I'll leave the floor to posters in and from NOLA and other affected areas, of course. Just reminding them that people far away remember. I was in Amsterdam when it happened, and the Dutch people I was working with were utterly appalled that a city exposed to flooding - as well as hurricanes - had not built a better system of dykes and defences, and at the poor upkeep of such engineering works as existed. (Netherlands sent engineers immediately). Four years on, I get the impression (from far away) that rebuilding and recovery have been very slow. A friend who is a nurse went down there for several months and was working at a free community clinic in a poor part of the city (perhaps Algiers?). Other Canadian health volunteers were shot, unfortunately...
My friend volunteered AFTER Katrina, some time after, in neighbourhoods still affected by it. As you can see, the couple who were shot returned after Katrina for community service related reasons. My memory is a bit faulty: only the husband was originally Canadian but both lived in Halifax for years as well, so it is quite possible that Ms Hill was a dual citizen - she was reported as a Canadian here.
What happened to New Orleans was by far the most important event, because it filled like a toilet bowl and rotted away. And I think that 30% of the population never came back.
My own town was closer to ground zero of Katrina (the aptly named Waveland), but it was already flattened in 1968. Beachfront property used to be ultra expensive and extremely appealing. It is now impossible to obtain insurance for it, so this is what my home town still looked like 3 years after Katrina when I went there last year.
This is the Wal-Mart Supercenter. The Gulf of Mexico is to my back.
Helen Hill and her husband Paul,affectionately known as Dr. Paul were living and working in New Orleans for quite some time prior to Katrina(in the section of town known as Bywater) and continued living in New Orleans until Helen's tragic and untimely death. Although I did not know either of them personally many people I know did. Many of my friends were patients of Dr. Paul. The circumstances surrounding Helen's murder had absolutely nothing to do with Katrina or its aftermath. I do believe that the stress and emotional impact of Katrina along with Helen's death took its toll on many. Dr. Paul obviously one of them.
The city and its people continue to struggle with recovery. Ineptitude on local,state and federal levels remains an issue along with corruption,greed and yes,crime. Not a day goes by that the word Katrina is not mentioned. Our lives were changed forever.
I listened briefly tonight to some of the local news and some of the discussion regarding the recovery process. I have to admit that I intentionally stayed away from much of the coverage today because as with most big news items the media goes overboard. Anyway,of note ,was the mention that 77% of the preK. population was back. The other thing was that New Orleans has been surprisingly unaffected by the national recession,our unemployment rates are lower then the rest of the country. It is perceived that this will lure more people into the area which on the downside will take away jobs from the locals. The housing market is also way above national averages and although the rents are 40% higher then they were preK, the number of foreclosures is low. Next year is an election year for a new mayor. The current mayor's term is up thank goodness. I can't even begin to tell you what disappointment and overall buffoon Nagin has been. Also up for grabs are a number of City Council seats. Our only hope is to get some good people in there and I will hit the pavement to help in any way I can ,to help in the process. I also have faith that President Obama will be good for us. He visited here several times and New Orleans was one of the only surrounding areas that voted for him Unfortunately, our current governor has his eyes set on a run for the White House and has spent little to no time home governing matters ,particularly New Orleans. It's been a tough road but ,looking back to four years ago,it's really a wonder we have come this far.
One of NOLA's many saving graces, is that it has fought tooth-and-nail to keep corporate conglomerates out; this is primarily why the city has weathered the contraction better than others. Of course, Baton Rouge is supposed to be thriving with all of its new found natural gas money.
And lagatta, it's not like New Orleans was unaware of the problems with the levees. Every year, right around hurricane season, the Gambit Weekly would publish an article about just how dire they were, and it would get steamrolled by the powers that be. The lack of political will to get anything done is the biggest impetus in the whole thing. Government's a boondoggle -- it's about "gettin' mines" over serving the needs of the people.
The school system was even worse. I don't remember exactly how many, but I want to say we had six superintendents in six years, because each one was fired for embezzling funds. The public school system in New Orleans, if you were a girl, promised that you'd be knocked up at sixteen, then spend the rest of your life as a hotel maid. If you were a boy, well, you'd make a lot of money, but be dead by twenty.
Thanks for posting that link ,nic ,to the Times magazine piece about Memorial Hospital. It's a powerful piece. A dear friend of mine served on the special grand jury that acquited Dr. Pou and the two nurses. Their troubles are far from over, though, I'm afraid.
