It took 500 volunteers almost 50,000 manhours to come up with 238 recommendations. Their ideas give coast leaders a way to tackle the daunting task of mapping out a recovery roadmap for Mississippi.
Jim Barksdale carefully summarized the scenes of devastation he saw on frequent tours of south Mississippi's hurricane ravaged neighborhoods. In the opening sentence of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal's 178 page final report , he wrote, "What happened to Mississippi in the last days of August 2005 is unrivaled in our nation's history."
Barksdale's commission had the monumental task of recommending specific ways to rebuild what Katrina destroyed. What committee members came up with was a roadmap -- a list of suggestions that the public and private sectors could follow to accomplish Gov. Barbour's ultimate goal -- to seize on an opportunity and build a bigger and better Mississippi.
Suggestion number one -- land use. With so many apartments and public housing complexes destroyed, the commission recommended that local governments push developers to create affordable housing options. And it asked cities to make sure modular homes were permissible within their borders.
Idea number two -- intermodal transportation. As expected, the report encouraged the state to buy the CSX right of way. That way, a new east west road could be built adjacent to the tracks. And Highway 90 could become more of a pedestrian friendly boulevard. Commission members also recommended that Highway 90 remain a four lane road.
The report proposes a one percent food and beverage tax to promote tourism. And it urges cities to rebuild or restore historic downtown areas.
As chairman Barksdale wrote, the report's recommendations should help forge a way through the pain of this hurricane, so that in 30 years, Mississippians enjoy higher prosperity and a better quality of life than we dared imagine before August 29, 2005.