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25 august 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Numbers show slow but steady recovery
By Coleman Warner Staff writer

The numbers tell the story of a painful, clawing, slow-motion recovery from Katrina.

Statistics gleaned from around New Orleans offer snapshots of hope and determination nearly a year after the storm: Schools and businesses reopening here and there; thousands of residents signed up for the Road Home grant program that will dole out billions of federal dollars; a torrent of building permits; repaired traffic signals.

Population is rising, albeit slowly.

But the latest statistical snapshot also shows how far the metro area has to go, starting with a levee protection system that, while its Katrina breaks are nearly repaired, remains largely shy of federally-authorized levee heights.

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25 august 2006

Wounded N.O. economy remains in coma
Experts say it's still too early for full prognosis
Friday, August 25, 2006
By Rebecca Mowbray

Despite the sounds of hammers, drills and saws in neighborhoods throughout the metro area, economists and construction experts say it's too early to view the economy as recovering and agree that the much-anticipated construction boom hasn't begun.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans and the floodwalls toppled, the one-two punch wiped out an economy that had been wobbly at best since the oil boom of the 1970s and hastened further decline in a city that had been losing population since the 1960s.

"It's in shambles. There's no way to sugarcoat it," said Ryan Sweet, associate economist at Moody's Economy.com. "This is the first time in U.S. history where a city has sat dormant for almost a year. New Orleans has a long, long way to come back."

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25 august 2006

EDDIE COMPASS BREAKS HIS SILENCE
Friday, August 25, 2006
By Trymaine Lee

A month after Katrina drowned his hometown and traumatized his troops, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass stood before a throng of reporters inside a downtown hotel, preparing to deliver his resignation.

By then his public gaffes and stirring monologues of a city under siege, where killers ran amok and rapists violated babies, had been debunked mostly as myth. Compass soon became a worldwide scapegoat for the rumor-mongering that had possessed post-Katrina New Orleans.

Through a series of emotional flare-ups, he had become a lamb who seemed to lead himself to slaughter. Images of his teary breakdowns would be forever seared into the city's collective memory, in ways both inspiring and troubling.

The reporters in the hotel that day would cut him little slack, punishing him with his own words.

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25 august 2006

Post-Katrina New Orleans proves pricey
Some say new economic realities will reshape the city permanently
Friday, August 25, 2006
By Rebecca Mowbray

Like many repatriated New Orleanians, Lolita Barber has noticed that it's gotten a lot more expensive to live in the New Orleans area than it was before Hurricane Katrina.

While she and her family are fixing their flooded home in eastern New Orleans, they're living in an apartment in Metairie, so they're paying rent while carrying a mortgage note. She's driving her Chevy Blazer twice as much as she used to, at a time when gas is $3 a gallon, and using more mobile phone minutes as she confers with contractors and talks with displaced friends. In addition, the homeowners insurance bill for her house nearly doubled, from $1,071 last year to about $2,000 this year.

"All that stuff, it adds up," said Barber, an operating room medical secretary at the still-shuttered VA Medical Center in New Orleans who has taken a leave of absence from her job to work on their home and a rental property. "I think it's going to affect a lot of people. They were looking at prices before Katrina."

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23 august 2006

Katrina accelerated the speed of people leaving Louisiana, N.O.

09:42 AM CDT on Monday, August 21, 2006

Jeremy J. Alford / Houma Courier

BATON ROUGE -- By now, most folks in south Louisiana have seen the maps.

They’re generated by government agencies, private groups and newspapers, and usually include clusters of dots depicting where hurricane evacuees are now living. Places like Atlanta and Washington are inundated, and there are even tiny indicators in exotic locales such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska.

The dispersion of people can also clearly be seen in headlines: Home prices in Baton Rouge are up 27 percent for the second quarter. Evacuees in Houston are being credited with a 17.5 percent spike in the murder rate. Bayou jam sessions are being held in Brooklyn.

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23 august 2006

Katrina Housing Money Slowed

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 22, 2006; 11:11 PM

WASHINGTON -- State officials in Louisiana are still struggling to ensure that money to rebuild houses hit by Hurricane Katrina is fairly distributed, the Bush administration's Gulf Coast coordinator said Tuesday.

Nearly a year after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, only $44 billion has been spent to get the battered region back on its feet, coordinator Don Powell said. More than $110 billion has been designated for the massive rebuilding project _ $17 billion of which is to help rebuild an estimated 204,000 homes in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Money has begun to reach Mississippi homeowners, Powell said. But in Louisiana, state plans for distributing the dollars were delayed, in turn holding up the funding flow.

"There is always a balance and tension between getting the money out fast and getting the money out responsibly fast," Powell told reporters at a White House briefing.

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22 august 2006

Local inertia dooming recovery, report says
N.O. 'has no plan at the moment'
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
From staff reports

The lack of a comprehensive rebuilding plan and shortages of housing and labor are crippling New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, while other communities in the Gulf Coast region are coping with a windfall of economic growth, according to a storm-impact study released today by independent researchers.

The first in a series of reports by the Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana is critical of leadership in New Orleans for failing to articulate a plan for the future.

"New Orleans has no plan at the moment, and the excruciatingly slow pace of the recovery bears witness to that," PAR President Jim Brandt said. "What seems to make the difference is the ability of local officials to take clear, decisive steps to get the planning process under way as well as provide an opportunity for as many members of the public to participate as possible."

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20 august 2006

Officials nail down storm plans
As season peaks, bus evacuation arranged
Sunday, August 20, 2006
By Michelle Krupa

The first post-Katrina hurricane season has, so far, prompted little more from southeast Louisiana residents than a giant sigh of relief. With more than a third of the season gone, nary the hint of a catastrophic weather system has blown toward New Orleans, sparing residents the harrowing question of whether to evacuate.

But historically speaking, the curtain is just now rising on the main attraction. Today marks the beginning of a six-week period ending Oct. 1 that usually is the most active part of hurricane season. With memories still fresh of the tremendous suffering of people who rode out Katrina almost a year ago, officials said they are close to nailing down plans to assist those who lack the resources to get out of harm's way.

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20 august 2006 (updated 24 august 2006)

Parts 1-5 posted

FOR DEAR LIFE: How hope turned to despair at Memorial Medical Center
When Katrina threatened, patients, nurses, doctors and loved ones trusted they would be safe at Memorial Medical Center.
But over the next five days, it seemed all hope was lost.
August 2006
By Jeffrey Meitrodt

As they gathered that morning on the emergency room ramp, three days after Hurricane Katrina, John Kokemor looked more like a vagrant than a successful doctor. His shorts and LSU T-shirt were stained with sweat. He hadn't showered for the better part of a week. Despite the grim conditions, he felt more hopeful than he had in days.

More than 1,000 people were still trapped inside Memorial Medical Center, and food and water were running low, but Kokemor and the other sleep-deprived doctors and nurses believed they were finally going to get some good news as they huddled for the 7 a.m. briefing on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Within a day of the storm, helicopters had rescued 18 babies and a few critically ill patients, and hundreds more patients were ferried to higher ground on Wednesday by seven boats that showed up unexpectedly. But Kokemor and other doctors worried that time was running out for the most vulnerable patients at a hospital still surrounded by at least eight feet of water. Ten patients had died overnight, and a makeshift morgue in the second-floor chapel was full.

Read more...

19 august 2006

Who's to blame for the state of New Orleans?

