Friday, August 31, 2007

Post Apocalypse

Clay over at NOLA-dishu dicusses post-K New Orleans:

To say Katrina was a traumatic experience is an understatement. Katrina, from the perspective of New Orleanians, might as well be the apocalypse. Present day New Orleans resembles a post-apocalyptic society..............A post-apocalyptic society is a civilization that experiences .... a cataclysmic event that pushes its society to the brink of death, but the civilization survives and is changed by the experience.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Operation Eden

Clayton Cubitt has posted on his Operation Eden blog about his thoughts and feelings two years post K.

When people look at New Orleans, as it struggles to live, or as it withers and dies, I want them to think of their own city in its place. I want them to know that this could be them. These faces could be theirs. It might be a natural disaster, it might be war, it might be terrorism, and it doesn't matter how safe they think they are, they're not. I want them to put themselves in the place of these Americans.

And I want them to remember this feeling the next time they're in the voting booth. Because who you have running your government makes the difference between your hometown living or dying. Don't forget that. Your vote matters."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

the very heart of America itself

New Orleans City Councilwoman Shelley Midura penned the following to W.

An open letter to President George W. Bush:


August 28, 2007

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for visiting New Orleans for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the worst federal levee-failure disaster in United States history followed by the worst federal disaster response in United States history. We’re also grateful for the $116 billion federal allocation for the Gulf Coast. That $116 billion has served you well, as your spokesmen often cite it as an indicator of your dedication to our recovery. But, it hasn’t served us as well -- it’s not enough, it’s been given grudgingly, and only after our elected officials have had to fight for it. So I feel I must correct the record about you and your administration’s dedication to our recovery and implore you to take action to make things better.

Indeed, you have allocated $116 billion for the Gulf Coast, but that number is misleading. According to the Brookings Institute's most recent Katrina Index report, at least $75 billion of it was for immediate post-storm relief. Thus only 35% of the total federal dollars allocated is for actual recovery and reconstruction. And of that recovery and reconstruction allocation, only 42% has actually been spent. In fact, while your administration touts "$116 billion" as the amount you have sent to the entire area affected by Katrina and the levee failures, the actual long term recovery dollar amount is only $14.6 billion. This amount is a mere 12% of the entire federal allocation of dollars, billions of which went to corporations such as Halliburton for immediate post-storm cleanup work, instead of to local businesses. Contrast that to the $20.9 billion on infrastructure for Iraq that the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2006 that you have spent, and it’s an astonishing 42% more than you have spent on infrastructure for the post-Katrina Gulf region. The American citizens of the Gulf region do not understand why the federal obligation to rebuilding Iraq is greater than it is for America's Gulf coast, and more specifically for New Orleans.

New Orleans has more challenges and fewer resources than we've ever had in my lifetime in the City of New Orleans. Yet, other than FEMA repair reimbursements, the only direct federal assistance this city has received from you has been two community disaster loans that you are demanding be paid back even though no other city government has had to pay back a these types of loans for as long as our research can determine (at least since the 70’s). These loans are being used to balance the city budget to provide basic services to citizens who need far more than the pre-Katrina basics.

Despite this obvious contradiction, your administration blames local leadership for our continued need for federal assistance. But this argument is disingenuous, Mr. President. There are a host of tasks that only you and your administration can accomplish for our recovery. These are some concrete steps you can take to make good on your 2005 Jackson Square promise:

* Completely fix the federally managed levees
* Fully fund our expertly crafted recovery plan
* Give New Orleans all that you have promised to Baghdad - schools, hospitals, infrastructure, security, and basic services
* Forgive the community disaster loans, as authorized by the new Congress
* Appoint a recovery czar who works inside the White House that reports daily and directly to you and whose sole job is the recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the region
* Restore our coast and wetlands
* Work with Congress to reform the Stafford Act
* Cut the bureaucratic red tape

In turn Mr. President, the people of New Orleans are more than willing to do our part. We have already:

* Consolidated and reformed the state levee board system.
* Consolidated and reformed our property assessment system.
* Passed sweeping ethics reform legislation.
* Created an Ethics Review Board.
* Hired an Inspector General.
* Submitted a parish-wide recovery plan.

