Friday, April 02, 2010

It's been a while

I've returned from a hiatus of a few years. When I last posted, New Orleans was just beginning recovery from Hurricane Katrina. It is now 2010. There are both new and old challenges ahead of us. Let's begin the journey, once again.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Louisiana’s Plan? We hear Governor Blanco has one, but no one has yet to see it.

Everyone hates partisan rhetoric, especially now, in the aftermath of such a devastating tragedy. Sometimes rhetoric is obviously misguided; at other times, its truth is aimed dead-center, as an arrow towards a bullseye. Today, especially, no one knows what the truth really is—however, with no evidence presented to the contrary, we can assume that no one is ready to handle the truth when it comes to Louisiana’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Governor Blanco’s administration’s response to the storm and its aftereffects could be accurately compared with the worst bumbling history has ever witnessed. Granted, the ball was dropped across the field of play, but nothing compares to her lackadaisical handling of such a delicate egg.

Yesterday, Roger Villere, the re-elected chairman of the state Republican Party, pointedly criticized Governor Blanco for not having a reconstruction plan to hand to Washington. Her lack of planning is quite obvious, both in New Orleans and across the state. Federal money has already been committed to Louisiana and Mississippi but, in Louisiana, there is no plan to utilize the awarded funds. Blanco’s public relations guard dog, Denise Bottcher, reported that the state has had a 29-page plan for the last four months. If this is the case, it must be hidden in the same secret vault as the formula for Coca-Cola. The Louisiana government has an obligation to tell its citizens how money will be spent and to detail exactly how those funds will be allotted. Any proposed plan should be published and dispersed, not relegated to some mythical and imaginary place. Without a tangible contract with the people, no entity should guarantee the state funding for anything.

Everyone has seen the fiber of our governor and knows that the quality of her spine matches that of a parasitic tape worm, leaching off the life’s blood of her host state. If Blanco is following some sort of a plan, it is one based on self-preservation and self-promotion. Her primary strategy seems focused on taking as little responsibility for her own inactions and incompetence as possible. Her personal pride continuously comes before the well being of her constituents. If her actions adequately portray the objectives of her “plan,” we might as well all go to the coast and start shoveling Louisiana’s soil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Carson W. Maxwell

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Recall Drive

On January 16, 2006, I posted an article, "We’ll Send You Home Again, Kathleen." This is a response e-mailed to me on February 2, 2006:

Recall not partisan? Give me a break. All recalls
are inherently partisan. Was it you who said that it is not partisan because most of her constituency is affected. Said it is not gender-based because the writer is a female. Telling me that a group of people is affected does not prove that it is not partisan.

The constituency to whom you refer is Black people. Get a grip! Your recall is so partisan it is glaring. Oh, by the way, I am black; fiscal conservative; and staunchly against abortion.

Signed: Stranded at the Convention Center after Katrina.

My reply:

Thank you for your comment.

It is my opinion that the recall drive is as appropriate and unpartisan as one could ever hope it to be. Evidence shows Blanco’s incompetence and illustrates her overall lack of earnest compassion. False empathy is nothing new for Blanco, but now, her true persona has been publicly noticed.

This recall effort would be considered partisan if only members of one party were to sign the recall petition. If a Democrat would have rallied support for, and instigated, this drive, the question of partisan politics would not have even entered into the mix. Though a Republican initiated action, many Democrats are equally outraged at Ms. Blanco’s utter ineffectiveness. I’m certainly glad it was a woman who began this movement, as cries of gender-based prejudice would have certainly echoed through the halls of the State Capitol and resonated loudly through the blow horn of Blanco’s equally inept public relations staff.

The constituency referred to in my article is the entire State of Louisiana, and, in particular, the many poor PEOPLE left to suffer in the most dreadful conditions. To say that only African Americans suffered as a result of Katrina is nothing less than inane and borders on racist propaganda. Perhaps I missed your point when you wrote, “The constituency to whom you refer is Black people.” I know many Democrats who are not “Black,” and know quite a few Republicans who are. Is this an attempt to stereotype either African Americans or Democrats? In your e-mail, you state you are a “black; fiscal conservative; and staunchly against abortion.” You go on to sign your e-mail, “Stranded at the Convention Center after Katrina.” This is an interesting way of trying to separate yourself from your own self-created stereotype.

