Razing the Project to Save It

by matttbastard

broadmoorpolaroid1

(Photo by Infrogmation, used under a GNU Free Documentation License)

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.)

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About That Latest McCain Campaign Flail

by matttbastard

Re: the (illegally) manufactured half-assed October November Surprise currently popping a slow news day, Marc Ambinder (!) breaks it down:

Republicans think anti-immigrant forces are going to be rallied by attacking a middle aged woman in her fifties? This is what’s going to swing independents back to McCain? Reminding people (a) of an actual human face on the receiving end of anti-immigration policies and (b) that the Democratic candidate is personally affected by a complicated issue facing many American families?

Actually, I don’t think the McCain campaign, which, thus far, has been taking a hands-off approach to the smear, believes this blip will be an eleventh hour game changer.  As I said before, issue #1 is still the economy, stupid.  Sure, they might swing a few soft votes in OH, PA and FL.  But I believe the primary motive behind this and other recent over the top accusations against the Obama campaign is to stir up the GOP base in anticipation of making a comeback in 2012.

The notion that this last-minute flail will have a significant effect on the polls is, as Ambinder notes, ludicrous.  Instead, it is merely the latest addition to the increasingly unhinged narrative of fraud, radicals, and socialism to justify losing: not because of Obama’s superior ground game, nor the fact that McCain has run what has been possibly the worst presidential campaign since, um, Kerry ’04.  Rather, all the weeping and gnashing of teeth seems purposefully designed to stir up resentment and class-based grievance, once again positioning the white working class electorate against the darkies, illegals and the poor (to say nothing of the liberal elite boogeyman), with the first black president (who, if you hadn’t noticed, has a scary foreign-sounding name) serving as the ultimate living, breathing wedge issue.

The right is trying to start the culture war all over again, utilizing, as Henry Farrell put it, the mechanisms of Nixonland in the hope they can salvage the flagging fortunes of the current GOP power structure.

Buckle up kids–the next four years are going to be a wild fucking ride.

Related: In response to a passage in Nedra Pickler’s AP report indicating that the information on the immigration status of Obama’s paternal aunt had been leaked to AP by federal officials, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. has penned the following letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (h/t Taylor Marsh):

Dear Mr. Chertoff:

I was startled to read in today’s Associated Press that a “federal law enforcement official” has leaked information about an immigration case involving a relative of Senator Obama. Even more troubling, the AP reports that it “could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved,” a very disturbing suggesting indeed. This leak is deplorable and I urge you to take immediate action to investigate and discipline those responsible.

I note that this is not the first leak of law enforcement information apparently designed to influence the coming Presidential election — in recent weeks law enforcement sources leaked information about an alleged investigation of a community services organization, a leak that the Department of Justice informs me has been referred to the Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility.

Such leaks are deeply harmful to the political process, and the American people expect and deserve better from their government and its law enforcement agencies.

Sincerely,
John Conyers, Jr.

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