04:13 PM CDT on Saturday, August 19, 2006

By ALLEN G. BREED AP National Writer

NEW ORLEANS — In many ways, New Orleans is a huge crime scene, with bodies and victims and fingerprints - many, many sets of fingerprints. But who did it? Who is responsible for this mess, for a barely functioning city with large swathes still uninhabited - or uninhabitable - a year after Hurricane Katrina?

An anonymous critic, posting his verdict at the edge of the French Quarter, blames the Army Corps of Engineers and its failure to build levees that could keep the floodwaters out: "Hold the Corps Accountable," demands the sign.

Others curse the Federal Emergency Management Agency - for its failure to rescue New Orleans as the waters rose, or in the months after. In ravaged Lakeview, a makeshift gallows bears a sign that reads: "Last Resort Shelter. Reserved for Looters/FEMA Reps/Adjusters."

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18 august 2006

N.O. council stalls on elevation rules
Elevation rules stall in council
Friday, August 18, 2006
By Frank Donze

Enraged over what they say amounts to blackmail, New Orleans City Council members refused to take action Thursday on the controversial higher elevation standards that federal and state officials are demanding in exchange for millions of dollars in rebuilding aid.

But the council appears to be locked in a battle it cannot win.

Whether or not it adopts the guidelines, members learned Thursday that effective Sept. 1, homeowners who have not yet secured building permits for post-Katrina rebuilding will be forced to abide by the advisory base flood elevations proposed by FEMA or be shut out of a share of billions in federal assistance earmarked to the state's Road Home program, designed to cover uninsured losses.

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18 august 2006

City fire department in a crisis
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Fire Department is in bad shape and getting worse, the City Council was told Thursday.

The department has “a rapidly deteriorating morale problem” and post-Katrina personnel losses are undermining its ability to do its job, District Chief Tim McConnell said.

“I am here in a crisis mode,” Fire Fighters Association Local 632 President Nick Felton told the council, pointing to what he said was firefighters’ anger over the city’s failure to include most of them in recently announced raises for police officers.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold the men and women together,” Felton said, adding that “the stress level is past critical mass” and that pay is so low that fast-food chains are offering new workers higher per-hour wages than the Fire Department. “Your Fire Department is whittling away to nothing,” he said.

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14 august 2006

Study: Katrina evacuees who fled on their own faring better
8/14/2006, 12:33 p.m. CT
By STACEY PLAISANCE
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Evacuees who got out of Katrina-flooded areas on their own early and those who landed in parts of the country with fewer other evacuees are faring better almost a year later than the thousands rescued and dumped in cities saturated with evacuees, according to a report released Monday.

The study conducted by seven law firms enlisted by the Appleseed Foundation, a nonprofit political action group founded by Ralph Nader, also found that local and state governments and nonprofit and faith-based groups acted more quickly and efficiently than the federal government in providing for evacuees.

The study focused on five major cities that accepted the most evacuees: Atlanta, Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham, Ala., Houston and San Antonio. It also took a close look at New Orleans, where about 40 percent of the city's residents have returned.

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14 august 2006

Corps racing against time, red tape
Many key projects haven't even started
Monday, August 14, 2006
By Sheila Grissett

Six months after the Army Corps of Engineers was given about a billion dollars to raise sinking levees and rush unfinished hurricane protection and flood prevention projects to completion by September 2007, none of that construction has started anywhere in the metropolitan New Orleans area.

Corps managers say the scale and complexity of decision-making, problem-solving and documentation involved with spending this kind of money -- it's only part of the $5.7 billion Congress has provided since Hurricane Katrina -- is taking longer than many had anticipated.

"We are poised to do $6 billion worth of work in an environment no one has ever been in before, and we have a lot of good people working unbelievably hard to make it happen," said Task Force Hope chief Dan Hitchings, the corps' civilian overseer of post-Katrina repairs and upgrades. "But we've had to come up with new rules to do it because the old ones were based on our normal processes -- and this isn't normal."

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13 august 2006

Car trouble
In Katrina's wake, abandoned cars by the acre were a long-term blight.
But many thousands were stolen, chopped or crushed
Sunday, August 13, 2006
By Greg Thomas

Tens of thousands of flooded and abandoned cars were stolen in the months after Hurricane Katrina and either sold on the black market or dismantled for scrap, state officials say.

Many of the vehicles were disposed of at renegade car crushing operations in eastern New Orleans where state officials worry they were improperly dismantled.

Peter Ricca, a criminal investigator with the state Department of Environmental Quality, said a major concern is that many early car-crushing operations in eastern New Orleans may have been on unpermitted car storage sites and that the cars' toxic fluids were probably allowed to drain directly into the ground.

Other stolen vehicles were left whole, raising the possibility that they could be reconditioned and resold outside of the state.

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9 august 2006

Study: A year after Katrina, New Orleans showing positives, negatives

03:43 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Alan Sayre / Associated Press

Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of New Orleans, the city is showing early signs of a rebirth, but a lack of health care and other services and a dearth of affordable housing could stymie a recovery, according to a study released Wednesday.

A rebuild New Orleans flag adorns the front of a home in the Gentilly area in New Orleans on Friday, July 21, 2006. Residents of the area are still waiting for Louisiana's 'Road Home' funds to reach them. About 123,000 homeowners are expected to have enough damage to qualify for the program.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said positive signs include a possible turnaround in the housing market and increased visitor and business travel.

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9 august 2006

The long, strange resurrection of New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina was the biggest natural disaster in US history - and its aftermath became the biggest management disaster in history as well. A year later, Fortune lays bare this surreal tale of incompetence, political cowardice...and rebirth.
FORTUNE Magazine
By Charles C. Mann
August 9 2006: 1:42 PM EDT

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- Ruthie Frierson's dining room does not look like the birthplace of a populist rebellion. The room is quiet, insulated from any street noise, with treatments in heavy fabric around the windows.

Asian paintings in elegant frames hang on the walls. The ceiling is gilt - not painted gold, but proper gilt, rectangles of gold leaf so thin that a brick of 100,000 sheets would be less than an inch thick. More from FORTUNE Why Wal-Mart wants to sell ethanol A new wireless winner How AMD made it a fight FORTUNE 500 Current Issue Subscribe to Fortune

Yet it was here, late last year, that Frierson and several women of her acquaintance first planned to attack the powers that be. In this case the powers were the political establishments in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Washington, D.C. - establishments the women believed bore much of the responsibility both for the city's collapse before Katrina last August 29 and for the paralytic pace of rebuilding.

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8 august 2006

New population statistics gloomy
Rate of return to area down dramatically
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
By Gordon Russell

After a string of encouraging months, the return of New Orleanians to the metro area seems to have slowed to barely a trickle in the second quarter of 2006, an analysis of change-of-address forms filed with the U.S. Postal Service shows.

The number of people who lived in the region before Hurricane Katrina and had come back as of June 30 rose by only 2,000, or less than two-tenths of a percentage point, compared with three months earlier, according to the data. If extrapolated, the figures suggest the metro area's population stood at less than 1.1 million at the end of June, compared with the region's pre-Katrina population of 1.5 million.

The estimates include 171,000 pre-Katrina New Orleanians who have returned to the city. Current estimates from city officials and others claim that a total 210,000 to 250,000 people are living in New Orleans, though they don't say how many of them were here before the storm and how many are workers who have come for the rebuilding.

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8 august 2006

August 8, 2006
Critic’s Notebook
In New Orleans, Each Resident Is Master of Plan to Rebuild
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 3 — Rebuilding a city, it seems, is too important a task to be left to professional planners. At least that’s the message behind a decision to place one of the most daunting urban reconstruction projects in American history in the hands of local residents.

