8/30/2005

Daily Kos: Accountability for Lake New Orleans (Updated)

Accountability for Lake New Orleans (Updated)
by gfactor [Subscribe]
Tue Aug 30th, 2005 at 14:57:25 CDT

Every story I read tells me that it looks like Lake New Orleans may become a sad reality. A city bursting with culture, cuisine, art and music, in some ways unlike any other city in this nation, has been washed out, forcing a refugee crisis of hundreds of thousands of people with nowhere else to go.

We can't hold anybody accountable for the hurricane that brought about this tragedy, but we can hold accountable the folks that didn't do all they could to possibly prevent a disaster like the levee breach. And this quote says it all:

It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004

Camp Casey now has more than enough reason to continue their protest beyond Crawford, TX.

* gfactor's diary :: ::
*

The article continues (all emphasis mine):

When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained...

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

You think New Orleans was not shouting loud and often enough about this problem? It gets worse:

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach.

And that breach is proceeding to make New Orleans into a modern-day Atlantis.

So there you have it. Bush's priorities towards wars of choice, tax cuts for the rich, pork giveaways, and focus on a war on terrorism that has seemingly made our nation less safe have lent an indirect hand to the catastrophe New Orleans is now facing. Bush and Congress can cry "HURRICANE" all they want - the fact is that if they had made the effort to provide the funds the city needed to finish the job, then the Big Easy would probably have stood a better chance of preventing a levee breach (and given the hurricane missed the city by 30 miles, they may have had that chance - but now we'll never know).

If there is a Rally 'Round the President moment, it is sure to be brief. People have already grown tired of him, and a good amount of them, based on polling, seem to have buyer's remorse. Word will get out that funds to help secure New Orleans' levee system were diverted if not completely cut out to fund the War in Iraq and (God forbid) tax cuts for the rich, and when it does, Bush and the GOP can expect a backlash that will likely continue beyond the 2006 elections.

We knew what Bush's War in Iraq has done to our country's military and foreign policy. Now we are seeing what it has done to our country domestically.

Update [2005-8-30 16:14:43 by gfactor]:: Hat tip to Atrios, who goes on to say "This is a massive disaster requiring some serious leadership."

Something, I regret to say, on both sides of the aisle it seems, this country does not have.

Update [2005-8-30 16:23:7 by gfactor]: If recent trends are an indicator, Bush may never see that Rally 'Round the President bounce:

Wholesale gasoline prices on the Gulf Coast broke $3 a gallon Tuesday — far higher than prices at most U.S. pumps — as major refineries remained shut after Hurricane Katrina, trading sources said.

This could spell a huge spike in retail prices for drivers throughout the United States in the coming days and in particular those in the Southeast, where prices are typically the lowest in the country.

Update [2005-8-30 17:55:45 by gfactor]: Governor orders complete evacuation of New Orleans. From what the reports tell us, the Big Easy is fucked!

And one comment on whether or not we should make this political. I want no desire to make this political, just the same way I didn't want 9/11 to be made political. But this Administration and Republican Party have repeatedly used tragedies like this to further along their own ideological agenda, while we do nothing and people continue to ask us about the location of our backbone.

I am a musician, and I have made many friends with other fellow musicians who live in New Orleans. I spoke to one the day the Hurricane hit, who told me he left behind multiple musical instruments that are worth probably a combined $30,000-$40,000, and said if the city became a fish bowl he will likely lose everything. The livelihoods of many of these musicians, whom I have come to love and appreciate as friends and good people, have been either severely altered, ruined, or destroyed by this hurricane.

Whether or not the flood would have happened anyway is a moot point. The bottom line is that a simple allocation of funds and support from this Congress and President could have been the one thing that could have secured those levees and saved the city from a widespread flood.

In the end, it is the incompentance, stupid! Incompentance that has now ruined the lives of my friends and thousands upon thousands of people in New Orleans; incompentance that has ruined the lives of Cindy Sheehan and thousands of other families from a war of lies in Iraq; incompentance that has ruined the lives of families that lost loved ones on 9/11 when this President and Administration, during this same time period four years ago, pushed aside a key PDB that could have, could have prevented the attacks from happening, or minimized them!

I'm sorry, I'm getting worked up a little bit because I feel great pain for what my friends and their families are likely to go through now. What's done is done in NOLA and can't be undone, and we should do all we can to help those in great need at this moment in time. But, I ask you, how much more rank incompentance must we endure before we, the American People, finally hold this Administration and Congress accountable for their actions and inactions? How much more pain must we endure before we do? Please tell me, what will it take?

Update [2005-8-30 18:32:49 by gfactor]: Last one, as I have already updated too much on this story, but I have to add more one thing.

John Aravosis of AMERICABlog is absolutely right. The only way our leadership can have the guts to stand up to this Administration and hold them accountable for their actions or inactions is to show them that it's ok to fight back.

Daily Kos: Accountability for Lake New Orleans (Updated)

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