Sunday, August 27, 2006

How About a Rising Tide NOLA Blog?

EDIT: Loki informs there is one. And there you have it. Now you don't have to read this post.

The Rising Tide Conference was excellent. The blogging community and the blog-reading community coming together was a great idea. I learned just as much from the people sitting at my table as the people sitting on the panels.

One topic that came up during the media panel was a how to promote local blogs in the face of carpetblogging. Carpetblogging should be defined as more than just “outsiders” blogging about a community. When we step out of our areas of expertise to comment on something that we feel is important, we all become outsiders to some degree. For example, I write about levees but I am no engineer. That doesn’t mean that my opinion should be instantly written off.

I think of carpetblogging as blogging from an outside perspective that shuts out local voices or hijacks the vehicles for local voices to be heard.

If outsiders enter a community and do not claim to replace the local voices – essentially working on a parallel path as the local voices – this should be encouraged. Bullets aimed in the same direction hit the same target.

That doesn’t mean we all have to agree. That’s not what I am saying. The local voices need to be challenged just as any viewpoint must be challenged. The target we are all aiming for is the truth. I am not necessarily any closer to the truth just because I live here. I am only as close to the truth as my arguments are supported by reality.

When outsiders with larger readership enter a community, it is possible for them to hijack the discussion not because it is their intention, but because their readership is greater. If this happened, it would be without malice, but it would be carpetblogging nonetheless. It is possible for someone not “from here” to enter the community without smothering the local voices and moving down that parallel path, scout_prime being the obvious example of this.

So, as the organizers of the Rising Tide Conference came together, why not come together in a Rising Tide NOLA Blog?

Of course, it all depends on your goals. A group blog would swallow up the individual blogger’s voice. He or she would be seen within the framework of the greater blog and would have to work inside that framework. The blogger’s credibility would be tied to the group blog’s credibility, and each individual would have to cooperate to protect and foster the blog’s credibility.

But, if your goal is more readership, especially from outside the community, a group blog would probably accomplish that. A locally formed group blog would also safeguard the local voices and create a brand to market those local voices.

However, if your goal is more local readership and more local participation, the way it is now is probably preferable to the One True Group Blog. Adding up the readers of all the individual blogs could be seen as community readership. And, as ThinkNOLA is proving, greater participation on the individual level empowers a community.

I am certainly no expert in blogging. In that sense, I am an outsider in this conversation. But I know I would check in everyday if there were a Rising Tide NOLA Blog.

Especially if it linked to me. (Ha ha.)

When One Word Says It All

Hosting "Ask the White House," Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell tells us how prepared the feds are for another hurricane:
The Federal government's ability to respond this hurricane season can be summed up in a single word: better.
Now I feel safe.

It’s All in the Delivery

Mayor Nagin:
You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair.
Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell:
Katrina, followed by Rita one month later, were two of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded in the nation’s history. The storms had a massive physical impact on the land, affecting 90,000 square miles – an area the size of Great Britain. Over 80 percent of the city of New Orleans flooded – an area seven times the size of Manhattan. More than 1.5 million people were directly affected and more than 800,000 citizens were forced to live outside of their homes – the largest displacement of people since the great Dust Bowl migrations of the 1930s.


It's hard for some people to imagine the amount of debris that these storms caused. For some perspective: there was more debris in the three counties in Mississippi that Katrina hit alone (Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson) than all of Hurricane Andrew and the World Trade Center combined -- and that took years to clean up. Again, that's just in Mississippi. 100% of the dry debris in Mississippi has been cleaned up and 75% of the debris in Louisiana is gone. That's remarkable progress and it means the true long-term rebuilding can commence.
Nagin was not “taking a swipe” at NYC, as some headlines are saying. He was trying to make a valid point and provide perspective, as Don Powell did (more successfully, and certainly with less controversy) in the above quotes.

Unfortunately – and it seems to happen a lot – what Nagin was trying to say got lost in what he actually said. The media should know by now that Mayor Nagin is not a reliable spokesperson for the city of New Orleans. If they are not willing to translate Nagin-speak into English, then they should not interview the Mayor. Or, as was suggested at the Rising Tide Conference, they should hire a translator.

The cynic in me says that CBS and 60 Minutes knew what the Mayor was trying to say. They have Nagin-speak translators on staff. They are just manufacturing a controversy to increase viewership of their Katrina Anniversary coverage. For example, they didn’t play the report with Nagin’s remarks. They played the snippet, without the context of the entire report, and then said to get the whole story you had to tune in Sunday evening.

