“Now wait a minute, lady.”
This was the man who delivered the commentary. When I recently toured the parts of New Orleans that were devastated by Katrina.
In the worst-hit areas houses lay crumpled. Many had been swept from their foundations and floated down the block until they crashed into other houses. Or into trees and telephone poles.
Many were brick. They withstood the floodwaters outside. But were gutted, down to their studs, windows smashed, doors bashed in.
Many suffered only a foot or two of water. But in the sweltering months that followed, they rotted. Because their owners were prohibited from returning to clean and air them. Or to protect them from looting.
Every few minutes a Canadian woman on the tour exclaimed “The government ought to do something about this.” “The government should be ashamed.” “Why hasn’t the government done more for these people?”
After several such comments the tour guide pulled the van to the curb.
“Now wait a minute, lady.”
He explained that it was an agency of the government that caused most
of the Katrina problems. “The Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.
“Over the last many years they whittled away at the levees. Replaced them with concrete walls that anybody could see would never hold back high water.”
It was those walls - collapsing like cardboard - that brought the flooding. The Corps has since admitted that its mistakes caused the flooding, he claimed.
“It wasn’t the hurricanes,” he said. “The hurricane missed New Orleans. And besides, we’ve been hit by many a hurricane without any flooding. It was the Engineers - the government - that brought on our flooding.”
It was government waste and corruption that squandered flood control funds in the previous ten, fifteen years. It was the government - in the form of FEMA - that reacted poorly to the city’s needs during the flooding.
It was local government that failed to prepare for such an emergency.
Local government that fell down - police included - when the residents needed them most.
It was state government, he reminded us, the governor - who made serious misjudgements that hindered the rescue efforts.
It was local government - the mayor - that kept homeowners from returning to their homes for several damaging months. It is the federal government that keeps them away still. After more than 12 months it has still not determined which houses must be scrapped. And which must be raised three feet. And which will be allowed to be restored. Thousands await the long-delayed “FEMA Maps”.
It is government which still stores thousands of mobile homes. Empty
homes. They were meant to house those who lost their homes.
Government has allowed over a thousand of them to deteriorate beyond use or repair.
It is local government - the mayor - who told police to let the looters loot. They were only seeking necessities for survival, he said. Necessities like television sets, jewelry, computers.
“Don’t tell me we need government, lady,” the tour commentator said.
“Government got us into this mess. Government made it worse.
Government continues to make it worse. What we need is for government to get out of the way. So that the people can get on with the job of re-building this beautiful city.”
As we drove past thousands of derelict houses I could not have agreed more with him. Unleash the power of the people and private capital and they will rebuild New Orleans overnight. New Orleans needs for government to get out of the way.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.