Thursday, May 17, 2007


Over $100 billion says "We Don't Care"

Today’s Post has a guest op-ed by one Judith Browne-Dianis, who is connected with some liberal/progressive DC-based organization that, because they are a liberal/progressive DC-based organization, is described as a civil rights organization. Ms. Browne-Dianis uses her piece to take up and run with the tired cliché of how the federal government just isn’t doing right by the New Orleans pre-Katrina citizenry.

I guess it is an article of faith among so-called progressives that not only do the poor have a right to government-sponsored (hence taxpayer sponsored) housing but they have a right to it wherever and whenever they want. So it seems that public housing isn’t being made available quick enough to suit some of the poor who want to live in New Orleans…or to suit those who make a living gabbing about such inequities in DC. Ms. Browne-Dianis even hints that such inaction may have racial overtones (this, I guess, further strengthens her civil rights bona fides).

The federal government might as well have put an ad in the paper: "Blacks Not Wanted." One month after Katrina's landfall, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who is charged with providing housing to the poor and eliminating discrimination, stated that New Orleans "is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again." Worse, just days after the storm, Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) proclaimed, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Ms. Browne-Dianis doesn’t explain just why the federal government, particularly its black HUD Secretary, doesn’t want other blacks in New Orleans. As to the “Worse, just days after the storm” statement by Rep. Baker – well, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

Any conversation that touches on government corruption touches on New Orleans and Exhibit A for this could very well be The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO).

“HANO has been awarded two HOPE VI grants since 1993, the first year they were awarded. In 1994, HANO was awarded $44.3 million to demolish existing units in the Desire complex and replace them with some 373 new units. And in 1996, HANO received another $25 million in HOPE VI funding for demolition and revitalization of the St. Thomas complex.”

“In January 2002, HUD assumed control of HANO. This unprecedented step was taken when it became clear that management problems were extensive and despite enormous funding from HUD, very little progress was being made.

“HANO received a $25 million HUD HOPE VI grant in 1996 to demolish and revitalize the 60-year-old St. Thomas public housing development. The redevelopment, however, stalled and the land sat vacant because of a series of missteps by former HANO officials and others.”
HUD News Release 03-049

So it seems the destruction and not-so-quick replacement of NOLA public housing has a long history, dating even back to our first black president.

The problems of New Orleans are as numerous as they are unfortunate. But I bristle at the idea that it was the failed response of the federal government that so doomed New Orleans. The past and present incompetence, corruption and laziness of state and local leaders, and the citizenry’s proactive toleration of them, are instead my candidates in this Blame Game.

But instead, Ms. Browne-Dianis plays the pathos card in her indictment of federal inaction:

“Residents of New Orleans public housing want to go home now, not in five to 10 years. Most are depressed, some talk of committing suicide, others are suffering the effects of high blood pressure, and several elderly residents have died.” (emphasis added)

Bush lies, several elderly die!

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