In the meantime, other media outlets are treating this like the Chocolate City comment, probably trying to hype their Katrina Anniversary coverage as well. And, while the media has asked Nagin the question many times, the media has never asked itself if what they are doing is hurting the rebuilding effort.

Focus, media.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Out the Door and into the Hands

President Bush on Monday:
First things -- the first thing that's necessary to help the recovery is money. And our government has committed over $110 billion to help.
He added that the money is “out the door.”

Federal Coordinator for the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding Don Powell on Tuesday:
The $110 billion, I believe -- correct me -- there's been something like $44 billion that has been into the hands. I would hesitate to follow up on that -- I would not hesitate, I would remind you that 75 percent of the money that has been appropriated is at the direction of the state and local people.
So, $110 billion is “out the door,” but only $44 billion is “into the hands.” That’s less than half of the number Bush is touting.

Chairman Powell elaborates:
Q Just to understand, you said just a minute ago, $44 billion has been spent.

CHAIRMAN POWELL: I think that's correct, $44 billion.

Q Out of the $110 billion?


Q And then 75 percent of the $110 billion is at the direction of the state and the local government. Of the $44 billion, how much of that is state and local spending?

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Well, I would say 75 percent of that, whatever that is.
So, out of the $44 billion that has gone into someone’s hands, 75% or $33 billion has gone into the hands of the states and cities affected by the hurricanes. The number keeps getting smaller.

Some of us down here may think that more money should have been “into the hands” by now, almost one year later. Well, the President has something he wants us to understand:
You know, I went to New Orleans, in Jackson Square, and made a commitment that we would help the people there recover. I also want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. This was a huge storm.
You see, Katrina was hu-u-u-ge. We were, like, the Tiny Elvis to Katrina’s hugeness. And it’s gonna take a while to recover.

Over the next week, we are going to hear the $110 billion number over and over again. Yes, it is a big number. Yes, we are grateful. But – and I haven’t done this in a while – let’s break it down.

We know where $87 billion came from:
* September 2, 2005 – $10.5 billion in a disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – $51.8 billion in a disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – $5 billion in a spending bill (along with $24 billion diverted from already authorized funds, but not new money)

*June 15, 2006 - $19.8 billion in a spending bill
Which leaves $23 billion to account for.

I would say that $21 billion comes from counting flood insurance claims, which the federal government has been known to do when reporting how much money they are sending down here. I think you know how I feel about counting flood insurance claims as recovery money. If you don’t, here’s a recap:
The National Flood Insurance Program didn’t have enough borrowing power to pay the amount of claims after this hurricane season, so Congress did the only thing it could do and raised the NFIP’s borrowing limit. [edit: ultimately to $20.8 billion] The Senators and Representatives did not do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They had to do it.

Why did they have to do it? FEMA’s Flood Smart website says it all:
You can count on your claim being paid in the event of a flood loss because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the Federal government.
If you still think flood insurance claim payments should be included as “hurricane relief” because it all comes from the U.S. Treasury, I ask you to read FEMA’s top ten reasons to buy flood insurance, specifically reason number eight:
You can depend on being reimbursed for flood damages because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the federal government, even if the President does not declare a federal disaster.
Flood insurance is guaranteed. It is coming to you whether or not any “hurricane relief” or any special bill is passed by Congress. It is no more than what you are due if you have flood insurance. And, believe me, if you are undercovered, they surely don't give you any more than what you are due.
Somebody needs to check me on this, but I think they are fudging the numbers again when they say how much money is “out the door.” On top of that, less that half of it has gotten any further than past the threshold.

Then there is this from Tuesday's joint press conference:
Q But about $30 billion has not been obligated by the federal government. I'm wondering why that is.

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Well, I think that was -- the difference between there is in anticipation of monies that will be needed to meet specific needs.

Q For --

CHAIRMAN POWELL: Infrastructure, insurance -- I mean, the flood insurance program.
That floating $30 billion could be used by the NFIP to pay off what it borrows from the US Treasury to make its flood claims payments. If that happened, then tax payers’ money would go to pay of flood claim payments, which appears to contradict this recent FEMA press release:
Flood insurance claims are paid by policyholders’ premiums, not tax dollars.

