The AP’s Jeff Amy nails it with his story on the City of Bay St Louis, which has now appeared statewide in the Clarion Ledger, the Hattiesburg American and the Sun Herald and nationwide in outlets like the Washington Times. Jeff is one of the proverbial smartest guys in the room and a seasoned business writer. Best of all he’s one of us, a Harahan guy made good that covered the post Katrina insurance battles for the Mobile Press Register. I always enjoy the chance to visit with him and I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jeff and AP Photographer Gerald Herbert last Monday here in the Bay.
I use the term the new normal because places like Bay St Louis and Waveland are fundamentally different places than they were on August 28, 2005 yet in many respects we haven’t changed much at all. Cities like Gulfport have done a very good job overall with the Urban blight that accompanied Katrina. Others not so much. Gerald Herbert captured the contrast and it was the photo that he took of the house around the corner from me that tells the tale of two cities:
It makes a heck of a contrast with the photos of the new Old Town Harbor that also appear with this story in other newspapers. Not more than a mile and a half from that Harbor, lots that once had houses on them are overgrown and derelict structures amazingly still stand nine full years after the storm. This despite a City Code department that is bursting at the seams with 6 positions that costs far more in salaries than the City takes in via associated permit and inspection fees. Something is clearly not right.
Low expectations come at a terrible cost in terms of money but more important and far more expensive is the opportunity cost of the foregone alternatives that most here accustomed to the new normal never perceive.
When you look at the City’s financial crisis through the lens of the politics of low expectations, what has happened since August 29, 2005 make tons more sense.