I saw this a.m. on the local news some bimbo criticizing President Obama's not visiting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region on or around the anniversary of Katrina. This person went on to say how former President Bush did "personally" come to the area. This infuriated me in several ways. Bush's" appearances "were all photo op's and the most glaring, is the photo of him flying over the area in Air Force One. President Obama on the other hand, in only the brief time he has been in office ,(with many other important matters at hand BTW)while not actually appearing,his administration has shown action and support. In the first six months ,half of Obama's cabinet visited the Gulf Coast,and 19 senior officials have made 30 trips! Some people just don't get it.
sort of on topic re: the animals. You wouldn't believe the amount of spray painted graffiti still on homes put there by animal rescue folks.There's one in our neighborhood that remains and it's on the house of a semi deranged kind of guy. The graffiti says ',Dog OK', I have been so tempted on several occasions to sneak over there and spray paint; 'Owner Not'.
Just one paragraph: • Country clubs, yacht clubs, exclusive private schools and megachurches received millions in loans from the agency founded in 1953 with a mission to "aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns." Some of the more substantial operations rebuilt bigger and better, often flouting SBA rules that say damaged buildings should be repaired only to their original state.
And after relating some of the mismanagement, the article continues: These sagas collectively reveal how the SBA failed in so many ways, an ominous experience as the agency prepares to play a similar role in the aftermath of the massive BP PLC oil spill. SBA officials insist that they have made improvements and that the agency is better prepared to handle a major disaster today.
My own 'Katrina zone' being the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I keep an eye on it and continue to see that everything is going well for the monied classes. New casinos, new giant condos, elegant new restaurants. The latest project is a whole new French district in D'Iberville attached to the upcoming "CanCan Casino."
Meanwhile, kilometers of concrete slabs fill most of the area, showing the imprint of where people used to live and where they will never return.
BILOXI, Miss. — Just months before a quirky little museum designed by the architect Frank Gehry was set to open in this Gulf Coast resort town, the waves from Hurricane Katrina lifted a three-story floating casino, slot machines and all, and slammed it into the project.
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art was under construction when it was badly damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.
Now, after years of struggle, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art officially opened on Monday. And the casinos that make $800 million a year in Biloxi are among the chief angels of its recovery. ... The nature of the sponsorship, along with the flat-out surprise of a Gehry-designed building on this stretch of beach between Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans, raises the larger question: Can gambling and art mix in the Redneck Riviera? ... The need for something more than slot machines and blackjack is not lost on hospitality and gambling executives here, who acknowledge that keeping people in the casino for as long as possible is not the best strategy if Biloxi is to thrive as something more than a gambling town with really good fishing. ... Museum officials estimate that 100,000 nongamblers might be drawn here each year simply on the power of Mr. Gehry’s curving brickwork and twisting stainless steel structures. They are betting on what has come to be known as the “Bilbao effect.” When Mr. Gehry’s massive, titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum opened in Bilbao, Spain, in 1997, thousands of art tourists helped revive that dying industrial town.
Click on the picture below for full article from the NYTimes.
What a great roof. My overly practical side wonders how leakproof it is. I like this sentence from the article: "news of Mr. Gehry’s museum had not penetrated the depths of the casino last weekend." I've never penetrated the depths of any casino, but I can imagine that Gehry wouldn't be uppermost in the average mind there.
Skimming back, I chuckle a lot over Casimira's "owner not."
Actually, I have been keeping abreast of this museum project for some time now, and I have grave doubts about the competence of Frank Gehry regarding design in a hurricane zone. This has been one of the principal photos shown of the museum, and I can just imagine how easily a hurricane or tornado can rip off these useless flourishes at the top of the stairs.
Wow,this is pretty incredible stuff here.As I noted elsewhere,I'm a huge Gehry fan of late. I feel so out of the loop regarding most of it. Yes,it seems almost superfluous,and almost self indulgent to the max, in so many ways,but,I quite like the look of it. Aside from hurricanes,this area has seen some nasty tornadoes as well,and it's those that I would be even more worried about reeking havoc. Thanks for the update good people. Fun stuff happening.
Despite the subject heading, this thread is fated to be revived repeatedly.
Casimira, I believe you get the Sunday NYTimes, so have probably seen this article. I'm linking it here for everyone else. It's long but fascinating reading. As you are there in New Orleans, it would be most interesting to hear your take on it. Click the photo to read the article --->
Anyone who has spent time in the Gulf south of the US knows how rampant nature is there. And anyone who read Walker Percy's kudzu-draped Love in the Ruins will be reminded of that book.
Thanks for posting this Bixa. I have the NY Times in hand but,haven't read the piece yet. I plan to read it this evening,my Sunday ritual. I'm looking forward to it (I think).
Kudzu vine is not prevalent in New Orleans per say. The insidious vine one sees pictures of covering houses and anything else it can get it's claw into is 'Cat's Claw', (Bignonia Tweediana). I've never seen Kudzu vine the whole time I've lived in NOLA. I see it throughout other parts of the South from the highway literally swallowing up structures and anything in it's path.