UPDATE by Mark C. in the comments: Bush is counting the $20.8 billion in flood claim payments, as evidenced by his cheat sheet:
Katrina: 110 Billion

16.7 Bil Housing

6 Bil [illegible; possibly "Levee's"]

1.8 Bil -- educ.
(and spent [illegible] Sept.)

2.0 Bil -- Health

20.8 Flood Insurance

39 B Immediate help
rentals, trailers
debris Removal

[Two illegible lines, although percentages and the underlined word "Dry" appear to be visible]

[Illegible] Infrastructure
I would like to find the actual picture to link to so I can confirm that it is his actual notes. I guess I can trust the Huffington Post. Until then, here is a photo from a little further away that looks similar but is not legible.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Get Up, Stand Up, Rise Up

The Rising Tide Conference

We've been down so long, it looks like up.

Let's change that.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

USACE: Now Hiring

Now it has something else in common with the local fast food joints besides unreliable service:
The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, has about 150 unfilled jobs in its New Orleans district office. In addition, it has only 22 engineering students in a training program, rather than the typical 80 to 100, because local colleges have cut back or eliminated engineering classes.
The USACE seems to be confronting the same problems recruiting and retaining employees as every other business in the area:
Cheryl Weber , director of the Corps civilian personnel advisory center in New Orleans, said that job applicants are asking more specific questions about housing, schools and living costs than before Katrina and that many decide against pursuing employment after taking such factors into consideration.


Retirements are picking up, she said, and the Corps is offering relocation and retention bonuses in a bid to keep critical jobs filled.

To keep up with its workload, the Corps also has been bringing in employees from other parts of the country, usually on 120-day temporary assignments, Weber said.
It doesn’t necessarily worry me that the USACE can’t recruit new people to come to the area. But this does worry me:
The Corps had about 1,230 employees in the New Orleans district before Katrina, and about 300 lost their homes. Many of the displaced are working full time and hope to rebuild, but they are exhausted by long workdays and long commutes, Weber said.


For many New Orleans area employees, she said, the goal is to get through this hurricane season "without anything bad happening." She said, "A lot are on pause, waiting to see."
The USACE, the government entity responsible for protecting New Orleans from hurricanes, can’t even convince its own New Orleans employees that they will get through this hurricane season "without anything bad happening."

Honestly, who can blame them for being worried?

Focus, Media

The local and national press ran with this story yesterday:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Friday blamed racism and government bureaucracy for hamstringing his city's ability to weather Hurricane Katrina and recover from the disaster that struck the Gulf Coast nearly a year ago.
They were looking to catch Nagin in another “Chocolate City” moment, pointing out these comments as the big news of the day:
Nagin said the hurricane "exposed the soft underbelly of America as it relates to dealing with race and class."

"And I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, California, if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami, it would have been a different response," Nagin said.
Beware, readers. Just because it is news to the press, that doesn’t mean it’s new. A simple Google search would reveal that August 18, 2006, wasn’t the first time he had said almost the exact same thing.

Here’s an example from the PBS series Frontline:
You made very strong statements about race, that race was a factor in all of this. You stand by that?

[Nagin:] … I basically said that if this was in Orange County [in Southern California] or South Beach in Miami that there would have been a different response. And there probably would have been. And it's a doggone shame. This was Americans that were being impacted, and we didn't get the same response that other Americans were getting.

Well, how do you know that they would have been able to get a better response in Orange County?

[Nagin:] I'm seeing it right now. Look what's happening in Florida right now. Anytime there's an earthquake in California, my God, we've got every resource available to man.

You think that's fair? We haven't had an event like Katrina in a long time. You believe that it was race.

[Nagin:] I don't know what other reason could be at play when we have the United States of America, and we have a state that has $18 billion in revenue per year, that there's not enough juice to get to the city of New Orleans when you have a Category 5 that hit, and you have flooding and have people dying.

[emphasis mine]
When did this interview take place?
This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on Oct. 26, 2005.
Almost ten months ago. Nothing new there. And the “soft underbelly” phrase has become an often used example of Nagin speak, as demonstrated by astute local bloggers. The real news is that the media is just getting around to noticing it.

We need a responsible media now more than ever. As Mark at Wet Bank Guide points out, this and other sidebars about race are a distraction from what really matters:
Don't let anyone forget. It's not about black or white, Lakeview versus NinthWard, rich and poor.

