They gave New Orleans city officials an affordable plan to evacuate 30,000 low-income, elderly and homeless people, said New Orleans attorney Val Exnicios.
But city officials failed to put it in play come crunch time, he claims.
Exnicios blames city officials for botching an evacuation plan in place as needy evacuees disappeared during Hurricane Katrina.
"I can tell you unequivocally I watched Mayor (C. Ray) Nagin lie on CNN when he said there was never a plan to evacuate these people," Exnicios said. "For whatever reason no one pulled the trigger and instituted the emergency evacuation plan we came up with."
The proposed emergency evacuation plan put together by a coalition of private citizens and public officials called for trains and buses to transport about 30,000 evacuees out of the city.
Amtrak agreed to provide passenger cars free while the Regional Transit Authority agreed to supply buses, said Rusty Wirth, director of the New Orleans Mission.
"We gave the plan to the city and they said it's a really good idea and then they sat there and twiddled their thumbs and never took the steps to put it in motion," Wirth said. "The Friday before the hurricane we had a meeting with the Red Cross and held training sessions for evacuation with the trains but it never got that far along."
...Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Exnicios and Zainey met with [Joseph Matthews, New Orleans chief of the Office of Emergency Preparedness], who assured them buses would be provided to evacuate the homeless from New Orleans.
"We sat across the table from him and Matthews said, 'Don't worry about it. It's done. I guarantee you we'll have buses and or trains available.' We both left happy," said Exnicios. "It was a tragic comedy as it turns out..."
The WaPo article "New Orleans Mayor Faces Tough Questions" has a few questions for Nagin, but it doesn't appear to have asked him or his associates to answer them. Perhaps they're just trying to give him a heads up. The WaPo does, however, show that they're "down":
Until Nagin spoke out, Yancy Brown, a native of the Big Easy, had little respect for the mayor, whom he considered too corporate and too disconnected from the black community. "He wasn't acting like a brother," said Brown, 60, a former member of the Black Panther organization. But after Nagin defiantly told the feds -- and indirectly President Bush -- to get off their "asses" and do some work, Brown became a fan.
Here are some of the questions the WaPo mentions, but doesn't say whether they asked:
Should there have been a better plan to evacuate those without cars? Was his police force up to the task? Why weren't there supplies for the legions of people directed to the Superdome? Why were all those city buses left in low-lying areas? Why did so many of his officers leave their posts as the city descended into a chaos that left many residents afraid that either thugs or the elements would kill them?
His officials said they did everything they could. Joseph R. Matthews, the city's director of emergency operations, said the city went on alert the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 26, even though a full evacuation was not ordered until Sunday. It became clear then that New Orleans would not be spared at least some of Katrina's wrath when the storm came ashore on Monday. The Superdome was opened as a shelter of last resort, though it was quickly overwhelmed and those who sought refuge there did not have food and water.
"Nothing prepared us for this," he said. "It was just too much."
And, as far as being an opponent of the Bush apparatus is concerned:
...But [Robert Hogan, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University] said it would be unwise for [Aaron Broussard, St. Bernard Parish officials, and "especially Nagin"] to keep the fight going.
"The Bush administration has the upper hand because they have the apparatus in place to come up with fingers to point," he said. "They have surrogates. They have a huge network that can help them through talk radio and national radio. They have talking points. State and local governments in Louisiana aren't in the propaganda mode. They don't have the ability to fight back. They are in the rescue and rebuilding mode."