Friday, September 30, 2005

Ineffective government

Consistent with the themes in my column earlier this week, today's Wall Street Journal has an op-ed about the failures of government. Although the piece is focused primarily on federal-level failures, it would be a tremendous mistake for Louisiana not to take heed. An excerpt from the WSJ:

Most of the time we are numb to government inefficiency (though some, like those who blamed FEMA's problems on "opposition to big government," revel in it). If it's only choking the economy and destroying jobs, well, life goes on. But with 9/11 and Katrina comes an uncomfortable reality: The same forces that have caused the deterioration of performance across the public sector, from shameful public schools to the slow ruin of New Orleans, are now eroding government's ability to perform its one, undisputed function--providing for the citizenry's personal security. I can think of one thing that shouldn't be part of the solution: more of the same.[emphasis added]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Authority v. responsibility

In today's Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan discusses the difference between authority and responsibility. For Louisiana readers of that piece, there are important lessons to be learned:

News reports and common media wisdom this week suggested Katrina was actually a smaller story than we thought--fewer dead than had been feared, more hype than was helpful. But to me the impact of Katrina is growing bigger and more consequential. It was a watershed event that revealed, unforgettably, the inadequacy of government; the fragility of presidential reputations; the presence of fissures within the dominant party; and the incapacity of the opposition to be constructive in response to the event, or even to show the bare minimum political talent of effectively capitalizing on it. But I think Katrina revealed something else: a change in the relation of the individual and those who would govern him.[emphasis added]
Will Louisiana take note?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DC hearings

Yesterday, former FEMA director Mike Brown testified in front of a U.S. Senate committee about FEMA's response to Katrina. Today it's Governor Blanco's turn. Calling Louisiana "dysfunctional," Brown yesterday laid the blame for the Katrina debacle with Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin saying, "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off." Failing to stay above the fray, the governor's office responded to criticisms from Brown with this: "Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel." Hurling insults seems the preferred approach now that the governor's first line of defense -- as reported by John Hill last week that Blanco's only mistake was having "'a false sense of confidence' that the federal agency would respond rapidly to the national emergency" -- has failed to provide any traction. Today Governor Blanco may be asked questions that no Louisiana media has dared ask about both planning and performance. The governor ran for the highest elected office in Louisiana. It's a position that brings with it both privilege and responsibility. And facing tough questions is part of the job. It's unlikely that the "I don't even know what day it is" response the governor gave CNN a few weeks ago is going to fly with the Senate today.

Stating the obvious

My column today focuses on what Katrina showed the world about Louisiana. It begins:

Thanks to Katrina, the world now knows a great deal about Louisiana’s troubled public policy environment. The issues are easily summarized: poverty and ineffective government. These issues raise many questions, but the most important one isn’t where was FEMA or where was the state response or who was at fault. The critical question is whether Louisiana will learn from this natural and man-made disaster. Katrina’s not responsible for Louisiana’s poverty problem or its tradition of ineffective government. Katrina simply revealed a massive socio-economic disaster that’s been festering for years.
It concludes:
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and yet expecting different results. The money to repair damage wrought by nature is already pouring in. But the challenge for Louisiana will be to ensure that those funds aren’t used to reconstruct the failed status quo by the very people who were responsible for its perpetuation in the first place.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


A friend reflects on the events of recent weeks:

For the past month we, of the great city of New Orleans, have been displaced, misplaced, shuffled around, bewildered and betrayed. Our family and friends have been flung to the far reaches of our nation, uprooted by devastation, destruction and despair. We have faced the unthinkable, looked into the abyss and seen what noone should have to witness. We have been forced into exile, to watch continual images of our homes and neighborhoods under water. Some of us know the grim reality firsthand and others still await reentry to see for ourselves. We are all in a state of utter purgatory; a limbo visited upon us by a woman we never really knew, but know all too well now. People say she was racist, but, to me, she was the great equalizer. She came, she killed, she destroyed..not really caring what or who was in her path, color was not her initial target. This beast of brutality took aim at us all, shattered our dreams one and all. Regardless of our social standing, our financial means and individual plights, she came and stole the dreams of a generation, blowing them to the four winds and beyond. All of us now live in limbo wondering what our futures will be. Where do we start, where do go and for some more immediate, where do we sleep. We have become the refugees of our generation, the internal exiles, the national nomads, our plight is plastered across every TV and newspaper around the globe. We are the missing, the misplaced and the misinformed. For those of us who will return, we know not the trials we will surely face; the adversity inherent in an existence we once took for granted, wonderfully and famously so. What will the new future look like, what the new face of the new New Orleans be. Will we be able to look past the myriad of scars to see what will be possible. As we return to our city, we will undoubtedly see the destruction firsthand, feel the pain up close and feel the feelings all over again. In our world of vicarious experiences, we will be the ones living the reality. We will be the ones whose lives are shattered... not some unknown village in some distant country on some far away continent. This is home and this will be home. In face of such adversity, only the truly strong will emerge to shape the future. In the face of such unknown, only will the truly devoted, rise from the ashes and build anew. And, in the face of such a daunting task, only a united force can rise to the occasion. Day by day we must rebuild. We must shutter the ill natured ways of old. We must take advantage of the opportunity to make things right...for all of us. No longer will the corruption and careless nature of our history be sufficient as the foundation of our society. No longer can we sit idly by while our future is shamelessly guided by personal agendas. Our future is now and we must respond to the call of a new day. We must begin again with care in the city that care forgot. We must unite where we were once divided and we must be strong for each other. As history is our guide, we will rebuild As life is a lesson, we must learn and as change is constant we must embrace it and overcome Together, we will rebuild our great city! Jonathan Ferrara Jonathan Ferrara Gallery 841 Carondelet Street New Orleans, LA 504.522.5471 gallery 253.399.1649 fax

VOA in Louisiana

This update on Volunteers of America operations in Louisiana: Lake Charles Services This email from Volunteers of America Baton Rouge with programs in Lake Charles. She writes: "We can't get into Lake Charles till Oct 3. We are on the south side though. Not good. Everyone got out and clients and staff are in apts." Keep them in your prayers and we will keep you updated on their struggles. Offices in Alexandria Our Central Louisiana offices were closed yesterday and this morning due to loss of power and damages caused by Rita in their area. Alexandria and Natchitoches were hit very hard by very high winds and heavy, heavy rain. Highland Center Guests--Update Cleveland is now working on the oil rig, he left for Baton Rouge last night, a co-worker picked him up on his way back to work also. Kanatra is doing very well as our new front desk person at the Highland Center as well. Franklin is attending a Federal Express job fair this Friday with a great reference of Robyn's husband. The job pays well and has benefits so we are hopeful that this will work out for him. Sonja and her son, Clarence, are staying with her daughter in West Shreveport in an apartment that her daughter was able to secure. Clarence is attending Byrd High School and already on the football team! Gina, Sal, Ann and Cade left to go to stay with a relative in La Place yesterday. They are going to be going back into their home today. Please pray for them as they go back to what was once their home. This is just to visit their home, they will return here to live and Ann will return to Houston. First Presbyterian has helped in many ways. The Seekers Class has donated funds to assist our guests as well as provided dinner. The diaconate group also recently voted to provide any meals that were not already being provided for each week. They have set up a terrific schedule and are moving forward. We can thank Roberta Cawthorne, President of the Seekers Sunday School class and Julie Blewer, Moderator of the Diaconate, for this help in our time of great need! Evacuees give their time Also, Dress for Success had their sale on Saturday morning from 7 a.m. until Noon. But, on Friday night, the sale was set up and evacuees were allowed to shop for free! Susan has come across lots of evacuees in suiting them for Dress For Success and has been extremely kind and gracious to them and has helped a lot of women get suited for work and casual clothing as well. Setting up for the Sale was a huge task and with the news of Rita heading into our area, many of the volunteers called Susan Friday morning to cancel because they simply could not come. The Evacuees staying at the Highland Center immediately jump in and began volunteering their time to help get the Dress For Success sale set up and get ready for shoppers! The evacuees saved the day! Our Monroe office update: Volunteers of America has provided respite childcare services to approximately 60 children/families residing in the long-term evacuation shelter. Our Twin Cities Early Head Start, in collaboration with the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana and the ULM Child Development Center, plan to provide services for as long as the shelter remains open. In addition to respite care at the shelter, our Head Start has enrolled 6 children into its center-based program. Some children will begin on Thursday and others next Monday. Our office continues to receive call from displaced consumers. The calls are screened and directed to appropriate staff, most likely Kisha Cooper. Kisha has done an outstanding job in assisting mental health consumers. We have personal hygiene and basic housekeeping supplies ready to distribute to the group from Houston that went to Shreveport over the weekend and are now in Monroe. Melodie Pritchard, the Greater New Orleans staff person spearheading the relocation was personally impacted locally by the winds of Rita... a tree fell on the house that she had just rented. We received a call from the local 211 center that a local church group wants to help the Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans folks in any way they can. We haven't spoken with them directly, but are excited about their offer. Highland Center Tour If you would like to see the Highland Center in person, we are offering a tour, Wednesday,October 5th at 11 a.m. All guests are welcome! This is a great way to hear from an evacuee, see where some of the evacuees stayed, see where some of the children are in child care or just to learn more about "The Highland". We sure hope you will come and even bring a friend! Katrina's financial impact We told you last week we have been notified by the State that our programs serving people with mental illness will receive an $87,000 cut immediately. As you can imagine, these cuts will create some hardships. These programs are a real life line for so many in need by providing them each day a way to work and live. We can now tell you we have received word that the amount of this cut has been increased. We know this is really just the beginning so we really thank each of you for your support both now during Katrina and Rita and also your support of our daily programs that serve over 17,000 annually. All of these services (and so much more) are being provided thanks to local contributions. We are still in need of cash contributions. We can take, cash, checks, Visa, MasterCard and even gifts of stock. Please forward this email to any friends that you might have that would like to help individuals here at home. Thank you for your support! Our Mailing address: Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 360 Jordan Street Shreveport, Louisiana 71101

Hurricane in a vacuum?

