Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dear Presidential Hopefuls,

What is New Orleans to me:
A lazy sway or a syncopated sea,
Warm nights or a creole dream,
Warm hearts or a voodoo queen,
Jazz floating upon the breeze
Making way to that Big Ease?
Thirteen hundred miles removed
From what did I once know moved,
Hurricanes, magnolia trees.
What is New Orleans to me?
New Orleans. It’s my home. There isn’t a place in America like it, believe me I have looked, and I have both traveled and lived cross-country and have found no city that is more fascinating and mystical. The Mississippi River, which provides the source for the city's nick name “Crescent City”, sets the meandering pace by which the residents live – it’s as if the residents make known with their leisurely ways, “Hey, why rush yourself to death, darlin’?” The people there are friendly (not just nice). The food is amazing and can’t be found anyplace else -- any native displaced by Katrina that has looked for similar food else where in the country soon learns that he or she is better off just making it themselves. It’s in the South but isn’t southern – since living outside New Orleans people are always shocked when I tell them I am from New Orleans. They usually expect me to say Jersey or the Bronx. I could go on and on about why I like my home, but that isn’t my intention.

I’m sure you have realized that lately – namely the last two years – that New Orleans has been having some set backs. I am also sure you know why. Yup. It was hurricane Katrina. It’s funny how something can change an entire culture -- the residents no longer use standard measurements for time. Simply, the phrases “Before the Hurricane” and “After the Hurricane” are enough to measure time and sum up the impact the storm had on the city. However a hurricane can only cause so many set backs on its own accord.

After the storm there was great response from around the country and world to help the Big Easy, and we were very thankful for that help too. Yet, from my experience over the last year and a half living outside New Orleans, the country seems to have forgotten New Orleans. I currently live in the mid-Atlantic, and sadly, I never hear of the dire condition the city finds itself. They forget, that schools are hardly opened, neighborhoods are still patrolled by armed National Guard (It is an interesting experience standing in line at Burger King behind two armed servicemen in fatigues with assault rifles slung over their shoulders in an American city.), and the city is getting little help from the government (and that help it is receiving is laughable at best). Everyone over here seems to think the city has recovered and is back to normal, but that is not the case.

I can’t blame the people for not knowing about the poor state the city is in and the poor help New Orleans is receiving. Clearly Paris Hilton’s jailing and Michael Vick’s dog fighting charges are far more pressing issues for America than the fate of an entire American city. Without a doubt, Michael Vick has a greater impact on the country than does an entire port city. When the news stations finally gets around to their obligatory Katrina Update, the media shows the barely damaged French Quarter or Mardi Gras celebration as if New Orleans is only the Quarter and Mardi Gras. If the news reports other topics it displays New Orleans in an unfavorable light: a political mess-up, an example of what not to do, when a politician’s corrupt nature becomes know, or when a presidential hopeful goes to the city.

Over the last two years, New Orleans has become a politically hot issue, and New Orleans is on its way to being a political platform for presidential hopefuls. Not long ago John Edwards announced his presidency while helping local residents gut, clean, and build a house. Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter, visited the state in late August for the “Hope and Recovery Summit”, which was held at the University of New Orleans. Clinton and Edwards have already planned their second trip to New Orleans and are scheduled to arrive sometime this week. Barack Obama just finished his visit to the city where he promised to help the Gulf Coast in the recovery efforts if he becomes president. I’m sure it won’t be much longer till New Orleans starts seeing more presidential hopefuls campaigning as election dates near.

However, I ask you, every politician and presidential hopeful that comes to New Orleans, please do not come down here making promises you cannot keep or do not want to keep. New Orleans is filled with hurting and angry people, and to take advantage of those individuals for a vote is wrong and unethical. New Orleans is not your political call-girl. You will not win votes by talking about what needs to be done. Beside, the government has demonstrated no good reason to be trusted from a New Orleanian perspective, and has shown little interested and lacked competence in helping the city.