Ever since a botched attempt to develop a comprehensive plan for New Orleans fell apart last winter, city and state officials have been straining to avoid the sticky racial and social questions that are central to any effort to rebuild and recover after Hurricane Katrina.

Their solution, hammered out in July, was to turn the planning process over to a local charity, the Greater New Orleans Foundation. On Aug. 1 the foundation opened a series of public meetings in which groups representing more than 70 neighborhoods would begin selecting the planners to help determine everything from where to place houses to the width of sidewalks.

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31 july 2006

Insurance rates have doubled, tripled for most
10:06 AM CDT on Monday, July 31, 2006
Jeremy Shapiro / Houma Courier

HOUMA -- When insurance rates triple but your income remains the same, something has to give.

Whether facing a price increase on a homeowners policy renewal or buying a new policy with the state Citizens plan, local residents are having to figure out how they will afford insurance. That may mean taking a new job, refinancing a car, postponing a vacation or even going without insurance.

Nikki Bush, an east-Houma resident, was notified in May that Farm Bureau would drop her wind and hail coverage July 1. That started a crazy two-month search for how to insure her family’s Village East home. Bush said her original policy cost $690 a year.

A policy with the Citizens plan, a state-run program considered an insurer of last resort, cost $1,200 a year, so she opted for that. But there were several problems. First, Citizens wouldn’t insure the trampoline Bush had bought her kids as a present last Christmas. She would have to get separate coverage elsewhere just for the trampoline.

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31 july 2006

Affordable homeowners insurance mostly a thing of the past in south Louisiana
10:04 AM CDT on Monday, July 31, 2006
Jeremy Shapiro / Houma Courier

HOUMA -- You’re a 31-year-old Houma resident, recently married with a kid on the way.

Sarah Tassin-Guidry and her husband haven?t been able to build their dream home on the lot they bought in Sugar Ridge subdivision near Chackbay because they can?t get insurance.

The apartment you’ve been living in is suddenly looking cramped, and you’ve always wanted your own home anyway. While you’re not rich, with some financing, you can afford your first home.

After an exhaustive search, you find it, and it’s perfect. The lender says you’re good to go, except before it’s a done deal, he wants you to buy homeowners insurance, specifically wind and hail coverage because it’s south Louisiana, and hurricanes happen.

No problem, you think. How hard can that be?

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31 july 2006

Desperately seeking tourists: N.O. awaiting return of visitors
Most tourist destinations have reopened
11:43 AM CDT on Monday, July 31, 2006
Alan Sayre / Associated Press

Masks and other souvenirs sit in a shop window in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Even though most of the shops are back, few tourists have been around to spend money.

The areas where tourists go largely escaped devastation -- and are anxiously awaiting visitors to come and spend money.

Plenty of hotel rooms are again available, most of New Orleans' world-renowned restaurants are open, events such as Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are back and the city is reassembling its national sports presence centered around the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Arena.

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28 july 2006

Report says city squandering recovery opportunity for lack of planning
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

Without a citywide rebuilding plan or a central agency in charge of redevelopment, New Orleans is likely to squander its opportunity to make a strong recovery as billions of dollars head toward the Gulf Coast, according to top officials with the Urban Land Institute .

As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina fast approaches, New Orleans lacks leadership from Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council, said John McIlwain, the senior fellow for housing for the Urban Land Institute.

McIlwain was part of a panel of 50 specialists in urban and post-disaster planning brought in by Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission to help the city create a recovery strategy. The commission largely rejected the institute’s advice, particularly its recommendation to rebuild first on higher ground in the lesser damaged neighborhoods — a theory that turned into a hot debate over the city’s footprint and who would be encouraged to return.

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27 july 2006

Map shows potential for flooding
By Sheila Grissett East Jefferson bureau

If the kind of tropical rain produced by Hurricane Katrina were to occur this summer, with floodgates closed against a storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain, a 6,650-acre area of New Orleans and East Jefferson could get anywhere from a few inches to several feet of water, according to computer generated maps released Wednesday by the Army Corps of Engineers.

That would be enough to swamp some vehicles and invade homes in lower-lying areas, though corps officials have said history shows the chances are slim that a storm wouldproduce enough surge this hurricane season to warrant closing floodgates at the 17th Street, London and Orleans Avenue canals. Based on storms from the past 46 years, the gates would have been closed only three times, and only one of those hurricanes — Katrina — produced heavy rain.

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Download all the maps at one time here

27 july 2006

Nagin finally speaks on recovery progress
By Frank Donze and Michelle Krupa Staff writers

Armed with facts, forecasts and a cadre of upbeat advisers, Mayor Ray Nagin stared down the naysayers Wednesday and offered an abundance of evidence to support his claim that 11 months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is making steady, definitive progress toward recovery.

Addressing the news media at roughly the midpoint of the first 100 days of his second four-year term, Nagin said he has been hard at work fulfilling his election night promise of two months ago to jump-start the rebuilding effort.

Though that task is far from complete, with the most devastated areas showing few signs of life and even the most resilient neighborhoods still dogged by crime, debris and shuttered stores, Nagin said his wounded city is becoming safer, cleaner and economically healthier by the day.

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26 july 2006

Katrina unemployment checks end
Businesses hope for more workers
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By Bruce Hamilton

Disaster unemployment assistance has ended for those who lost their jobs as a result of Hurricane Katrina, prompting back into the work force many of the 64,000 who were receiving the federal benefit when it officially ended.

The cutoff was another blow to storm victims in financially dire straits, but it's good news for the area's labor-strapped economy, especially in sectors such as the service industry that have endured continual hiring struggles since the storm.

"I would expect that we would see some of these jobs being filled by people who are forced to go back to work," said Philip Jeffress, a consulting economist in Slidell. He said the aid may have caused many jobs throughout the region to remain unfilled.

Louisiana Department of Labor data show the number of continuing Katrina unemployment claims declined gradually since its May peak. The number dropped drastically in the two weeks following June 3, the last day claims were accepted, from 64,318 to 1,584.

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26 july 2006

Senate to vote on bill crucial to state
Its drilling royalties plan less generous than House version
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By Bill Walsh

WASHINGTON -- Louisiana faces a critical hurdle this week in its decades-long campaign to secure a permanent stake in the billions of dollars in offshore oil and gas royalties derived from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Senate is considering legislation that would open to exploration 8.3 million acres in the eastern Gulf and cut Louisiana and three other coastal states in for a 37.5 percent share of the royalty payments private companies would be charged. Capitol Hill aides say the bill could mean $200 million to Louisiana in over the next decade and as much as $650 million annually after that as the state shares in royalty payments for the entire Gulf of Mexico.

It's not as generous as a House-passed bill, which promises more than $9 billion to Louisiana over 10 years, but it's also not as controversial. A bipartisan coalition backing the Senate bill predicted it would clear a key procedural obstacle today and win final passage Friday or Monday, at which point House and Senate negotiators will meet to hash out a compromise.

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26 july 2006

DEQ says landfill closure will slow recovery
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

The state Department of Environmental Quality has promised to abide by whatever decision local officials make about the future of the controversial Chef Menteur Highway landfill in eastern New Orleans. But in a strongly worded letter to Mayor Ray Nagin and City Council President Oliver Thomas, a high DEQ official warned that closing the landfill will significantly slow the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and could cost the city significant amounts of money.

Meanwhile, local opponents of the landfill say two recently issued scientific reports support their position that it is environmentally unsafe because it includes hazardous household and other wastes as well as inert construction and demolition debris. DEQ disagrees with that claim.

