Mary Tutwiler

Big Easy woes, as Katrina anniversary arrives

by Mary Tutwiler

As we approach August 29, the three year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the recovery of New Orleans is a mixed bag at best. Yes, the restaurants are better than they have ever been and you can party till dawn on Frenchman Street, but the city’s infrastructure is still in shambles, misappropriation of funds for recovery projects seems to be a daily occurrence, and of course whether the levees will hold is still anybody’s guess.

This morning, the Times Picayune reports that federal recovery coordinator Douglas O’Dell, a Bush appointee, claims that efforts to restore the city are failing, due in large part to Mayor Ray Nagin’s recovery director, Ed Blakely. O’Dell says that Blakely is largely absent, and there is little follow-through to planning efforts. “He’s there not only to plan, but to execute,” O’Dell told the TP. “Not only to manage, but lead. He’s not an elected official, but as a nonelected official he wields enormous influence over the future of this city and the speed of its recovery,” he continued. “And he’s failing, in my view.”

Law enforcement in New Orleans is another black hole. Today’s New York Times reports that three years after the storm,  the Louisiana National Guard is still augmenting the New Orleans police department. Three hundred guardsmen spend their nights patrolling the city, detaining lawbreakers until police arrive to make arrests. While the plan is to send the guard home in January, 2009, city police rolls are still down, and crime, including murder, is up.

The latest funding scandal involves a Nagin administration-created home remediation program called the New Orleans Affordable Homeownership Corp. Two weeks ago the FBI raided offices of the agency, after claims, first aired by a New Orleans blogger, that homes listed as gutted, repaired and ready for inspection, had not been touched since the storm. Over $1.8 million has been paid to contractors, although records indicate that the work, when it was preformed, was allegedly done by church groups.

Here’s the latest in a never ending string of stories about the inability of levees to protect New Orleans from the next killer storm.

And of course, in true New Orleans satiric style, a group of Nagin’s political cronies created and awarded him the inaugural Award of Distinction for Recovery, Courage and Leadership , while a krewe of protesters undermined the honor, parading in front of the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton carrying banners that proclaim, “Nagin’s an idiot.”

Not enough? Check out the TP blog on the city’s potholes.