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Rep. Gary Smith's father, uncle get $108 million FEMA contract

Rep. Gary Smith's family owns a motorcycle shop near New Orleans, and they've received a contract for 6,400 housing trailers. The three contracts were no-bid and they're worth $108 million. And, the shop didn't get the license required to sell new trailers until after the first contract had been inked:

...Smith's uncle, Glen Smith, said he was able to secure the contracts because he has worked with the federal government for nearly four decades during disasters, removing debris, dredging rivers and providing mobile housing following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
...Recreational vehicle dealers in Louisiana are angry, saying they've been shut out of what they call a sweetheart deal. One is threatening to sue the motorcycle shop's owners for violating the dealer's franchise rights to sell RVs.
...Louisiana lawmakers, meeting in special session, are debating a bill that could require state officials to inform the state ethics board when they or their family members profit from federal disaster-related contracts. An alternative version would limit reporting to just officials and their spouses...

Victims file class action suit against FEMA

More than a dozen Hurricane Katrina victims from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama filed a lawsuit Thursday [11/10] accusing the federal government of wrongfully denying them temporary housing assistance.
Attorneys said this is probably the first of a string of suits to be filed against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies...
The lawsuit, which asks for class-action status, seeks to make FEMA immediately provide trailers or other housing alternatives, especially to those still in shelters, and asks that victims with larger families receive more money...

Source. The San Antonio angle here.

"President Bush, Mayor Nagin Meet To Discuss Rebuilding Efforts"

From this:

Mayor Ray Nagin was back in the nation's capital Thursday. This time he met with President George W. Bush about the lack of temporary housing in the Crescent City.
Nagin also discussed concerns over the levee protection system, who will pay for its reconstruction and how to create incentives to bring residents and businesses back to the city.
The mayor later said the nation can't afford to let the New Orleans metro area continue to suffer.
During the meeting, President Bush reassured Louisiana officials that the federal government will not forget its duty to help rebuild New Orleans from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Nagin told reporters that he is pleased by the level of federal support, but he's beginning to see some "Katrina fatigue" on Capitol Hill.

Medea Benjamin: "Katrina Survivors are Losing the Battle to Return Home"

Oft-arrested far-left activist, co-founder of CodePink and Global Exchange, and Cuban tourist Susan "Medea" Benjamin offers this:

Two months after Katrina, the residents of New Orleans most traumatized by the hurricane and its aftermath are now traumatized by their battle to return home. And many of the city's poor, black "Katrina survivors" are losing this second battle...
[...poster children...]
Similar fates are befalling residents of the city's 38,000 public housing units: they are coming home to find their apartments boarded up, even though the concrete block apartments -- ugly as they might be -- were among the best in withstanding the hurricane. Housing advocates say it is part of a long-term desire to cleanse the city of its public housing, recalling the crass comments of Representative Richard Baker, R-L.A.: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was a city of 485,000 people, 65% of whom were black. Today, officials estimate that during the day there are some 125,000 people, falling to 70,000 at nighttime when many leave to find shelter outside the city. Mayor Nagin predicted that New Orleans would lose about half its pre-Katrina population. And with government policies and market forces stacked against the poor, the "new" New Orleans is becoming whiter and whiter...
The "whitification" of New Orleans, however, is not inevitable. There are many solutions: demanding a massive program for affordable housing, halting evictions and price gouging for rental properties, making it possible for evacuees who are scattered around the country to move to temporary shelters (trailers, vacant apartments, tents) back home, giving job priority to local residents, reopening public schools, providing support systems to those returning, demanding that the poor be represented in the rebuilding decisions...
...At the grassroots level, there are remarkable community activists like Malik Rahim, who has turned his home on the dry west bank of Algiers into the Common Ground Collective... During Thanksgiving week, Nov. 22-29, Common Ground is calling for a mass convergence on New Orleans help clean up the Ninth Ward (see commongroundrelief.org)...
Community Labor United is also setting up communication/relief centers...
ACORN, temporarily based in Baton Rouge, is fighting home demolitions and reconnecting with its New Orleans base...
...A massive movement of solidarity is the only force that will rescue the people of New Orleans this time around.