Katrina and Rita didn't occur in a political vacuum, as this editorial from the Washingon Post makes clear. The Post has some harsh words for the Louisiana Congressional delegation's request for funds. Here's an excerpt:

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. For example, their bill demands $7 billion for rebuilding evacuation and energy supply routes, but it also demands a separate $5 billion for road building and makes no mention of the $3.1 billion already awarded to the state in the recent transportation legislation. The bill demands $50 billion in community development block grants, partly to get small businesses going, but it also demands $150 million for a small-business loan fund plus generous business tax breaks. The bill even asks for $35 million for seafood marketing and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory. This is the equivalent of New York responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center by insisting upon a federally financed stadium in Brooklyn.
Money requested for the sugar cane industry looks particularly suspect after all the attempts at deal-making before the vote on CAFTA a couple months ago. More broadly, the state's reputation for corruption and misappropriation of funds hangs heavy over all requests -- no matter how legitimate -- for post-hurricane relief. The lesson? Reputations have consequences. Hurricanes can't blow away Louisiana's checkered past.

Monday, September 26, 2005

VOA in North Louisiana

News from Volunteers of America in North Louisiana: Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans evacuees As you may recall, Yuleton Mendoza, his wife Casey, son Devon and four Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans clients have been with us now since they evacuated the Saturday prior to Katrina making landfall. We first found out about them when they were all crowded into the only room they could find, a Motel 6, in Bossier City, with one King Sized Bed. We immediately reached out to them and brought them into our Magnolia House facility. Now, they are preparing this week to leave us and to return to New Orleans. We wish them well. While here, Martin, one of the clients with Mental Retardation, Alzheimer's and a feeding tube, acquired a much needed wheelchair and medical bed. This was a true blessing for Martin and could not be left behind. So Yuleton found a van while here and bought it for $800 so that he could take back Martin's wheelchair and medical bed. He has also coordinated donations of furniture, a refrigerator, washer, and dryer with Kings Hwy Christian Church. With all of these treasures to get home, he rented a Uhaul trailer and put a hitch on the van to haul it all. On top of that, the van needed a new AC so he found a AC mechanic in Taylortown of all places who is donating all of the labor costs in fixing the AC unit in the van. This story is a true testament to the welcoming,caring community of friends they met while here in Shreveport. They are very thankful and appreciative of everyone that helped them during this very traumatic time in their lives. We thank you because your donations made much of this possible for all of these very deserving, special needs people. Our group of 31 This group, also from Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, arrived on our doorstep exhausted, hot and hungry Friday evening after a 2 1/2 day caravan trip from Houston to Shreveport in that horrendous traffic. They have been cared for extremely well while here just a few short days. St. Mark's Episcopal, Lakeview Methodist and Noel Methodist, all provided food, support, clothing and supplies to care for them while our volunteer, Robert Baucum, prepared wonderful meals and treats. They will continue to be served by us but are moving to Monroe where Judith and her staff will be instrumental in caring for them. We learned when they arrived that they wanted to get to Monroe where they could join other Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans staff and clients. After tonight's move, they hope this is the last one until it is time to return to New Orleans. We'll keep you posted on their progress as we continue to serve them. Good News! We received $25,000 today to help with our Katrina and Rita evacuee Needs. One gift, $15,000, was from the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier City and the other was from a wonderful local foundation. These gifts were greatly needed to help with the unanticipated costs of serving our evacuees. Please forward this email to anyone that might be interested in supporting our efforts and learning about the people we are serving! Thanks. All of these services described above (and so much more) are being provided thanks to local contributions. We are still in need of cash contributions. We can take, cash, checks, Visa, MasterCard and even gifts of stock. Thank you for your support! Our Mailing address is: Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 360 Jordan Street Shreveport, Louisiana 71101 P.S. I received this information in an email from the City this afternoon-- Local [Shreveport-Bossier City/NWLA] shelter populations are again at nearly overflow capacity. Shelters in south Louisiana that had to evacuate in the face of hurricane Rita transported hundreds to the Shreveport-Bossier area. As of 9:00 a.m. today, Hirsch Coliseum was at 1200, CenturyTel at 1100, Expo Hall at 860, Southern University-400 and the special needs shelter at Bossier Civic Center, 100. Lisa Brandeburg Vice President of Communications and Development Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 318-221-2669 Ext 205

Report from Jennings

A friend reports in from Jennings, LA a town in Rita's path.

In Jennings. Total darkness everywhere except... WalMart of course. Say what you may about it, but it has provided comfort to thousands since Rita hit. People like me. I have been here since 6am... and I was about the 300th person in line. They have the only lights in town. Anyhow, everyone is in total darkness and it is hot. Trees and branches are everywhere. I counted seven big old oak trees uprooted, and thankfully only two landed on a house. I was in Slidell Sunday and people had fear in their eyes as Katrina has taken a toll. You can easily tell an evacuee from a regular. The latest flooding in New Orleans was the final straw for many people thinking about going back. Took forty five minutes to get gas last night. A truck with generators came by last night and sold 100 of them in thirty minutes. I will find that guy today as we finish cleaning up my mother's and my grandfather's house and yard. Thankfully, no looting here. My sister works for the electrical coop and surveyed Lake Charles and Cameron. As you may have seen on tv, they will be without power for weeks. It is strange to see military helicopters in your hometown and personnel in tents at your high school. Gotta go... WalMart just opened their doors.

The reputation haunts

Today's Wall Street Journal has a damning commentary about Louisiana's history of corruption, this time focused on Aaron Broussard and his bizarre performance on Meet the Press last week and his repeat performance yesterday. But that's just the lead-in to discussing Louisiana politics:

No state turns out better demagogues than Louisiana--the state that Huey Long ruled with an near-fascistic fist and that inspired the new Sean Penn version of "All the King's Men" that hits movie theaters this November. While the Bush administration and Congress aren't in danger of being fried as witches, they better figure out that they and the taxpayers are about to be fleeced like sheep as they ship south $62 billion in emergency aid with few controls or safeguards. Put bluntly, the local political cultures don't engender confidence that aid won't be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it. While the feds can try to ride herd on the money, here's hoping folks in the region take the opportunity to finally demand their own political housecleaning. Change is past due. Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans office, described Louisiana's public corruption as "epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt."
The Journal is urging residents of Louisiana to embrace this opportunity for a fresh start. The world is watching. Is Louisiana capable of change?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Drying out

The sun is shining today in Louisiana. It reminds me of a line from a song in the movie soundtrack of "O Brother Where Art Thou?" called Keep on the Sunny Side, sung by The Whites:

Though the storm and its furies rage today Crushing hope that we cherish so dear The cloud and storm will in time pass away And the sun again will shine bright and clear

Friday, September 23, 2005

All the king's men

There's an extraordinary op-ed in today's WSJ (unfortunately hidden behind subscription log-in) titled, "All the King's Men Cannot Save New Orleans," by Daniel Henninger, deputy op-ed page editor at the Journal. It's an eloquent condemnation of Louisiana's way of doing business (and many other things). Two paragraphs deserve particular attention:

"What is New Orleans today? It is the impoverished, lawless product of Huey Long's anti-capitalist populism, cross-fertilized with every poverty program Washington produced the past 60 years. The currently popular notion that "the country" somehow failed to notice that much of New Orleans had become a social and economic basket case is false. Every college student knows the basic storyline of "All the King's Men" if not that of former Governor Edwin Edwards (1992-96), now serving 10 years for extorting businessmen. "Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a native of Louisiana, believes a "culture of fatalism" about corruption exists that makes the possibility of reform hard. "Corruption isn't quite normal in most places," he says, "but none of that's true in Louisiana." Like other fans of the state and its famous city, he sees the period ahead as Louisiana's last best chance for joining the rest of the rising New-South economy. With characteristic mischievousness, Mr. Smith also notes that it is an open question whether Louisiana would meet the economic freedom and just-rule criteria of President Bush's Millennium Challenge grants for developing countries. "There is no hope for New Orleans unless what comes next is the opposite of the status quo before Katrina."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