For instance, the levees broke that were built by the government Corp. of Engineers. Mayor Ray Nagin did little to help the city and has done more harm to the city after his remarks about New York and Philadelphia. There are rumors of Nagin running for a new office this coming election (even though he has 3 years left to his term). He is raising money for something. Nagin might be physically present in the city, but mentally, he might already be gone. Governor Blanco dropped the ball, and now she wants to build roads in northern Louisiana with the surplus of money Louisiana received for recovery efforts. All Senator Landrieu could do is cry and hold committees. Bush, well he made some promises, but did not live up to them. FEMA, that didn’t work out too well either. The “Road Home” program is running out of money fast. US Rep. Bill Jefferson has been charged with bribery (Doesn’t everyone keep $90,000 in their freezer?). Senator David Vitter is tied up with a sex scandal. City Councilman Oliver Thomas recently pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges. Lastly, the police have difficulty keeping up with crime: the murder rate per capita is through the roof (I think it is the highest in the nation at the moment). With the government failing New Orleans on all levels how do the residents of New Orleans begin to trust the government?

In reality, the people in New Orleans have heard enough words about what needs to be done, and getting what needs to be done should not depend upon a particular candidate winning the presidency. What the city does not need is another person flying in from wherever to tell the residents, the people experiencing it first hand, the obvious. If you want our vote (yes, my voting district is still in New Orleans), do not lecture us on rebuilding, don’t tell us what you will do when you become president. Again, helping New Orleans should not depend upon winning the presidency. If you want our vote, step down from the podium, grab a hammer, some nails and boards, and put into action the words you speak. New Orleans is tired of talk. It is time to start doing. Who knows, if you stop talking and start doing you might not win the presidency, but you will change a person’s life, guaranteed.


Anonymous said...

Don't blame the government. There are other disasters in this country too. flooding in the midwest,drought in the south,hurricanes hit every year. Normally people don't get anything from the gov't when these things happen. Don't wait for help, help yourself. And ask yourself this question. You may not like the National guard standing guard at BK
But why are they there. Is it because the Govt wants to control your life or because all the thugs with the guns. You blame the Army for the leeves failing. Well why were there leeves in the first place. Stop blaming the govt and look in the mirror. The reason NO is like it is is because of the people

Paul Cat said...

You're right Anonymous. What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn't.

Ok, levee's built by government. therefore it is my fault they failed. I forgot that it was the residents responsibility to make sure they were strong enough and maintained to a degree that they would not fail if a hurricane hit. If you promise to do something to protect a people you shouldn't half ass it. The levees were almost never maintained.

The Government forked out money to people shortly after the storm and millions upon millions of dollars were swindled from the government because they tried to help too soon without the proper procedures set in place (this is still happening). I can't tell you how many Katrina "victims" I saw in wal-mart or radio shak buying new cell phones and bluetooth ear pieces. Then again, it is the residents fault that the Government, for once, decided to be flippant with their money.

Further more people can't get ANY money from anyone. A huge number of people can't build because insurance companies aren't paying people. A few are hosting scams. They say things like "It wasn't water damage. It was wind damage that destroyed your house...just ignore the 8 foot water line in your living room. The wind caused that too."

Currently, the money that was made available to the citizens for recovery efforts is going towards building roads and other small projects

The National Gard are down there because the local police (and government) can't control the 'thugs'. I guess this is the residents fault too. While we are at it, why don't we just give all the residents a gun too. That should solve the problem.

Droughts, no, I've never heard of people getting money from a drought. Places receive money when the damage is bad enough and it is declared a national disaster area. New Orleans certainly fits that category. Plus there is a differnce from having a few feet of water in your house to having to live on your roof for a week. There is also a difference from having 1000 houses flooded to having nearly an entire major city, with surrounding suburbs, flooded.

Clearly it was the local residents fault that the school system is a shell and sham of what it should be. Two years later and the city is just starting to reopen some schools. Once again, residents' fault.

Blaming it on the residents of the city is absurd. When you compare LA gov't and NOLA government with the rest of the country you realize that is where the difference lies. The residents want to rebuild, however there are too many opposing forces at work that are preventing it from happening -- some of which are new city ordinances.

If it is the residences' fault, why don't you get off your soap box and go down and help a few local people rebuild and enlighten them on your ways.

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