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Old 08-31-2008, 12:26 PM   #1
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Default GOP Will Get Blame for Disaster in NOLA

Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina 3-Year Coverage : News Roundup: "New Orleans is still a city in recovery"

Two weeks after the levees failed, President Bush stood in Jackson Square in New Orleans and promised “to rebuild the city and the region.” At the time he said: “We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.” Last week President Bush visited New Orleans, noting the “incredible progress that’s being made.” He praised the funds given to the region, saying that “three years after the storm, we’ve helped deliver $126 billion of U.S. taxpayer money.”

Progress has been made in the past three years, but much remains to be done and the funds are not getting there. Following Bush's speech at Jackson Barracks, Sen. Mary Landrieu released a statement saying too much of the money has been lost to red tape and government inefficiency. She stated:
The President rightfully recognized the significant commitment already shown by the federal government. But let no one suffer the illusion that $126 billion has gone straight to where it is needed and where it belongs. The Government Accountability Office has reported that only a fraction of this funding has been invested in our long-term recovery. Far too much has been lost to the inefficiency and red tape of FEMA and the federal bureaucracy, as well as the pockets of out-of-state FEMA contractors. There also remain bureaucratic challenges at the city and state level that our local leaders must continue working to resolve.
The lack of progress being made has been noted by may observers this week. The Jackson Free Press reports that "the failure that many say summarized the nation’s immediate action pale in comparison to the long-standing, nagging failure of the government to clean the resulting mess." The paper went on to say:
A certain amount of unfairness is inherent in the patchwork of New Orleans’s recovery. The levees that failed were guaranteed by the federal government. Nonetheless, for many homeowners, especially those in poorer parts of town, government grants—based on their home’s pre-storm market value—have not been enough to pay for rebuilding.
Cash shortfalls are not the only obstacle to a more robust recovery. The city’s economy has always been a smoke-and-mirrors affair, based on tourism. But the federal government, while conceding that its old levees were sub-standard, has not given the kind of “never again” assurances—backed up with real money—that might foster confidence in the region.
The Times-Picayune also reports on the patchy and uneven development that faces much of the city:
Just blocks from the historic Louisiana National Guard facility where Bush delivered his comments -- and stretching for miles in every direction -- large swaths of New Orleans and nearby St. Bernard Parish remain a hodgepodge of restored houses and stores, rotting buildings and empty concrete slabs.

The region's health care, criminal justice and public education systems also continue to struggle through a long rebuilding process.
Facing South has reported on the problems that have plagued the Road Home program over the past three years. Many low-income people continue to struggle with the constant rule changes and bureaucratic holdups. As ABC News reports, three years on, 42,000 applicants have still not received any funds The Road Home. “The worst affected are people in the lower-income brackets who don't know how to navigate their way through the system where the rules seem to change from day to day,” Davida Finger, an attorney at Loyola University's Law Clinic, told ABC.

The bureaucracy didn't end with The Road Home program. Reuters Alertnet reports on the mental health impact of trying to rebuild:
The stress of crawling through Kafkaesque bureaucracy trying to sort out trailers to live in, new housing, or insurance claims has added an extra burden on Katrina survivors. New Orleans' survivors already suffered a higher mental health toll than many in natural disasters in which victims have reconciled themselves to inevitable acts of God.

In this case, residents were traumatised by the shock and insult of being abandoned during the storm, and the inhumanity and indignity of being sent across the country with no regard for their family or neighbourhood ties.
Life for millions of people in the Gulf Coast will never be the same again. Katrina not only changed the way the rest of the world views one of the richest countries on the planet, it changed the way storm survivors think about their government.

Three years on, New Orleans is still a city in recovery.
Many low-income residents and people of color are still unable to return to the city due to limited support. Mother Jones reports that “in the years after the storm, moving displaced low-income families back to New Orleans has become less and less realistic. Yes, 92 percent of hotels in New Orleans were open by mid-2007, but by June 2008, 40 percent of public schools remained closed. The number of public buses up and running is still nowhere near pre-Katrina levels.”

According to the UK Guardian, New Orleans' redevelopment has ignored the needs of what was one of the closest-knit black communities in America. The Guardian reports:
In August and September 2005, areas like the largely black Lower Ninth war, almost entirely invisible to the hordes of tourists who flock to New Orleans every year, attracted worldwide sympathy as the levees broke. Now they have been all but forgotten. While tourists long ago repopulated the French Quarter, 57% of New Orleans' black population – against 36% of whites – have yet to return to the city. Many never will. This is because since Katrina, developers have clubbed together with the authorities to complete New Orleans' makeover into a playground for wealthy tourists.
In the three years since, race and class stereotypes have paved the way for New Orleans' so-called “revitalization.”
What's certain is that the longer the world looks away, the more likely it is that a Disneyfied “new” New Orleans will mean the loss of a city that boasts one of the most complex cultural heritages in the world.