This message is from Friends & Families of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children. The following includes a call for volunteers, reports of problems post-Katrina and information about making donations to the organization. --- ...Thanks to you all First, of all we want to say thank you to all of you who have supported, donated, and volunteered. We cannot express fully enough how much your solidarity means to us as individuals and as an organization. If we have neglected to return your call or get back to you with a thank you email, please know that we sincerely apologize! It has taken us a minute to get organized and we know some people may have not received the prompt response they should have. Please know that we appreciate every dollar, every computer, every box of paper, every word of encouragement. Finding Folks FFLIC is now working with Critical Resistance and Communities United to have volunteers all over the country go shelter to shelter with information for anyone who has a loved one who was locked up or detained in the affected areas when the storm hit. We have volunteers in Arizona, California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, etc. We are talking with people, collecting information, and helping folks call the hotline and facility numbers to locate where their family members are and speaking directly to them or leaving them messages. If you are interested in volunteering with us to help us help folks find their family members, please contact Daniel Horowitz de Garcia at Going shelter to shelter, here’s what we can tell you about some of what we’ve discovered: •Some shelters are well organized, providing needed services, with staff who are respectful and caring of the survivors. Houston’s convention center was a good example of this. Some are dirty, mis-managed, with racist and unpleasant staff. At the River Center in Baton Rouge, we witnessed dinner being served – a hot dog, a bag of chips and an apple. We also witnessed the National Guardsmen patrolling the sleeping quarters, two at a time with huge AKs slung over their shoulders. The woman who I was helping find her son as her grandson played around us asked me, “why are they here? Are we in prison?” We hear that many Red Cross staff in Lafayette and Lake Charles have been fired and replaced after serious complaints of prejudice and disrespect. One volunteer said she wouldn’t be surprised if folks just got fed up and started rising up against the Red Cross authorities. •All around Louisiana and Texas, local responses to Katrina survivors vary from welcoming to hostile. In Houston, we saw signs and expressions of sympathy and support. In Lake Charles the city is planning to put a fence around the shelter and has doubled law enforcement in areas like the mall and popular restaurants. The theme of treating survivors like prisoners has been repeated over many of our visits and observations. In St. Louis, they just skipped the middle step and created a shelter out of an abandoned prison. •We have been in touch with several of our long time members, for those who know them: Ms. Mathews now has an apartment in Houston after several weeks in the Astrodome, Ms. Flora is safe in Jackson, MS. Ms. Sabrina should be flying out with her 2 sons to Colorado Springs, and Ms. Cortez and Mr. Minoo are both safe. We are still searching for others. If anyone would like to send support to these individuals, please let us know. We are keeping a list of what people need and can get that information to you. •Those who are left in the shelters right now are the folks who have no where else to go. Many are planning on staying there until they can go back to New Orleans. Many are separated from families that are in shelters as far away as Massachusetts, Los Angeles and San Antonio, TX. •People have harrowing, horrifying, overwhelming and inspiring tales of surviving the storm, surviving the evacuation, saving lives, watching loved ones die. It is important that these stories be told and heard. It is important that people know the extent of what went wrong and how people paid the price for it. •We continue to hear the stories of young people and adults locked up who were not evacuated but who had to break free from their cells, sometimes leaving others behind in chest high water that was rising. We continue to hear nothing from state officials that addresses this issue and commits to investigating who was responsible and what will be done to determine how many prisoners lost their lives. FFLIC’s Hurricane Relief Fund Our fund is finally being put to good use! We are helping folks with housing, transportation and basic necessities. We have raised over $10,000 thanks to the generosity of dozens of people across the country. We have been moved to tears by the letters and notes which accompany the checks apologizing for not sending more, not being able to do more. Our collective sense of powerlessness is profound. We are determined to overcome it and make something of this tragedy. Moving Forward There is so much to do. Hopefully, by next week, we will have an office set up and operating in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We cannot stop with simply gathering the information, finding our members, and helping families reconnect. The fight for a transformed juvenile justice system must continue, but not in isolation. This disaster has illuminated that the racism and oppression which have fueled the juvenile and criminal justice systems in this state for years are the very same which abandoned people to die in our city after the storm hit. For these reasons, we must figure out how to continue to build membership and channel the rage, and righteous indignation that people have into a movement that demands justice on every level – in the short, medium, and long term. FFLIC has joined with Community/Labor United (CLU) to strategize how to do this in a unified, powerful way. For those organizers who would like to come down and support us, please stay in touch with us, we will soon have a clearer sense of all that needs to be done and how to begin the doing. Last Notes As folks know, FFLIC is a project of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a legal and advocacy organization dedicated to transforming Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. JJPL and our Board of Directors have been incredibly supportive of and generous about FFLIC’s work in this crisis while also trying to continue on with the JJ reform work that has been years in the making. We want to invite anyone who would like to donate to JJPL and FFLIC’s efforts, to designate on your checks whether you are making a donation to “JJPL and FFLIC” overall or specifically for the “JJPL/FFLIC Hurricane Relief Fund” which goes to fund the immediate needs of displaced families and children with whom FFLIC is working. JJPL/FFLIC Hurricane Relief Checks can be still sent to: 920 Platt Street Sulphur, LA 70663. Checks to JJPL may be sent to Sonji Hart 392 Sisters Rd. Ponchatoula, Louisiana, 70454 Thank you all – with love and respect, Xochitl, Gina, Grace and Kori FFLIC Staff

Katrina's opportunities

My column today considers the opportunities Katrina presents Louisiana. The column begins: "Moving beyond Katrina must be about more than rebuilding structures. It must be about acknowledging reality. Louisiana has a chance to change its future..." It continues, "Corrupt or ineffective leadership has consequences..." It concludes, "...if Katrina can't force a change in Louisiana's politics, then nothing ever will."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Credit & blame

Last week's Time Magazine (dated 09/19/05) had an article focusing on the breakdown of government at several levels in the immediate post-Katrina environment. Under the header "The Governor: Did Kathleen Babineaux Blanco make every effort to get federal help?" comes this paragraph:

"...Further tangling the post-Katrina disaster effort was a struggle for power. On the Friday after the hurricane, as the Governor met with Bush aboard Air Force One on the tarmac of the New Orleans airport, the President broached a sensitive question: Would Blanco relinquish control of local law enforcement and the 13,268 National Guard troops from 29 states that fall under her command? State officials say Blanco considered it an odd move, given that federal control would not in itself mean any additional troops and would prohibit the guard under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 from acting as policemen. And she thought the request had a political motive. It would allow Washington to come in and claim credit for a relief operation that was finally beginning to show progress..." [emphasis added by me]
The thing about leadership is that positioning oneself to take credit also means positioning oneself to take blame. That's why the president's acknowledgment of responsibility last week for failures at the federal level was significant. It was clear there were serious problems with the federal response and he rightly took responsibility for it. But the state response was also obviously fumbled. So when the governor spoke similar words to the state legislature the day after the president spoke, it looked more like an unfortunately-timed "me too" than a comprehensive taking-of-responsibility. Any benefit that might have accrued to the governor for that belated statement of responsibility was further diluted by her later statements suggesting that her administration's biggest mistake was putting too much faith in FEMA. That's not leadership. It's avoidance of the real issues that everyone else can see but Louisiana doesn't seem to want to talk about.

Raising issues

Congratulations to USA Today for publishing a letter to the editor reflecting sentiments as yet unseen in Louisiana publications. Written by a lifelong resident of Louisiana, the letter raises issues some in the state might rather leave unraised: "...Our politicians' inept handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis is one more embarrassment: "How can New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look any of his people in the face? He knew a mandatory evacuation would leave thousands with no way out and nowhere to go. "How can Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco claim to have done all that she could, when she initially denied the Red Cross and other groups access to many people within New Orleans? She previously showed herself to be ineffective in dealing with the Louisiana Legislature. Now, she has proved herself ineffective in dealing with calamity. "How can Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., go back to Washington, D.C., whining and blaming presidential leadership, when she comes from a political family of New Orleans? "I am embarrassed by their inept responses. I am brokenhearted over the separations and the deaths..."

Monday, September 19, 2005

As if nothing happened

Today's article by John Hill is stunning for its neglect of Louisiana realities broadcast worldwide in recent weeks. One line says, "Looking back, Blanco said she would never have depended on FEMA and faults her state team for having 'a false sense of confidence' that the federal agency would respond rapidly to the national emergency." Is anyone else disturbed that this approach offers no hint of awareness that there might have been problems on the ground in Louisiana? Later the article notes, "As far as the political blame game, which she said was the work of 'talking heads' on television, Blanco said she 'didn't have time for that. We were saving lives.' The fact that the death toll is far less than had been predicted is proof that state responders and volunteers did a good job, she said." That there apparently aren't going to be 10,000 dead in NOLA is evidence of a successful state response? Anyone who watched any coverage of Katrina in recent weeks can recognize the illogic in that reasoning. The question is whether the people of Louisiana will buy it.

