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About the Lecture

"Are Cities Resilient? Disaster Recovery, Past and Present"

Will New Orleans rise again, and if so, in what form? Lawrence J. Vale offers both comfort and caution. “In the last 200 years, there has been almost no case of a major city anywhere that hasn’t been rebuilt after a major disaster,” he says. Whether post-bomb Hiroshima, or Chicago after its 19th-century inferno, urban disasters become opportunities for “building back bigger and stronger,” says Vale. Citizens and policy makers share narratives around these common traumas, of the sustained horror but also of inevitable progress and possible redemption. The issue for New Orleans will be how politics and economics attach to these themes. Will the city become “a Disney camp, Mardi Gras festival all year round,” wonders Vale, or will people from the housing projects and from the ports also be allowed a seat at the table?

"Hurricane Katrina: What Would FDR Do?"

Franklin Roosevelt got the approach just right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, says Thomas A. Kochan. “He understood instinctively the need for cooperation…and called for business, labor and community groups to work together in the war effort.” Partisan differences melted away in this national crisis, and a set of innovative practices emerged that set the standard for generations, from worker training to pension plans. But the current administration caters only to specific political and economic interests. Just look at its futile effort to bail the airline industry out after 9/11, Kochan points out. “30 billion in losses later, it’s still an industry in shambles,” he says. With Katrina, where there’s clearly a need to “learn from the best practices of labor, management and community groups,” the administration is in fact “cutting wages, dividing society, labor and management.”

"Do Poor Communities Have a Role in Rebuilding New Orleans?"

Poverty and racial exclusion go back 400 years in New Orleans, says J. Phillip Thompson. And, Thompson notes, a black mayor is no guarantee that the poor will have a voice in New Orleans, since white elites long ago stripped the mayor’s office of real power—over education, development, environmental safety. New conflicts are bubbling up today around Katrina within the black community, says Thompson. But the disaster may still offer a chance for positive change, he believes. “You do not have to abdicate the city to whoever shows up….By addressing the needs of the poor in New Orleans, we can develop a solid blueprint for rebuilding cities and regions in the entire nation.”



    Lecture Details

  • Location: Kirsch Auditorium 32-123



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About the Speakers

Lawrence J. Vale SM '88

Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT School of Architecture and Planning
Margaret MacVicar Fellow

Lawerence Vale is the author or editor of six books examining urban design and housing. Architecture, Power, and National Identity (1992), a book about capital city design on six continents, received the 1994 Spiro Kostof Book Award for Architecture and Urbanism from the Society of Architectural Historians. Vale is also Co-Editor, with Sam Bass Warner, Jr., of Imaging the City: Continuing Struggles and New Directions (Center for Urban Policy Research Press, 2001), and co-editor, with Thomas J. Campanella, of The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover From Disaster (Oxford University Press, 2005), which was recognized as one of the “Ten Best Books for 2005” by Planetizen, the Planning and Development network.

He attended Amherst College, and received the S.M.Arch.S. degree from MIT and a D.Phil from the University of Oxford. He has been a Rhodes Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow, as well as the recipient of the 1997 Chester Rapkin Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. He has taught at the MIT since 1988.



Thomas Kochan

George M. Bunker Professor of Management,
Co-director, Institute for Work and Employment, MIT Sloan School of Management
Professor of Engineering Systems

From 1988 to 1991 Thomas Kochan served as Head of the Behavioral and Policy Sciences Area in the Sloan School. He came to MIT from Cornell University where he was on the faculty of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations from 1973 to 1980.In 1973, he received his Ph.D. in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin. Since then he has served as a third-party mediator, fact finder, and arbitrator and as a consultant to a variety of government and private sector organizations and labor-management groups. He was a consultant for one year to the Secretary of Labor in the Department of Labor’s Office of Policy Evaluation and Research.



J. Phillip Thompson

Associate Professor of Urban Politics, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

Phillip Thompson is an urban planner and political scientist. Before entering academic life, Phil worked as Deputy General Manager of the New York Housing Authority and as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Coordination. Thompson's latest book is Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities, and the Struggle for a Deep Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2005), and he has a recent article in The New Labor Forum entitled “What Are Labor’s True Colors?”





About the Host

MIT Response to Hurricane Katrina





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The information on this page was accurate as of the day the video was added to MIT World. This video was added to MIT World on October 23, 2005.




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