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New Orleans, 2 Years Later

I really am not in much of a mood to write about the Katrina "anniversary ." On one hand, there are so many words being written this week, what can I add? On the other hand, the national media is so freaking clueless it would take 3 days for me to make a post clearing up the misconceptions about the city in the last 2 years. And frankly, few readers care that much to read that much.

Suffice it to say the city is a freaking mess, the local government is worthless, the state government is worthless and the Feds are worthless as well.

The Feds claim they sent us 42 billion dollars (or some such crazy number) and the state retorts that yes, they did allocate the money but to claim some of it required (no joke) over a half a million pieces of paper for a single grant. Supposedly the state has claimed only a few million. - I have news for partisans on both sides. You're all idiots, there are no winners in this battle, the whole thing if FUBAR. Both parties at all levels.

If your city is destroyed and you look to government for even the most basic of things government should provide... well, let's just say you'll be disillusioned. The government has -simultaneously- pissed billions of dollars down the drain AND not sent enough help to get anything of real note accomplished. (only government could do both of those at once) I could write a book to explain the hows and the whys of how that happened but for now I'll give you one example:

Let's say you owned a $200,000 home before the government flooded it. And let's say it would take you $50,000 to get it fixed. The Feds of course won't write you a check for 50 grand BUT they will buy you a $75,000 FEMA trailer for you to live in until you get your life together. And BTW after the FEMA trailers are turned in, FEMA is selling these $75,000 trailers for $600, so they are a total loss. (And for you bargain hunters, at that price you still don't want them. Mail me for details.)

I now understand what people in Florida where saying right after the storm: FEMA should have given people a choice, a $75,000 trailer or $50,000 toward home repairs. They could have saved 33% and the city would be booming now.

But (some of you say) people needed temporary housing so the feds needed to provide it right? Not really. It took most people 4-6 months (or longer) to get a FEMA trailer anyway. In that time with $50,000 in their pocket, they could have gotten the house fixed. The concept of "emergency housing" was lost on the people who didn't get their trailers for over a year after the storm.

Of course idiots all across the country would have whined like stuck pigs if the Feds came in and stared handing out checks. As a fiscal conservative, I tell you it would have been the best policy. By a mile.

That's just one example of the thousands of how even when it seems some agency is trying to do something right, it usually ends up getting screwed up by the time it is all over.

(channeling Arlo Guthrie...) But that's not what I'm here to write about...

As I said before my example, I really don't have much to say about it so I'm going to re-run (above) the most important piece I ever wrote about the Great Flood of New Orleans and why Katrina didn't flood the city. Long time readers saw it about this time last year. I hope even if you're reading it for the second time, you think it was worth it.


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Comments (29)

My question is whether or n... (Below threshold)
COgirl:

My question is whether or not there is any leadership in Louisiana to step up to the plate and deal with this? At what point does NO stop being the federal government's problem? What is the mayor doing? What about the governor? Why don't they jump in and say there are more efficient ways to "fix" things.

Every state in the nation has the potential for some sort of natural or man-made disaster. LA is not the only state at risk for hurricane damage. CA has fires, mudslides, earthquakes. Any state in the west is at risk for fires. There's flooding in the midwest. The federal government can't fix everything. I just wonder why LA can't grow up and make some progress on it's own.

I am not without feeling for what people are going through. I'm just asking these "non-PC" questions because they have to be asked.

The conditions that were sp... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

The conditions that were spelled out in Paul's post is the reason I never give a dime to any relief fund. 99% of it is pissed away or goes in someone's pocket. Not my money. Be glad to give if I SEE where it goes.

>My question is whether or ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>My question is whether or not there is any leadership in Louisiana to step up to the plate and deal with this? At what point does NO stop being the federal government's problem?


Perhaps you where too stupid to get the point.

ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT AND BOTH PARTIES FAILED YOU MORON.

If you think "NO is the Feds problem" you a stupid freaking moron. The Federal government destroyed the city and walked way. Are you too stupid to understand that?

>The conditions that were s... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>The conditions that were spelled out in Paul's post is the reason I never give a dime to any relief fund.

Actually the religious charities have done astounding work. The Red Cross was so so, the government was worthless.

The long piece should run e... (Below threshold)

The long piece should run every year. I doubt it will ever be heard (by the general public) over the mythology, but there is something to be said for having the truth out there, somewhere.

How is this possible?... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

How is this possible?