Not Katrina

Cool pix but not Katrina. (Thanks Josh!) More about this widely-circulated misinformation here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The fading spotlight

As predicted, national media interest in Katrina-related issues is waning. In today's major papers, although there is no shortage of attention to news about evacuees and their new circumstances or to the communities that continue to give what they have to those displaced by the storm, the attention of the nation's op-ed writers, at least, is fading fast. Senate hearings about Judge John Roberts have captured the attention. Although this isn't surprising, it does mean that continued commentary about events still unfolding on the ground across Louisiana will need to be generated by state and local journalists --because no one else is going to do it. The days when simple generalizations about "federal failures" or "state failures" or "local failures" constituted sufficient analysis are over. The challenge for media who now live with the storm's effects is to embrace the subtleties by providing both context and interpretation of the place they know best: Louisiana. Broad generalizations that tap into already-existing national political themes are counterproductive and will add little to the quality of discussion about what went wrong, why, and what happens next. The national media may be losing interest, but the story is far from over.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Private sector heroes

John Tierney in the NYT writes about the heroic efforts of Louisiana's Acadian Ambulance in New Orleans in the days following the storm. Tierney also documents evidence of the incredible federal bureaucracy that limited this private company's ability to help even more than it did. But the best line is this: "As the Acadian workers demonstrated, coping with a disaster requires the ability to improvise and break the rules - talents notably absent in most bureaucrats."

More Katrina impact

The Southern Povery Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama has a report about Katrina's impact on several SPLC-funded projects. Among them is the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, an organization that has played an integral role in this state's continuing juvenile justice reform process. A couple of earlier Katrina-oriented posts on this blog concern issues related to JJPL's work: Prisoners & Katrina and What about detained youth in southeast LA?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina & LA newspapers

Communications lawyer and media expert Terry Maguire is leading a blog effort devoted to tracking how Louisiana media, newspapers in particular, are following the continuing Katrina story. The story topping the Katrina and Louisiana Newspapers blog right now is titled "OFF MESSAGE: Hello, Goodbye." It's an excellent illustration of why Maguire's project is an important one: The national media's attention to Katrina just isn't sustainable at current levels. Significant responsibility for covering the story and documenting the rebuilding effort lies with Louisiana newspapers and Maguire's blog is dedicated to documenting that coverage. Browse through the archives at Katrina and Louisiana Newspapers to see reports/issues already addressed and to submit suggestions for items not yet mentioned. Check back often as it is likely to offer perspectives on the myriad issues now facing Louisiana.

Poverty is the issue

It's clear the issue of poverty cannot be separated from discussion of Katrina fallout. Here's an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News written by two of my colleagues at LSU's Manship School. They make it very clear that poverty IS the issue. [FYI -- try to avoid having to register for every newspaper website you try to access.]

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stages of denial

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, former GE CEO Jack Welch wrote about the stages of leadership denial in crisis. Much of his piece will sound familiar to those following post-Katrina political fallout: "...Hurricane Katrina is practically a case study of the five stages people seem to have to go through during severe crises..." "...contrary to the sound and fury out there right now, the Katrina crisis follows a well-worn pattern..." "...The first stage of that pattern is denial. The problem isn't that bad, the thinking usually goes, it can't be, because bad things don't happen here, to us. The second is containment. This is the stage where people, including perfectly capable leaders, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve. The third stage is shame-mongering, in which all parties with a stake in the problem enter into a frantic dance of self-defense, assigning blame and claiming credit. Fourth comes blood on the floor. In just about every crisis, a high profile person pays with his job, and sometimes he takes a crowd with him. In the fifth and final stage, the crisis gets fixed and, despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tough talk

The Governor has just completed her address to the joint legislative session. Some immediate reactions: Taking a page from the president’s handbook, Gov. Blanco acknowledged failures at every level of government, promising that the buck stops with her, thus taking responsibility for state-level failures. This is tough talk from the governor whose original reaction to the crisis was considerably less so. Note, however, the difficulty accompanying the governor’s transposing of the president’s approach onto Louisiana politics: The president has already purged the individual most easily identified as responsible for federal level failures. The problem for Governor Blanco is that if the public calls for similar retribution at the state level, it may be her head on the chopping block. In her speech, the governor insisted that every nickel of relief and rebuilding monies “will be properly spent” and will be monitored by outside talent with impeccable credentials. Isn’t it sad that such a statement was necessary at all? It says better than anything else that the administration’s tired talking points about “a new day in Louisiana” over the last two years haven’t much impacted the reality on the ground. Governor Blanco’s forceful statements about rebuilding the state’s education and health care systems are most welcome. But there is a sense of déjà vu accompanying the litany of newly-discovered priorities. The governor’s post-Katrina priorities sound a great deal like candidate Blanco’s priorities during the gubernatorial campaign two years ago. And, it’s worth noting, there was little evidence of those priorities in the last legislative session. So now, we can only hope that this time the talk will bring with it better and more tangible results. All residents of Louisiana want to see the state resurrected as a better and stronger version of what it was before Katrina. There can be no doubt about that. Unfortunately, however, for all its power, the hurricane couldn’t wash away Louisiana’s political realities. Indeed, much of the talk from state and local authorities since Katrina simply looks more like new wine poured into old wineskins. If Hurricane Katrina proves to be the end of politics-as-usual in Louisiana, I’ll be the first to stand up and cheer. For now, however, I’m reserving judgment.

Beware the spin machines

My column today discusses the subject of "spin" in the post-Katrina world. There's already a lot of spin out there and no doubt more to come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Consequences of bad government

From the "bad government has consequences" file here's an opinion piece about whether to re-build New Orleans. It offers some harsh realities for Louisiana concerning the state's poor economic track record, statewide out-migration concerns and the state's failed "business as usual" approach to government. Here are a few highlights: "...Yes, we could spend whatever it takes trying to re-create the New Orleans we once knew. But why would we want to, given the other ways that money could be spent? Much of what the city offered is not worth resurrecting -- such as widespread poverty, high unemployment, a backward economy and rampant crime..." "...Much of what is worth resurrecting, such as its vibrant culture and street life, may be fatally compromised. After hundreds of thousands of people have moved elsewhere for months and taken jobs, many are unlikely to return to a city that will be even shorter on economic opportunities than it used to be..." "...Before the hurricane, New Orleans had one of the poorest and least mobile populaces in the country. You could have made a case before Katrina that the best thing most residents could do is leave for someplace with higher living standards and a better job market..."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Prisoners & Katrina

From Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FLIC) comes information about locating children or adults who were in prison in the areas affected by Katrina: -- If you had a family member locked up in Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) or Jefferson Parish Detention Center when Katrina hit, call the DOC hotline at (225) 342-3998 or (225) 342-5935 to locate where your loved one is now located. The hotline is taking calls from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. No matter where your family member was locked yo when Katrina hit, you can also call these numbers to tell your loved one where you are and how you are doing. If the above numbers are not working or if the person you talked to could not help you, call Lisa as the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) at (404) 688-1202, ext. 225 or email For children and youth locked up at Youth Study Center, Plaquemine Detention Center, St. Bernard Detention Center, Terrebonne Detention Center, Rivarde Detention Center or any other youth detention facility, call Perla at (225) 287-7988 or (225) 328-3607 to locate where your child is being house, and/or to tell your child where you are. Ask Perla for the phone number of the facility where you child is now located, call the facility, and ask to speak to your child. For parents of children locked up at Bridge City Center for Youth when Katrina hit, call (225) 778-9000 and ask to talk to your child. If these numbers are out of date or if the person you talked to could not help you, call Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FLIC) for help: Grace (337) 513-7039 or Xochitl (504) 606-8846, or email us at or