Its about the damned levees.
Focus, media. Focus on what matters. The citizens have your back, but you’ve got to do your part.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A City of Bad Grass

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing:
Strapping on a dust mask, she grabbed a shovel and with all her force, began pounding the deformed walls of her living room until they came off, falling to the floor like the rinds of a desiccated orange. She filled buckets with the broken drywall, which her son ferried outside. Bucket by bucket and week after passing week, she kept at it, resting occasionally on a stool, the only piece of furniture in her house to survive the flooding. Flanked by a worn statue of the Virgin Mary, hers is now one of the few houses that's been gutted in the city's most destroyed neighborhood, the Lower Ninth Ward.

Ask her to explain how a nonagenarian succeeded in doing what thousands of younger families have failed to do, Miss Barnes offers an analogy: "I'm like bad grass. Because it never dies. You gotta pull it up and even though you do, it still grows back. I don't care how hard something looks, I'm still going to try."
I want the bad grass to grow all over New Orleans. I want to see so much bad grass that I think it’s good. If Miss Barnes is like bad grass, I want to be bad grass too.

Because it never dies.

Yeah, you can pull up the bad grass. But it always grows back. It might not be the same bad grass as before. But it’s just as bad.

Because it never dies.

Some people like to pull up the bad grass and replace it with good grass. But I can tell the difference. I can feel the difference.

I feel out of place when I am surrounded by the good grass. The good grass takes too much effort to keep up. It’s high maintenance. It ain’t like the bad grass.

Because it never dies.

New Orleans is a city of bad grass. Because it never dies.

However, taking the word bad and making it good doesn’t solve all our problems. I wish it were that easy.

But, the title of the article with Miss Barnes, “Recovery remains slow year after Katrina,” gets it wrong. This ain’t no recovery mission. This is a rescue mission. New Orleans is still alive, baby.

Because it never dies.

Louisiana Family Assistance Center Closes Tomorrow

From an early August press release:
The number of names remaining on the official missing list has stayed virtually the same in the last month. With all leads exhausted on the remaining 136 names, it appears these are the people most likely never to be found. From a total of 13,400 missing reports, 13,260 have been resolved with 10,985 found alive, 859 confirmed as victims of the storms and 1,416 cases referred to other jurisdictions after being determined to not be from Louisiana. This amounts to a rate of 99 percent of the missing cases resolved.
Not all hope is lost. At least one name has been crossed off the latest list with a total of 135 still missing.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

C-Rayed Again

It looks like the Chef Menteur Landfill won’t close:
In the latest twist in a controversy full of them, the Chef Menteur landfill in eastern New Orleans apparently will remain open next week as a result of a letter the Nagin administration sent to state regulators Thursday, saying the mayor's refusal to renew a zoning waiver for the landfill should not be interpreted as "opposition" to the facility.
C’mon, now. This is ridiculous.

This is Nagin’s landfill (the “C. Ray Nagin Dump,” if you will). He opened it and he can shut it down.

Nagin, according to his letter, is not in “opposition” to it. He originally opened it in the face of clear and warranted public protest. He conveniently shut it down temporarily for testing (which should have happened before it opened) less than two weeks before the election, but then allowed it to reopen “less than 24 hours” after winning the mayoral race. The Mayor then announced that he would not “renew or extend” the executive order allowing the landfill to operate, surprising both supporters and critics, only to leave a window for the state DEQ to keep it open with his latest letter.

Obviously, Nagin wants this landfill to stay open. He just doesn’t want the political fallout from plopping a landfill in a community that doesn’t want it. He wants to pin the final decision on the state: “Hey, man. It wasn’t me. It was the Big Bad LDEQ.”

Village de l’Est, you’ve been C-Rayed again.

How we got here:

February 23
After a settlement is reached limiting how much waste could be dumped in the Old Gentilly Landfill, the Chef Menteur site is proposed as an alternative:
Louisiana's environmental agency has settled a lawsuit over a New Orleans landfill [Old Gentilly] where debris has been dumped since Hurricane Katrina, but Mayor Ray Nagin recently ordered suspension of a zoning ordinance to allow a new landfill not far away [Chef Menteur], and close to a national wildlife area.
April 7
Village de l’Est residents protest the proposed Chef Menteur Landfill outside City Hall; City Council adopts a resolution asking Mayor not to allow landfill.

