Louisiana’s frustrating Road Home program continues to give the shaft to people who’ve worked all their lives and owned their homes, to lose them in New Orleans’ flooding and during Katrina and Rita. They’re being treated as common criminals complete with mug shots and fingerprinting when all they want is to rebuild their homes.
And New Orleans’ depleted health care system has been dealt another blow from BushCo-supported disaster capitalism.
So these stories need to get national attention, because they’re about things that could strangle the comeback of a beautiful, historic city.
I understand per a cable news report I heard New Year’s Day that you have been completed renovating several homes for the poor in ….North Philadelphia. Which suggests to me that the need for affordable housing is a cause near and dear to your heart.
This is not to take away from the need there, but right now there’s another American city, struggling for her survival, where people are suffering, which needs your help….
After Katrina” is a haunting, evocative chronicle by Chris Rose, through his Times-Picayune columns, of his own life and that of a New Orleans not only struggling to recover but to survive. Not in chronological order but arranged by theme, the columns start with Sept. 1, 2005 and end with Dec. 31, 2006.
As he often speaks for a Louisiana in pain, Rose eloquently describes not only the surrealness of her post-Katrina landscape but also some intriguing, often eccentric characters he meets in his beloved city and his own descent into the private hell of depression–and that of those around him. “1 Dead In Attic” should be required reading for anyone who wants to know what life in New Orleans after what Rose often calls “the Thing” was, and still is, like from the inside.
Overcovered in a shameless play to the cheap seats for at least the past three days has been the fatal attack Christmas Day on 17-year-old Carlos Susa and two others who were injured by Tatiana, a Siberian tiger at the San Francisco zoo.
Not to discount Carlos’ family’s tragedy, just pointing out how this has gotten to be a real media circus with media whores coming out of the woodwork to use it as a way to get their Warholian 15 minutes of fame.
Heartbreaking is the story of Nataline Sarkysian, the 17-year-old for whom CIGNA denied payment for a liver transplant, then reversed its decision when it was too late. My intent here is not to focus on this, because it already has been well-diaried, but to bring up a stunning parallel between this human tragedy and what has been happening to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.
How selfish of me to be trying to drag the reader from some lovely spiked eggnog to the nitty gritty of the struggles of others.
My only rationalization is that Christmas is approaching. The whole damned story was about Mary and Joseph not being able to get a room when she was about to have her baby. I believe at the time they were traveling back to Joseph’s hometown for some registration or other. (What’s that cool French phrase that means, “the more things change …”? Cestdelamemchanceorsomethinglikethat.)
So with that admittedly self-serving rationalization, I continue with a story that has grown more and more interesting to me, the public housing issue in New Orleans.
From the indefatigable oyster at Your Right Hand Thief, a pertinent question of what the nature of this public housing will be:
Quoting the Times-Picayune:
Unbowed by days of caustic protests, the New Orleans City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the demolition of four sprawling public housing developments, launching a new era in the troubled history of a social safety net launched in the World War II era.
The unanimous decision, which put to rest some predictions of a racially split vote, handed a major victory to President Bush’s housing aides, who have pushed for mixed-income developments as a way to restore an original goal of public housing: to provide transitional housing to help people elevate themselves from poverty.
Oyster goes on to question this new meme being introduced by our politicians and our media, “transitional housing,” and questions if that was the original reason for why our country helped folks with their homes.
You can read the entire post and there are some comments which do some research (including a link from Yours Truly).
So let me see here.
Folks were evicted from their public housing after the federal flood, even though their homes were not all damaged. They were sent to far flung places in and out of the Gulf Coast region. They received some assistance from the feds and from the state, but some of that assistance is running out, some folks are being evicted from their FEMA trailers, there’s a big question about housing — heck, there’s also illegal demolitions going on of middle-class housing that have resulted in law suits, serious ones.
So there’s a big mix here, it would seem to me. Whether it’s public housing or illegal demolitions of private housing, a lot of tearing down and building up (and the attendant big money contracts for same) is going on. And it will affect the entire city, the rich and the poor, imo.
We’ve heard many promises from politicians, trumpeted in the traditional media both locally and nationally, that those poor folks, those wretched poverty stricken folks will be treated with great compassion and housed well all due to the bounty of our federal government and its great agencies HUD and FEMA! They are regular Santa Clauses! Yay!
But of course this housing is only transitional. And what does transitional mean, I wonder? ‘Course just having a home is not exactly a ticket to high class status here in the good old U S of A. I dunno, jobs might help, daycare centers, hospitals, schools, libraries, all the kinds of community services so many of us take for granted, that might also help with this so-called “transition.”
How long is a transition, I wonder? Well in this instance I guess a transition depends on the money — oh not the money someone on public assistance makes, oh no! It depends on the money the government is willing to spend for this noble goal of helping to transition folks out of that nasty awful poverty they’ve got themselves in.
So it could be that next year some of these noble heroes from HUD or FEMA or maybe even some local developer with a lot of power and a lot of greed, could decide that a miracle has taken place! Each and every one of those folks, even the ones in the diaspora who have not yet come home, well can you believe it! They have all successfully transitioned from poverty and we no longer even NEED public housing! Hosanna in the highest!
Transitional my ass.