Much has changed in New Orleans for the better since the storm, and more progress is coming. Civic activism is at an all time high. For the first time in my lifetime, there is an actual reform movement in New Orleans driven by the people. "Best Practices" has become a City Council mantra. We have a new Ethics Board. Our incoming Inspector General, Robert Cerasoli, is considered one of the elite in the Inspector General world, as is our new Recovery Director Dr. Ed Blakely in that world and our Recovery School Superintendent Paul Vallas in the realm of public education. We are attracting the cream of the crop. Young people from around the country seeking to make a difference in their lives are moving to New Orleans to teach in public schools, provide community healthcare, build housing, work for nonprofits engaged in post-Katrina work, and, in general, do whatever they can for the recovery because they all know what I am not so sure that you know, mainly that what happens in New Orleans over the next few years says something about the very heart of America itself.

Mr. President, we are in fact doing our part locally in New Orleans despite contrary comments by your administration. Our intense civic activity and government reform initiatives are serious indicators of our local commitment to do our part for the recovery. But we are drowning in federal red tape. We are being nickel and dimed to death by your Federal Emergency Management Agency. We are resource-starved at the city level. The mission here is not accomplished. What we need is Presidential leadership, not just another speech filled with empty promises. Our recovery's success, struggle, or failure will be intimately woven into your legacy, for better or worse. What Americans think about America is deeply affected by how this country rises to national challenges, none more significant than post-Katrina New Orleans. Fully restoring New Orleans to its formerly unique and permanent place in American culture is this nation's greatest domestic challenge. Your leadership of our country through this difficult time will serve as an American character lesson for future generations.



Sincerely,

Shelley Midura
New Orleans City Councilmember
District A

Fly the flag in honor of the Presidential visit

Hey, W!



Courtesy of Suspect Device

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Accountability

From the Clarion Ledger Recovery on Gulf Coast could fail without help, accountability

An editorial written by James Crowell of Biloxi. Here are a few excerpts:

......We are from Alabama, Louisiana , Mississippi and Texas. At stake is much more than a few New Orleans neighborhoods. We consider our individual communities as vital parts of a whole region. And just as it is not uncommon for a citizen of Mobile to identify with the musical traditions of New Orleans, we also understand our neighbors' woes to be our own.

This is our home. We do not need to "move on." The storm waters exposed so many of our needs. We know what our communities need, individually, and as a region. We only pause now to ask those with the power to change things to come alongside us and work for recovery.

Scuzzbucket of the week

Scuzzbucket of the week

Slidell Man Arrested for Stealing Helmets from Crash Memorial


Slidell man arrested for stealing motorcycle helmet off of makeshift memorial for biker
A Slidell man was arrested this weekend for stealing two motorcycle helmets from a makeshift memorial on the 100 block of Northshore Blvd. that was established by friends and family in the memory of James A. Shelton, who was killed at that location while riding his motorcycle on August 21 and was buried on August 24, 2007.
.... when asked about the helmets, Thomas Guice of Slidell allegedly said that the two helmets belonged to him and that Shelton was his cousin. Guice's story didn't pan when police called a member of the Shelton family who positively identified both helmets as his property and told police that he never gave anyone permission to remove the helmets ....... from the memorial.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Still Not Okay Two Years Later


Writes Brian Schwaner (AP Reporter) about his hometown:


From a tinted window 25 stories above the New Orleans business district, I can see the city rotting from the inside out.

Across the street, Dominion Tower, once bustling with office workers and sprinkled with upscale retailers, is abandoned.

The adjacent Hyatt Hotel, where Super Bowl, Sugar Bowl and NCAA Final Four fans relaxed, also is empty.

Rows of camouflaged Humvees wait in a nearby parking lot for the military police who patrol lawless neighborhoods.

Just out of sight are wastelands where people live in cramped trailers or try to rebuild as best they can.

The only attention the city gets these days is as a campaign prop for some of the presidential contenders


One of the main problems New Orleans has had since before Katrina is the lunatic that is running the city.

Ray Nagin becomes a little more mentally unhitched every day. I don't think it's stress, I think he's just plain nuts.

The runaway murder rate in New Orleans is downright scary.
Keeping track of the 2007 Murders, Care Forgot is a project created to humanize the victims of murder in New Orleans.

This project is the brainchild of NOLA bloggers Alan Gutierrez , Ray Shea and da po blog.
My thanks to these folks for their efforts.

