Facing South is still here in New Orleans, surveying the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as we approach the 2-year anniversary of the 2005 storms. Many locals speak of the dread they feel when the anniversary approaches, reliving the horror of lost lives and livelihoods. But most are focused on the tragedy that's taking place here and now: the ongoing failure of the supposed Gulf Coast "recovery" that keeps thousands of people in limbo.
The failure is seen everywhere: The tens of thousands of people still living in "temporary" FEMA trailers because insurance companies and the government failed to compensate homeowners. The 100+ public schools still closed in New Orleans. Lack of housing that has driven up rents 100-200% across the Gulf Coast, unaffordable to many. The lack of any meaningful effort to restore Louisiana's stunning wetlands, the best defense against future storms.
So one can only imagine the rage that is greeting this week's news that President Bush plans to veto a $21 billion bill for flood control and coastal restoration, passed 381-40 this week with broad bipartisan support in the U.S. House. The bill's programs are national but of special importance in southern Louisiana, where it would fund a 72-mile levee and floodwall system and put $1.9 billion -- a fraction of what's needed -- towards coastal restoration.
Congressional Quarterly reports that Oklahoma Republican
Back in New Orleans, Bush's veto threat is viewed as merely the latest of a phonebook-sized list of broken promises, far at odds with the commitment he made in September 2005 photo op in storm-ravaged New Orleans:
Tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.
New Orleans might rise again -- but people here believe it will be in spite of, not because of, the actions of the Bush administration.