Tag Archives: Baton Rouge

Hurricane Katrina – six years later

It was six years ago today that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast. I remember the dire warnings prior to Katrina. I remember the initial news reports suggesting the damage wasn’t as bad as we expected. Six years ago, I had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina. I was sitting in a rental house exchanging e-mails with some friends in a discussion group. This was a medical discussion group which was made up of people throughout the world. There are approximately 1000 people who participate in this discussion group. It was around midnight when someone suggested that the levees had broken. I looked everywhere. I looked at every single website that I could think of but couldn’t find any information about the levees. Even the New Orleans Times Picayune which, as I recall, had moved its headquarters from New Orleans and most of its staff writers were in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, had nothing about the levees breaking. I remember saying something like we need to stick to the facts and we shouldn’t speculate. The member of the discussion group was insistent that his information was correct. I remember having an extremely sick feeling in my stomach. Over the next several days, we saw a city, a region of the country, cry out for help. For five days there was no response.

Over the last six years I’ve written on Katrina many many times (herehere, here and here. This last one is an interview with James Perry who was running for mayor of New Orleans at the time.) I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this disaster. I’ve been to New Orleans twice in the last six years. New Orleans is a city that I truly love. New Orleans is a city that is completely different than any other city in the South. It’s not like Atlanta or Miami or even nearby Houston. The only city in the United States, in my opinion, that comes close to the feeling of pre-Katrina New Orleans would be San Francisco. There was something wonderful about New Orleans. It wasn’t simply a great mecca for music. It wasn’t simply one of the best places in the United States to eat. It wasn’t the unique architecture of the French quarter or even the garden district. It wasn’t brunch at Commander’s Palace or the fabulous art shops where we can buy original paintings from national and internationally known artists at prices the 10th of which you’d find in New York or Chicago. It wasn’t the abject poverty or the wealth of the financial district. It was all of this and more which made New Orleans a great city.

The tragedy of Katrina is that it exposed a dysfunctional political system. New Orleans politics has been famously dysfunctional for decades. Louisiana politics is almost laughable. It was nearly impossible to get anything done in Louisiana unless you “knew somebody.” Then, on top of this dysfunctional system you had the Bush administration. You had an administration that actually hated government. You add all of this together and tens of thousands of people suffered needlessly. My conclusion after reading tons of information on Hurricane Katrina is simply that we need to treat each other better.

I found this article in the New Orleans Times Picayune:

In April 2010, four and a half years into recovery, the Census Bureau found that Katrina cost New Orleans 29 percent of its population; Jefferson, 5 percent; St. Bernard, 47 percent; Plaquemines, 14 percent.

Some of those people settled nearby. St. Tammany’s population grew 22 percent; St. Charles Parish grew 10 percent; St. John the Baptist grew 7 percent.

But census takers counted a net loss of nearly 150,000 people who were driven out of a metropolitan area of what was once 1.3 million.

Allison Plyer of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a co-author with Elaine Ortiz of “The New Orleans Index at Six,” an annual recovery analysis, said the region has showed unusual resilience in facing not only Katrina, but the 2008 recession and last year’s BP oil spill. (more…)

Update: Melissa Harris-Perry does a great job at summing up the lessons of Katrina.

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Cutting to create a crisis

Gov Bobby Jindal

Some budget crisis are truly unpredictable. Something unforeseeable happens and suddenly there’s not enough money to go around. Let’s be clear, this is not what we’re seeing now. Republicans across the country have been cutting budgets, cutting taxes giving tax rebates for the last 20 years. Yet, for the most part, they have not cut spending. Sure, there’s been some window dressing a little cut here a little cut their but as a whole spending has remained basically flat. It is true that all states have suffered a reducing revenues secondary to the economic downturn. Economic downturns are predictable and should be planned for. Yet, Republicans have taken this opportunity to give away more of the taxpayers money and then asked the middle class and lower class to tighten their belts.

Yesterday, I received one of the best comments I’ve read in a long time from LucyGirl576. She is clearly from Louisiana and has been  following Governor Bobby Jindal’s budget ax for quite some time. Here’s her comment:

Since Jindal took office,he has cut taxes aleast six times, including the largest income tax cut in the history of Louisiana – a cut of $1.1 billion over five years, along with helping to speed up the elimination of the tax on business investments.

In 2008, Jindal vetoed $16 million dollars in earmarks from the state budget and then declined to veto $30 million in legislator-added spending. He vetoed over 250 earmarks in the budget, which was twice the number of such vetoes by previous governors in the preceding twelve years.

In March 2009, Gov. Bobby Jindal said he plans to back $8 million dollars in tax breaks during that year even though our state government’s financial outlook was dismal financial. The tax relief was to benefit the entertainment industry and general businesses. I guess he thought they needed the help more than the people.

Our state cannot run on tax cuts. Everything in the U.S. has gone up and taxes in Louisiana have gone down, not for the middle class but for those making more than the average person in our state. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture? Less tax, by Jindal, has hurt our state and brought us to where we are today.

Now, Jindal wants to increase college tuition making it even more difficult for our young people to go to college. He wants to cut jobs and health services in the Department of Health and Hospitals, and he want to sell and privatize our prisons to fix the budget after he helped to cause this problem.

Selling and privatizing the prisons will not fix Medicaid or save our health services. We need to change our laws to decrease sentences, finding other ways to help people on drugs and that drive under the influence. Even helping to make our state agencies (the prisons included) go green to save energy can help us. There are other ways to take care of our budget without adding to the unemployment and food card line by cutting jobs in the Department of Health and Hospitals and Department of Corrections.

According to CREW, a group that keeps watch on responsible and ethic reports that Jindal made the top ten Worst Governors List for the following reasons:
• Prevented the public release of government records and has fought legislation to make
government more transparent
• Weakened the authority of the state ethics board
• Refused to accept federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance and to fund
other important programs
• Rewarded campaign donors with government jobs and contracts
• Has been fined for ethics violations

He is fourth on the list according to CREW:
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS)
Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-RI)
Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV)
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
Gov. David Paterson (D-NY)
Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA)
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA)

You can read their full report here.

The cuts Jindal has been making and proposed to make by helping to make corporations rich off of crime will not help the citizens of the great state of Louisiana.
Join us on April 7th in Baton Rouge at the Capital to oppose Jindals budget cuts. You can make a difference in Louisiana’s future.