RETURNING TO NEW ORLEANS….The federal government and the mayor of New Orleans are at odds about how safe it is to return to New Orleans:

“The return of the general population to the city of New Orleans is problematic,” [Thad] Allen, the Coast Guard’s chief of staff, said in an interview….Water, sewage and electrical systems are unable to “meet the basic needs of the businesses and residents who return.”

….With horrifying images of the hurricane aftermath beamed around the world, Nagin acknowledged Thursday that he was getting pressure to move more quickly. He ebulliently announced a plan to let as many as 180,000 people in within a week, saying, “We’re bringing New Orleans back. It’s a good day in New Orleans. The sun is shining.”

Gotta go with the feds on this one. The “toxic soup” thing may have been overblown, but that doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory. As the LA Times reported yesterday, “environmental officials Friday strongly warned people to avoid all contact with the mud and muck left behind by receding floodwaters because it contains unsafe levels of petroleum products and bacteria.” And while the sun may have been shining on Thursday, Nagin might have pointed out that hurricane season isn’t over in New Orleans. We’re not likely to get another Katrina, but even a normal storm could cause a lot of damage in New Orleans’ current fragile state.

If business owners want to start the process of rebuilding, that’s fine. But encouraging a mass migration back to the city strikes me as foolhardy. Nagin should knock off the PR shilling and listen to the experts on this one.