What still isn't happening

A friend forwards this list of needs still unmet by those agencies, organizations and others that are supposed to be providing assistance post-Katrina: --- Most people that were not directly affected by the Katrina disaster don't seem to understand what the situation is of those who were/are. Some suggestions: 1. We are constantly asked for contact information. Unlike storms in other states, many of us in the New Orleans area, including a major part of N.O. that the media still does not seem to know even exists is still full of water. Many do not know where they will spend the night much less where they can be contacted. People of staying in parking lots and pastures. Muncipal addresses are hard to find. Most Internet website that I have tried to access require information that make it impossible to use the websites. 2. Telling us to just go here and there is not always feasible. In some places those with vehicles have limited access to fuel. Many don't have vehicles. Public transportation is weak at best. 3. If you are a government agency or business where you know you will have an usual amount of people waiting long periods of time, if you don't want them to use your bathroom, rent a port-a-let. 4. If you refer someone to an agency give details. Phone numbers, website addresses and physical locations. Everyone does not have regular access to means of communications much less computers. Try to picture a person drowning, details are unimportant; help is important. Try doing a bit more to assist people than you normally do in your daily jobs. 5. The radio talk folks seem to forget that something as simple as getting a piece of paper to write down a phone number is difficult. For example, I wanted to call in to correct some information on WWL-AM radio yesterday. It was almost 4 hours before an announcer came on the air who would talk slow enough, repeat it often enough and articulate enough to even give the station contact number. Instead of joking around to fill dead air, talk a bit slower and announce phone numbers often and do your best to articulate important information. Access to radios is problematic. You may have announced vital information on time the last hour. It doesn't mean that the people who need it were able to tune in at that specific moment. 6. Government bureaucrats and those businesses that are in business for which we are customers are going to have to find a way to assist in non-traditional ways. About all information most people have is their social security numbers. If you can assist them in filling out forms please do. Most are suffering from mental trauma (like shell-shock) and while they may look normal, they aren't. BOTTOM-LINE: Many of us are us butts in alligators (many literally). Start finding new ways to assist your constituents and customers. Stop using he traditional list of questions that have no relevance and only serve to waste our time. Bend over the little farther to help than you ever have in your life. Finally, of all those trying to help, the only real help is coming from the private sector. If government can't get its act together quickly (It's been two weeks today) please don't continue to [obstruct] those in the private sector who can and will help.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Politicking blame

Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard discusses partisan response to Katrina. Among his comments: "...There's a good test of whether criticism of Bush is purely partisan: If the accuser also directs blame at Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, who froze in reaction to Katrina, and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, so overwhelmed by the hurricane that he didn't carry out the city's emergency plan, then the criticism might have some merit. Another test is whether a critic cites real examples where FEMA failed to carry out one of its missions. Rescuing people from roofs isn't one of them..." Meanwhile, Newsweek has a disturbing account of events from the moment it became clear Katrina was headed toward New Orleans. But be forewarned: This account doesn't make anyone look good, even though it's skewed primarily to slam Bush.

Unsafe LA?

Here's a link to rather confused report about a ranking of safe cities, where safe is defined in terms likelihood (or lack thereof) of experiencing a natural disaster. Monroe, LA is ranked as the nation's least safe location. Shreveport-Bossier comes in as the 10th least safe. notes, "dramatic and damaging weather events are a major reason why the bottom of our list--the least safe places to live--is dominated by coastal and southern cities. Monroe, La., was ranked the least safe on our list, with frequent wind and hail. And, according to scientists, increased global warming will only lead to more hurricanes per year, resulting in greater loss of life and property."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Items needed in North LA

Volunteers of America North Louisiana (Shreveport) sends the following request on behalf of evacuees at Highland Center: -- Laptop Computer Mr. Andrews is a "motor man" that keeps the power running on an offshore oil rig. His company is sending him to Oman to work in the next 2 months, until then he will be working 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off on another oil rig. His wife is Kanytra, and evacuee guest elected the Mayor of The Highland, (Becky Cooksey's new phrase for our establishment). If anyone has a laptop that he might be able to have it would be greatly appreciated. He will be using one for work and to communicate with his wife when he is overseas working in Oman. He needs a cd writer/dvd in the laptop. I just thought that if someone was upgrading it would be great to get a good used one. Furniture for Hontiveros Family - Moving Tuesday Sofa & Chair Coffee Table 2 Dressers TV TV Stand Household Cleaners Trash Can Shower Curtain Vacuum Iron & Ironing Board Phone Twin bed frame Queen bed frame Pots and Pans Lamp (St Marks has arranged for a table, chairs, flatware and dishes) Furniture for Lorenzo Alston - Moving Thursday Sofa & Chair Dinette Set TV TV Stand Queen bed Queen bed frame Pots and Pans Dishes Flatware Glasses Lamp Table for lamp Coffee Table End Tables Dresser We really appreciate everyone's support and assistance! Cash donations are needed to help with the unanticipated expenses of serving our guests. You can mail donations to Volunteers of America of North Louisiana, 360 Jordan Street, Shreveport, La, 71101. If you have any questions or need information, please email me: Lisa Brandeburg Vice President of Communications and Development Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 318-221-2669 Ext 205

Friday, September 09, 2005

Incredible pix

This is a link to a series of pictures titled only "Five Days with Katrina - Alvaro, 9/1/05." It's a series of photos from within NOLA before, during and after Katrina.

Help from University of Michigan

From an email to U-M alumni: --- Faculty and students from the School of Information have created an online system to help match hurricane victims in need of housing with the thousands of Americans offering housing, spare rooms and vacant apartments or houses. The site is

Housing needed in Shreveport

From an email -- Brian Byrd, Vice President of Volunteers of America Employment and Community Services Division, sends this message: ...Just got back from Hirsch [shelter in Shreveport]. I met a 79-year old lady who is looking for a 2-bedroom house or apartment. She uses a wheelchair, so it would have to be accessible (or appropriate for minor modifications). She receives Social Security and her adult son lives w/ her and provides her daily care. He is a waiter and currently looking for work here. The powers that be at Hirsch found a house for her -- in OHIO! She was so upset - they were saying things like "I know it's cold up there but we'll make sure you have warm clothes",etc. She does not want to leave S'port until she is able to return to her home in New Orleans. PLEASE let me know if anyone knows of housing for her (oh yeah, the other small catch is that she doesn't speak any English - only Spanish)... If you can help, call Brian Byrd 318 429-7500. Cash donations are still needed to help with the unanticipated expenses of serving our guests. You can mail donations to: Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 360 Jordan Street Shreveport, La, 71101. If you have any questions or need information, please email me: Lisa Brandeburg Vice President of Communications and Development Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 318-221-2669 Ext 205


Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post assigns blame for the Katrina catastrophe in the following order: Mother Nature, Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, President Bush, Congress & the American people. Not surprisingly, Paul Krugman in the NYT lays all blame at the feet of President Bush and ties it to Iraq. Also in the NYT, conservative commentator Nicholas Eberstadt argues disingenuously that the poverty rate in the United States is not an accurate reflection of reality and that the gap between haves and have-nots in this country is nothing to worry about. This is the tired old amoral argument that the poor in America are better off than the poor in developing countries. Obviously Mr. Eberstadt hasn't spent much time in Louisiana. Finally, Mort Kondracke, columnist for The Hill, broadens discussion of the disaster response and suggests the fiasco means the U.S. isn't ready to face a terrorist attack, even four years after 9/11. Of course none of these pieces offer any new insights, but it's interesting to see certain arguments appearing in predictable contexts. Indeed, my column on Wednesday observed that the direction of the finger-pointing is directly connected to political predispositions pre-Katrina. There's only more of this ahead.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Deadly bureaucracy

Bobby Jindal in today's WSJ: The title, "Deadly Bureaucracy" says it all.

Seize the post-Katrina moment

Today's NYT has two columns highlighting the role of poverty in the New Orleans post-Katrina aftermath. Bob Herbert and David Brooks both write of the need to address poverty in the storm's aftermath. My piece in Sunday's LAT raised many of the same issues. Louisiana's abysmal track record on adddressing these issues is well documented. I've been writing about it: On Louisiana's questionable priorities On Louisiana's perceptions of itself On Louisiana's child poverty rate On Louisiana's dropout rate On playing politics with education On not funding teacher pay raises On Louisiana's indigent defense reform On lobbying the state government On governance in Louisiana

Reason for hope

This article in the Shreveport Times has a happy story about strangers helping strangers. With things like this bubbling up from the grass roots there is reason for hope.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

See no evil

Reuters reports FEMA is asking no pictures of the dead from NOLA be published. It's one thing to protect the privacy and dignity of the dead. It's another to prevent the public from seeing the horrible aftermath of total government failure. The outraged public needs to see those pix.

Context the media missed

Tonight on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly was going after Gov. Blanco for refusing to answer the question of when she requested federal aid for the state. It's a fair question and an apparent gag order on anyone who actually has the info is shameful. With the chaos in LA over the last week, it shouldn't be a state secret. I hope the national media will insist on getting an answer because state media doesn't seem too concerned. For the record, just a few days ago, when Miles O'Brien on CNN asked Gov. Blanco that same question, her answer was "I don't even know what day it is." On an unrelated note, as the feud between Blanco and NOLA mayor Nagin grows, no one seems to have recalled that Nagin, in a much-publicized move, supported Blanco's opposition in the last gubernatorial race. It may sound petty, but it's starting to look like it might be time to wonder if that decision is coming back to haunt Nagin. And if that's not the explanation, then what is? Finally, don't forget Congressman William Jefferson, the Congressional representative for New Orleans. Just a month ago it was reported that Jefferson was under investigation by federal authorities for taking money for favors. And a large sum of money was found in his freezer. Was the FBI's NOLA office waterproofed?

