Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Orleans four years after Katrina

Last year, just before the third anniversary of Katrina, President Bush visited Jackson Barracks, where a 200 million dollar renovation was well under way in the Lower 9th Ward, and reaffirmed his promises: “Together, we are working to make sure that New Orleans comes back - even stronger, safer, and more vibrant than it was before the storm.” He acknowledged more work needed to be done with the tone of a cheerleader, not a world leader. Bush's first view of the devastation after the storm was from the windows of Air Force One. I wonder which neighborhoods he toured before giving his rah-rah speech. Did he see what I was seeing?
A year later as Katrina’s 4th anniversary approaches, a headline in the local paper, the Times Picayuane, reads, “Obama keeps close tabs on New Orleans recovery -- from a distance.” I wonder what these "close tabs" are. Can one know the situation without seeing it for oneself? Block after block of abandoned destroyed homes, a city with the nation's highest murder rate, and many other substantial problems with no plan in place to solve them.
This anniversary, Mayor Nagin's focus won't be remembering the dead. He has said it is time to move on from mourning. Nagin plans to highlight some of the progress made under his administration while his staff scrambles to protect themselves against lawsuits and Federal investigations. The Feds are looking into numerous acts of wrongdoing going up the ladder to Nagin himself.
The 4th anniversary of Katrina is a good time to ask why New Orleans recovery is so far from complete. Ivan Van Heerden, a former professor at LA State University, stated, “If we had the will and one month’s money we spend in Iraq, we could do all the levees and restore the coast.” Many neighborhoods have not recovered much at all, others are threatened by levees that still do not offer protection against a Category 4 storm. While 130,000 troops and countless private contractors remain on stand-by in Iraq in case Iraq proves unable to handle its own security, and while we expand the battlefield in Afghanistan, much of New Orleans resembles a war-torn Third World country.

I have been following the progress of Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right” housing project in the lower 9th Ward since 2007. Currently there are fifteen completed homes and another 150 to be built. I met one of the residents, Lloyd Griffin and interviewed him. Here is a link to a video interview of him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia19Wodq_sc
To see more images of a photo series on New Orleans right before the 4 years anniversary of Katrina check out this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliedermansky/sets/72157621951982065/

To New Orleans on Katrina’s Anniversary, may the healing process speed up.