I work with a lady who lives in New Orleans East. She has spent the last 20 months gutting and supervising contractors rebuilding her home from the ground up. And now she and all of the other responsible citizens of this area - the WHOLE New Orleans area in fact - must defend their properties to the death. This is wrong in so many ways. First they lost their homes via the Federal Flood and now lazy-lower-than-pond-scum- drug dealing-sons-of-bitches are killing them for money they think these survivors have. It's got to stop.

The people who lost everything to the storm are not okay. They've had to deal with crooked insurance companies,
crooked politicians - from the White House to the assessors office - idiots across the country, such as wacko sportswriters criticizing Katrina victims because of a stupid football game. Or moronic commentators who labeled Katrina survivors who stayed behind as "scumbags". I could go on, but it's not worth getting all worked up. The past is the past and people will show their true colors in times like these.

To all of you out there who think that it's time for Katrina survivors to shut up, I present this message.

Katrina + 2 Years


Two years later, many parts of New Orleans remain devastated. One broken promise after another. And this fool has the gaul to come here to commemorate those broken promises.


Chris Rose on NOLA 500 days post Katrina

Time magazine on this occasion

Sunday, August 26, 2007

WE ARE NOT OKAY

The upcoming week brings with it the two year anniversary of Katrina. Coverage of that storm will be everywhere you turn. Here are some excerpts from local bloggers on this painful anniversary.
Over at the Chicory, Varg puts into words the feelings of many, many Gulf Coast residents . Thanks, Varg.

From Hurricane Radio I don't have to tell you what week this is.

There are black days on the internal calendar that rests in the psyche of all Americans. December 7th. September 11th.

And August 29th.

To be honest, the nightmare started before that, and for many, the horror continues even now. Today is August 25, and tonight, families in Florida are grieving. Their loved ones were taken from them in the opening moments.

Two years ago today, a category 1 hurricane named Katrina battered southern Florida and killed 14 people. Over the next week, this storm would march across the eastern United States, causing thousands of deaths in seven states from the Gulf of Mexico in the south, north as far as Ohio.


Taken from "Living on Earth", the words of Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald ..... what happened in Hurricane Katrina was in many ways a tragedy of priorities. Everybody knew that wetlands are important. Everybody knew that New Orleans was vulnerable. But it was never anybody's top priority to make sure that this didn't happen. So that's why you have Louisiana's Congressional Delegation at a time when they never could get the Corps to build a decent levee for New Orleans. They never really did get a decent restoration program going for those coastal wetlands. You had these incredible boondoggles that were still getting funded like the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet which is supposed to provide a shipping shortcut to the port of New Orleans but actually ended up increasing Katrina's surge and contributing to the disaster. So, again the Corps is this strange beast that's controlled by Congress. You hear a lot about these earmarks and the entire Corps budget almost is controlled by these Congressional earmarks. It's pet projects. And the pet projects were not the projects that made New Orleans safe.....

Taking you to Slidell, Louisiana in a review of what's changed/not changed since the storm, I present the following:



Old Town Slidell Soda Shop owner Frank Jackson stayed in his house next door on August 29, 2005 and rode out the monster storm. He watched the floodwaters — which covered the town in a massive, tsunami-like wave after Lake Pontchartrain overflowed — engulf the little company he and his wife built from scratch in 1988. He saw Katrina take down friends’ and neighbors’ businesses all around him.

“You just watch it go and move on,” said Jackson standing near the rusty old soda fountain in what’s left of his shop. “You watch your friends’ businesses go, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You figure life will be different.”


Around the corner from the broken-down old soda shop is another business that had to close down: Slidell Cleaners, a 77-year-old family venture owned by close friends of the Jacksons.

The upstairs apartment, where owners Eric and Mary DuBuisson lived for the 24 years they ran the cleaners, came out of Katrina unscathed. But the downstairs sustained immense damage – too much to keep it going after all the recovery they’d done since the 1995 flood a decade earlier.

“This time, we had six feet of water and it destroyed everything … clothes, equipment,” said Eric DuBuisson, 56. “It was a real heartbreaker. We knew really quickly that there was no point [in trying to rebuild].”

The decision not to reopen came about two days after Katrina hit, he said, when the DuBuissons realized it would have cost between a quarter-million and a half-million dollars to bring Slidell Cleaners back.

“When both of you work in the same business and it all ends in one day, it’s very scary,” said Mary DuBuisson, 52.

“We seriously were afraid of bankruptcy,” added her husband. “I didn’t know what we were going to do.”