April 14
Chef Menteur Landfill is cleared to open:
The corps and DEQ approvals were the last remaining regulatory hurdles keeping the landfill from accepting waste, meaning the facility could open immediately.


Waste Management sought and received the conditional-use permit it needed for the new landfill from City Hall, courtesy of Mayor Ray Nagin, who in February invoked emergency powers after Katrina to waive the city's comprehensive zoning ordinance.
[Note that Nagin started this in February using his emergency powers.]

May 11
Mayor temporarily shuts down landfill (PDF) for testing.
Nagin promised to close the site if testing shows it to be "harmful" to nearby communities
May 19
Community and City disagree on how tests should be done.

May 21

Landfill reopens day after Nagin re-elected.

May 25

Community says testing is “waste of time”:
In a joint news release, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Citizens for a Strong New Orleans East said their experts — who include a former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality — agreed that the testing protocol proposed by the city, state and Waste Management “would be a useless waste of time.” The protocol included testing debris piles yet to be brought to the landfill and viewing the landfill from the window of a bus, the groups said.

July 13

Mayor says he will not renew executive order past its original expiration date of August 14:
Today Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced the expiration of the Executive Order regarding the operation of the Chef Menteur Highway Landfill effective August 14, 2006.

Mayor Nagin will not renew or extend Executive Order CRN 06-03 for construction and demolition debris disposal at the Chef Menteur Highway Landfill.

The Mayor elaborates
Nagin, however, said late Thursday in an e-mail response to inquiries that he could not understand why anyone was surprised by the decision to end the executive order. It was always envisioned as a six-month operation, he said.
July 15
Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality wants landfill to stay open.

July 19

LSU report claims landfill “inevitably will take in household hazardous wastes.”

July 26
LDEQ will accept whatever decision “New Orleans officials” make:
State environmental officials have promised not to challenge whatever decision is made by New Orleans officials about the future of a landfill opened in the eastern part of the city to handle debris from Hurricane Katrina.


But in a letter to the city, DEQ Assistant Secretary Chuck Carr said the state will accept the city's decision, although it disagrees with Nagin's action.

August 2
Waste Management sues state to allow landfill to open without executive order extension:
According to a Waste Management press release, the suit questions the DEQ’s authority to close the site and says that doing so unfairly punishes the company. Further, the suit challenges a city’s jurisdiction in permitting such facilities during official emergencies. Finally, in establishing the landfill, the company claims it was led to believe that the site would be permitted for a considerably longer period and were not aware of the temporary nature of the zoning commissioned by Nagin.
More insight on those three points from the T-P:
But the suit, filed in state court Monday in Baton Rouge, alleges that DEQ lacks the authority to revoke the emergency permit it granted. Doing so, the suit contends, would unfairly punish Waste Management, which had reason to believe the landfill would remain open far longer than the roughly four months it has been in business.

The suit also seeks to minimize the city's role in permitting landfills during official emergencies. It cites a state law that, according to Waste Management, gives DEQ officials wide latitude to make decisions "without regard to any prior, continuing or subsequent approval of local government."

Waste Management officials claim in the lawsuit that they were unaware of Nagin's Feb. 9 executive order granting the zoning waiver until months later, though the executive order refers repeatedly to Waste Management's plans for a landfill, and appeared to have been drafted at the company's request.

Instead, the suit contends, company officials were under the impression that a second document, an "Emergency Disaster Cleanup Site Request" form signed by Nagin on Feb. 14, was the one that mattered. That form indicated the landfill would be open for "the duration of Hurricane Katrina disaster cleanup efforts, at this time estimated to be 12 months."

August 2

LDEQ releases statement “that seemed to hold to the agency's position that it will not seek to allow landfills in communities whose elected officials don't sign on”:
"It is the practice of DEQ . . . to develop partnerships with local governments to respond to disasters that impact their cities and parishes," the release said in part. "The Chef Menteur Landfill is one such facility authorized to operate by DEQ because it was environmentally suitable and the location had local government approval. We no longer have local concurrence, and therefore the agency will respect local government's decision."
August 2
Secretary of the LDEQ Mike D. McDaniel writes opinion letter “responding” to LSU report on landfill:
In the current cleanup operations, great effort is being expended to separate hazardous and nonhazardous wastes for appropriate disposal.
August 9
Lawsuit filed against LDEQ claiming some landfills, including Chef, “violate federal clean air and water laws”:
None of the landfills is lined to keep chemicals from seeping into the ground, making them unsuitable for waste that includes household hazardous wastes, it said.

