The City of Phoenix is misnamed. It can’t rise from its ashes until it is reduced to ashes. In developmental terms it’s a rapidly-growing baby (or maybe a cancer). The Real Phoenix is New Orleans–reduced to ashes (and mud) and about to be reborn into something better.

The cynic in you (and aren’t we all cynics now) shrugs, or is even annoyed at such optimism. Since Katrina I have cycled through dispair and disbelief, to Eureka (“this changes everything!”), to a gradual erosion of hope, marked by a few optimistic spikes (the election of a new City Council). But I don’t think it’s too late for something good to happen here. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that.

So who is to put us back together again? All the king’s horses and all the king’s men came too late, with too little. And Fearless Leader C-Ray is either AWOL or hiding behind a veil of tortured words signifying nothing (“market forces”).

Obviously, we must do the heavy lifting on our own (before we have to say “the market forced us…”). But there is help out there.

*Ideas are helpful.* Last night ideas were flying at City Hall. No one from the government was there. But in council chambers Mr. “Storm Cunningham”: , of the “Revitalization Institute”:, presented a very interesting and motivational slide lecture, sponsored by “AIA New Orleans”:

–Subject: *The $2 trillion “restoration economy”.*
–Idea: *NOLA has the potential to be a world leader in this industry.*

Phoenix, and rapidly growing metros like it, are actually part of a *declining trend*. Sprawling growth is, like, so 20th century.

*21st Century trend:* Restoration, repair and maintenance of what already exists. Lord knows there is a lot of restoration and repair to be done–here and everywhere else. Even before Katrina there was a critical need. K just time-warped the decay of our infrastructure and institutions forward a few decades.

— *Our opportunity:* Create an integrated network of private companies, universities, government agencies and citizen groups that have the restoration of our City and region as its *primary product*. Then use the experience gained to do similar work in the rest of the world. We don’t need the next Toyota plant to boost our economy. We can boost our economy by rebuilding our City and region–if we do it with the idea that we are growing an industry at the same time.

Pie in the sky? Heard it before? Maybe. But the Revitalization Institute is one top of this idea and ready to help, through workshops and the application of other resources.

–Obstacle #1: *Lack of leadership.*

It would be best if all 4 local stakeholders (citizens, academia, private sector and government) were together on a goal like this. UNO is already a Revitalization Institute partner, as is “Carrollton-Audubon Renaissance, Inc.”: That’s a start.

Sadly, I don’t expect anything out of the Mayor’s office. But maybe he will pleasantly surprise us, someday.