a hurricane is a thunderstorm without thunder and a Farmer’s Market without farmers is a…

“You’re never too old to learn” was just something to say until I began blogging with Sop and learned more about the weather than my not- exactly- young self thought possible.  On my father’s side, mine was a family of generations of farmers with weather their measure of time – time to sow and time to reap, too cold to plant, too hot to harvest when the sun was up.  Yet, I am also my mother’s beach-loving daughter who measures time by the opening of the local farmer’s market – or did before yesterday when I discovered mine had become a craft show!

Readers in the “bold new city” that is Mississippi’s capital know the insurance controversy that followed Katrina pales when compared to the one that followed the State’s decision to move the Farmer’s Market.  While the fight on the Coast is over the quality of policy coverage, the battle over the relocation of the Farmer’s Market was fought over the quality of produce, assuming, I suppose, one eats handmade soap that looks like a slice of fudge.

Nonetheless, the two controversies find common ground in their impact on quality of life – and, given the all but total absence of farmers from the Farmer’s Market, the SLABBED must “never, never, never give up”.   I didn’t give up my search for fresh produce – but my father could have plowed a field with the gas it took for me to come up with the lady peas simmering as I type.

The “build it and they’ll come” folks won; so they build it but the farmers didn’t come.  Expecting people who measure time by the weather to sell the fruit vegetables of their labor from tables inside a building instead of an open-air stall was folly – as was the focus on rebuilding schools in the coastal counties where other rebuilding was stalled.  The Sun Herald reports, Biloxi may close 3 school:

Biloxi’s enrollment never has reached pre-Katrina levels… The district is down about 1,300 students from 2005 and with the lack of affordable housing and the cost of insurance, Tisdale doesn’t expect enrollment to increase dramatically.

“The recession isn’t our biggest issue,” he said. “Student enrollment is our biggest issue.”

Systems are built to resist change and there is no system stronger or more resistive to change than the system of public education.  Although little more than a “fly on the wall”, I attended one of the early meetings convened to decide the post-Katrina priorities of local school districts in the three coastal counties.  With the opportunity to either rebuild what was lost or make the future of education their present, local leadership was unswayed by those who felt rebuilding should be delayed until there was evidence of  families returning to rebuild in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Biloxi School Board on Tuesday will consider closing three schools and laying off more employees, Superintendent Paul Tisdale said Saturday.

The board could close Michel Sixth Grade, Nichols Elementary and Beauvoir Elementary and move those students to other schools in order to cover a projected $1.5 million deficit next year…

Tisdale said the board could decide to close all these schools, a move he estimates would save the district about $1.5 million.

“We know that in order to close this budget hole, there is a real possibility that there will be some reduction in force,” he said.

The district wants to maintain a pupil-teacher ratio of 20-1, which Tisdale thinks they can do even if the schools are consolidated.

Biloxi’s enrollment never has reached pre-Katrina levels, Tisdale said. The district is down about 1,300 students from 2005 and with the lack of affordable housing and the cost of insurance, Tisdale doesn’t expect enrollment to increase dramatically.

Unsaid but true, “student enrollment” has always been the “biggest issue” and there were many classrooms with far less than 20 students when schools reopened after the storm.  In an attempt to cover costs, the school districts began offering programs for preschool-age children and extended day services for school-age children that reduced the supply of full-day, year-round child care needed to support employment and rebuild the local economy.

Other school districts on the Coast are opting to wait until the Legislature passes a budget before deciding about layoffs, but Tisdale has said he doesn’t believe waiting will make a difference.

Schools without students and staff are causalities of the post-Katrina insurance battle that stalled rebuilding and left vacant lots where homes stood in what were once neighborhoods of families with school-age children.

Finding lady peas and fresh corn was not easy but when all the cooking is done, the battle of the Farmer’s Market will not have an impact on the taste of my Sunday dinner. However, the post-Katrina insurance battle has left a bad taste in the mouths of the SLABBED – one that even sweet tea with fresh mint won’t wash out.

2 thoughts on “a hurricane is a thunderstorm without thunder and a Farmer’s Market without farmers is a…”

  1. and, thank you, too! If technology allowed, whitmergate, I’d send you some lady peas and a slice of chocolate pie.

    In terms of both disaster assistance and property insurance, the federal focus on property with repetitive claims for damage should be redirected to first change the terms of public and private coverage that limit and/or reduce covered loss to the cost of rebuilding at the same location where the property was located when damaged.

    For example, the maximum flood payment may only cover a portion of the total loss and some or all the remaining cost may come from a insurance policy that reduces the amount of coverage paid if the policyholder does not rebuild at the same site.

    Such “good money after bad” federal spending on reducing repetitive loss assumes those property owners that repeatedly file damage claims don’t see repetitive loss as a problem when some simply don’t see any other option.

    Raising limits on coverage is only part of the solution. Expanding the NFIP to include both flood and wind damage is a must, as is adding a requirement that insurers pay policy limits for covered loss regardless of where the policyholder decides to invest those funds.

    Otherwise, the cost of addressing the problem of repetitive loss is also repetitive.

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