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USA Today Looks For Middle Ground In New Orleans

As regular readers recall, there was quite a bit of controversy about a "60 Minutes" report on New Orleans that included an interview with St. Louis University professor Tim Kusky. (In the piece, Kusky is shown telling correspondent Scott Pelley that "[w]e should be thinking about a gradual pullout of New Orleans," because, thanks to coastal erosion, New Orleans will be a "fish bowl" by 2095 – a city completely surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico. "New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50- to 100-foot-tall levee system to protect the city," he added.)

We discussed the controversy here. The New Orleans Times-Picayune also printed a lengthy story about it entitled "NOT SO FAST, '60 MINUTES.'"

The reason the report stirred such emotion, Pelley says, is that "People in Louisiana are desperately hoping that the federal government is going to come up with billions of dollars to restore the city and protect the city. It's not at all clear at this point that that is going to happen. People in Louisiana are very concerned anytime someone raises their head and says we don't know if this is a good idea or not. When a high profile story goes on the air that has just one guy saying 'just hold on a second,' they react passionately to that."

Now USA Today has weighed in on the issue in an editorial, comparing rebuilding efforts to the city's plans for Mardi Gras. Here's the paper's take:

The [Mardi Gras] plan seems fitted to the circumstances — a slimmed down version that honors tradition but recognizes New Orleans' new reality.

Money is tight, so the city is seeking sponsors to help underwrite its expenses. Nonetheless, in a bow to tradition, Mardi Gras organizers will not allow commercial sponsorship of floats and parades.

Perhaps this undertaking provides a model for the city's more daunting challenges. Scale back on dreams of recreating the pre-Katrina city. Seek creative financing. Be flexible. Above all, don't lose what is the quintessential New Orleans.

USA Today doesn't get more specific than that, but this seems to be an effort to split the difference when it comes to rebuilding New Orleans. Stay tuned.