The landfill is next to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and not far from some residential areas, such as the heavily Vietnamese-American community of Village de l’Est.

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26 july 2006

Unemployment climbing in N.O.
Metrowide rate hits 7.2% as storm still taking toll on jobs
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By Ronette King

While unemployment fell statewide last month, The jobless rate in the New Orleans area rose to 7.2 percent, up from 6.4 percent in May, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor.

Last month's unemployment rate is higher than the 6.1 percent level of a year ago. The rate has climbed two months in a row as the number of people seeking work has risen faster than the number of jobs, which has also increased.

The number of jobs was up 7,457 from May for a total of 411,955, but it was still down from 595,755 in June of last year.

The decline in jobs from last year signals that the metro area hasn't rebounded from Hurricane Katrina, the Labor Department said. The New Orleans area includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes.

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25 july 2006

Law bans dropping coverage
Battle with Allstate may go to court
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
By Rebecca Mowbray

Allstate's efforts to drop wind and hail coverage for existing homeowners policies in coastal areas violates Louisiana's most important consumer protection statute on property insurance, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said, adding that the efforts are likely to end up in court.

On Friday, Donelon said Allstate planned to drop hurricane coverage for 30,000 of its 140,000 customers in 18 coastal parishes.

"It's totally opposite of what the reading of the statute says, and what the practice of the industry has been statewide since that statute was enacted in 1992," Donelon said. "They are gutting the homeowners protection policy and taking the majority of coverage away."

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25 july 2006

State protests FEMA cash cut
'People will suffer' from antifraud rules
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
By Bill Walsh

WASHINGTON -- Louisiana lawmakers and state disaster officials expressed outrage Monday at new FEMA antifraud policies that would cut the level of emergency financial assistance for hurricane victims and force states to pick up 25 percent of the tab.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison said the get-tough approach this hurricane season, including ID verification and stricter limits on benefits, is meant to keep a rein on taxpayer money after reports of rampant fraud and abuse in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The most visible change is the reduction in "expedited assistance" for postdisaster emergency expenses, which will be cut from $2,000 to $500 per household. State governments also will feel the pinch. The federal government paid all of the $1.5 billion in expedited assistance last year for Louisiana. This year, Louisiana will be on the hook for a quarter of the costs.

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24 july 2006

Air service to N.O. hasn’t taken off
By Jaquetta White Business writer

When the American Library Association brought its annual conference to New Orleans last month, tourism officials praised the return of the city’s convention business. But while the 18,000-person conference was largely regarded as a success, the event also exposed the limits of the city’s post-Hurricane Katrina air service.

One attendee had to drive to the conference from Houston after her flight from San Antonio was delayed, causing her to miss a connecting flight to New Orleans. There wasn’t another available seat for two days. And some conference sessions were canceled when speakers couldn’t get flights into the city.

The challenges illustrate the difficulty in getting the tourism industry up and running while there are only two-thirds the number of flights and about half the number of seats there were before the storm.

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12 july 2006

Inmates in training program do work on judge's house
Program is to teach construction skills
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
By Leslie Williams

Two Orleans Parish Prison inmates participating in a government-financed program to learn construction skills were put to work Monday and Tuesday at the Octavia Street home of 1st City Court Judge Angelique Reed.

The assignment, though, didn't come directly from the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater New Orleans Inc., which operates the training program, the head of the nonprofit said.

Philip Baptiste, the center's executive director, said he "loaned" the workers to the judge's uncle, David Reed, an OIC contractor who owns a private company overseeing construction of an addition to his niece's home. But Baptiste said he did not know Reed intended to dispatch the inmates to the judge's home. It's "improper involvement," Baptiste said after he was asked about the inmates who, under the supervision of a criminal sheriff's deputy, were seen standing next to Reed's pool Tuesday morning.

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11 july 2006

Insurers told to extend deadline
Policyholders deserve 2 years, regulator says
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
By Rebecca Mowbray

BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon ordered property insurance providers Tuesday to give homeowners and business owners two years to file lawsuits against them.

If insurers don't grant the extension by Aug. 1, Donelon said, he will use all means necessary as the state's chief insurance regulator to force them to do it, including possible fines and revocation of the insurance companies' certificates of authority to operate in Louisiana. The action comes a month after Donelon asked the companies to extend the deadlines voluntarily. Only a few companies did so.

Insurance companies had little time to react to the afternoon announcement.

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11 july 2006

HUD approves $4.2 billion for Louisiana's rebuilding program
7/11/2006, 5:40 p.m. CT
By BRETT MARTEL The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The federal government will pay $4.2 billion into a program to help Louisiana residents rebuild or sell houses severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced it would provide $1 billion for hurricane-related housing needs in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida, and called on those states to apply for the additional money.

Louisiana's $4.2 billion will be added to federal allocations the state had already received to fully fund its more-than-$9 billion "Road Home" program for hurricane recovery.

The money "seals the deal for Louisiana," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said after HUD deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi presented her with a large mock, light-blue check. "For the first time we can guarantee that we have all the funding we need ... . We will bring back our communities devastated by both Katrina and Rita — two pretty vicious hurricanes."

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9 july 2006

BUYERS' & SELLERS' MARKET
Undamaged homes are fetching record prices, but even houses that did flood are selling better than some expected. Sunday, July 09, 2006
By Greg Thomas

The average sales price of undamaged homes in Orleans Parish has soared higher than storm surge in the eight months since Katrina, while flooded homes are discounted to about half the average prices of a year ago.

Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes appear to be more stable markets, with post-storm prices having jumped about 11.5 percent over prestorm values. For St. Tammany, that's a slight quickening of the market above the 9.2 percent increase noted in 2004 prices, while in Jefferson, the rate of increase has been level for the past two years.

The run-up in Orleans Parish prices for undamaged homes is the most startling number in a metrowide report on real estate sales prepared by Wade Ragas, the founder of Real Properties Associates and a retired finance professor who has studied the local market for 25 years.

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9 july 2006

For some New Orleanians, the pace of recovery is too slow, the threat of another hurricane is too scary, the future is too uncertain.
They're getting out.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
By Mark Waller

Their house was emptied of everything but the echoes, the backyard shed swept clean and the van and rental truck loaded for a long drive. Sarah Miller and her family were ready to leave behind the hurricane aftermath and the specter of future storms to start a new life safely inland in Oxford, Miss.

Only one task remained before they hit the highway. They drove to a store to buy a small statue of St. Joseph, then to a church to get it blessed by a priest, then returned to bury it in the front yard, headfirst and facing the street, in keeping with the old tradition that says the saint helps people sell houses.

"Some people say it works," said Miller, 57, who prayed over the patch of upturned soil as her husband, Mark Loftin, 55, stood by with a shovel. "You've got to cover all your angles."

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7 july 2006

FBI investigating donated cars
FBI starts probe of donated autos
Friday, July 07, 2006
By Gordon Russell

When carmaker DaimlerChrysler AG donated 40 trucks and sport utility vehicles to Katrina-crushed governments in southeastern Louisiana last September, company officials never imagined some of them would wind up in the hands of private nonprofits.

In fact, the company said Thursday that it made clear to the cities and parishes that received the gifts -- collectively valued at more than $1 million -- that they were for the exclusive use of public agencies or government units, such as police and fire departments. Dave Elshoff, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman, said those instructions were delivered, both verbally and in writing, to then New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt, who signed for 20 of the cars when they were delivered to Baton Rouge.