Sure, Medea, you wait right over there. The 98% of Americans who aren't very far-left useful idiots will join you in solidarity soon. (Non-sarcastically: the mainstream interest in doing the right thing by NO's population isn't helped by the efforts of people like her. Please, visit Cuba and just stay there.)
UPDATE: "Jean" noticed that Medea or someone else had made a mistake, leaving out the first "l" in the phrase "reopening public schools" in the quote above. I corrected it.

Ninth Ward Evictions: "Why are They Making New Orleans a Ghost Town?"

Bill Quigley, who "teaches at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law", offers this:

Fully armed National Guard troops refuse to allow over ten thousand people to even physically visit their property in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. Despite the fact that people cannot come back, tens of thousands of people face eviction from their homes. A local judge told me that their court expects to process a thousand evictions a day for weeks...
Renters still in shelters or temporary homes across the country will never see the court notice taped to the door of their home. Because they will not show up for the eviction hearing that they do not know about, their possessions will be tossed out in the street. In the street their possessions will sit alongside an estimated 3 million truck loads of downed trees, piles of mud, fiberglass insulation, crushed sheetrock, abandoned cars, spoiled mattresses, wet rugs, and horrifyingly smelly refrigerators full of food from August.
There are also New Orleans renters facing evictions from landlords who want to renovate and charge higher rents to the out of town workers who populate the city. Some renters have offered to pay their rent and are still being evicted. Others question why they should have to pay rent for September when they were not allowed to return to New Orleans...
[Dr. Arjun Sengupta's UN visit]
...The longer the poor and working class of New Orleans stay away, the more likely it will be that they never return. That, some say, is exactly what those in power in New Orleans and Louisiana and the US must want. Otherwise, why are they making New Orleans a ghost town?

See also Bush making conspiracy theories come true. This latest corrupt move from one of the most corrupt administrations ever is something that's going to haunt the GOP for decades.

"New Orleans evictions skyrocketing"

From the NYT:

All over New Orleans, from brick apartment complexes in the east to crumbling stucco low-rises in the center, constables have been busy tacking eviction notices to often-empty apartments.
Landlords, many of them starved for rent and fearing foreclosure, have been trying to evict tenants who escaped New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And that has pitted them against jobless and cash-poor tenants in a fierce race for survival that began playing out Thursday in the city's only functional civil courthouse.
Many tenants cannot pay rent or cannot get home - no small matter in a city where low-income renters are in the majority. And with as much as a fifth of the rental stock destroyed, demand is high and surviving apartment complexes have waiting lists. That creates a dangling temptation for landlords who think they might make more money.
After a moratorium on evictions imposed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco expired 10 days ago, the landlords in the city filed nearly 700 post-Katrina eviction notices. In some cases, they logged as many notices in a single day as court clerks usually see in a whole month.
...The laggard mail and New Orleans' chronically dysfunctional public housing authority - a big source of rent for private landlords here through subsidized Section 8 vouchers - were oft-cited culprits on Thursday, but that was of little help to tenants.

TX Gov. Perry: FEMA housing policy failing evacuees

From Hurricane Evacuees Face Eviction Threats at Both Their Old Homes and New:

Warned by angry Texas officials that thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees could soon face eviction from their new homes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is negotiating with officials in Dallas to set up a federally financed housing-voucher program, municipal officials said Thursday.
Gov. Rick Perry wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Tuesday telling him that FEMA, part of the Homeland Security Department, continued to fail to address the evacuees' needs.
"Tens of thousands of Katrina evacuees will soon be evicted with no place to go, because of poor planning for long-term housing," Mr. Perry wrote. "Our communities cannot be expected to support such a large evacuee population on a long-term basis without substantial federal aid."
Under the proposal, Washington would reimburse the Dallas Housing Authority for the cost of placing evacuees, including those in hotels, into apartments, similar to a program in place in Houston, as well as in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee...

However, housing advocates couldn't point to examples of mass evictions. Despite the title, there's nothing in there about NO evictions.

