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.
...Of the 160,000 buildings in Louisiana declared "uninhabitable" after Katrina, a majority are in the New Orleans neighborhoods that suffered extensive flooding. Mayor C. Ray Nagin, an African American who worked in the private sector before entering politics, has spelled out plans to reopen every section of the city -- except the Lower Ninth. His director of homeland security, Col. Terry Ebbert, said in an interview that most homes in the Lower Ninth "will not be able to be restored." Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson told the Houston Chronicle he has advised Nagin that "it would be a mistake to rebuild the Ninth Ward."
The mayor himself has spoken ominously about the need for residents to come in, "take a peek," retrieve a few valuables and move on. Historic preservation advocates fear that the city will capitalize on a program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that pays to tear down damaged buildings but not to repair historic private properties.
"There is a built-in incentive to demolish," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The first instinct after natural disasters is almost always to demolish buildings. It is almost always wrong."
New Orleans, with 20 districts on the National Register of Historic Places covering half the city, has the highest concentration of historic structures in the nation, Moe said. That includes the Lower Ninth's Holy Cross section, with its shotgun houses and gems such as the Jackson Barracks, the Doullut Steamboat Houses and St. Maurice Church...
Yet even some liberal activists, people who have worked to buoy the fortunes of the Lower Ninth, are beginning to talk favorably about clearing it away -- if residents are well compensated and given suitable housing elsewhere.