Yet eight months later, Gill Pratt would arrange for the donation of four cars to two nonprofits to which she has close ties -- donations that on Thursday, four days after they were disclosed, led City Council members to call for the cars to be returned to the city and the local head of the FBI to announce a criminal probe of the matter.

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6 july 2006

New Orleans Housing Unwelcoming to Some

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 6, 2006
Filed at 9:27 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Even before Hurricane Katrina hit, the city's public housing projects were sinkholes of crime and despair.

Federal housing officials now plan to tear down four flooded-out projects but some residents are suing and staging marches, saying the plan to demolish their homes is discriminatory.

It will take up to three years before the housing is rebuilt as mixed-income units, and those being displaced will have to look for private property rentals with housing vouchers. For some, it evokes the feelings of abandonment that they had after Katrina hit.

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6 july 2006

City residents energy bills could be going up
By Pam Radtke Russell Business writer

New Orleans residents could see their electric and gas bills rise about $45 a month under a plan Entergy New Orleans has filed with the New Orleans City Council.

The filing is the first time since Hurricane Katrina that Entergy New Orleans has requested a rate increase to help pay for damage it sustained in the hurricane and to adjust rates based on its much smaller customer base.

The City Council has until Nov. 1 to act upon the filing.

City Council President Oliver Thomas said Wednesday that he has not had time to review the rate increase and couldn’t yet comment on the filing. Clint Vince, an advisor to the city council on Entergy-related issues, is also still reviewing the filing, but said he wouldn’t expect the council to rubber stamp the request.

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5 july 2006

Public housing advocates protest St. Bernard's closure
Marchers demand HUD reopen units
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
By Kate Moran

Dozens of displaced public housing residents, led by a young activist with drums affixed to the front of his bike, marched around the perimeter of the St. Bernard complex Tuesday to demand that the federal government help low-income residents return to their former neighborhoods.

The rally brought dislocated residents together with protesters from the Common Ground collective, most of them young, white and bedecked with piercings, shaggy facial hair and other trappings of counterculture. For the Fourth of July, they staged an event that blended biblical allusions with democratic traditions of civil disobedience.

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5 july 2006

Summer tourism fears are borne out
City can't break storm's legacy, seasonal drop-off
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
By Jaquetta White

As the Essence Music Festival hit the stage last weekend -- not in New Orleans, its traditional home, but in temporary, post-Katrina digs in Houston -- the absent spending power of the event's thousands of attendees was clear to local restaurants, hotels and retail shops.

"What we're obviously missing right now is the Fourth of July buzz," said Glenda McKinley English, president and creative director of G.Mc + Company Advertising Inc., which handles multicultural tourism accounts for the city and state. "It's a void in our community."

Temporary displacement of the festival, the summer's biggest musical attraction, and the cancellation of other events already have industry analysts comparing summer 2006 to those of the dismal summer of 1985, when just half of the city's hotel rooms were filled.

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4 july 2006

Street-level flooding is more likely
Closing gates for tropical storm would be culprit
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
By Mark Waller

Heavy rain from a tropical storm could fill more streets with water this year than residents were used to seeing before Hurricane Katrina, according to new government projections.

The Army Corps of Engineers has drawn up maps showing parts of Gentilly, Lakeview and Uptown that can expect rainwater accumulation this hurricane season even if they did not typically flood in previous tropical storms. Closing the floodgates under construction at the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals in advance of a tropical system is what would trigger the extra flooding from rain.

However, the likelihood of closing the gates is slim: Corps officials have estimated they would have closed them only three times in the past 45 years, based on a historical analysis of weather data. And the gates would not be closed for rain events unrelated to storms that bring a surge -- meaning even a record rainfall such as the one the New Orleans area received on May 8, 1995, would not trigger gate closures.

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3 july 2006

Canal Street facelift resuming
New sidewalks, lights aim to revive strip
Monday, July 03, 2006
By Bruce Eggler

Hurricane Katrina didn't change the minds of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the Downtown Development District about the importance of upgrading the appearance of the Canal Street business district.

The $12.9 million Canal Street Improvement Project, which started in early 2005 and was interrupted by Katrina, once again is moving ahead. Installation of new sidewalks and other work will begin today in the blocks on the downriver side of Canal between Decatur and Burgundy streets.

This is the third of seven zones into which officials have divided the project.

Work on the neutral ground between the Mississippi River and Claiborne Avenue was completed before the hurricane, and construction on the downriver blocks between the river and Decatur is just about wrapped up, officials said.

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3 july 2006

BELL'S ABOUT TO RING
Monday, July 03, 2006
By Steve Ritea

Some say it's like trying to repair a car going 60 miles an hour. And adding to the problem, you're almost out of gas.

No one ever thought fixing New Orleans' public schools would be easy.

But now, after decades of half-baked reform efforts that have failed generations of students, the city's schools might finally have a shot at real, substantive change for the better. In any event, Louisiana's grand experiment in public education is unlike anything the nation has ever seen.

Since November's state takeover, 25 campuses have managed to open, serving 12,500 students. About 30 more schools are preparing to open later this summer for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, expanding the city's total public school capacity to 34,000, although closer to 22,000 are expected.

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3 july 2006

Trailers take turn from a blessing to a curse
FEMA slow to retrieve temporary housing
Monday, July 03, 2006
By Kate Moran

Her government-issue trailer might be white, but that does not mean Jenelle Jordan wants it anywhere in the background of her daughter's wedding photographs.

The Kenner resident hasn't needed the temporary housing since April, when she moved back into her home and started asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to remove the trailer from her front yard. It crowds the driveway, and it will make an unwelcome backdrop when limousines pull up to the house for the summer nuptials.

But Jordan has found that getting a trailer hauled away is no easier than having one delivered. She has tried the FEMA hotline, but her calls were bounced from the agency to its private contractors and back again. She is frustrated that her trailer sits idle while other families are still desperate for theirs to arrive.

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2 july 2006

Ex-official Renee Gill Pratt steers cash to nonprofits
Jefferson family part of tangled dealings
Sunday, July 02, 2006
By Gordon Russell

As one of her last official acts as the City Council member for District B, Renee Gill Pratt steered a $16,071 city grant from a council discretionary fund to a little-known Central City nonprofit agency called Orleans Metropolitan Housing.

Gill Pratt didn't mention her long history of showering millions in taxpayer money on the group -- or her ties to its president, Mose Jefferson, with whom she has had a long personal relationship. In an interview, Gill Pratt described Mose Jefferson -- the brother of embattled U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Gill Pratt's political mentor and former boss -- as a friend.

As it turns out, the 11th-hour grant to the housing nonprofit was just one of several deals Gill Pratt made from which she or someone close to her benefited personally.

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30 june 2006

Federal government to continue full payment of debris cleanup for four metro area parishes until Dec. 31

The federal government will continue to fully pay for hurricane cleanup in New Orleans, and St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Plaquemines parishes until the end of the year, the White House announced this afternoon.

The move, approved by President Bush and that also included Washington Parish, gives cash strapped governments in some of the five hardest hit parishes a reprieve from having to pick up 10 percent of the cleanup costs, a requirement that was to kick in Saturday.

But the order leaves out Jefferson Parish and other communities in Louisiana still cleaning up damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In a press release, the White House said Bush on Thursday authorized the federal government to continue paying for the full cost of eligible cleaning up work.

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29 june 2006

Power outage an omen, official says
Entergy's system in disarray and struggling, post-Katrina

Thursday, June 29, 2006
By Pam Radtke Russell

Late Tuesday afternoon, as temperatures climbed to 95 degrees, power surged and then ebbed at homes in Gentilly and around Esplanade Avenue. And then finally, about 4 p.m., it went out.