"Ministers displeased with lack of plan to bring N.O. residents back"

From this:

Louisiana religious leaders criticized Congress and the Bush administration Wednesday for failing to develop a coordinated plan to allow New Orleans residents to return home and reclaim their city.
Nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of its residents, the ministers said the federal government still has not provided a commitment to enhance the city's hurricane defenses to a level that residents would feel safe returning.
"The response of government has been deplorable," said the Rev. Michael Jacques, pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in New Orleans. "Shame on you for sitting in your beautiful homes and in your offices while your citizens in the United States are treated like refugees."
Congress moved quickly after Katrina to provide $62 billion in emergency relief to the Gulf Coast states. But subsequent proposals to hurricane proof Louisiana's coast and rebuild and revitalize the city have stalled while lawmakers battle over budget cuts to pay for the recovery.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the unprecedented nature of the destruction caused by Katrina has made it difficult for lawmakers and administration officials to understand how much the state really needs to recover.
The ministers from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where tens of thousands of displaced New Orleans residents are still taking shelter, said they planned to press lawmakers and administration officials for assurances that displaced families and Louisiana residents will be given first priority for jobs funded by federal recovery funds.
They said they also are seeking housing and community development funds, particularly for families who lost their homes in the flood and did not have insurance because federal officials had told them the levees in New Orleans would protect them.

The comments at the end of this apply here as well.

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Eased out of the Big Easy

From 10/4's Eased out of the Big Easy from Jesse Jackson:

After his administration's incompetence and indifference had lethal consequences in Katrina's wake, President Bush has been scrambling to regain his footing. He's called for an "unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis." In religious services at the National Cathedral, he called on America to "erase this legacy of racism" exposed by those abandoned in Katrina's wake. He's called on Congress to appropriate more than $60 billion in emergency relief and outlined a recovery program likely to cost up to $200 billion, or nearly as much as the Iraq War.
All this has led the press to compare his plans to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Don't fall for it. A close look at the Bush plan reveals that this is a bad deal from a deck stacked against the poor who suffered the most in Katrina's wake.
[Davis-Bacon suspension, Alphonso Jackson of HUD's remarks,]
...The people of the 9th Ward are the maids and waiters who serve New Orleans tourists. They are the musicians who give the city its blues. They are the cops and government clerks who are struggling to bring the city back. Half of the houses there are owned, not rentals. Many of these workers are dispersed -- dispatched to over 40 states. Many still are in shelters.
No one could figure out why the Bush administration wouldn't give the evacuees housing vouchers to rent housing in and around New Orleans. Instead, FEMA has ordered tens of thousands of trailers and is struggling to build trailer parks -- Bushvilles -- to shelve Katrina's victims...

They are distributing vouchers; please enter facts and figures on that in the comments.

Now we know. Bush's isn't planning urban renewal, he's planning urban removal. The administration has given the victims of Katrina a one-way ticket out with no plan for their return. Instead, the planners will turn New Orleans into a gentrified theme park. They'll rebuild the white communities -- even those like middle-class Gentilly and wealthy Lakeview that are as prone to severe flooding as the 9th Ward.
Congress should insist that Katrina's victims have a right to return -- and FEMA should develop a plan to make their return possible. They should have preference for the jobs that will be created in rebuilding the city. They should be provided vouchers to use for nearby housing. If necessary, local military bases should be opened, with public transportation to get them to and from work. They should be paid the prevailing wage, with decent health-care benefits. The people of the 9th Ward should decide the fate of their homes, not urban planners intent on building a New Orleans without its black people. If their neighborhoods are not rebuilt, then affordable and public housing should be built in other parts of New Orleans...

Public housing? This would be a wonderful opportunity for an American president to try to lift NO's poor out of their previous poverty cycle, while at the same time allowing them to return to their city. That's going to require money, intelligent thinking, and a pro-American president. The first we have, but the last two are lacking.

Evictions to begin in New Orleans

In New Orleans, landlords to begin evicting absent tenants

A flood of legal battles is set to be unleashed Tuesday [today] in New Orleans when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco lifts a post-Hurricane Katrina ban on evictions and 8,000 to 10,000 absentee tenants face the losses of their homes and possessions.
Landlords are expected to begin filing eviction requests with the courts immediately. If they're successful, they can clear out abandoned apartments and move tons of molding, waterlogged belongings to the streets within five to 10 days. In some cases, the landlords alone can make the decision to evict.
Attorneys and volunteers who represent low-income Louisiana residents are expected to gather Tuesday in Lafayette for briefings on eviction law and to rally in defense of a possible cascade of tenant grievances.

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