Katrina Anniversary

New Orleans        The President was in town.  There is a picture in the morning paper of him rubbing Mayor Nagin’s head and another one of him with Leah Chase since he and his buddies all broke bread at the Dookey Chase place.  

There was a story in the paper over the last couple of days about how much FEMA had promised versus how much they had paid.  The differences were in the billions of dollars.

There is evidence that people are coming back more strongly than many observers had predicted.  We are up to perhaps 2/3rds of the pre-K population, somewhere between 270-300,000 people.  On the other hand the Road Home closings are still hardly 40,000 of 180,000 applications made, so for the most part people are still coming back broke and empty-handed.

Visitors still tour the neighborhoods that were flooded and comment that it looks like it happened yesterday.  We are still trying to finance and put the final touches on a project that could build between 225 and 500 units in the lower 9th Ward, but it is anything but easy to make happen, regardless of the need.

Insurance rates have gone up phenomenally along with property assessments, but many people are still waiting for insurance settlements and even with city revenues rising, we recently learned a couple of months ago we still can not afford to put fluoride in the water now.

The back was finally broken on the Canizaro Committee to Bring New Orleans Back, but he was one of the small numbers of guests meeting with the President for lunch.  

The demographers concede that people are moving back and that the “shrinking footprint” arguments have been beaten, but hedge their bets by saying that that is only true, if there is not a new hurricane and more flooding, and then the “footprint” wars will be on again.

Still a long way to go.

NOLA.com caption: President George Bush poses for a photo with students after a speech at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Science and Technology on Wednesday.

Gonzalez Down

Quito        At breakfast the last several mornings I have read the Miami Herald Latin American edition with some interest.  Today there was an interesting story about Cuban immigration through Mexican ports along the Yucatan and the increased traffic there.  Closer reading turned out that the difference between last year and this year was less than 100 people, more but not huge numbers, 300+ in 2006 at this time and 400 year to date.  Another article compared the foreign aid commitments of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez with the USA in Latin America and the fact that in some ways Chavez had committed close to $2 Billion more.  Fascinating!  

    More interesting was an email snippet of news from General Counsel Steve Bachmann alerting me that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had indicated earlier today that he was finally going to resign after hanging by a thread most of the summer and skating on the thin ice of curious and questionable veracity around his Congressional testimony concerning the firing of a bunch of US Attorneys.  We followed this with interest since several of the US Attorneys had been pushed on swords with ACORN imprinted on the blade, because they refused to trump up charges that ACORN employees were involved in voter registration shenanigans.    

    Justice is a funny thing though.  Perhaps we should chortle at the mighty fall, given the problems Gonzales and his people caused us, but that hardly brings justice in this situation.  We still have a gazillion Google hits that link ACORN with allegations of VOTER FRAUD, and the rightwing and the Wall Street Journal will only be more determined now that that Gonzales’ blood is in the water to see more of ours mixed with it at some time in the future.  So we can cluck our tongues for a minute perhaps, but we are still forced to sleep with one eye open and spend tens of thousands continuing to make sure that our registration operations are steeled against future attack.  Registering over 1,500,000 new voters between 2004 and 2006, it is daunting to our lawyers and leaders how we can ever assure 100% security, but we will have to try if we are going to stay in the fight to make sure low- and moderate- income citizens get a chance to vote.

    Is that justice?  Doesn’t feel like it to me.  Gonzales may be down and out, but there’s another one coming and there is still nothing that fixes the problem of making sure in a vaunted American democracy that citizens really in fact have the ability to participate and not just the technical right.  

    Fixing that problem would create some real justice!

Alberto Gonzalez