You're Doin' A Heckuva Job, 'Bama

Remember those federal tax breaks that were supposed to be for New Orleans Katrina victims to rebuild their homes and businesses? You'll be happy to know that someone, at least, is taking advantage of them. Developers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., are using the Katrina tax shelters to construct $1 million condos for University of Alabama football fans.

It seems that the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, or GO Zone, established to identify devastated areas in order to help hurricane victims rebuild, extends a lot further inland than we realized.

About 10 condominium projects are going up in and around Tuscaloosa, and builders are asking up to $1 million for units with granite countertops, king-size bathtubs and 'Bama decor, including crimson couches and Bear Bryant wall art. "It is a joke," said Tuscaloosa developer Stan Pate, who has nevertheless used GO Zone tax breaks on projects that include a new hotel and a restaurant. "It was supposed to be about getting people ... to put housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi. It was not about condos in Tuscaloosa."

The Gulf Opportunity Zone was drawn up to include Tuscaloosa, even though it's 200 miles from the coast and thus received only heavy rain and a little wind damage from Katrina. So why was Tuscaloosa included? Well, it's certainly not because Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, is from Tuscaloosa, and graduated from Alabama. That's just crazy talk.

This just all really surprises me, because up until now the government's handling of the Katrina disaster has run like the finest of Swiss timepieces. Anyway, enjoy your Bear Bryant wall art, Alabama fans! Hopefully by the end of football season, some New Orleans families will have walls.

Katrina Aid Goes Toward Football Condos [San Antonio Express News, via SportsbyBrooks]