I’m Depressed on This Anniversary…

Notes Ariella Cohen and Brentin Mock in Next American City,

There are many differences between George Bush and Barack Obama, but they do share one thing in common: While the Gulf Coast reeled in need of recovery, both presidents were on vacation. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck and wiped out much of southeastern Louisiana, and the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, Bush was at his Crawford, Texas getaway. Four years later, much of the housing and infrastructure lost in storm floods still has not been rebuilt—and yet today, on the disaster’s anniversary, Obama will not be marking the day with a groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting. He will be wrapping up a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

The president’s decision to stay on the east coast this week did not come as a surprise to the people of the Gulf Coast, where kudzu-covered playgrounds, closed schools and decaying roads inspire little trust in public officials. Yet even if predicted, the president’s absence still has managed to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many here who expected more from the country’s first black president, a former community organizer who campaigned on a promise that he would make it “clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don’t end in places like the Ninth ward – they begin there.”

There’s one thing wrong with tha above quote–it refers to flooding caused by "storm floods"–a natural disaster–when New Orleans’ flooding was actually caused by the rupture of poorly-built federally-maintained levees–a manmade disaster. Obama doesn’t seem to get this important distinction either, according to Harry Shearer. And more tragically, adds Shearer, Obama doesn’t seem to care about the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers may, in rebuilding these levees, may be making some of the mistakes it made in the past. In short, Obama doesn’t get it-and doesn’t care.

Obama is also seen as ignoring Louisiana, New Orleans, and recovery. Says Jeff Crouere in Bayou Buzz,

When campaigning in New Orleans Obama declared that our recovery would be “a priority of my presidency.” Not only has it not been a priority, it has not even been on his radar screen. It is interesting that President Obama has not only neglected coastal restoration, but he has neglected to visit our state. The President has jetted from one end of the country to the other, but has bypassed Louisiana. It could be because of the fact that Louisiana is a red, Republican leaning state. If so, such political considerations are a horrible reason to ignore our area. President Obama was elected to represent the entire 50 states, not just the blue ones.

Crouere adds that the Vice President has yet to visit New Orleans, then goes on…

While numerous cabinet secretaries have visited the area, there is no substitute for a visit from the President. While the levee reconstruction and flood protection improvements are progressing and billions have been spent, it will be all in vain if the coast is not restored…

To be fair, there has been a little good news–namely that Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan has visited New Orleans, but even then one wonders how HUD will deal with the tremendous scope of the housing woes that still exist, not only in Louisiana but in Mississippi:

Stevonne Doughty is plenty frustrated by what hasn’t happened since Hurricane Katrina wiped out thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast.

Doughty, 47, still lives in a three-bedroom trailer in Biloxi, Miss., that the federal government provided in 2006. The trailer sits near the house she used to rent before Katrina left it under eight feet of water and it was later demolished.

"When you see the casinos coming back, they’re not doing it by themselves," said Doughty, a disabled nurse and mother who lives on Social Security. "Why not help the people? Most people don’t want a handout; they want a hand up."

What depresses me is there’s still a long way to go, it seems, before hope and change really reach New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Region.

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