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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Years Later

Yesterday, as I was driving to and between jobs, I got to listen to all the hoopla on the radio about the 2 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

There are of course, lots of problems still in New Orleans, and the rest of the Gulf Coast area. There are also huge contrasts between the recovery in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The contrasts are startling, to say the least. In Mississippi only 25% of the people originally put up in FEMA trailers still live in them, in Louisiana that number is over 60%. Mississippi has concentrated on infrastructure and businesses, Louisiana has worked hodge podge, not really concentrating on anything.

While New Orleans gets the attention because of it's size, people forget that Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian were literally wiped off the map, over 90% of the towns destroyed, not just flooded. Yet both, along with Gulfport and Biloxi are operating, though still struggling. New Orleans has basically fixed the airport and French Quarter, and not much else.

The differences highlight the failure of local leadership in Louisiana and the success of it in Mississippi in their efforts to recover from the storm.

While the fed's could have done more in the last two years, the truth is, they've done what they do best, shoveled a boat load of money into a big pot for the area, and told the states and locals to apply for what they need for their projects.

When I say a boat load, it's not a small boat, 114 billion (with a "B") dollars. That's enough money to fund the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Education and HHS for over a year. That doesn't include the money spent on repairing 200 miles of levees in Louisiana.

New Orleans City Council Member Shelley Midura, complaining about the federal effort, and George Bush specifically:

"He has basically handed New Orleans a modest chest of recovery gold that is sealed shut under an elaborate system of locks that help keep his administration's promise of rebuilding from becoming reality."

I'll disagree with her on two levels. First, 114 billion is far from "a modest chest of recovery gold". Secondly, if the money is so hard to get, how come Mississippi has been able to come so much farther than New Orleans, using the same rules, and dealing with the same red tape?

I'll give it my spin, the difference is the mentality of the two states. Mississippi seems to have the "we can do it" mentality, while Louisiana has adopted the "why haven't you done it" mantra. Add to that Louisiana's famous (and very evident in the recovery process) culture of political corruption and cronyism.

Charlie Sykes posted a video on his weblog yesterday that kind of sums up the New Orleans mentality in the last 2 years. You have to watch it to completely get it, and laugh your butt off, but in summary, it's two people screaming for help because they are stuck on a broken escalator. To me, it sums up the Louisiana response to the storm.

Technorati Tags: New Orleans, Katrina, FEMA, Mississippi, Biloxi, Government, Leadership

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