recovery decision making, such as designating locations in the community for landfills, which might have negative impacts on less powerful groups in the city?
Laska noted that the New Orleans recovery effort is marked by a number of challenges, or what she calls conundrums, that the community and other stakeholders have to face. She indicated, for example, that there is the human right of residents to be able to return to their homes, regardless of whether their residence is a house they own, a rented apartment, or public housing. In some cases, though, this right has been challenged, in some instances by authorities, when returning might create public safety concerns because hazardous conditions could persist, even for future generations. Residents who want to exercise their human right to return to their homes and at the same time reduce their vulnerability to future events need assistance from government programs, which too often are not available, according to Laska.
Another recovery conundrum mentioned by Laska was the conflict between those thinking about long-term development versus those who want their immediate needs met. She indicated, for example, that some in the community advocate developing long-term plans for such institutions as the healthcare system and public housing. However, others, including many of the poor who badly need mental health services and housing now, are pushing for the utilization of resources to meet these needs as soon as possible, rather than waiting until more advanced development can take place, which could take many years.
Laska gave citizen involvement in the recovery effort in New Orleans very high marks. Effective recovery actions have been undertaken by many residents, neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations and other nongovernment organizations. She thinks such actions are important enough to be thoroughly documented by the research community.
The open discussion following the presentations touched upon the challenge of incorporating mitigation measures into recovery strategies, as well as the need to integrate mitigation with environmentally friendly design concepts such as energy-efficient structures. The importance of resilient power and other infrastructure systems was also discussed, along with the need for recovery-relevant groups and organizations to learn from and build upon previous experiences.