Barbour wasn’t immune from criticism and admits to making mistakes. In his Katrina memoir “America’s Great Storm,” Barbour notes, “I made a number of bad decisions in the recovery, but I made a whole lot of decisions.”
Barbour calls the state port at Gulfport “the biggest fish that got away.” He caught flak for “diverting” $570 million some community leaders say should have gone to housing projects to port renovation and expansion. He envisioned the port’s channel being deepened to take advantage of larger ships becoming the shipping industry norm, but the state has received neither permission nor funding to do so. Port business today is a fraction of its pre-Katrina peak.
Barbour said he started thinking about the task ahead while still on that first helicopter surveillance trip.
“Can we come back?” Barbour asked. “What are we going to do to come back? … As the helicopter flew towards Ingall’s shipyard, I saw the yard from a distance, it dawned on me, what will we do if these big companies don’t reopen — Ingall’s, Chevron, DuPont … 12 casinos that employed nearly 15,000 people? How do you get people that stayed to continue to stay and rebuild? How do you get people who evacuated to come back?”
Barbour said he figured the answer was: “People need a place to live, a job and a place for their kids to go to school.” That would be the rough outline of recovery plans.