Monday, August 28, 2006

Katrina one year later

Katrina, one year later
It's been a year now since Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast, including taking out a huge part of New Orleans, Lousiana. The rebuilding is going at a snail's pace, about 200 thousand families are still refugees from their homes and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin, continues to shoot himself in the foot by comparing Katrina to 9/11 and how high officials responded in each of those situations. To make matters worse, many engineers -- even within the US Army, who has responsibility for many of the levees -- wonder if NOLA can take another hit from even a Category 2 or 3 storm, let alone a 5 which Katrina was.

I for one can't figure out why there has been a lack of imagination on this one. This was the kind of disaster that called for something along the lines of the Marshall Plan; massive infusions of money going to the right sources at the right time, with deadlines to meet and performance bonuses if contractors had met their deadlines and produced product at or above acceptable standards; not to mention special authorities which had the power to cut through all the red tape and make sure the job got done and fast.

As a matter of comparison, consider the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Not the Big One, but it caused considerable damage in Los Angeles. Several freeways was so heavily destroyed many thought it would take up to five years to rebuild them; and they were major links, causing people to detour on already packed alternate routes. The contractors decided to work outside the mold and got their workers to work overtime and around the clock, rather than nine to five weekdays only. One major route was opened to traffic just two months after the tremblor, with all work completed in only two years rather than the four that was anticipated. Needless to say, the state paid major performance bonuses for being so far ahead.

Why wasn't that done in the Gulf States?

Oh yeah, that's right. They're mostly black down there. Plus, one doesn't exactly have to pay reparations for a so-called "Act of God" rather than a terrorist act like on 9/11. But even the black mayor of NOLA still has a lot to answer for -- including why he didn't evacuate the city even two days before he did, which would have saved hundreds more lives and would have helped make the rebuilding process a lot faster.

One of my dreams has been to ride the City of New Orleans -- the Amtrak train that goes from Chicago to the Big Easy. Not exactly sure I'd want to at this stage, though ... the city's certainly making a courageous comeback; but even from this far away I sense something's missing there. I know we're told to bring hope to where there's despair, but we go to places where hope predominates.

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28/08/2006 10:40:48 AM

I suppose one of the major problems of being black AND poor would be that your voice doesn't get heard quite as loud. I can't help wondering whether exposure to long-term poverty and welfare crushes a person's spirit. Perhaps it dulls or completely removes the "help yourself" mentality, and this could be a "part" of the explanation. I'm not singling out any race, denomination or creed because I feel this is across the board in human nature. The poor, black folks in the Big Easy haven't got a chance to cash in on the big federal assistance cash! Is NA doomed?

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