On top of their problems getting back on their feet professionally, the DuBuissons also had to worry about where to live, as the lakefront house they’d planned to retire to was flooded by three feet of Katrina water.

Onto some brighter notes, the best Chinese Restaurant (IMHO) in Slidell endured 4-6 foot flooding and has come back nicely.


A little over a year after the storm, Slidell was blessed with Louisiana-bred Rouse's supermarket that caters to good food.

A welcome relief to Walmart Supercenters, we're glad to have Rouse's here in our "bedroom community".

In the fast food world, Slidell lost a few fast-food chains and gained a new one


McD's on the southside of town (Pontchartrain Drive) hasn't reopened, but the one
on Hwy190 (aka Gause Blvd) was razed and rebuilt in a few months.

More new businesses have sprung up along Slidell's main thoroughfares.






And others sit silently - as if stopped in time as a result from the storm


Evangelines
Coffee House



A once bustling Burger King

Mickey Dee's on Pontchartrain Drive.

The Katrinaville Chronicles

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gulf Coast - 2 years later

A few weeks ago we travelled to Gulfport-Biloxi to check out their recovery from Katrina. We hadn't been there since July 2005 and heard about the devastation that the storm visited upon them. Here are some pictures to document their efforts.

(Click on pictures for full-sized versions)


Besides the casinos, not much else is open.









Inside the gutted Mississippi Sound Historical Museux are life jackets probably last used two years ago.


Outside the building sits the steeple to the Gulfport Presbytarian Church, waiting to be placed upon the rebuilt church.


Edgewater Mall made it thru the storm despite its proximity to the Gulf.


The S.S. Camille. In April I posted about the the fate of this old boat requiring it to be moved but it's still where Katrina left it.
Here's a link to the Camille in better days


Here's the Olive Garden we'd visit every time we came to the coast. All that's left is the sign.


Along the beaches in Waveland/Bay St. Louis are these signs


Bay St. Louis constructed this pier and ferry landing before the Bay Bridge reopened.

The Bay Bridge is still under construction, but it's open to traffic.


These new condos are on Hwy 90 at the foot of the Bay Bridge.

We stopped for a late lunch in Bay St. Louis.
If you ever get hungry while travelling thru Bay St. Louis, I recommend Rickey's Restaurant. The food is delicious and they portions are generous.

The last leg of our trip brought us thru picturesque Pass Christian, Mississippi, where there seems to be a lot going on.


The Blue Rose has been repaired and is for sale.


Another beautiful home restored.



I think this little building was once part of Bourdin Construction.

Here's a link to photos taken in Pass Christian on September 5, 2005.

A friend told me that it would take a good five years for things to be back to where they were before the storm. By the looks of things on the coast, she's right.

MeMaw is "inspiring"



SELF magazine honors Gov. Blanco as an "inspiring woman".


The article spotlights an array of women from all walks of life, from Oprah Winfrey to Sandra Bullock. Gov. Blanco shares a spot on the list with the nation's eight other female governors "for showing the country and the world that women are cut out to lead."

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. The following examples of her work leave me just the opposite of "inspired".


from NBC , some examples of the real "leader":
She and the mayor waited until Sunday [Aug. 28] , only 20 hours before Katrina came ashore, to order a mandatory evacuation, the first of what disaster experts and Louisiana insiders say were serious mistakes by the governor."

Blanco's lateness in getting the Louisiana National Guard, which she commands, on the streets to try to establish security.

The governor would not say whether she made the decision not to use these troops, and tells NBC News that her state's response to Katrina was, quote, 'very well-planned' and 'executed with great precision and effectiveness


uh, huh...

Road Home Program

 Bush told Blanco that he was ready to move with troops and relief immediately, but Blanco requested a delay of 24 hours

From Time magazine
When it mattered most, Blanco appeared "dazed and confused," says Bernie Pinsonat, a bipartisan political consultant in Baton Rouge, La. When NBC's Matt Lauer asked her whether it was hard to find words to reassure the public, she tried to muster optimism, then circled back to despair. "You know, our people out here are so fearful. They're so worried ... It's a nightmare."
Blanco waited seven weeks to appoint a recovery commission. She was slow to call the legislature back into session to deal with a nearly $1 billion decline in tax revenue. Her suggested cuts--to education and health care--came under fire last week as unrealistic. In 21 years in state politics, Blanco, a Democrat, was always cautious and deliberative. But those qualities have turned into liabilities.