Three years on from the storm, during an election year that has focused attention on a spectacular symbol of African American success, it seems that once again, no one is looking in the direction of a black America that has experienced only the rough end of the American dream.
Moreover, problems still plague New Orleans' infastructure as it attempts to prepare for future storms. As Facing South reported earlier this week, the Department of Defense plans on again investigating allegations that the Army Corps of Engineers let a contractor install faulty pumps after Hurricane Katrina despite a warning that they might fail. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel recently sent a letter to President Bush detailing that the previous investigation conducted by the Department of Defense into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ pumping installation and its contract with Moving Water Industries was “superficial and dismissive.”

The status of levee protection does not add much comfort to the city. The Associated Press reports that New Orleans will be protected by levees unable to protect against another storm like Katrina.
When and if the Army Corps of Engineers finishes US$14.8 billion in post-Katrina work, the city will have limited protection -- what are defined as 100-year levees. This does not mean they'd stand up to storms for a century. Under the 100-year standard, in fact, experts say that every house being rebuilt in New Orleans has a 26 per cent chance of being flooded again over a 30-year mortgage; and every child born in New Orleans would have nearly a 60 per cent chance of seeing a major flood in his or her life.
At every step in the scramble to correct the engineering breakdowns of Katrina, independent experts have questioned the ability of the [Army Corps of Engineers], an agency that has accumulated ever more power over the fate of New Orleans, to do the right job.
Despite the problems that still face the city, many New Orleans residents are working to rebuild for the better. As Reuters reported, in the Lower 9th Ward, the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association is working on a plan to attract businesses and residents based on sustainable development, including the use of renewable and energy efficient building practices.


"We have to give people a reason to come here," HCNA president Charles Allen told Reuters. "If we show them the neighborhood is alive and we are pursuing a path of sustainable development, that is a step in the right direction."
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Old 08-31-2008, 01:03 PM   #2
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And you can bet that the Dems are going to use McCain own words against him.

McCain says U.S. government failed New Orleans
(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain blasted the Bush administration and all levels of government Thursday for the failed response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

"We know we didn't have the right kind of leadership ... where government agencies were getting information from watching cable television rather than have a flow of information," McCain said during an event at Xavier University in New Orleans.
"It was not only a perfect storm as far as its physical impact ... it was a perfect storm as far as the federal, state and local governments' inability."
"Never again will there be a mismanaged natural disaster," he said, later assuring the crowd that "it will never happen again in this country; you have my commitment and my promise." Watch a report on McCain's tour and criticism »
McCain cited numerous mistakes made by Bush, including his initial decision to fly over the area soon after the storm rather than stop for a visit.
Bush endorsed McCain for president the day after the GOP nomination was sealed in March. McCain said then that he wanted Bush at his side as much as possible on the campaign trail.
McCain was in New Orleans on the fourth day of a tour through some Democratic strongholds in economically struggling states, trying to convince voters that he's not the typical Republican.
He made stops this week in Selma, Alabama; Youngstown, Ohio; and Inez, Kentucky....

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Old 08-31-2008, 01:40 PM   #3
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May 22, 2008

NOLA Levee Leaking

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Despite more than $22 million in repairs, a levee that broke with catastrophic effect during Hurricane Katrina is leaking again because of the mushy ground on which New Orleans was built, raising serious questions about the reliability of the city's flood defenses.

Outside engineering experts who have studied the project told The Associated Press that the type of seepage spotted at the 17th Street Canal in the Lakeview neighborhood afflicts other New Orleans levees, too, and could cause some of them to collapse during a storm.

The Army Corps of Engineers has spent about $4 billion so far of the $14 billion set aside by Congress to repair and upgrade the metropolitan area's hundreds of miles of levees by 2011. Some outside experts said the leak could mean that billions more will be needed and that some of the work already completed may need to be redone.

"It is all based on a 30-year-old defunct model of thinking, and it means that when they wake up to this one -- really -- our cost is going to increase significantly," said Bob Bea, a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley.

Over the past few months, however, the corps found evidence that canal water is seeping through the joints in the sheet metal and then rising to the surface on the other side of the levee, forming puddles and other wet spots.
Engineers said the boggy ground is a more serious problem than the corps realizes. Bea said there is a roughly 40 percent chance of the 17th Street Canal levee collapsing if water rises higher than 6 feet above sea level. During Katrina, the water reached 7 feet in the canal.

John Schmertmann, a retired University of Florida professor and a consultant on foundations, agreed with Bea that the corps "may still be embedding some of these not-properly-considered factors, so the new walls may not do what the corps expects."

Reducing such seepage might require the driving of sheet metal far deeper into the ground than is done now, or some other solution, said Bea, who was part of a team of experts sent by the National Science Foundation to do an independent study of the levee failures during Katrina.

Donald Jolissaint, chief of the corps' technical support branch in New Orleans, denied the problem at the 17th Street Canal is serious.

"I personally do not at all believe that this little wet spot is anything that is going to cause a breach or a failure of any kind," he said. A newly installed floodgate could be used to cut off the flow of water into the canal and reduce pressure on the levee, he said.

Nevertheless, the corps is concerned enough that for weeks, workers have been analyzing the wet spots and digging a 160-foot-long, 10-foot-deep trench to zero in on the source. "We're doing everything we can to chase this down," Jolissaint said.
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