HUD Hoax?

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings Rebuild New Orleans

New Orleans     The 29th is the one-year anniversary of the Age of Katrina in New Orleans.  Nothing will ever be the same, not really, in this city from that date forward.  There are a million and one events both solemn and profane memorializing the storm.  I can hardly wait for tomorrow to get back to the real work again.

The city is still full of surprises though.  Yesterday, I got an email from a server that indicated it was sent by HUD.  The brief announcement said that HUD Secretary Alphonse Jackson had rescinded his decision and was now committed to rebuilding and opening all of the previous units of public housing.  The opposite of what had been the case.  What a victory for some many people!  I dutifully forwarded the email to Mike Shea, director of ACORN Housing, and others who would want to know the news, and went on my day.

In the afternoon I heard from Beth Butler, head organizer of Louisiana ACORN, that she had talked to Bill Quigley, erstwhile attorney for ACORN on many of our fights here, and he had said the announcement was a “fraud.”  I asked her what he meant, and she replied via email that there were no new units being promised.  I assumed that meant that it was a sleight of hand.  I was disappointed, but went on about my business.

Today, reading the paper I finally got it!  It was a hoax, pure and simple.  What Quigley had meant by a fraud was just that.  A group calling itself the “Yes, Men” had pulled off an elaborate stunt calling a press conference with this “rebuild” announcement for yesterday and had gone all the way down to the detail of inviting a tenant to come and see what she thought was going to be her “new” apartment.  There was no one there.  HUD denied the whole thing.  It was all an elaborate scam.  Seems the “Yes, Men” have done similar stunts a couple of other times. 

I suppose that they could not resist the chance to prove that political satire can in fact still be tasteless, crude, and humorless.  I wonder who had not gotten that word. 

I hate the fact that New Orleans at the anniversary of Katrina has become nothing but a bad joke for so many.  Of course I also hate the fact that in real life, HUD is just another in a long line of government agencies that has decided to punish our most dependent and poorest citizens past cruelty as well. 

So funny, it is hard to stop from crying.

August 29, 2006