It said that since the landfills did not have to get water pollution permits, the orders violate the Clean Water Act. And because much of the debris is likely to include asbestos, they violate the Clean Air Act, the lawsuit said.

August 11

The debris hits the fan. The Chef Menteur Landfill is planned to stop operations Monday, August 14. However, city attorney Penya Moses-Fields penned a letter “saying the mayor's refusal to renew a zoning waiver for the landfill should not be interpreted as ‘opposition’ to the facility.” This lack of opposition to the Chef Menteur Landfill is interpreted by the LDEQ as “local concurrence” by the city government:
DEQ officials said they had planned to revoke the landfill's permit Monday because of their previous belief that Nagin would not support keeping the landfill open. But after this week's letter from Nagin's attorney, they said there's no reason to suspend the landfill's permit.
In keeping with the tradition of a good C-Raying, the letter states something without really making a statement:
For starters, the city's letter does not articulate a clear position on the landfill; it merely states that Nagin's refusal to extend his emergency order should not be taken as opposition. The letter does say that the administration believes the "findings, recommendations and conclusions" that DEQ cited in granting the landfill permit were "justified."
And, as happens in all C-Rayings, one can not let a nebulous statement go without an equally nebulous clarification:
In a press statement Friday, Moses-Fields said her letter "was not a letter of support" for the landfill, as DEQ officials are interpreting it.
So, the Mayor’s official position as expressed by his attorney is Nagin doesn’t support or oppose the landfill.

Because he can effectively stop the landfill by clearly stating that he opposes it, thereby taking away any "local concurrence" and providing a combined City Hall-City Council-Neighborhood front against LDEQ intervention, I can only assume that he supports it. He just won't say it.

What about the City Council’s role in all this? They would normally have to approve a zoning change for a landfill and the Council has already stated they do not support the Chef Menteur Landfill.

The LDEQ says they don’t need a permit:
DEQ, however, has indicated that the emergency wrought by Katrina trumps the requirement for a local permit. It's DEQ policy -- but not law -- that local elected officials must agree to any landfill placements, state officials have said. On Friday they said Moses-Fields' letter this week constitutes that assent, making a local permit unnecessary.

"The department's position is that in an emergency, we're not required to have that waiver for zoning," Buatt said. "It's our practice that we have to have local government concurrence."

He said the city's letter provides that concurrence.
Waste Management doesn’t think it needs a permit, either:
Gerard Sonnier, a Waste Management lawyer, said the company intends to operate the landfill until Katrina cleanup efforts cease. The company has argued that once Nagin issued his initial waiver, the landfill can remain open for Katrina cleanup even if the mayor does not renew the waiver. After all Katrina debris is collected, Waste Management will seek a conditional-use permit for future operations through the City Council, Sonnier said.
Monday, look for a last minute “temporary shut down” in the face of popular opposition. That way the city, LDEQ, and WM can figure things out... I mean, can figure out another loophole to keep the landfill up and running.

Nagin on WWL-TV today said he wants the landfill to close on Monday. If the state steps in and allows WM to continue operating it, he will send another letter, this time a cease and desist order. If the state ignores it, he says it would become a legal matter.

If it goes to the courts, the landfill might continue operating until a decision is made. As one lawyer put it when referring to the lawsuits filed to close down the landfill, "While legal battles rage, he said, the Chef landfill will fill up."

I might seem a little hard on the Mayor. But, if he truly wanted the landfill closed on Monday, he could have made his message clear way before today. Way before.

Instead, he talked about how much the city needed it, how it was justified, and how long the recovery would take if we didn't have it. He only modified his position when confronted by popular protest.

I hope he does what he says and it works. But it should have been done already.

T-P linkage:
A day after Mayor Ray Nagin suggested he would allow a controversial landfill in eastern New Orleans to stay open after its temporary zoning waiver expires Monday, Nagin said Saturday that he will take legal action to halt dumping at the site beginning Monday morning.

Mayoral spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett said the city's lawyers are preparing a cease-and-desist order to be delivered Monday to the landfill's operator, Waste Management of Louisiana.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Minimal Intrusion

A contractor that is taking fingerprints and photographs of homeowners applying for Road Home program grants is drawing fire from some who say storm victims are being treated as potential criminals.


