Sunday, November 05, 2006

The City that Care Forgot

Last March I went down to New Orleans to assist with the rebuilding as a volunteer. It was gratifying and frustrating at the same time. The city is truly destroyed. It was outrageous then and even more so now over a year later.

Now Greg Palast has uncovered that it is not because New Orleaners aren't able to rebuild, but instead because it is not in the best interest of wealthy speculators and those in power to let it happen.

Private security firms like Blackwater run fenced RV parks for evacuated residents (often against their will) miles from the City. The only way in or out of these prisons is one bus, that only goes to Wal-Mart. Here Palast explains, residents are trapped:

They may only have a crappy little FEMA trailer, or they may be stuck somewhere else but if they come in (to New Orleans) they loose what they've been given. They're basically being paid. Like for example, the little tiny stipend, like $2,000 from FEMA. You go back to your place you don't get it. You don't get that rental subsidy, so what happens is that you are basically being paid to stay out of the city if you're poor.

You are being paid to stay out of the City.

But I want to emphasize, it's not just the poor, everyone's been hit. This is a city that is 2/3rds demolished, and they haven't taken out the debris yet...

There's is this idea that New Orleaners are saying, "Gimme a handout, gimme a handout."

Every New Orleanen I spoke with: white, black, rich, poor said, "We don't want a handout. Would Mr. Bush please get his foot off our neck and let us rebuild."

All we expect of the federal government is to fix the levees, so that we don't drown again. Tell us, see what the Bush administration has done is they have not made it clear where you will be allowed to rebuild. Some people are rebuilding houses not knowing if they are going to be told, "Sorry you can't move in."

So tell us what the rules are so we can move back in. Fix the levees so we don't drown while we're rebuilding. And then get out of our way. They're not asking for some big handout. Rahim and his group (Common Ground Collective) are building units with the local people. I met people who are doing it themselves, you saw Mr. Irving and his home... basically the federal government is taking every bureaucratic step to keep people from doing it themselves. Cause that's what they want to do.

New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty
Greg Palast, 25 minutes with 30 min. interview following

download or view on google video

I am going to return this spring and volunteer again, only this time not with ACORN whose St. Louis staff's non-existent work ethic frustrated me but with those locals who have returned and are working to rebuild New Orleans, the Common Ground Collective

I'll be putting together a crew to head down there this spring. We'll bring our own tools, find our own lodging and work like dogs. But there's many hours in a day, and I can sleep when I'm dead. Most of Common Ground's work right now is in Algiers and that means we'll only be a couple blocks away from crawdads and Abitas on the porch at the Old Point Bar.