I mean, how is it possible that the 42 billion is not at work someplace. Even at government efficiency rates it would make a great difference. Is something tied up in court?

The original failure seems a result of bad engineering/construction and it occured because of too few inspections and not a robust enough effort from someone. NO has miles of levies.

Bet that has changed.

FEMA, the payments, and the trailers are yet another example of government at work. This is what they do.

This is your future health care system.

>I mean, how is it possible... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I mean, how is it possible that the 42 billion is not at work someplace. Even at government efficiency rates it would make a great difference. Is something tied up in court?

Robert, I've read the explanation(s) 10 times and I still don't get it all... but perhaps it is a mental block by now. But I'll try to give you an hypothetical example of why things take so long:

The money isn't sitting in a big "Recover New Orleans Fund."

It's been -allocated- by the feds for various programs.

So let's say the Feds approve 500 million for Light Rail. BUT they stipulate that the state must put up 30% and the city must put up %15 and they will cover the rest. Yippie right? Not so fast...

Now the state needs to pass a light rail bill thru the legislature. The city council must approve.

OK so a year goes by and all the bills are passed. Now we need bond money so that must go before the voters. Louisiana's constitution says fiscal matters can only be tampered with by the state lege on even numbered years... (to protect us from them ;-) so we have to wait for an even number year to put the bond proposal on the ballot....

Now we need to buy land so the state has to buy out the landowners and come up with bond money for that... which takes two more years....

-----------

OK I made that example up. BUT it is a fair example of life down here. There's always a catch.

Some guy from the state (forget who, sorry) was on the radio the other day and he mentioned something like 10 million grant the state was eligible for... that required over 500,000 pieces of paper for the feds.

That money was "allocated" by the feds but will never be spent on the recovery.

and on and on it goes...

Don't get me wrong... a lot... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Don't get me wrong... a lot has been done... but the stupidity so outweighs it that it is sometimes hard to remember that.

Not ~every~ dollar form the feds requires a half a million pieces of paper; that is obviously an extreme but still, you get the point. Nothing is easy.

Not to mention that a multi... (Below threshold)

Not to mention that a multitude of sin can be hidden in 500,000 pieces of paper. Somewhere in there is a $500 hammer.

I have to admit, I like th... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

I have to admit, I like the anniversary of Katrina. It gives me an excuse to re-read the http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=5119" target="_blank">definitive post on the antics of the media during that time.
Jeff Goldstein is a genius.

Paul, nice response. Reall... (Below threshold)
COgirl:

Paul, nice response. Really inspires people to comment on your posts. I'm not a troll and I am not stupid. I'm actually on your side and was just wondering what is going on down there. That'll teach me to read anything you write anymore.

>I'm not a troll and I am n... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I'm not a troll and I am not stupid.

You're 0 for 2

$50,000, that's it?<p... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

$50,000, that's it?

We just spent that on a roof, new hardwoods and a kitchen re-facing remodel. Hard to imagine it would go far toward major repairs, like water damage to walls and floors, replacing sub-floors, foundation damage, pipes, electrical systems, appliances, furnaces, a/c, insulation, etc.

Question: With flood insurance 50K would go a long way. But without flood insurance would any (or some) flood damage be covered under basic homeowners insurance? Do most residents in LA have flood insurance? The reason I ask is that we live in earthquake country, but not a lot of homeowners have earthquake insurance. (Having been through 3 large quakes, I insisted we get it!)

With flood insurance 50K... (Below threshold)
Paul:

With flood insurance 50K would go a long way. But without flood insurance would any (or some) flood damage be covered under basic homeowners insurance?


Nope. None, Zero. Nada. This is VERY specific. Home Owners is only for wind. Rising water MUST have flood insurance. Period. This is actually a bigger deal in Mississippi where the wind pushed 20+ feet of water up on land. The locals are suing because they say the wind pushed the water. (like a tree branch)

To EVERYONE'S surprise they won the first round in court. They won't get real far though... this is well established law.


>Do most residents in LA have flood insurance? The reason I ask is that we live in earthquake country, but not a lot of homeowners have earthquake insurance. (Having been through 3 large quakes, I insisted we get it!)

Most do... Even in Orleans parish, which is fairly poor, I think it was just over half. (my brain says 61% but I might have that wrong) Pre-Katrina, just over half of the houses where required to by the mortgage lenders. Almost half where not...

It might seem counter intuitive, but it is actually pretty hard to flood New Orleans from rain. We can get 13 inches in 24 hours and only have a few houses here and there with a problem... very few.

