From the archives – and why we

While we knew in August 2008 this post would go down as one of our best ever we continue to be humbled by the high quality traffic it receives literally from across the world to this day, mostly from Universities and think tanks but also from governments, both domestic and foreign. It has certainly worn well with time because it has gotten more traffic each year since it was published in August 2008 with almost half the total views coming this year and it is one of our top 10 posts in terms of page views. Though the insurance battles for coverage are largely over, 5 years after Katrina and a massive oil spill later, it still remains not what you see but what you don’t here on the post Katrina coast. ~ Sop November 4, 2010

Not what you see but what you don’t…the post-Katrina coast (published August 11, 2008)

Gulf side of Beach Boulevard August 2008

For someone who can be a real “chatty Cathy,” I sat quietly with my camera in my lap as Sop drove me down Beach Boulevard – the first time I’ve done that on the post-Katrina coast and the road still isn’t completely open, it’s just no longer blocked.

Before the storm, there wasn’t a prettier stretch of highway in America. I’m convinced of that. With the Gulf on one side and one beautiful home after another on the other, it was a sight to behold.

The Gulf side is as beautiful as ever; but, not so the other where all that remains of many of those beautiful homes is a drive way and an otherwise vacant, weed-filled lot.

By the time we headed into the Bay-Waveland area, I’d seen more slabs that I could count and was feeling like an empty lot myself, the experience was so draining.

Lot on Beach Boulevard 3 years after Katrina

What made it so draining and me so sad was how much those vacant lots looked like those I saw right after the storm almost three years ago.

If this slab was the place I once called home, I can only imagine that I would have been overwhelmingly sad; leading me to believe that the empty lots on the Coast leave others empty and sad – depression is the clinical term.

According to cognitive-behavioral psychologists, depression in humans may be similar to learned helplessness in other animals, who remain in unpleasant situations over which they’d initially had no control.

Once we began to eat, meet, and greet, it wasn’t possible to be sad; and I bounced back and took these pictures the next day. However, others on the Coast are having more than the just a brief depressing experience like my encounter with the empty lots. WLOX, Biloxi television, ran a related story the day before I arrived. Continue reading “From the archives – and why we”

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.” Continue reading “a hurricane is a thunderstorm without thunder and a Farmer’s Market without farmers is a…”

And they offered “free” money to get Coasties in houses and could not find enough takers

At Slabbed we well remember the rollout of REACH Mississippi to great fanfare last year. Joe Spraggins was all over the airways touting the program but before those commercials ran details of the program were leaked to the press and it is there we begin for some background:

In 2007, the Gulf Coast Business Council created the Renaissance Corporation, a non-profit group charged with creating affordable housing options for south Mississippi hurricane victims. The Renaissance Corporation is about a month away from unveiling what it considers an ambitious affordable housing program.

Specific details about how two thousand south Mississippians could become new homeowners aren’t being released to the public just yet. However, the non-profit group recently did a test case with an Ocean Springs woman. And, Denise Baker’s moving into a new home because of the financial assistance she received from her boss and Reach Mississippi.

Last week, Baker got the keys to a house in Gulf Park Estates. She contacted a few friends, and got them to help her move in.

“It’s been exciting,” the new homeowner said. “Stressful. But exciting.”

Home ownership became possible for the single mother when her bosses at the Andover Company urged Baker to be a test case for a Renaissance Corporation housing initiative.

“It was a win-win situation for both of us, for my employer and for myself,” she thought.

Through a program soon to be called Reach Mississippi, Baker’s employer put money for her down payment. And the Renaissance Corporation used private contributions to make a three for one match. Just like that, Baker had a house in close proximity to her office. And she had a mortgage she could afford.

What the story does not mention is that Mr Spraggins was Ms Baker’s boss at Andover (the Andover website is down as I write this post but the Google Cache from last month is here and the wayback machine snapshot from March 2008 is here), which specialized in residential SIP Construction. The company had made a sizable investment in lots and spec houses in Diamondhead and their inventory of high-priced homes was not moving as the real estate market on the western end of the coast began to die in the fall of 2007. Undaunted by the unique circumstances that made the down payment assistance helpful in Ms Baker’s case the program was finalized and those commercial featuring Spraggins were made. The local media continued promoting the program because there is no better story than free money that gets people into houses after a major Hurricane. Curious about the program, I visited the REACH Mississippi website to look at the program criteria and ended up wondering if economically the numbers made sense. Anita Lee answered that question in Sunday’s Sun Herald Continue reading “And they offered “free” money to get Coasties in houses and could not find enough takers”

The good people at John Hopkins University Press were very kind to send us…

nwsa-journalAn evaluation copy of their Fall 2008 publication of the National Women’s Studies Association Journal which we will indeed read and evaluate. Here is a snippet from Emmanuel David’s essay which focuses on Women of the Storm:

According to cultural sociologist Jeffrey Alexander, a “cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways”……..

