Friday, February 17, 2006

Bush team has largely written off New Orleans

Bush team has largely written off New Orleans
Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2006

And beyond the city, much of south Louisiana is threatened by the administration's unwillingness to pay for restoration of wetlands.

Jennifer Moses
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

BATON ROUGE, LA. - Though most of New Orleans resembles Nagasaki after the bomb, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress appear to have all but forgotten about it. In his State of the Union address, the president mentioned New Orleans only briefly, and at a news conference five days earlier, he declared in reference to promised federal reconstruction funds, "I want to remind the people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot."

Unfortunately, nothing close to $85 billion has been spent, and that's because most of it is tied up with something called the Stafford Act, which restricts the use of federal money for precisely the kind of things that Louisiana needs to recover, particularly housing relief. It's like giving a kid a dollar to spend on anything he likes as long as it's broccoli. In the meantime, most members of Congress -- 87 percent of the House and 70 percent of the Senate -- haven't bothered to come on down to the Big Easy at all.

The devastation isn't about race, either: Though the Lower Ninth Ward, a largely low-income African-American neighborhood, was a favorite among the national press, every other area that wasn't on "high ground" got devastated as well. Pick any subgroup: White yuppies? Immigrant Asians? Wealthy blacks? Their former neighborhoods are now piles of rubble and mud, too.

With hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mother Nature wiped out or critically damaged 45 percent of Louisiana's housing. As the president might say: "Forty-five percent is a lot."

At the same time -- and this is so pathetic that it makes you want to weep -- those residents who have returned to New Orleans are agonizing over the question of how best to project the city's image to strike a balance between begging mode (and declaring, quite rightly, that the city is a disaster area) and presenting their city as a place that's worth coming back to, investing in and visiting....