18 inches of rain in 24 hours will start getting some real flooding but nothing that the national news will hear about -- that's still a smallish event.

It's an odd reality that we laugh at other cities when 6 inches of rain in a day floods them. We can get that on any given Tuesday and never really slow down.

All that is true assuming the things designed to keep the water out don't let fail and let the water in.. That's a whole different ballgame.

Post Katrina I'd say >80% have flood insurance.

I live 2 feet vertically higher than the highest flood ever recorded. I have flood insurance and always have.

If the wall on the opposite side of the 17th street canal (in the video above) had failed, I probably would have gone from being 2 feet higher than the highest flood in history to having 2-4 feet of water in my house.

So I go from a very, very low risk of flood to 4 feet of water in my house with one human mistake.

I sleep so well at night knowing that. lol

BTW remember 50 grand could... (Below threshold)
Paul:

BTW remember 50 grand could be quite a bit of money.. while the news shows the houses with 8 feet of water in, thousands of homes only had a foot of water or less.

With most homes built on slabs, 50 grand would fix probably half of the homes... maybe not half I'd have to think... but a BUNCH.

Add flood insurance and it becomes a boom town.

You're a gem, Paul.... (Below threshold)
COgirl:

You're a gem, Paul.

While my mortgage lender do... (Below threshold)

While my mortgage lender does not require that I carry flood insurance either, I carry it because I live in Florida. My home is not considered to be in a flood zone even though we are situated right on the marsh. But some might not realize that it makes sense. The marsh acts like a big sponge drawing the water down into the aquifer, which is usually low anyway, and actually helps protect us from flooding. I don't tempt nature though.

Out of curiosity, Paul, I last visited new Orleans in the early 70s and had no desire to ever return. Of course, we only went to the French Quarter and the immediate area around it, but it was just so dirty and smelly and unsafe I was really turned off by the whole thing. I'm sure there are plenty of areas about N.O. that are different, but my question is, did things ever get any better in that area?

Obviously the solution to a... (Below threshold)

Obviously the solution to all these government instituted hurdles is more government. /sarc

If the government eases or removes requirements for receiving aid, then as sure as I'm typing this comment, some con, fraud, huckster or thief will find a way to subvert the system. The money and aid will be misused, abused or stolen. Then the GAO or an IG will come out with a report detailing how the taxpayer's money was frittered away. The media, in this instance, will frame it as a Bush administration example of incompetence.

If the federal government attempts to safequard the the taxpayer's money by imposing requirements, then it is a typical government monolithic bureaucracy that does little in the end to help the people it was designed to assist.

I recall right after Katrina, the hue and cry was that FEMA wasn't reacting fast enough to provide FEMA trailers. So, Trent Lott "goes and finds the trailers for them", in an act of populism.

Then several months later I read an article about 10,000 unused FEMA trailers sitting in the mud in Arkansas because some of the places the trailers were supposed to go were not "trailer suitable".

>Out of curiosity, Paul, I ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Out of curiosity, Paul, I last visited new Orleans in the early 70s and had no desire to ever return. Of course, we only went to the French Quarter and the immediate area around it, but it was just so dirty and smelly and unsafe I was really turned off by the whole thing. I'm sure there are plenty of areas about N.O. that are different, but my question is, did things ever get any better in that area?

You would be FREAKING AMAZED. Freaking amazed.

The Quarter is cleaner today than any time in my 40 years... Clean... Like, "somebody just built this as a movie set" clean.

Cleaner than any city I've ever been in.

We went to dinner a while back at a restaurant that dates back to 1830. We parked 4.5 blocks away. On the walk I saw 3 (count them 3) cigarette butts. I saw 2 "go cups" in the street and one had obviously just fallen out of a trash can so really we saw 1 in the whole walk from the car and back on a different route...

NO JOKE we saw more cops than cig butts... amazing.

It used to take 3 days to get the quarter "undisgusting" after Mardi Gras and a week to get it "clean."

The new company had it spotless in less than 24 hours after MG ended.

Because of the enormous amount of drunken tourists, everyone just assumed a certain level of crud would never go away.... wrong.

Believe it or now the people who live in the Quarter (remember the Quarter is a residential neighborhood) where giving the local garbage men standing ovations as they passed to pick up the trash...

Did I mention it was amazing?

