Included below is the message I sent out through the Tulane Alumni listserv.
Everyone - I wanted to share with you a message that has been broadcast by one of our alums here in DC. As you will read below Jon is not only passionate about what is going on in New Orleans, but he also has clear steps and things for those of us who no longer live in the city to do that can help the continued recovery.
Now that there is a new Congess in session, the opportunity and the challenge to keep the recovery in focus needs to be renewed. I hope you read his message and as appropriate share it with the alums (and honestly non-alums as well) as appropriate.
People who care about New Orleans' future,
It's 2007 – a full year and change since The Hurricane came and changed all of our lives forever. And if we have learned anything in the past months of intense scrutiny, by national media, book authors, rappers, politicians and talk show hosts, it is that this was an entirely preventable tragedy, and that so many things have gone wrong, both before and after Katrina, to make situations in the greatest city in the world even worse.
Now New Orleans is in the news less often, although when it is, it is for stories like these, about the recent flooding -
Front-Page: LA Times, Times-Pic
Off-front: USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/weather/stormcenter/2006-12-21-nola-weather_x.htm
Now it's obvious to those of you who lived in the city that this kind of flooding is pretty standard, it's something we lived with when we lived there (Pokey and Sal - I remember specifically when the water flooded up to the top step at 2800 Calhoun St. in summer 2003). The question is, should we be ok with that after what happened?
There are pumps that can be built - in the Dutch style - that could and would prevent all of this completely, and that wouldn't be that expensive. Flood gates at the ends of the canals would greatly increase New Orleans' chances of surviving into the future. Abandoning the eastern fishing channel should have been done years ago – but still isn't being done (see link at bottom of page).
But they're not getting built and furthermore, the pumping pipes haven't even been properly emptied-out. What kind of a world are we letting ourselves live in? I don't care how dysfunctional our political patronage system is or how complicated a recovery process it might be - that's not right. And it's been hurricane season for awhile now.
And the Army Corps of Engineers had their budget cut again. There's little they can do in a cash-strapped city other than throw down deeper steel sheet pilings and hope for the best.
This was from the latest flooding incident – minor by even years' past standards:
"Joe Sullivan, general superintendent for the board, said the outage temporarily reduced the station's pumping capacity from 9,600 cubic feet per second to 8,600, but he said he was vacationing out-of-state and did not know how long the outage lasted."
(asleep at the wheel)
Clearview was shut down, and silt sits at the bottom of much of the pumping pipes still.
"On Palmer Avenue in Uptown, a foot or two of water stretching from Calhoun Street to Broadway flooded many cars, along with a few apartments and temporary storage pods, where some residents had stored their belongings salvaged from Katrina."
Now I don't care if you're long gone from the city, these waters are lapping even at the mighty Tulane's feet. People want to be led and want to rebuild the city smarter and better – but the current leadership has failed. I'm sorry, politics aside, but there has been a clear lack of political foresight or will to change for the better – to avoid the arguing and bickering and political consequences and just do the right things to rebuild the city. I've read four books about what happened in Katrina and it becomes more clear every day to me that we can't trust the city government to act decisively about anything, and so we have to put it into the Governor's and Senators' hands and force them to listen – not through expensive pork-barrel projects that will throw money at New Orleans and the state, but by sensible help for our city. New Orleans is still disintegrating! Look at this report that came out today in the New York Times – there have been EIGHT deaths, seven shooting deaths, since New Years' Eve in New Orleans – a city with half the population it had before The Hurricane.
"Ms. Hill, 36, well known in the local film community and the recipient of several awards, was killed; Dr. Gailiunas, who specialized in treating the city's poor, survived his wounds. The police found him kneeling by the front door, bleeding and holding the couple's 2-year-old son in his arms. His wife lay nearby, shot in the neck. The child was not hurt."
The whole article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/06/us/06orleans.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
So while the city government wrings its hands, and the city repopulates sporadically, people moving into destroyed neighborhoods are not only faced with rising crime, horrid health conditions, and spotty police protection, but now the city says they may not be able to effectively restore service to the areas – like the lower ninth – that Nagin promised people they could rebuild in at their leisure. By holding out, he doomed them to a tortured existence over the coming months, until ultimately they will be forced to uproot again.
So my question to you all is, even if you don't have a connection to New Orleans, is what are you going to do about it, or what can we do about it?
It seems clear that the largesse and oversight haven't stopped, and that the city's rebuilding isn't being handled well at all, but rather in a haphazard kind of way. It seems too, that the federal government's financial commitment is slim at best – they killed the Baker bill, and are acting as obstructionists on most major plans to commit significant funds to rebuild the levees. It's not a function of partisan politics, necessarily – there is as good a chance that those on either side of the aisle just want this to go away. Nothing has happened to significantly change the city for years, after all.
And the moral corruption of the city government isn't helping much either. We need long-term planning, or we will abandon more people like the Gailiunas-Hills to the monster our city is becoming. Money isn't enough.
I'd urge everybody to keep thinking about this, keep donating and keep trying to force their senators or congressmen to not only pay attention and lip service to this issue, but to read about it, think about it and suggest to them, in letters and e-mails and phone calls, exactly what they can do – increasing the budget for the ACE, giving the state government and local governments a hand, forming a good-governance task force to oversee the "post-Katrina" years in New Orleans or a congressional subcommittee or study group focused on the city's rebuilding.
You can help in a number of ways. Please don't let largesse or hopelessness prevent you from doing your part to help the city move forward.
Call or contact your Senators – not just Louisiana Senators, but your home-state Senators and Congressional Representatives. Be sure to be eloquent in your explanation that more needs to be done, not just with money but with manpower, hours of congressional attention, and effectiveness of programs.
Landrieu, Mary L. - (D - LA)
724 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
Web Form: landrieu.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
Vitter, David- (R - LA)
516 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
Web Form: vitter.senate.gov/?module=webformIQV1
Write the occasional letter to the editor for your local paper, blog or magazine. If you're a writer, compose an editorial and submit it; and don't forget to read as much as you can about Katrina – I'd suggest a few books –
Breach of Faith, by Jed Horne;
The Great Deluge, By Douglas Brinkley;
Why New Orleans Matters, by Tom Piazza; (This one is really short for those of you who are pressed for time)
Two dead in the attic, by Chris Rose;
Come Hell or High Water, by Michael Dyson.
I'd recommend Jed Thorne's book "Breach of Faith" as a good comprehensive look at what happened during Katrina. Paired with Brinkley's book (which is a bit biased and harsh on Nagin, whether or not he deserved it), it should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the anatomy of last year's disaster - both the human, mechanical and bureaucratic failures.
Here's a good blog you can add to your blogring, too:
Bring it up at parties. Follow the news religiously. Read the Times-Picayune. Only support programs you know are having a positive impact on the city. And get involved in future elections. It's the only way we can keep this from happening again and save the city. It's been four hundred and ninety five days since Katrina. Let's get on this.
Keep attention (especially yours) on the city, everyone. It's never been more crucial.
-- -Jonathan Stroud504firstname.lastname@example.org 613 10th Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
They STILL haven't closed down that debunked fishing channel that contributed to much of the lower 9th's levee overtopping and breaches (at least that's what Thorne and the experts said). Check out a wapo article today talking about it.
Click here for 2007 Mardi Gras party tickets.
Andy Hyson 703.732.0213 (c)
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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Included below is the message I sent out through the Tulane Alumni listserv.