Many of the business elite of New Orleans seem preoccupied these days by what some here simply call The List - the chosen few Mayor C. Ray Nagin is expected to name on Friday to a commission to advise him on the rebuilding of the stricken city. Almost certain to make the grade is the real estate mogul Joseph C. Canizaro, the man best known for bringing high-rises to the New Orleans skyline.They need some outsiders on their list too. Some of the developers from Houston who have experience developing both commercial and residential projects. They should also draw on talent from other large growing metropolitan areas. The Houston developers have experience working around flood planes, developing drainage and parks and greenbelts to deal with some of the problems New Orleans is going to face. Gerald Hines would be an ideal candidate. He has also done some office construction in New Orleans. He modeled some of his residendtial communities on old world residential areas in Europe. He is a first class developer of office, retail (the Gallarie) and residential projects. If New Oreans is to comeback they need to bring in some outsiders who know how to attract people.
Mr. Canizaro has emerged as perhaps the single most influential business executive from New Orleans. One fellow business leader calls him the local Donald Trump. But Mr. Canizaro derives his influence far less from a flamboyant style than from his close ties to President Bush as well as to Mr. Nagin, and that combination could make him a pivotal figure in deciding how and where New Orleans will be resurrected.
Mr. Canizaro has not only secured a coveted spot on the commission, those who have seen the list said, but he has played a critical role in shaping it. At a state Senate hearing held in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Mr. Nagin confirmed that he would be naming an advisory panel, but that he had not completed a list.
New Orleans is a town where generally it helps to have local roots that go back at least one or two generations, if not back to the days before the Louisiana Purchase. Mr. Canizaro first arrived in New Orleans in the mid-1960's, when he was in his 20's.
Yet despite his status as a relative newcomer, Mr. Canizaro's stature has grown because of his political influence, the force of his personality and his record of public service to the city where he has lived for 41 years.
Mr. Canizaro is inclined to view the flooding of New Orleans as both a tragedy and an opportunity. He notes that the city's schools were substandard, its housing stock crumbling and its crime rate among the nation's highest. "I think we have a clean sheet to start again," Mr. Canizaro said. "And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities."
Over the years, Mr. Canizaro has socialized with the president, a man he describes as a friend. And Mr. Bush no doubt appreciates the hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Canizaro has contributed to the Republican Party, according to campaign finance records. In 2004, he attained Ranger status in the Bush campaign - someone who raised at least $200,000 for the president's re-election.