For more than four hours, 7,000 to 10,000 customers sweated it out on their stoops as Entergy worked to restore power after shutting it off for safety reasons.

The outage, and others in recent weeks, underscore the system's fragility after Hurricane Katrina, officials said. Repairs made after the storm to get power restored are considered temporary. The system no longer has back-up redundancy, and won't until millions of dollars are spent to repair the system, officials said.

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26 june 2006

This is the transcript from Anderson Cooper's 06/26/06 AC360 show.

It speaks to the sentiments of a lot of us regarding the city, the inactivity, the crime, and the frustration:

It is June 26, 26 days into Mayor Ray Nagin's plan for rebuilding New Orleans. Coming up, he won a second chance to steer his city into better times, but what has really changed since he launched this 100- day plan? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Plus, another reality check on the streets of New Orleans -- a wave of murders has some people in the Big Easy heading to the nearest gun store -- next on this special edition of 360, live from New Orleans.

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26 june 2006

Lengthy drought takes toll on local earthen levees
Officials monitoring cracks, loss of grass
Monday, June 26, 2006 By Sheila Grissett

Darryl Ward routinely walks the levee along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain in Bucktown, using the solitude to pray.

But when Ward changed his routine one day this week by veering away from the water to stroll the levee's gravel crown, his sacred reverie was shattered by what he found: a series of holes and horizontal cracks scattered along the surface of the big dirt levee east of Cherokee Avenue.

"At first I thought someone was testing something, but as I kept walking, I saw more and more of them," Ward said. "Some of the cracks were 15 to 20 feet long, and they looked pretty deep. It got me worried, and I said to myself, 'I don't need Metairie to flood again. Someone needs to see this.' "

Officials with the East Jefferson Levee District said the cracks, which they said they're already monitoring, are the result of the drought conditions that are baking the region and everything in it.

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24 june 2006

Troubled New Orleans criminal justice system struggles to rebound

04:30 PM CDT on Saturday, June 24, 2006

By SHARON COHEN AP National Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Their faces glisten with sweat, their red-rimmed eyes stare ahead vacantly as they're herded into the sweltering room where another day of court is about to begin.

"Sorry you have to sit on the floor," Commissioner Marie Bookman says to about 50 men and women in leg shackles before she calls her first case in the bond hearing.

It's a spring morning in the New Orleans court system's long road back from Hurricane Katrina.

This session of magistrate court is temporarily being held in a police lineup room furnished with plastic tables. Flies buzz about. Two giant fans offer no relief.

Most of the men here have been arrested on drug charges; most of the women have been accused of prostitution. Few can afford lawyers.

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23 june 2006

Big Easy's big struggle
Katrina closed key small shops

By Keith O'Brien, Globe Correspondent | June 11, 2006

Third in a series of occasional articles on post-Katrina New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS -- The two cousins were as close as sisters. Their families followed each other from Saigon, Vietnam, to New York to Lancaster, Pa., and then south to New Orleans.

There, near a bend in the Mississippi River, Vy Banh and Carolyn Takacs-Snell grew up, watching their parents sell steaming bowls of pho, a brothy Vietnamese soup, at the family's restaurant, the Pho Tau Bay, which opened in 1982.

Over the years, one restaurant became four. A fifth was due to open early in September 2005 in downtown New Orleans. It was exactly what her family had hoped for when they fled Vietnam in 1975 , Banh said.

``It was the American dream."

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21 june 2006

Editorial
The New Orleans Muddle
Published: June 21, 2006

It has been almost 10 months since Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, and there is still no redevelopment plan for New Orleans. Congress has passed the emergency relief bill, and President Bush has signed it into law. Billions of dollars are headed the city's way. Leaders in New Orleans and in the state capital of Baton Rouge will have only one chance to get it right. There are no more excuses for local officials, no more pointing toward Washington. It is time for southeastern Louisiana to rebuild itself.

Yet Adam Nossiter reported this week in The Times that it will be six months before a "master planning document" answers the questions foremost in the minds of residents, like which neighborhoods will return, where rebuilding will be encouraged and where returning residents will have to make do without city services. That is totally unacceptable.

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21 june 2006

HUD raising amount of Gulf Coast Section 8 vouchers to help with rising housing costs
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will dramatically increase its rental assistance in response to the post-hurricane spike in rents across the Gulf Coast that have left thousands of families without a place to live, officials said Wednesday.

At a morning meeting of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, HUD officials said that as of July 1, Section 8 housing vouchers will jump to 120 percent of the post-hurricane “fair market rent” formulas, an unprecedented move for the federal agency that has overseen the city’s housing authority since 2002.

While the government-set fair market rate for a one-bedroom unit in the metro area is $803, the beefed up Section 8 voucher will net recipients $964 per monthly payment. Landlords who deliver Section 8 housing receive the payment electronically to their bank accounts on the first business day of the month.

The post-Katrina vouchers range from $870 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,128 for a two-bedroom, $1,447 for a three-bedroom, $1,496 for a four-bedroom, and up to $2,275 for a seven-bedroom unit.

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20 june 2006

Officials unveil evacuation plan
Tourists included in crisis readiness
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
By Frank Donze Staff writer

New Orleanians and visitors without transportation who are ordered to evacuate in advance of a hurricane will be able to gather at a dozen sites across the city that will be used to move them out of town, emergency preparedness officials said Monday. Advertisement

But where evacuees ultimately wind up remains unclear three weeks into the new storm season.

The 12 pick-up locations were submitted to the Ground Transportation Committee of the City Council, whose responsibilities include oversight of the city's hurricane evacuation procedures.

The sites are divided into two categories: one for senior citizens and residents with special needs and another for the general population.

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20 june 2006

Tow trucks begin hauling flooded cars off streets
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
By James Varney Staff writer

With the whir and clank of heavy machinery, Louisiana officials began dragging hurricane-wrecked cars out of New Orleans on Monday and toward a more permanent graveyard.

The program's launch comes on the heels of months of contractual wrangling, curious decisions and legislative hearings, but marked a welcome development in the state and city's efforts to scrub the landscape free of reminders of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Under a contract let by the Department of Environmental Quality, an Alabama firm with an armada of Louisiana tow trucks will haul an estimated 100,000 vehicles and 50,000 boats off public land across southern Louisiana and into staging areas, pending their ultimate crushing, authorities said. That process is expected to be completed by Aug. 30, DEQ Assistant Secretary Chuck Brown said.

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19 june 2006

New Orleans leaders ask for National Guard
6/19/2006, 11:12 a.m. CT
By CAIN BURDEAU The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mayor Ray Nagin asked the governor on Monday to deploy up to 300 National Guard troops and 60 state police officers to patrol the city following a violent weekend in which five people were shot to death.

City leaders convened a special meeting to voice outrage that five teenagers were killed Saturday in an area near the central business district.

"If we don't have wind knocking us down, we have shooters knocking us down, and that's unacceptable," said City Council President Oliver Thomas.

The slayings — plus a fatal stabbing Sunday night in an argument about beer — brought this year's murder toll to 53, raising fears that violence was back on the rise in a city plagued by violent crime before Hurricane Katrina drove residents away last year.

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18 june 2006

June 18, 2006
In New Orleans, Money Is Ready but a Plan Isn't
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, June 17 — Billions of federal dollars are about to start flowing into this city after President Bush on Thursday signed the emergency relief bill the region has long awaited. But, with the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, local officials have yet to come up with a redevelopment plan showing what kind of city will emerge from the storm's ruins.

