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Disaster Master Plans
Photo: Craig Toocheck
It was my first post-Katrina arrival by air in Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi. As the plane descended, I studied the scenery. Both in-land and along the coastline I could see evidence of the destruction wrought more than a year ago.

Lots of communities have suffered natural disasters; however, it is the scope of the destruction along the Gulf Coast that gives one pause. The storm caused havoc in numerous counties in multiple states. In Mississippi alone, 49 counties were affected.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) is nearly ready to begin accepting hurricane recovery grant applications for $300 million in federal funds. Yes, it is late September, and the storm charged ashore in late August last year. But it takes time to get a process in place to deal with long-term recovery.

According to the September 21, 2006, edition of the Sun Herald (www.sunherald.com), “Economic development grants and loans totaling $250 are available in 49 counties affected by Katrina. Community planning grants totaling $5 million will be distributed in the six southernmost counties. Downtown revitalization grants totaling $45 million are also available in those six counties.

“An official master plan is key to the downtown revitalization and planning grants, according to the scoring criteria for applications posted by MDA on its website. . . .In the competition for $5 million in planning grants, chances of receiving funding are slim to none without a resolution endorsing a plan. The commitment accounts for 45 of the 100 points."

“The City Council stopped short of adopting Biloxi’s plan because the two members representing East Biloxi objected to recommendations from Living Cities consultants, who advised against rebuilding single-family homes in low-lying areas and pitched the idea of a city park stretching from the beach to Back Bay.”

What do You Know?

Instead of just shrugging after reading this excerpt, consider what you know about the master plan for your community.

  • Does the local government have a master plan for your community?

  • Have you taken time to become familiar with it?

  • What are the planning issues such as transportation, population density, employment opportunities, infrastructure such as water and sewer, education, and human services?

  • What are the contingency plans in case of disaster?

  • Are you part of a community organization?

  • Does this organization provide input to government officials on such issues?

  • When was the last time you attended a community hearing?

  • Do you know how to get in touch with your government representatives—elected and otherwise?
Waiting until there’s a disaster or crisis is too late for you to get involved. As the Sun Herald headline said, “Cities with plan have edge.” And plans don’t get prepared overnight.

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