Actually, there were more than just African Americans stranded within New Orleans and the outlying area immediately after the storm. I remember seeing rescues of Hispanics, Asians, and Caucasians, of all ages, as well. Additionally, many people across all economic, racial, and political lines continue to face the effects of Blanco’s continued indecision and confusion each day. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Communists, people of other political parties, Blacks, Whites, Yellows, Reds, any other people of color, the rich, the poor, and the middle class are each bearing the burden of her sheer lack of leadership.

Should she go? Yes. Will she be recalled? Probably not. Will she be reelected? Definitely not. Regardless, she has already left her mark on Louisiana’s history. It is unfortunate that our first female governor has turned out to be such a failure. Hopefully, the letdown experienced will not blind voters to future female candidates for office. Unfortunately, I think many will overlook such a candidate in an effort to forget the Blanco years.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Thirty-Second Aside for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

Like many in Louisiana, I listened to President Bush’s State of the Union Address last night with the hope of hearing a new promise or, at least, some encouraging words for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What we actually heard was nothing more than a tick on the tail end of an old familiar dog. If it wasn’t for our current situation, I probably would not have wasted my time listening to this partisan fluff, as reading the transcript at my leisure would have undoubtedly sufficed. More often than not, grand-stand promises are rarely kept and low-level successes are exaggerated into grand feats. For this Presidential administration, embellishment is something we have come to expect.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen of Louisiana and Mississippi, our anticipation culminated in these few words, placed at the end of the usual Bush diatribe—

“A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency and stays at it until they are back on their feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child and job skills that bring upward mobility and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope and rich in opportunity.”

Great, we have a commitment of $85 billion, but no guarantee of how that money will be put to use. In Bush’s words, we can find a veiled pledge that our country might stand behind us until we are back on our feet. Put into context, this sounds like highly subjective criteria for eventual abandonment. Keep in mind that, in only a little over five months, we have already been relegated to abbreviated blurb status.

So, what does the future hold for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? In the short term, a guarantee of another hurricane season and a high probability that a devastating storm will once again smash some part of this region. Indecision at state and local governmental levels promises a slow recovery that only powerful, but currently unforeseen, guidance and leadership might accelerate. Many are already discouraged and, as progress flounders, more are losing hope and spirit. Without some sign of forward momentum, the nation will certainly, and progressively, lose more interest. By this time next year, the plight of those affected by 2005’s hurricanes could be relegated to thoughts of distant history.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In New Orleans, Life Goes On

For Some, Though, It Doesn’t… But For Those, Who Really Cares?

Five months and counting. Has it really been that long since Hurricane Katrina slammed into Southeast Louisiana? Driving through some New Orleans neighborhoods, one might think the event happened only a few weeks ago. Certainly, after 153 days, some progress should be seen in every area of the once life-filled city. Yet, in many parts, time seems to remain still, as miles upon miles of streets lie dormant, reminiscent of dusty ghost towns.

To say nothing is happening in the city would be a betrayal to the truth. Much is indeed going on behind closed doors and in front of the media. There have been gatherings of committees and politicians, both locally, nationally, and abroad. Our elected officials have been traveling to Washington, the Netherlands, here, and there. Legislators from outside of our region have visited devastated areas of our city and state. As a result of all of this activity, we have yet to see anyone do anything but project a voice. Promises of this and that fill our airwaves, but nothing tangible has been offered as proof of true interest and concern. Assurances sound awfully good to those who are suffering, but do absolutely nothing to move the mountains standing in the way of progress.

Each day continued in utter stagnation leads to significant losses from within our community. As each day progresses, families who want to return to their homes make the decision to abandon their once-loved neighborhoods in favor of the ability to achieve a more immediate and guaranteed stability. Business owners who cannot find sufficient staffing discover that they cannot operate efficiently and are permanently closing their companies’ doors. As these businesses cease operation, employment opportunities are lost for those who have returned and are dependent upon their paychecks. As a result, these families are looking to relocate to more economically suitable environments. Procrastination is quickly becoming more damaging than the storm was, itself.