Here’s what I would like to know. Who is getting the demolition contracts? How much will they be paid? Will the citizens of New Orleans get the information they are entitled to get from the City Council on exactly who is doing what in this large project? And I am not just talking about public housing here, but city planning generally. Will the citizens whose lives are going to be affected by these decisions be given the information they need to judge how well this job is being done, so that they can feel comfortable with the results?
That’s what I’m interested in when it comes to New Orleans. I’ll stick the “transitional” meme in my meme box with all the others, like “what part of illegal don’t you understand?” or “you are only allowed to have a television if you earn over $50,000 a year,” and “impeachment is impossible, we don’t have the votes.”
I believe the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus is about far more than housing. But it cannot be denied that they were in very “transitional” housing indeed on that night a birth took place in a manger. With wise men and extremely groovy gifts. A night of contrasts, I guess.
Many folks have read that there were riots and some violence and a bunch of rabble rousing and yelling and such at the New Orleans City Council meeting on public housing, heck, it’s the top story at AOL News.
And the NOLA blogs are covering this as well.
Yep, that’s the breaking story out of New Orleans. NOT!
Let’s take a look at what actually happened today, let’s … oh, I don’t know … BLOG about it. The fucking media and our fucking representatives sure as fuck aren’t going to educate us. Arrggh.
This is a national issue.
And it’s especially a national issue for any blogger who is against this misAdministration of criminals and thieves.
The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to go ahead with the demolitions of public housing.
Please remember these seven names (one of them has posted at Daily Kos):
(If Any NOLA bloggers find I’ve incorrectly named one of these Council members, please let me know in the comments and I’ll fix.)
These seven people now own the challenge of providing fair and well built public housing in New Orleans, for both the poor who were forced out after the Federal Flood and for the greater community who are their good neighbors. That is a big responsibility.
And these seven people are going to have to work with city, state, and federal agencies, including the Bush-ridden and incompetent HUD.
This is a national story. I will tell you right now we are not going to get the truth from either our traditional media or elected political representatives — unless we push them hard.
That’s what bloggers do, imo.
The story about the riots and the poor folks who are being tasered and tortured is a big fat distraction being thrown in our faces by a traditional media who doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground.
This is going to be a tremendously difficult story to cover, and it has major national implications for cities all across the country.
The hyenas are out, and they want their share of the meat. The only thing between those hyenas and our brothers and sisters in New Orleans will be folks who find out the truth and let others know about it.
I think bloggers, nationally, have a role to play in this. One of the many, many rewards of doing this investigative work will be that when the hyenas come to your city, you’ll be prepared to call them out for what they are.
For seven years we have not heard a peep from this misAdministration about the suffering of the poor, as millions more Americans have fallen into poverty. This latest story about protesters being treated badly by the cops is nothing but a distraction — for the poor have been treated like shit for seven years and no media has bothered to cover it.
The real story is the vote. And those seven people who now have the responsibility of letting American taxpayers know what’s happening with their money.
Yeah, this is what we do. We are citizen journalists. Our media has failed us — for every good reporter and story there is a tsunami of dangerously false information being fed to the American public, causing human suffering and great damage that every blogger here knows the extent of all too well.
It is in this light that I write about something which may not seem terribly important in the midst of all the big scandals and campaign goings on. But mark my words, this is important to us — as bloggers.
The NOLA blogs have been an invaluable source of real information for me since the Federal Flood destroyed America’s illusions on how much our federal government is willing to solve national problems. Instead we saw our federal government head straight for the cash register and give out billions of our tax dollars and overwhelming federal agency powers to corporate and political cronies.
When the Federal Flood occurred, thousands of residents of public housing were forcibly evacuated from their homes, even though the homes themselves were not overly damaged in many cases.
And they were not allowed to return.
Now HUD and politicians in New Orleans are planning on demolishing this public housing, before real guarantees can be had that folks can have a home to return to in the so-called “mixed housing” that is being proposed.
The community has not been given the chance to give real input here. Advocates for the poor, some of whom are truly humanitarian souls and others who are rabble rousers extraordinare, whose actions irritate as many as they inspire (for after all, poor folks rarely get slick lobbyists to represent them, that costs a bit, ya know), are trying to halt these demolitions. One of the best things I saw was a video where a man simply stated these folks had leases and their rent was paid. Think about that. Think about being shoved out of your apartment when you had held up your end of the bargain, and not being allowed to return. That’s just plain wrong.
And, of course, this has, unforgiveably, gone on over two long years.
Rather than write another diary on the second anniversary of Katrina, I thought I’d provide a set of resources for people who are interested in reading more, and from a diverse set of viewpoints. These are newspapers, political blogs, and personal stories, and together they help fill in the giant web of impact that Katrina had on this country, and the distance we’ve come since, and the distance we still need to go.
This week marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an anniversary we’d be wise to commemorate. If history is all about lessons learned, then the complete breakdown of local, state, and federal government – the complete inability of the world’s wealthiest nation to rescue its own citizens in a disaster that had been well anticipated – should provide us with the best possible classroom for future change.
Two years later, has anything substantial changed? Or are we back to where we started, with nothing but a wrecked coast and a few thousand displaced lives to show for it?