>If the government eases or... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>If the government eases or removes requirements for receiving aid, then as sure as I'm typing this comment, some con, fraud, huckster or thief will find a way to subvert the system.

Yeah but people are going to do that either way...

>Then several months later I read an article about 10,000 unused FEMA trailers sitting in the mud in Arkansas because some of the places the trailers were supposed to go were not "trailer suitable".

sorta... FEMA in their bumbling incompetence bought a billion dollars with of trailers their own rules said they could not use. (and an assist goes to Jimmy Carter on that one believe it or not)

Then rather than change the stupid rule they let a billion dollars worth of trailer rot away. I think they are still there stuck in the mud....

BTW then FEMA says "we gave them $4 billion for trailers" but neglects to say they threw a Billion in trailers in the trash can.

see also my post above....

Paul,Thanks for an... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Paul,

Thanks for answering my question. I was kind of thinking flood damage wouldn't be covered by H.O. insurance but didn't want to assume as much. That $50K now seems even smaller.

Little surprised, too, by the number of people who did have flood insurance pre-Katrina. I was thinking it might have been lower given the whole "It'll never happen to me/here" mentality that often happens when people are deciding on insurance policies.

So I go from a very, very low risk of flood to 4 feet of water in my house with one human mistake.

I sleep so well at night knowing that. lol

Love the gallows humor!

You are right on the church... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

You are right on the church charities Paul. Those are the only ones that get my donations.

Hi Paul! I didn't read the... (Below threshold)
doctorj:

Hi Paul! I didn't read the comments here because I cannot take one more idiotic remark by people that don't have a clue. (I apologize to those that did not voice stupidity.) I just wanted to thank you for your work in getting the truth out. I was stunned after the MN bridge fell that people were ACTUALLY siting NOLA as an example of infrastructure failure. I thought we were screaming into a void, but obviously somebody was listening. I spent the first year after Katrina depressed, the second year pissed off. Now is the time to move forward. I will spend my efforts on coastal restoration and flood protection. I am sorry to say the Republican Party has lost me as a voter. I cannot vote for a party that put party over the suffering of American citizens. I know we part company on that issue, but I wanted to wish you well one last time. New Orleans lives!

>I was stunned after the MN... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I was stunned after the MN bridge fell that people were ACTUALLY siting NOLA as an example of infrastructure failure. I thought we were screaming into a void, but obviously somebody was listening.


yeah but don't pop the champaign just yet... the guy who wrote the story everyone linked was a former TP writer.

I forget his name at this moment....

John McQuaidhey, ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

John McQuaid

hey, so I'm slow.

And RAY NAGIN never appolig... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

And RAY NAGIN never appoligised for disarming the citizens forcing them out and allowing looters to run rampant it should have ben like in FLORIDA after HURRICANE ANDREW there was the signs YOU LOOT I SHOOT

>in FLORIDA after HURRICANE... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>in FLORIDA after HURRICANE ANDREW there was the signs YOU LOOT I SHOOT

Guess you missed that news that whole year huh?

Well then, I may just have ... (Below threshold)

Well then, I may just have to finally pay NO another visit!

Just so you know, I understand there was a great deal of corruption in NO (and I'm sure there still is) and NO is visited by people from all over the world usually at a rate hard to keep up with. The fact is the visitors were just as responsible for the conditions as those who were charged with keeping order. That's what I think really irked me more than just how "ugly" things were there; the fact that NO's visitors treated the town like a toilet. They went with the mentality that it was an "anything goes" town. That included getting stinking drunk, urinating in public and throwing your trash in the streets.

I'm so pleased to hear that even though all people can't be civilized, at least NO is doing such a good job of handling it.

That's what I thin... (Below threshold)
Paul:
That's what I think really irked me more than just how "ugly" things were there; the fact that NO's visitors treated the town like a toilet. They went with the mentality that it was an "anything goes" town. That included getting stinking drunk, urinating in public and throwing your trash in the streets.

Yeah, that irks us too... The NOPD will pretty much let you do anything you want on Bourbon at night on the weekends or most of the Quarter during Mardi Gras. -- That is anything except the "The big two"

Don't even think about being a hostile drunk, the local "ociffer" doesn't want to hear you apologize and say you won't do it again. Throw a punch and you go to jail. The other big rule is don't take a piss on somebody's house.

If the tourists could learn those 2 rules, arrests would go down 50%.



I'm so pleased to hear that even though all people can't be civilized, at least NO is doing such a good job of handling it.

us to.. ;-)




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