Sending the city’s problems to various committees will continue to offer no viable resolutions. I, myself, have worked on many a committee--each with the goal to start an innovation or improve the workings of some already existing project. For the most part, I have found such committees to be intellectually stifling, especially when they contain too many people and lack effective leadership. The worst committees to be a part of are those with supposed "authorities" who purport to know everything about a certain topic. Each has their own answer to every problem and not one solution corresponds with the others'. Round and round for hours and hours, with nothing accomplished in the end but an agreement on the next date to continue with the disagreement. In these groups, taking leadership is almost like steering a dinghy upriver from an impending waterfall. Even when decisions were finally made, the individuals destined to be the most impacted were often overlooked in the process. Why consult a homeless person when he obviously doesn’t know what’s best for him anyway? If, at some point, the object of the philanthropic need was included, his or her comments would be heard and then dismissed as uneducated, misguided, and useless discourse. This organization and treatment sounds akin to that of our present-day Bring Back New Orleans Commission.

In New Orleans, we, ourselves, are quickly cascading downstream, waiting to plunge over the last and most devastating fall. No effort is being made to paddle upstream and attempts to drop anchor and maintain the status quo are only propelling us faster toward approaching doom. What is the solution? It lies in strong leadership and the commitment to do the right thing and make tough decisions. Dancing the dance expends energy needed elsewhere and speaking reassuring words does nothing but blow wind into non-existent sails. Only as a community, working together in unison, can we distance ourselves from the brink of annihilation. To accomplish this, we need to entrust the helm to the best possible leader, one who can bring our citizens together to work toward rebuilding the whole, rather than just random parts. We have yet to see an example of such effective stewardship, but only hope it will surface before it is too late.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The New Orleans Mayoral Campaign

Let the Race Begin!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Photograph from the Associated Press - Tue Jan 24, 2006, 806 PM ET

In the picture above, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco shows the state’s evacuation guide to reporters on January 24, 2006. Blanco used the publication to prove that the state was prepared for a catastrophic storm. “These brochures fold out to reveal a lovely state map—the perfect instrument to guide an evacuation. Though few residents actually have possession of one of these plans, they are perfect for lamination and ready to be posted in a person’s cabana or recreation room.” The governor had trouble unfolding the brochure, eventually giving up. “Isn’t this just a beautiful graphic on the front cover?” she asked reporters as she fumbled with the document. When asked about the plan for evacuating people without transportation, she replied that, when unfolded, the information sheet can be patterned into a large paper airplane; one which her advisors guaranteed could be used as a vehicle of escape. Blanco went on to identify the ink used in publication as a soy derivative, able to provide nutritive benefits, once chewed. “This is actually a comprehensive survival tool, able to meet the needs of any person stranded in a dire situation.”

More Waiting and Guessing in New Orleans

I have moaned and groaned for quite a while now, but, unfortunately, still more of the same seems on the horizon. In the nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is no closer to revitalization than it was immediately following the storm. In fact, the most impressive work done, to date, was accomplished in the first few weeks after Katrina’s original onslaught. The whole rebuilding effort has become nothing more than stale and reeks of something worse than the offending aroma of black mold.

Depressing though it may seem, we still have yet to see any official plan of action. Local, state, and federal leadership is still as inept as it was before and during the storm. No one has come forth to shepherd the flocks run away as a result of the hurricane and its aftermath. The only steps taken by Mayor Nagin have been divisive. Governor Blanco’s moves have exemplified complete confusion and utter ineffectiveness. President Bush has maintained his course of indifference and lame ignorance. None of this should really shock any of us, but what is most appalling is the lack of support from our other elected officials. Sure, it’s nice to visit affected areas of New Orleans on the tax-payers’ dime and take posh trips to Holland to see how they handle their flooding situation. Unfortunately, trips get us nowhere, especially when the ones who go have nothing to offer but, “Ooh’s,” and “Ahh’s.” When these are the only remarks heard, everyone finally winds up with one big, expensive, “Duh.”

The longer we wait in rebuilding New Orleans, the more ominous the outlook for the city. Time is not a friend to equitable solutions, as the people forced out of their homes and neighborhoods lose patience and give up on the city they once loved. Perhaps the stalling tactics being used are meant to do just that. At this point, nothing would surprise any of us.