Can you go home again?

From an email: -- From Candace Chambliss September 7, 2005 Return to Metairie after Hurricane Katirina On September 6, 2005, my housemate and boyfriend, Mark Thompson and I returned to Jefferson Parish, which was reopened to residents on Monday, September 5, 2005. We live in a small two-bedroom house in an older part of Metairie that is middle-working class and all white. Mark and I are Black. I am an attorney with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and Mark is a doctor at Tulane Hospital. Upon arriving, Mark and I spoke with neighbors who were outside their homes—neighbors with whom we never before had a conversation in the one-year we lived in the community. Afterwards we examined our own home and were relieved to find it virtually unharmed. Only the yard and fence required real repair. Mark dragged a lawn chair from the house into the backyard and we sat down and reveled in the fact that we had been so fortunate. Moments later a man in fatigues and carrying a rifle entered our yard and yelled for us to get our hands up where he could see them. Mark complied and yelled, “This is my house,” and the gunman responded by insisting that Mark lay on the ground face down. Five other men, all pointing their guns at us, also entered the yard, and I too was made to lay face down in the grass that was covered by tree branches, glass, roof tiles, and other objects. The men demanded Mark’s identification and removed his wallet from his pocket. They asked Mark whether he stole the clothes he was wearing. Mark calmly responded to every question that was rudely and insultingly asked. I meanwhile was crying from fear of the man who was holding a gun to my head. The militiamen demanded proof that Mark owned the house, and Mark informed them that our picture was hanging on the refrigerator. The men confiscated the photograph we took two years ago on Valentines Day, and never returned it. They went through the house, supposedly looking for mail or other evidence of Mark’s ownership. They found a stack of unopened mail with Mark’s name and address and affirmed that he did in fact own the house. The gunmen allowed us to stand and one of them said, “Sorry for the inconvenience.” They said they received a call regarding looters. I suggested that we were treated as were because we are Black, and no response was given. The men left. Undoubtedly, my elderly white neighbors were not welcomed in such a way when they returned to their houses.

Dine for America

from an email: -- "Dine for America -- National Fundraiser Oct. 5 On October 5, 2005, restaurants across the country will band together in a "Dine for America" day, a national fundraising effort to support the America Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and help those affected by Hurricane Katrina and their families." Hurricane Katrina Restaurant Blog <> "Find out how restaurateurs are reacting to the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Through our "Restaurants Respond" update, well help spread the word about operators who organize fundraisers, employers trying to contact employees and personal accounts of restaurateurs affected by the devastation."

Homeless pets

From an email: -- A shelter in Jackson, Mississippi is in the process of gathering information to place the pets that have been left homeless by the Hurricane. If anyone is interested in adopting one of these pets, they will be transported to the individual states of the adopter. Send an email to and give your name, phone number, city, state and a veterinary reference. I would also let them know what type of pet you are willing to adopt. They are doing their very best to match pets with new owners. Please pass this on to anyone you know that is willing to give one of these homeless pets a new home.

VOA update from North LA

Here's an update from Volunteers of America regarding relief efforts. Please note this post contains specific requests for help. -- Our relief efforts continue to unfold in many different ways. Below you will find information on what is being done and what still needs to be done. Please forward this to anyone. An email was sent by our adoption supervisor, Richard Caffarel, here in Shreveport to a Judge in South Louisiana... "I'm trying to see if I can reach you on behalf of our Volunteers of America office in New Orleans (Metairie). I've been in touch with my counterpart in that office. They have 2 babies in temporary family (foster) care. One family evacuated to Baton Rouge and the other to Monroe. Both families are very stressed, and we (VOA North Louisiana) will probably put the babies in our family care homes in Shreveport/Alexandria later this week." He goes on to write asking that the judge issue an order or statement allowing Volunteers of America authorization to care for these babies until their birthmothers can be found. Both birthmothers had signed releases authorizing Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans to provide care but both will expire within the next week and the babies need to be in care. Shannon Smith, LCSW, provided counseling to a mother and child, both evacuees staying in our Highland Center. They had lost everything and needed someone to talk to about their experience and sense of loss. Leon Bain, put us in touch with Dr.Brigham who agreed to see the adult in pain and needing a dentist. We do have one additional person needing a filling replaced. Reverend M L Agnew, from St. Mark's Episcopal, came by the Highland Center this morning with several of his phenomenal team. They brought dinner for this evening. They also committed to serving dinner three nights per week as long as our evacuee's/guests are with us. Skip Simonton (one terrific lady!) also agreed to provide snacks and breakfast type items for the weekends. So, between Noel and St. Mark's, our meals are covered. We have a guest/evacuee and her 6 year old daughter that will be moving to Houston. She is an x-ray technician and will be going to work in Houston at the VA Medical Center. We need to know if someone will provide transportation or a bus ticket for them to Houston. Mr. Franklin Alexander is one of our guests/evacuee's at the Highland Center. He formerly worked for Memorial Medical Center, the Baptist campus in New Orleans. He was an operating room assistant for surgery. He is seeking employment here (and then we will be working on housing). Contact Mr. Alexander through Brandy, 221-8404 Ext 318. We want to thank Becky Cooksey, Mary Harris and Tommy Berry for working all day to sort donated items at the Volunteers of America Highland Center. The sorting took place in the Sanctuary. Becky writes, We boxed toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, etc separately. We then separated by pew toilet paper, paper plates, paper towels, utensils etc by pew. I put labels on each pew. We got everything pretty much separated except for clothing, bedding and infant. These things are consolidated on the same pew just not separate. Anyone wishing to help Becky finish this job, please call her at 865-7020. She estimates about 2 more hours of work. Cash donations are needed for many emergency expenses and can be mailed to Volunteers of America of North Louisiana, 360 Jordan Street, Shreveport, La 71101. Katrina can be written in the memo. Many thanks to everyone offering assistance. Lisa Lisa Brandeburg Vice President of Communications and Development Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 318-221-2669 Ext 205

News from a mini supply convoy

From a friend whose family was hard hit by Katrina --- Subject: Update on my family & Katrina Hurricane Friday night my neighbors Cammie & David Olney, Greg & Alicia Thibodeaux helped me and my friends Donna Calvert, Larry & Jennifer Toups load David’s suburban full of supplies and the bed of Larry’s double cab 4 wheel drive truck full of gas and diesel cans. David, Donna, Jennifer, Larry & I left LC at 4:00 am on Saturday. Our first stop was Hammond to check on David’s friend Charles Palumbo whose house was damaged tremendously. He and his family are living in 2 rooms of it that are not damaged and had supplies. We then headed back out and hit Biloxi about 10:15 am. We had no problems getting through but the devastation is just horrendous. We made it to my step dad, Bobby Starks, first where his house had little damage. He lost all the big trees in his yard and I stood in utter thanksgiving that none of them hit the house, it was unbelievable. Dad was really weary, he is 71 and the heat there is hardly bearable. David and Larry got a generator going for his air conditioner and we had also brought him a thermos of coffee. He had not had any coffee since Monday morning. The look on his face holding that cup of coffee was priceless. He has never once complained on the few calls he has gotten through to me, only talked about how many more there were to be rescued and needed food and water. The family business Stark’s contracting mainly does commercial building and they were using the large flatbed trucks to rescue people and equipment to clear roads. The trucks had run out of gas and were no longer able to run by the time we made it down. Those in the Starks family who were sick, young or injured were evacuated to different hospitals, homes up north. The only ones that remained in the area were the ones who can help to rebuild the infrastructure, Dad refused to leave, he is adamant that he will continue his job as supervisor and feels that within days the tanker of gas and diesel they ordered before the storm will come in and Starks will resume helping the community. We then went to my Aunt Margaret who was at my Cousin Kevin’s house one block off Hwy 90 on the beach and brought her supplies. From there we met up with my older sister Linda and Cousin Tom. I did not get to see the majority of my family as they were all looking for rubble piles to be able to salvage what they could from their homes. But this trip was to get in and bring supplies. My sister Cindy has a brick wall remaining on her house, Rachel has nothing but a few walls, several Uncles, Aunts and cousins have nothing left of their homes. When Uncle John went to check out his house on Tuesday morning, there was nothing left but in his yard except 45 - 50 drowned bodies. Of course they are getting no news, etc and had no idea how big the storm was or the issues in New Orleans, they just figured it was another Camille. We took very few pictures, it was just too hard to look at and the piles of rubble and wood and destruction everywhere began to just look the same. But the people, everyone you passed waved, smiled, and threw kisses. Every few blocks we saw electric companies from all over the nation -- Detroit, Ohio, Indiana, etc there working on putting up new power lines. National Guard was everywhere and they were having very little issues with looting. People were pulling together all over, neighbors checking on each other and Red Cross trucks all over passing out water and food. The spirit was awesome and the tone we will rebuild. They have a curfew of 6:00 pm and we needed to be out heading back home by 5:00 to not be stopped. We were like our own little supply convoy going from place to place dropping off supplies and giving a quick hug and heading out. The only ones we are not sure of status is my mother and 2 younger brothers. Both their houses are gone and we are hoping they evacuated but Red Cross said it could easily be weeks before we know if they are in shelter. Please continue to pray for all victims. Because many of you forwarded my emails, I have heard from people as far away as Alaska – God is so awesome! Words cannot express my thankfulness for the help, calls, and emails I have received from many of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all! I have the most terrific friends. Blessings, Sandy Sandy Hudson

