This week marks four years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. But the tourist city of New Orleans has hardly been able to restore its former glory after staging a couple of Mardi Gras quite “successfully” considering the scars of disaster still visible.
Compounding the problem, many have encountered a very serious obstacle to their efforts to continue rebuilding their homes. The City of New Orleans has ceased issuing residential building permits in Eastern New Orleans.
The executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, Chris Kromm, said, “New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are still waiting for Washington to show leadership in the Katrina recovery. Four years after the storm, one out of three New Orleans addresses are still unoccupied, yet the Congressional district that includes New Orleans (LA-2) received the least federal stimulus dollars of any district in the country.”
Addressing the people, “Recently, many of you have encountered a very serious obstacle to your efforts to continue rebuilding your homes. The City of New Orleans has ceased issuing residential building permits in Eastern New Orleans and has redirected you to ENONAC and my office; asserting that legislation authored to protect neighborhoods and families is the cause of their inability to operate in the normal fashion. Many of you have been told that through this legislation my office has placed a moratorium on the issuance of building permits,” said State Senator Ann Davis Duplessis. “But I believe every resident of District 2 should have access to affordable housing, health care, quality public education, safe neighborhoods, and long term economic stability.”
President Obama campaigned on his commitment to rebuild the Gulf Coast, but on issues from housing to health care, jobs and coastal protection, communities are waiting to see those promises turn into action, added Kromm.
This week, the Institute for Southern Studies, which has published eight in-depth reports on the Gulf Coast recovery, will be releasing the findings of a survey of over 50 Gulf Coast groups, grading the Obama administration’s record on Katrina rebuilding issues.
Jaribu Hill, an attorney and executive director of the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights comments about unemployment in New Orleans, saying “On-the-job protections and safety are at an all-time low as employers are using the recovery as an excuse to ignore labor laws.”
Monique Harden, co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, an attorney and co-facilitator of the Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable works with a network of more than 60 organizations and resident groups to strengthen resident power and collaboration post-Katrina. The group, frustrated with the lack of aid infrastructure and poor treatment received from many public and charitable aid agencies, is organizing an alternative national evacuation network.
Harden said: “We are reaching out to people of good faith in the top cities where New Orleanians tend to evacuate in order to develop a national People’s Evacuation Plan. Often, our communities must face discrimination and even criminalization by aid agencies as they are facing the prospect of evacuation and displacement. This plan is about building a supportive, grassroots network for emergency aid that
incorporates the basic principles of human rights.”
Trupania Bonner is the executive director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast and leads a census coalition of residents and those still displaced by the hurricane in an effort to ensure that residents on the path to return will be counted where they are rebuilding.
“Right now, thousands of residents are still rebuilding against the odds. They are navigating tremendous red tape and almost negligible recovery assistance to get their homes rebuilt. Now, the government is saying even if you are actively rebuilding, you have to be counted where you are staying, not where you live. Unless the census makes special provisions for those displaced by Katrina, the government will be denying the region millions in funding. Given our already stressed public infrastructure, it will be like Katrina hitting us all over again.”
Senator Duplessis disclosed that the issues they’re facing need serious government attention. “In order for New Orleans to come back, it is going to take major congressional help. We are not going to be able to take this task and front it with the resources that we have. It will need assistance at the congressional level,” she said.
Four years later and thousand less residents, it seems nothing has taken shape in the Crescent City wreaked by the hurricane havoc.