No neighborhoods have been ruled out for rebuilding, no matter how damaged or dangerous. No decisions have been made on what kind of housing, if any, will replace the mold-ridden empty hulks that stretch endlessly in many areas. No one really knows exactly how the $10.4 billion in federal housing aid will be spent, and guidance for residents in vulnerable areas has been minimal.

A month into his second term, Mayor C. Ray Nagin has said little about his vision for a profoundly different city. In an interview on Friday, he said it would be six months before a "master planning document" was issued to address questions like which areas should be rebuilt, although he suggested that thousands of residents were making that decision on their own.

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18 june 2006

Public housing activists take anger to St. Charles Avenue neighborhood

07:24 AM CDT on Sunday, June 18, 2006

WWLTV.com

A few dozen public housing residents and supporters marched on one of New Orleans’ wealthiest neighborhoods Saturday in protest over plans to knock down much of the city’s public housing developments.

Alex Brannon / Associated Press

Public housing residents and activists walk the streetcar tracks on St. Charles Avenue to protest HUD's plan to demolish most public housing in New Orleans on Saturday June 17, 2006. HUD plans to demolish four housing developments, some damaged by Hurricane Katrina, to make way for mixed income housing.

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17 june 2006

Mayor on the road with rebuild message
ALSO: Nagin's recovery tour
Saturday, June 17, 2006
By Frank Donze and Gordon Russell Staff writers

Mayor Ray Nagin just can't seem to stop talking about God and chocolate.

Five months after he offered a fervent mea culpa for a Martin Luther King Day speech in which he vowed to rebuild New Orleans as a "chocolate city" and linked Hurricane Katrina to the Almighty's disenchantment with American war policy in Iraq and black-on-black violence in American cities, Nagin struck some similar themes this week, this time in Chicago.

Talking on Tuesday to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's organization, Nagin suggested that Hurricane Katrina was a divine effort to reorder the city's social landscape, according to an account in the Chicago Tribune

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16 june 2006

HUD demolition plan protested
Residents say they're being shut out of city
Friday, June 16, 2006
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

Dozens of public housing residents Thursday protested the federal government's plan to demolish four complexes in New Orleans, saying they are left without homes in a city where rentals are nearly impossible to find. Advertisement

One day after U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced that New Orleans would lose housing complexes but gain a "renaissance" of better low-income housing, some of the families who called St. Bernard, Lafitte, C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper home cried foul at a City Council hearing.

"By tearing down developments you're not giving me the choice to come back home to New Orleans, where I was forced to leave," said Cherlynn Gaynor, 42, who grew up in the Lafitte complex and was raising her 11 year-old daughter there before the levee failures during Katrina drowned the city. "I pay taxes and I work. Why would you shut us out from where our culture is?"

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16 june 2006

DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
Determined homeowners are leading the recovery in parts of parts of eastern New Orleans
Friday, June 16, 2006
By Leslie Williams Staff writer

In about two weeks, Mtumishi St. Julien, an eastern New Orleans resident ousted from the city by Hurricane Katrina, will resettle into his two-story home in the Lake Bullard subdivision. He won't be returning to the wasteland some predicted the heavily flooded area east of the Industrial Canal would become.

The jack-o'-lantern effect of one or two isolated homes lit up on some desolate streets is neither his reality nor that of many of the thousands of people and businesses repopulating eastern New Orleans more than nine months after lingering floodwaters and hurricane-force winds wrecked their neighborhoods.

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14 june 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Eight months since Katrina, driest in more than a century

By Michelle Hunter East Jefferson bureau

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew through the greater New Orleans area, dumping nearly 1 ˝ feet of rainwater, many prayed for drier days to make work easier for rescuers and allow their submerged city a chance to dry out.

“Be careful what you wish for,” said State Climatologist Barry Keim.

In a ironic twist after most of New Orleans sat submerged in water for weeks, the eight months since Oct. 1 have been the driest south Louisiana has seen in the 111 years that the state has kept rainfall records, he said. Since October, most locales in the southern half of the state have averaged just 21 inches of rain, down from the usual 40-inch average, Keim said.

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14 june 2006

HUD plans to reopen 1,000 public housing units

By Michelle Roberts Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday that it will reopen 1,000 additional New Orleans public housing units this summer and increase the amount it pays for rental assistance to help bring the city's poor people back.

The plan - the first announced since Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the available public housing 10 months ago - calls for demolition of the city's largest public housing development, St. Bernard, and three others.

Those developments will be rebuilt into a combination of public housing, rental housing and single-family homes, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said in a statement.

Units in the least-damaged and newest developments will be repaired.

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14 june 2006

Problems smoldering for N.O. Fire Department
By Michael Perlstein Staff writer

If New Orleans firefighters had half a moment to ponder their problems, they’d probably spontaneously combust: flooded and ruined equipment, 50 percent of their stations out of commission, a nearly 10 percent drop in personnel, drought-like conditions, anemic water pressure and a long, hot hurricane season staring them in the face.

Distracting these firefighters from their litany of woes is, ironically, fire. A seemingly unending rash of calls has kept the department scrambling day and night, stretching already taxed resources but somehow boosting the squad’s sense of purpose, District Capt. Norman Woodridge said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of stress in dealing with all this, but it’s your job. When duty calls, you go and perform your task. That’s what firefighters do,” Woodridge said.

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13 june 2006

June 13, 2006
Police Struggles in New Orleans Raise Old Fears
By CHRISTOPHER DREW

NEW ORLEANS, June 9 — Within the Police Department here, the SWAT team is known as The Final Option. Before Hurricane Katrina, it was assigned to the city's worst crimes, and as residents return, it is once again kicking in the doors at the worst drug dens and engaging in shootouts with violent offenders.

But the team is also running dangerously low on firepower. Flooding ruined 300 of its guns, its bullet-resistant shields and the bulk of its ammunition, none of which have been replaced more than nine months after the hurricane. The 40-man team has had to borrow body armor from suburban forces, and the Police Department is lining up corporate sponsors to contribute more.

"I tell you what: we're hurting," said the team's commander, Capt. Jeffrey Winn.

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12 june 2006

Momentum grows for Nov. 7 vote on assessors
Advocate of delay changes his mind
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, key state legislators and leaders of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans and the Business Council of New Orleans all have agreed to support Nov. 7 as the date for voters to decide the fate of a constitutional amendment that would cut the number of Orleans Parish assessors from seven to one, Nagin said Monday.

The House is expected to consider the issue today.

Advocates of consolidation say that having just one assessor would make assessments fairer and more uniform citywide, while opponents say it would make the assessor's office more remote from the people.

At the urging of Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, the House Ways and Means Committee voted last week to delay a statewide vote on the proposed amendment until October 2008. But Richmond said Monday that he now supports having the election this fall.

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8 june 2006

To stay or go? More people deciding
Activity is replacing paralysis, report says
Thursday, June 08, 2006
By Coleman Warner Staff writer

New Orleans homes for sale have reached a new peak and the city is reporting an escalating number of residential building permits, two seemingly conflicting facts that combined suggest homeowners are accelerating their decisions on whether to rebuild or get rid of their Katrina-flooded homes, the Brookings Institution said Wednesday. Advertisement

In releasing its latest Katrina Index report, the Washington nonprofit research organization gave a sobering interpretation of the home-sales figure: "This may signal the decision made by families to leave Orleans Parish." But a measure of hope can be gleaned from both home sales and building permits, according to the group's deputy director, Amy Liu. Together they signal a turn away from paralysis, and sales could improve the rate at which homes are cleaned up and put back into use, she said.