Info for LA's displaced state employees

Toll-Free Hotline for Displaced State Employees The Department of State Civil Service has established a toll-free hotline to help the 27,000 plus state employees displaced by Hurricane Katrina to contact their agencies. Displaced state employees may call the hotline at1-866-783-5462 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Civil Service will continue to post information pertaining to displaced state employees on its website at

LA social services post-Katrina

This is info from the Louisiana Department of Social Services about getting public assistance post-Katrina. The Department's website says: "Citizens seeking information to help them cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina now have access to a toll-free number to connect them with needed services. By dialing 1 (888) LAHELPU or 1 (888) 524-3578 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., information can be obtained on the following programs: Food Stamp Benefits, including Disaster Food Stamp Benefits Medicaid or WIC Mental Health Counseling Addictive Disorders Developmental Disorders Social Security Benefits or Social Security Disability Benefits Child Support Foster Care Program DHH Optional State Supplement Checks Louisiana Rehabilitation Services Unemployment Benefits and Disaster Unemployment Benefits" -- From the Shreveport office: Disaster Relief is available in the form of a food stamp EBT card (like a credit card) to anyone who lived in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I work for the Dept of Social Services and our office at 1525 Fairfield is open 24/7 to provide these disaster relief food stamp cards. For some reason, word is not getting out about this assistance so I thought if we all send it to everyone in Louisiana that we have in our Email address books, the word will spread. To apply, the person in need needs to: Go to 1525 Fairfield, Room 101 (corner of Fairfield and Jordan) Bring a picture ID if you have it, SS card if you have that or a piece of mail or something with your address on it. You'll complete a one page simple application. The cards are issued on site and the benefits will be available 4 hours after receipt. They can be used at any grocery store and are easy to use as they swipe in the credit card machine. You will be given a pin number when you apply. This is NOT just for the poor. It is for anyone displaced by the storm. We are finding that many people might have large bank accts but they don't have access to them. Others are not home to receive their SS checks, etc. Even if they are staying with family or friends, having this card helps defray the cost of feeding them. The benefit amounts for each household are as follows: 1. $149 2. $274 3. $393 4. $499 5. $592 The amount increases based on the amount of people in your family. I just listed the amounts for 1 to 5 member households. These benefits are available in all Parish offices in Louisiana but I believe Shreveport is the only one still open 24/7. I am not sure how much longer we'll have the nighttime hours but it will be at least through Tuesday. Again, send this to everyone on your list who lives in Louisiana. The assistance is available and it would be a shame for everyone who is eligible not to make use of it. Tell your neighbors, friends and family as most people know someone who has been affected by this catastrophic e! vent. Mary Salvail Caddo Office of Family Support

Insurance summit

The Times Pic reports embattled Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley is holding an "insurance summit" in Atlanta today to discuss response to Katrina. Here's where Louisiana's not-so-good reputation will come back to haunt: Recall the fate of the state's last few insurance commissioners. Recall,too, the recent public outcry when it was discovered Wooley had spent tens of thousands of state tax dollars for a souped up luxury truck. Louisiana's poor national reputation (already bad enough prior to the Katrina fiasco) will hover like an uninvited guest at Wooley's summit and everywhere else Louisiana goes seeking help for a long time to come.

NYT commentary

Thomas Friedman in today's NYT takes the Bush Administration to task for failure to "plan for a rainy day." Friedman's observations about policy failures at the highest levels are sobering indeed. A few excerpts below: "...Besides ripping away the roofs of New Orleans, Katrina ripped away the argument that we can cut taxes, properly educate our kids, compete with India and China, succeed in Iraq, keep improving the U.S. infrastructure, and take care of a catastrophic emergency - without putting ourselves totally into the debt of Beijing... "...So many of the things the Bush team has ignored or distorted under the guise of fighting Osama were exposed by Katrina: its refusal to impose a gasoline tax after 9/11, which would have begun to shift our economy much sooner to more fuel-efficient cars, helped raise money for a rainy day and eased our dependence on the world's worst regimes for energy; its refusal to develop some form of national health care to cover the 40 million uninsured; and its insistence on cutting more taxes, even when that has contributed to incomplete levees and too small an Army to deal with Katrina, Osama and Saddam at the same time..." -- Also n today's NYT, Maureen Dowd has harsh words for the Bush Administration's response to Katrina. This line in particular caught my attention: "New Orleans's literary lore and tourist lure was its fascination with the dead and undead, its lavish annual Halloween party, its famous above-ground cemeteries, its love of vampires and voodoo and zombies. But now that the city is decimated, reeking with unnecessary death and destruction, the restless spirits of New Orleans will haunt the White House."

A city's unusual immobility

In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum hones in on the reasons so many people were left in NOLA. She writes (with emphasis added by me): "In New Orleans, as we now know, the numbers who didn't evacuate were multiplied dramatically by the city's unusual immobility: Some 57,000 households in Orleans Parish did not own a car. A University of New Orleans study published in July noted that only 48 percent of the inhabitants of Orleans Parish had a definite evacuation plan..." "The interstates out of New Orleans were turned into one-way roads -- but there were no buses, trains or ships for those who couldn't drive. The city initially won praise for evacuating some 80 percent of 1.4 million area residents, but no provision -- in the form of rations, water bottles, security -- was made for the 25,000 people who showed up, predictably, at the Superdome, the city's designated "shelter of last resort."

Blame enough to spread around

The Washington Times doesn't limit its condemnation of the response to Katrina to Louisiana's governor. This editorial also goes after FEMA for its "dysfunctional performance." Here is the meat of that editorial (emphasis added by me): "In an interview on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now," three-and-a-half days after Katrina made landfall, Mr. Brown insisted that the federal government in general and FEMA in particular had no idea until that very day that tens of thousands of New Orleans residents and tourists had assembled at the city's convention center. "Sir, you aren't just telling me you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn't have food and water until today [Thursday], are you?" Mrs. Zahn asked incredulously. "You had no idea they were completely cut off?" "Paula, the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today," Mr. Brown said, ever so matter-of-factly. With that reply, he confirmed the enormous size of the disaster that was the federal response.

A scathing indictment

Today's Washington Times has an editorial condemning Gov. Kathleen Blanco for her performance pre- and post-Katrina. It begins, "Before hurricane Katrina made landfall, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana appears to have been more focused on securing federal funds for post-hurricane relief than ensuring that necessary troops were deployed to carry search and rescue missions, deliver food and water, and protect the citizens of Louisiana against marauding street thugs." It concludes, "Mrs. Blanco appeared to have been unaware of the prospects of catastrophe in New Orleans and other areas. Those left behind could tell her about it."

Government failed

My column today discusses the ways government failed over the last week. A few excerpts here: "As we dry our tears and settle in for the road ahead, no doubt the most devastating reality we face is the knowledge that it didn't have to be this way. When we're not feeling heartsick about what's happened, we're tempted to lash out and assign blame. But so far, the finger-pointing seems to be based less on fact and more on gut reaction to events, with political predispositions also playing a role. Of course this is natural, but it's not productive. "We need to save our energy for the protracted process of helping to rebuild lives and for the equally protracted process of learning what went wrong, when, where and why. We need to have energy to face the answers to those questions and to take the action those answers should compel us to take. "No doubt the anger comes from the powerlessness we've felt knowing people were suffering, combined with disbelief that, for days, there was little or no evidence of official intervention of any kind. In the end, there will be more than enough blame to go around and it will be widely distributed. "Punishment should then be meted out accordingly, either at the ballot box or in the court system, or perhaps, as some have suggested, in both. There can be no excuse, from any official, for any reason, at any level for having allowed this natural disaster to devolve into a man-made hell on earth."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Louisiana law blog

The Louisiana law blog has information about filing insurance claims after a disaster. It also has information about management of hazardous and solid wastes. It's not complete, but it's a very good place to start.

