“Green Dreams & Tumbleweeds In Greensburg, KS: A 15-Year Longitudinal Story on Post-Disaster Recovery From An Economic Development Perspective”
Presenter: David E. Leiva, Senior Fellow&Adjunct Instructor, Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy
Abstract: In May 2007, an EF-5 tornado ripped through and annihilated 95% of Greensburg, Kansas, a town of about 1,500 people in the SW portion of the state. On the heels of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina federal response and with the promise of President Bush to use all the federal support available, the town vowed to not only “survive, but thrive.” Months later, Greensburg civic, business and elected leaders – with a host of external expertise – unveiled a recovery plan that not only set in motion the rebuilding of the two-square mile town, but the opportunity to become the first model green city in the U.S. Media captured the daily struggles of Greensburg for years, and tourists, academicians, and elected officials have come from all over the world to witness how this small town has used sustainability practices. Today, the city boasts the most environmentally friendly and architecturally rich buildings per capita in America. However, beneath the coating of eco-friendly public buildings and energy-efficient homes propped up by unprecedented financial, technical and federal support, has stirred a quiet brewing storm of smaller tax rolls, higher taxes, an underused business incubator, empty business park, decreasing revenue streams, growing consumer debt, and a clock ticking until 2018 when homeowners must pay the full property tax rates that have been delayed by a decade. The population has not returned to pre-storm levels as predicted by the same group of leaders. The media no longer visits. Fifteen years later, America’s role model for the green technology movement looks more like a cautionary tale of outsider influence, misunderstood economic principles, and a hint of buyers’ remorse.