On January 10, 2006, an emergent group of women conversed at kitchen tables in Uptown New Orleans and began a grassroots effort to bring members of Congress to the city to witness the storm and flood damage firsthand……. Continue reading “The good people at John Hopkins University Press were very kind to send us…”

Record crowd shows for Krewe of Nereids Parade

img00094Sop sends greetings – and pictures – from the Mardi Gras parade of the Krewe of Nereids and reports a record crowd, even larger than those before Katrina.

One of his first messages suggested a link to the economy and I agree.  However, I’ll have to wait for him to know if the large crowd is an indication people are more appreciative for what they have or what’s thrown from the floats.

The floats and the work that goes into the parade are impressive even from 150 or so miles away. Continue reading “Record crowd shows for Krewe of Nereids Parade”

Around the GO Zone in 60 Seconds: Lipstick on a Taxpayer Subsidy, Confidence and Cottages

As I once again catch up to the news I was struck by the assortment of local stories that dovetail nicely with our theme and recent posts here on Slabbed. We’ll start with the Sun Herald editorial board and a recent Op-ed that left me scratching my head as I was reminded of the old popular stock cliche’ in “Lipstick on a pig”.  Let’s start with some excerpts:

Lawmakers need to do all they can do during this legislative session to ensure that insurance will be both affordable and available for homeowners in South Mississippi.

To provide further proof of the necessity of such legislative action, the Gulf Coast Business Council has commissioned an independent study by the Stennis Institute to calculate the statewide economic impact of current insurance rates on the Coast. The report will estimate how much tax revenue — from sales taxes on construction materials to income taxes on those employed in every phase of the housing industry — the state is losing due to current insurance rates.

That report is expected to more than justify putting more money into the “wind pool” to lower premiums.

That, in turn, should result in increased economic activity on the Coast.

With this new report, all legislators should be convinced that Mississippi needs to make a clear commitment to the Coast in recognition of this region’s economic importance to the entire state.

And of course the swine lipstick slather party is couching a taxpayer subsidy in terms of economic development. We’ve covered these concepts many times on Slabbed and it doesn’t take an expensive study to figure the obvious that the high cost of insurance costs Mississippians taxes, money and jobs. But does that justify putting more taxpayer money into the Mississippi wind pool? The editorial board at the Sun Herald seems to think so as the editorial continues: Continue reading “Around the GO Zone in 60 Seconds: Lipstick on a Taxpayer Subsidy, Confidence and Cottages”

A Quick Thought on Recent Cottage Developments

This post is quick and dirty and I’ll leave it to those so interested to google up the stories at the Sun Herald, the Seacoast Echo and WLOX.

First the residents didn’t want them but now cognitive dissonance over the initial decision to ban them has set in. The perceptions are pretty simple to understand, people that are sinking $50K into just their flood mitigated foundations aren’t too keen on having a $26,000 MEMA cottage as their next door neighbor. Dr Mac didn’t help things speaking out at the BSL City Council meeting; too many people remember how much money he got from the Farm.

Meantime and with the deadline to vacate the cottages looming, a few former cottage residents have replaced their cottages with true modular housing. Whatever fears the neighbors had about the cottages have been replaced with the stark terror of having an elevated glorified trailer for a neighbor. Throw in a healthy dose of freeloaders and out of town residents who used their cottages as weekend getaways and the toxic gumbo pot is complete. (I know I promised no links but this loser seems to think he is entitled to a free house without the bother of a mortgage.) Continue reading “A Quick Thought on Recent Cottage Developments”

Teasers for the Old Man and the Storm (Updated)

Nowdy promoted the program here. We have now learned some friends of the slabbed may make in on air. Here are some teasers:



[youtube=] Continue reading “Teasers for the Old Man and the Storm (Updated)”

A Sign of the Times…

What is amazing to me is that we have not seen more news like Bailey’s Lumber announcement they are shuttering their Gulfport store. Residential construction has been in the tank for about a year now across the vast majority of the coast due to insurance affordability issues.  Now with the credit crisis and economic slowdown in full bloom, the few pockets of activity left in Eastern Harrison/Western Jackson counties are also suffering.

There is a good bit of analysis I could add to Ryan LaFontaine’s story but I won’t since I’m feeling lazy.  😉  Mr Bailey is absolutely right that Home Depot and Lowes are not his company’s problem. Contractors with little to no backlog would be the cause IMHO.

The slumping economy is forcing one of the Coast’s lumber giants to shut its doors, despite much post-Katrina construction left to be done in South Mississippi.

Bailey’s Lumber and Supply, a major player in construction in the Southeast since 1951, will soon close its Gulfport location as a belt-tightening move to help weather the current economic storm. Continue reading “A Sign of the Times…”