SELF magazine seems geared towards vacuous young women, as shown by some of their choices for "inspiring" women.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SI article on NOLA

An article in S.I. by Alexander Wolff grabbed my attention. It isn't dissing NOLA as we usually expect. It's worth the read.

The last two lines

Sorry, USA Today. Love your multicolored weather map, but ever since I got back from New Orleans, it reminds me of mold.

Besides, it's the weather page of the Times-Picayune -- and the fate it foretells -- that America should care about most.

Thanks, Mr. Wolff

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dean

Local bloggers are talking about the storm heading for the Gulf named Dean


Swampwoman
gives her views on the available weather information services available. I agree with her on the sensationalist Weather Channel clowns.

Slate lets her loved ones know that they're staying put.

Ray has a link to a much different path for Hurricane Dean then others that I've seen.

From b.rox blog, a link to a blogger in Dominica expressing her fear of Dean

md filter is concerned on this Saturday morning about Dean slowing down

Suspect device mirrors my feelings about the whole world of our August weather.

Craig over at Metroblogging talks about the various forecast models and wonders if Harrah's should be taking bets on them.

Matt over at Blogging New Orleans provides a link to "a website that offers a constantly updated satellite stream of the Atlantic, and shows with great clarity the development of Dean from a cloud system off the coast of Africa to the bruiser it has become."

Nope, I don't like the fact that there's a storm coming towards the Gulf, but that's part of living here. I accept that threat as I accept the killer humidity that comes with August.

Our hurricane provisions are amassed and we've got the cat carriers for the five cats ready. I'll make a decision to make hotel reservations by Monday if Dean heads this way. But let's hope we can stay put and pray for whomever is destined to experience the wrath of nature.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pearlington - August 2007

Not quite two years post Katrina, Pearlington, Mississippi is beginning to feel the effects of recovery. Hard hit by the storm, this small town sat stunned by the storm for almost a year due to the fact that it is an unincorporated community. As such, there is no government to advocate for these citizens. Thanks to the thousands of volunteers, Pearlington is coming alive again.

Last week, my husband and I drove through parts of Pearlington to record her come back.
Click on pictures for full-sized versions


The Recovery Center is still open





Utility lines are being reworked and strengthened




New homes are being built



But there is still a lot of cleanup to be done.

A few miles south of Pearlington on Hwy 90 is the White Kitchen Preserve.


Named after a restaurant famous decades ago
this sign is all that's
left.


The preserve took a beating from the storm, but it retained some of its beauty as shown from this picture, taken from Hwy. 190.


A few miles down the road we spotted this Katrina-era sign which reflects the feelings felt by those that wanted to deter the scumbag looters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Still not OKAY

For the next few weeks I'll be posting pictures that depict where some of the Gulf South is coming up on Katrina plus two years. Because the city of New Orleans gets plenty of coverage via the New Orleans bloggers , I'll concentrate on lesser known areas.

Today I've got pictures taken on August 10, 2007 in the Venetian Isles and Lake Catherine areas just east of New Orleans. This may be a first of several posts of this area, as hubby and I are voracious photographers.
(click on pictures for full-sized versions)

We took LA434 into Lake Catherine to witness the status of the new Rigolets Bridge.


A lot wider than the current span, I look forward to its opening!

After nearly two years, the debris pickup in Lake Catherine is in full swing.


I've been seeing this boat along side Hwy 90 forever.





The construction activity in this area is on the upswing, too.



Other places sit silently, awaiting insurance settlements or new buyers.


This boat has caught our eye for some time now, so we decided to check it out


We saw the name "Mary W" in the rusted metal.

All of the properties surrounding this lonely boat look like this


What's left of the home of the Mary W's owners. Pretty sad, huh?


Further down Hwy 90, closer to Venetian Isles is the church where Father Ginart, better known as Father Red lost his life.


Over the Chef Pass Bridge is Ft. Macomb and the newly demolished boat launch.

Quite a difference from what we saw in March of this year.
The Lake Catherine Community Center still sits silently by the bridge.


They're FINALLY demolishing the firehouse in Venetian Isles, which looked like this for the longest time



So there's a little piece of the "progress" made in this area in two years Post K.
Contrary to popular belief, people down here are not sitting around whining with their hands out. They're living in FEMA trailers and working their fingers to the bone trying to find some sort of normalcy.