I don't know where to begin to describe my reaction to this piece. I have so many mixed feelings about the politics of the situation,and, I don't see the point of having a crew of 12 men going onto those overgrown lots and weed-whacking them down, over and over again. The loss of wildlife habitat is enormous,and,the lots are empty. I do think that animal rescue crews need to go in and rescue the packs of dogs and alligators etc. There were wild boar and pigs roaming about on the levees nearby us and dealt with,and as recently as last year,coyotes made an appearance just blocks from where we live up on the river. If the people who owned these properties wanted to come back and live there,they could.Many have because they set their minds to it and did it. One of them is a 90 year old man and his wife,they persevered,hoping that others would do the same. Other parts of the city that were just as ravaged,have made an enormous comeback. The resources are there.Services won't return until there are people living there to serve. Taxes are not being paid on them,and,in the meantime,property taxes have tripled for those of us living here,albeit,not in the lower Ninth Ward. It is incredibly surreal,as described in the piece,the jungle growth,supernatural was the word I believe used. The Brad Pitt 'Make it Right' houses juxtaposed right next to the blighted abandon overgrown areas make it even more surreal. They are scoffed at,and for good reason,as no one could possibly afford to buy them and want to live down there. It makes no sense. I am fascinated by the ecological interest,although,for them to say that the crape myrtle, oleander,lantana and Chinese tallow trees were transported in by seeds embedded in truck tires or blown in by the wind,is a crock. They were planted there,by the former and current residents!! The city plants oleander and crape myrtles on the median strips throughout the city. I went to the lower Ninth Ward to count butterflies as part of the Metropolitan Butterfly count for the North American Butterfly Association,2 years in a row after Katrina,before all the weed whacking started. There were unbelievable numbers,mind boggling to us all,much along the same lines as the ornithologist was excited about with regard to the bird species. (I would love to go down there with that ornithologist and bird watch!!)
It's more than a sticky wicket situation to be sure,saddled with the same old politics. I don't know that anything will be resolved in my lifetime unless it washes away again,and,as the piece indicated,it will. The whole coastline is washing away at enormous rates,and yes,the city is sinking along with the coastal erosion.
My husband is currently reading this piece at my urging,along with another dear friend. I'm anxious to get their feedback and I'm sure I will have more to add to the discussion if people are interested in hearing it.
Interested?! I was held rapt by your comments. (& I'd missed the part about the tire-transported seeds :
Great stuff, thanks so much. This kind of article demands scrutiny and annotation by an informed resident(s). You certainly delivered on that score!
Weirdly, I can almost understand the city's logic in sending in the clean-up crews, although of course research was lacking and execution is sloppy. I assume it's a cheap way to show that jobs are being created and that the city cares about & supports the residents trying to make a go in that area. (yeah, yeah, okay -- I know!)
I've posted previously about the sinfully silly Brad Pitt big band-aid, so won't belabor that point.
I didn't know about how bad the property tax situation had gotten. Smart -- chase away the residents who are trying to stay and sustain the city. (gawd, one could wear out the rolling-eye smiley commenting on the city's policies!)
The part about the ornithologist was impressive, but reading about the butterflies and the burgeoning population of wildlife from someone who knows the area before, during, & after the storm really brought it all home.
Here's my solution for what it's worth ~~ some giant organization such as the national wildlife federation needs to go in there and buy up the whole area. I don't mean at a cut-rate, either. The people living there would be compensated so that they could buy commensurate homes in another part of the city. Properties that have been lost to the city for unpaid taxes will have those taxes & fees covered in full. This would be with the proviso that the city would accordingly lower taxes on the rest of the city because of the windfall from all the formerly in arrears properties. (stop it! get up! if you keep laughing like that, you'll hurt yourself!)
If it were feasible, some other limping but more viable part of the city might be targeted as a place to encourage the former lower 9th ward residents to settle, which might of itself attract yet more people.
In the end, the whole area could be allowed to go wild. Nothing would have to be razed, as allowing man-made structures to deteriorate naturally would be a valuable source of study. The whole area would be a protected reserve and, whether it sank or flooded would be up to nature.
If no private concern could or would take this on, the federal government should. Heck, let them finally exact real justice and fine the shit out of the oil companies that created much of the problem, along with the government agencies that allowed it to happen.
On one hand, I can understand the municipal struggle to keep saying "this is still part of the city and nature is not getting it back!" But it would be a great occasion to carve out a big chunk of 'wild' park in the area that could go back to nature and concentrate more effort on areas that can logically be rebuilt and improved.