When the water recedes

Advice for what to do when the water recedes -- from a friend of a friend who's been through it: -- For those of your friends that are dealing with a some water in the house you may want to forward... it may not be entirely applicable for people whose house was severely flooded for a week or more because the house will simply be bulldozed; but for those that were 'surged' it may be helpful. For those with a leaky roof it definitely is applicable. Quick Summary: Here is a very quick summary of needed actions after a flood, hurricane, or other water damage. 1) Get a dehumidifier to dry out the building as soon as practical. 2) Wear a dust mask to minimize inhaling spores once mold and mildew start growing. 3) Get any stuff washed into the building out of the building (sand, mud, boats, etc.) 4) As soon as possible after a flood: Remove any wet drywall, and wall-to-wall carpet. 5) Disinfect non-porous surfaces with a mixture 1qt (new) bleach and 1 oz TSP with 3 qt water. 6) Toss anything porous that you really do not need to minimize the amount of work needed to clean up the remaining mess. 7) Disinfect porous items with Microban Disinfectant Spray Plus. Encapsulate construction materials after using Microban with Unsmoke Unsoot #2. 8) Other issues: Replace electrical fixtures, outlets and switches that were wet.

Finding fault

Another writer weighs in to place blame on state and local officials for the disaster in NOLA. This time, it's op-ed contributor Bob Williams in the Wall Street Journal. See post from earlier today with similar message in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With news from Washington that congressional inquiry into the tragedy is now on the agenda, I hope there will eventually be answers to the many disturbing questions Katrina raised and the serious issues it laid bare at all levels. Some highlights from the Williams piece follow below. -- "Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible -- local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin." "The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his/her emergency operations center." "The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. "

Update: VOA North LA

Here's an update on the activities of VOA in north Louisiana. Please note their needs. All phone numbers are area code 318 unless otherwise indicated. -- Here's an update on our efforts to serve those relocated by Katrina. We thankfully received many donated goods today and over the weekend and we are in the process of inventorying and organizing them at the Volunteers of America Highland Center. Becky Cooksey, board member, has generously volunteered to help with this task. This is now a really big and immediate task so helpers are really,really needed. Anyone wishing to help with this task, please call Becky, 865-7020, or Brandy, 221-8404, Ext 318 . SHE WILL NEED YOUR HELP! We are also in need of a dentist to see two adults. If you know of a dentist that could see these individuals right away, please call Brandy, 221-8404 Ext 318. We are receiving additional staff and guests from our Volunteers of America New Orleans office and they will be served by our Magnolia House and Gateway facilities. Noel Memorial United Methodist Church is preparing dinner and entertainment for our "guests" on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. This is very kind and helpful. We know our guests will love the meal and it also gives them a chance to get out of their new living arrangements for a short time and enjoy an evening out. Marilyn Gallagher's Sunday School Class, Harris McClamrock, from First Presbyterian Church, passed the hat and collected $162 for use at our Highland Center location in addition to other acts of kindness. We seem to be doing well on donated items as of today, but we can still use cash donations, made payable to Volunteers of America of North Louisiana, so please let others know. Lisa Brandeburg Vice President of Communications and Development Volunteers of America of North Louisiana 318-221-2669 Ext 205

What you need to know

A friend forwards all this helpful info for those who've been displaced and/or had property damage from Katrina. It builds on an original list resulting from the 9/11 experience: --- From someone who went through Ivan: 1) Call your insurance company and get copies of each of your policies. It is EXTREMELY helpful to cite specific sections of the relevant policies. After calling the 'sales' part of the insurance company then immediately call the 'claims' part of the company to get that ball rolling. It will take a lot longer than you think it should but they just don't have enough adjusters to do the job. Be honest when you talk with the claims person. Be sure to say that 'this is all of the damage I know of now, there may be more I do not know about'. 2) If you think the insurance company is not giving you what you deserve do not accept the settlement. A year after Ivan there are STILL people fighting the insurance companies -- and they usually win in arbitration. Stand up for what you deserve. Those that just gave up are now kicking themselves. Note: Florida has a law that if your house is 'totaled' in a hurricane that both the windstorm and flood insurance is supposed to pay 100% each (200% total!). Know your rights under your state's particular laws. You don't have to accept what the company initially offers. 3) FEMA will reimburse you for some items like tarps, nails, tar paper, hammers, etc., used for temporary repairs if insurance doesn't. If I remember correctly they would reimburse $750 for a generator and $200 for a chain saw. And they reimburse for the gas / oil used in both. 4) Save ALL your receipts If you can't prove you spent it they won't reimburse you for it. And no one will pay if you don't ask. Check with a qualified accountant about the following. We've all paid enough taxes so there is no reason to pay more. Since the President signed the Disaster Declaration a bunch of things happen with tax returns that you can use to your advantage. *** Because this is a Federal Disaster Declaration you can either take these by adjusting (refiling) your 2004 return or on your 2005 return -- whichever is best for you. 5) If you can get a total of the following that is at least 10% of your gross income you can deduct all of them from your income as 'uninsured losses'. a) Insurance deductibles (FEMA does not cover these). b) Condo association 'special assessments'. c) The value of the trees that were blown down (I got $25k of trees down in Ivan, $23k in Dennis). Contact an Arborist to do the appraisal. For Ivan he just used pictures. d) Remember the items in any safe deposit boxes. This may be covered either by homeowner's insurance or 'uninsured losses'. I just started keeping a list of items in a notebook that I would add to when I thought of something. 6) Because of ID theft, you should think about doing the following: a. Replace Driver's Licenses, Passports, and copies of birth certificates. b. Get a copy of your credit reports ( Contact each major reporting agency and put a note on your report that you are a victim of hurricane Katrina so there is a flag if something happens in the future. c. If you did not take all your credit cards with you then report them 'lost or stolen'. The credit card companies will reissue your card with a new number. 7) Contact all your credit card companies. Many have special waivers for people who are affected by hurricanes. Discover has sent me a nice note after Ivan and Dennis with various offers -- including increased credit limits -- which may be helpful because you are about to spend a whole lot of money that was probably not in your budget. --- You need to submit asap a change of address so the mail piling up... will get sent to you. You make a "permanent" change (they will ignore all others) and you change it as often as you move, but do it. A friend of mine who worked Disaster Relief in NYC after 911 sent this summary of information on how to proceed...I don't know about you but I hadn't a clue what the next step was personally... Disaster Relief Information: 1. Register for FEMA - you can do it online.> > Click on "Register for Individual> > Assistance".> >> '>> Click on "Register for Individual> > Assistance".> >> 2. Don't worry about your cox bills, your electric bills etc at the moment. There is nothing to "turn off" so they can't "turn you off". After power restored - which won't be for a long time - you can worry about that. By then American Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc should have programs set up for relief aid. Once there is case management available through one of these organizations (I would recommend Red Cross case managers) you should get a casemanager - as they will be able to help you navigate all the different relief programs and help you know what you qualify for. 3. Call your mortgage company. They have programs for disasters like this. Our mortgage company offers two things you need to qualify for: a. Suspending mortgage payments for 3 months and then paying all 3months at once. (In this case you may have funds from American Red Cross by then to pay that mortgage) b .Suspending payments for one to two or three months and working those payments back into the principal. You have to QUALIFY for those two. The last thing (this is just our mortgage company- but your probably offers something similar) is that they will only have you pay a smaller amount - I don't know what the money includes. 4. Call your credit card companies - they are freezing accounts right now to make it so you don't incur interest. But call to see if your individual credit card company is doing that. You should call them anyway and alert them to your situation, they will tell you what to do. 5. File all your insurance claims ASAP: flood, house, car, etc. I will put two articles below about how flood/home insurance works. Basically, the two insurers get together to figure out "why" the damage occurred - if it was due to FLOOD, FLOOD INSURANCE PAYS. If it was due to house DAMAGE from winds, broken window, etc HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE PAYS. This may be weird for all of us because we will have to figure out if there was damage BEFORE the flooding caused by hurricane force winds or whatever. The stuff that was stolen from your place would fall under HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE. 6. Once you know what your insurance company is going to pay get it ITEMIZED as follows: How much they will give you for: a. Structural Damage b. Personal Property Damage c. Loss of Use FAX THAT INFORMATION TO FEMA and then FEMA can determine what other aid (if any) you qualify for. FEMA is only there to give you enough $ to make your home safe and liveable. If you had CAR DAMAGE or LOST A CAR IN THE FLOOD contact your car insurance company and see if they will pay for it. If not, get a LETTER IN WRITING STATING THEIR DENIAL TO HELP YOU. THEN, contact FEMA for a SBA (a small business loan - I know it's weird that it's for a car but it is). If THEY deny you FEMA may give you a grant to replace your car. I WOULD ITEMIZE everything in your home, furniture, equipment, everything and place a value on it. Someone else may decide this value for you, but you may fare better if you have an accounting of ALL your personal property. ABOVE ALL this will take TIME. So figure out how to work ASAP. And be very very patient. The Ivan people - some of them anyway - didn't get $ till a year later. Case management can help with speeding up some stuff and get you the help you need in the meantime. ALSO - don't fall into the "other people are more needy than me therefore I will not seek assistance" trap. Although you may feel ok right now there is no telling how long it will take to get back to normal. Look for and accept any and all assistance you can get. If you are a SAG member check their online site - they are offering assistance. If you are an Actor's Equity Association member check out THEIR website, they are offering assistance. I hope this information is helpful.