The contractor could accomplish the same goals by asking for several forms of identification, [vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense Keith] Ashdown said. "There are times when Americans need to be fingerprinted. This isn't one of them," he said.
That’s okay, Mr. Ashdown. We are getting used to not being treated like Americans.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wetlands in the Money Section

Money, to me, is a means to an end and never an end in itself. Therefore, I try not to use economic reasons to justify why we should stop human activities which cause or hasten coastal erosion. There are plenty of other reasons.

I do recognize, though, that some people see the world in dollar signs. I also understand that we need some green means to achieve our green end of a healthy coastal ecosystem. And, often, the people who see the world in dollar signs control where those dollar signs go.

With that, I am happy to see two articles pop up in the Fortune Magazine section of CNN Money which address wetland loss in southeastern Louisiana, along with other problems we face. And while this po’ boy knows that rebuilding this area requires more than just rebuilding homes, it's good for the money bags of the world to read that coastal restoration goes along with neighborhood restoration. (Since I don’t read financial news, I am assuming that people who actually have a lot of money do.)

Gentilly Girl pointed out one article which is a good overview of all our problems. It addresses wetlands thus:
Even as the city reconfigures itself, a second, still bigger reconstruction project must occur in the great wetlands to its south. New Orleans' best defense against hurricanes is not its levees but this vast Delta swamp, which acts as a buffer against storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico.

Alas, the coastal wetlands, by far the nation's largest, are disappearing, literally dissolving away. Halting and even partially reversing the land loss is possible. But it will require the biggest, costliest restoration effort ever tried, all at a time when war, tax cuts, and Medicare have depleted the federal treasury.
What this article does right is group restoring wetlands with rebuilding structures on land as the two major reconstruction projects that need to be funded.

I read the other by way of Dead Pelican:
In addition to containing America's biggest petrochemical complex, coastal Louisiana also encompasses 40% of the nation's coastal wetlands. And all of it - platforms and pipelines, wetlands and Woodland - is rapidly disappearing.
Notice the article lays out how important the wetlands are to the oil industry first, something people conveniently forget when they ask why people would live here. It also mentions the oil industry's role in wetlands loss:
Exacerbating the problem is Louisiana's huge oil and gas infrastructure: Thousands of miles of pipelines and navigation channels slice through the coastal wetlands, bringing saltwater inland and killing the plants that prevent the wetlands from washing away.
Although neither offer any solutions, they both conclude that whether wetland loss can be stopped or not, there is a key ingredient missing:
First Article –

Those two projects - reconfiguring New Orleans and rehabilitating its ecosystem - are daunting enough, and working through them will require a stupendous force of political will, especially in Washington. Here is the third dilemma: That desperately needed political will is nowhere to be seen.

Second Article –

Bringing back coastal Louisiana will be an ecological-restoration project of unprecedented scale, complexity, and cost - an estimated $14 billion - but it's doable. The real question is political will.
It can be done. Southeastern Louisiana can be protected from the biggest storm. It won’t happen tomorrow. It might take generations. But it certainly won’t happen if we don’t start.

Katrina Every Day

John McCusker’s story will be used to demonstrate how the stresses of Katrina can break an individual down. I hope he can resolve his problems.

But, McCusker’s friend and editor Terry Baquet gave a response in this NY Times article that showed how the stress can break a community down:
When asked about sadness at the newspaper, which won two Pulitzer Prizes this year for its Hurricane Katrina coverage, he added: “I don’t think you can tell, and it’s fair to say everyone’s affected. We live with Katrina every day.”
He can’t distinguish the sadness his coworkers feel for their colleague’s troubles from the way they act every day. Wow.

The proverbial straw broke the camel’s back a long time ago for us as a community. So, when the occasional individual’s straw breaks, we all understand more than empathize and just go about living our everyday life after Katrina.

That’s the way we live in New Orleans. We live with Katrina every day.

McCusker spent the night in jail under observation for injuring a police officer, when he was really trying to injure himself. He will be released. But he will be released to the same world that got him there. The same world we all live in – a world where these episodes are more likely to happen and a world that is poorly equipped to deal with them.

Stay strong. Be cool. For yourself and the community.

Live with Katrina every day. Doing that means 1) you’re living, and 2) you’re in, or near, New Orleans.

Two positives, if you ask me.