With the advent of a new administration in Washington providing the long-beleaguered citizens of New Orleans, LA a new sense of hope (no doubt increased upon hearing that the President has promised to visit the region) it’s easy for us to forget (too easy to forget) that there are still thousands of residents still displaced from their homes, perhaps permanently. And, if decisions like the following continue to be made (purportedly on their behalf *cough*) many will have f0rever lost what little remains:
A judge didn’t abuse his discretion when he refused to halt the demolition of four public housing complexes in New Orleans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, a federal appeals court has ruled.
A group of displaced public housing residents had asked U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in June 2006 to block plans to demolish and redevelop the B.W. Cooper, C.J. Peete, St. Bernard and Lafitte developments. Lemelle denied their request, a ruling upheld Monday by a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Three developments have been totally razed, while the demolition of the fourth is under way. The demolition project spawned a round of demonstrations in New Orleans, including a December 2007 melee at City Hall where police used pepper spray and stun devices to disperse a crowd of protesters.
“Numerous reports showed that the buildings were obsolete, dilapidated, and unsuitable for housing purposes,” Judge Emilio Garza wrote in the court’s 14-page opinion.
Yes, so, in order to save these projects, these people’s homes, let’s completely raze them to the ground. Because no buildings are so much more suitable for living in. Sorry, but, “comparable housing” is not remotely adequate (let alone, er, comparable) when “redevelopment plans leave several thousand families without access to affordable housing [emph. mine].”
Loyola University professor Bill Quigley highlights the bottom line this decision once again underscores:
“At this moment, (the 5th Circuit is) saying that the tragedy to these 5,000 families from Katrina is permanent,” Quigley said. “The fight has always been whether these 5,000 families get to come back to some sort of public housing in New Orleans. The position of the government has been that they don’t.”
The dizzy counterspin from HUD’s spokesmonkey is particularly nauseating:
“This ruling is a win for the families who will return to new, socially and economically integrated neighborhoods, and it’s a win for the city of New Orleans because of the affordable housing component of each of the new developments.”
Yes, well, what about those families who, um, won’t return to ‘socially and economically integrated neighbourhoods’? How can losing everything all over again, having their dreams razed along with their fucking homes even begin to count as a victory? Even George W. Bush wouldn’t have the fucking nerve to hastily throw up a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner behind this one.
Unfortunately there isn’t much one can do to affect court decisions. But one can pressure Congress to allocate desperately needed funding for NOLA and draw attention to a situation that has been allowed to fester below the radar for far too long. Sarah J notes that “Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter have requested funding for “more than $6 billion in coastal restoration and levee construction projects in an economic stimulus bill now moving through Congress”“, making it even more important that Americans contact their Congresscritters and demand that, as the US moves towards revitalizing delapidated national infrastructure, the people of NOLA are not forgotten ever again by their government, their fellow citizens.
As I wrote in comments @ Alterdestiny:
“[W]e… need to purge the guilt and start doing something proactive. Poppy Z. Brite’s powerful 2006 Banned Books Night speech is even more pertinent, more vital, today:
If you live here, stay and give it all you can. If you live elsewhere, please don’t let people forget us. Don’t let your government forget us. Tell them to put money into wetlands restoration, to give us the levees we were told we already had, to rebuild the homes and businesses destroyed by their lying negligence. Tell them we are as valuable as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or A Confederacy of Dunces or A Streetcar Named Desire. Tell them those three banned and cherished books would never have existed without us. Tell them we will never die easy, and if we do die, we will be the most haunted place in the world.
NOLA has not yet been completely “banned”, as Brite devastatingly characterized it, but it won’t be fully re-enfranchised unless we increase the pressure on Washington.
Je me souviens.”
(Major h/t and heartfelt thanks to Sarah J for links and inspiration.)