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8 june 2006

Millions of gallons of water seeping away
Fissures in pipes traced to Katrina
Thursday, June 08, 2006
By Michelle Krupa Staff writer

About 85 million gallons of drinking water -- more than two-thirds of the total pumped into the pipes -- are leaking into the ground every day through breaks in New Orleans' hurricane-fractured water system, even after crews this week plugged a 15 million-gallon-per-day crack using a process that cut water pressure, in some cases to a dribble, from Uptown to Gentilly.

Even with that fix, the city continues to waste nearly twice the 50 million gallons per day that residents are paying to use, Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Marcia St. Martin said. Given the difficulty of locating underground leaks, especially with so few residents around to report them in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, St. Martin said much work still must be done.

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7 june 2006

Levee districts overhaul under fire
Lawmakers trying to scale back changes
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
By Robert Travis Scott Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Landmark legislation passed in February to consolidate authority over the New Orleans area's fragmented levee districts came under surprise attack Tuesday by opponents of the initiative. Advertisement

Amendments placed on unrelated bills in the House and Senate would peel back some provisions in the levee board overhaul championed by the governor and Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, setting the stage for a reprise of the emotional confrontation that characterized the issue four months ago.

Supporters of Boasso's plan, which would be implemented Jan. 1 if voters statewide approve the measure in a Sept. 30 referendum, are calling on Gov. Kathleen Blanco to stop lawmakers in the current legislative session from chipping away at its provisions.

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7 june 2006

Census tallies Katrina changes
But the changing New Orleans area is a moving target
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
By Coleman Warner Staff writer

In a sweeping collection of demographic information showing how Gulf Coast communities were reshaped by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the U.S. Census Bureau will release data today showing that the storm's impact left the New Orleans area somewhat older, whiter and more affluent, even as more people temporarily found themselves in food stamp lines.

New population estimates for July 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2006, offering pre- and post-Katrina benchmarks, give heft to the notion that, while there was widespread devastation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the storm's human toll was concentrated in the New Orleans area.

Population losses in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines in the months after Katrina totaled 385,439, roughly nine times the combined losses for Mississippi counties hit hard by the storm.

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6 june 2006

Most in N.O. uncertain of future
UNO researchers poll New Orleanians
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
By John Pope Staff writer

In the months since Hurricane Katrina turned every aspect of life upside down, New Orleanians are worrying more and sleeping less, and complaining about the difficulty of getting things done, especially mail delivery and home repairs, according to a University of New Orleans survey released Monday.

"We don't expect this to be positive, because we've just endured the worst disaster in American history," UNO political scientist Susan Howell said at a news conference.

The findings, based on 470 telephone interviews in March and April, bore out her statement.

Pollsters found that slightly more than two-thirds of the New Orleanians interviewed said they are worried about what may happen in the next five years, and that nearly 40 percent are sleeping worse than they did before Katrina pummeled their city. In the week before they were questioned, at least 20 percent of the interviewees said that they had felt tired, irritable and sad; that everything was an effort; and that they had a hard time concentrating.

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6 june 2006

June 6, 2006
Clamoring to Come Home to New Orleans Projects
By SUSAN SAULNY

NEW ORLEANS, June 5 — Hundreds of displaced residents of public housing have for several days been returning here for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

They are armed with little more than cleaning supplies and frustration, in an effort to force the city to reopen their storm-damaged apartments.

The city, saying the projects are not ready, has refused.

Outside the largest complex, the St. Bernard Housing Development in the Seventh Ward, tenant groups have organized evacuees into a tent city called Survivors Village. At the C. J. Peete Development in Central City, older residents, mostly women, broke into their old apartments and carted away plastic bags of refuse and ruined furniture.

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5 june 2006

A Very Late Checkout
New York’s last Katrina evacuees prepare to depart (under duress) from the JFK Airport Holiday Inn.
By Matthew Philips

(Photo: William Mebane for New York Magazine)

This winter, FEMA put up over 300 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in New York City hotels. Almost all of them have gone back to their lives, their jobs. But not Theon Johnson. He’s currently sprawled out watching Halloween 5 on one of the two full-size beds in his room at the JFK Airport Holiday Inn. He is one of four evacuees still living in a hotel in the city.

The others left in February and March, when, after spending more than $500 million, FEMA stopped paying for hotel rooms housing some 40,000 evacuees across the country. That left many scrambling for places to live. But thanks to the city’s squatters-rights law, evacuees here were safe. Their rooms weren’t paid for, but since they’d been in them for more than 30 days, the hotels couldn’t just kick them out. Only a judge’s order could evict them.

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5 june 2006

Insurance sought outside flood plain
Inexpensive move brings peace of mind
Monday, June 05, 2006
By Meghan Gordon
West Bank bureau

Even though homes in the lowest-risk areas are predicted to flood less than once in 500 years, Hurricane Katrina's images of roofs peaking above waves have scared homeowners into putting money on the odds that the same could happen to them.

New Orleans area insurance agents said that no matter how high a property's ground elevation, clients outside the flood plain have flocked to them like never before with requests for flood policy quotes. And unlike the near-impossibility of securing homeowners insurance in the region, federally subsidized flood insurance policies are easily obtained as long as the home meets the current elevation standard and wasn't substantially damaged by Katrina, agents said.

"I've never sold so much flood insurance in my life," said Chris Paulin of Independent Insurance Underwriters in Metairie.

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5 june 2006

East of the Harvey Canal, people are rattled by slow progress in plugging its gaps
Monday, June 05, 2006
By Meghan Gordon
West Bank bureau

A symbol of New Orleans' inadequate hurricane protection, the 17th Street Canal stays bathed in light while crews work around the clock to close the drainage outlet before the next storm surge fills Lake Pontchartrain. Advertisement

Across the Mississippi River, another waterway remains just as vulnerable to a hurricane's monster tide. Yet owners of homes and businesses east of the Harvey Canal must endure another nerve-wracking hurricane season before the precarious hole in the West Bank's federal levee system is plugged.

"The path of least resistance is right here," Peggy Guthrie said from her living room on Vulcan Drive in Harvey, a home that unmanned pumps allowed to soak with 2 feet of Hurricane Katrina's rain. "We're the sacrificial lamb for Jefferson Parish."

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5 june 2006

HOMESICK
Public housing residents return to clean out their apartments, and wonder when they can come home
Sunday, June 04, 2006
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

Nine months after Hurricane Katrina forced them from New Orleans, scores of public housing residents returned to New Orleans on Saturday, ready to clean out their storm-damaged apartments despite continuing uncertainty over when the Housing Authority of New Orleans will decide the future of the complexes where they formerly lived.

Several frustrated residents and outraged activists had threatened this week to cut through the chain-link fence around the sprawling St. Bernard complex in the 7th Ward to reclaim their homes Saturday. But that didn't happen.

Instead, the day offered a peaceful demonstration of the residents' desire to return home, as dozens of them gathered to protest outside the sealed-off complex.

The scene resembled a block party as residents, student volunteers and other supporters created a "survivors village" on the St. Bernard Avenue neutral ground, complete with tents, music and food.

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4 june 2006

Lyons Prepares for New Season of Storms

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 4, 2006
Filed at 1:16 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- During pre-Katrina visits to New Orleans, Steve Lyons set aside a few hours for an errand that would probably only occur to the Weather Channel's hurricane expert. He'd wander through the city and ask residents whether or not they would evacuate if a hurricane was on its way.

Last spring, he walked into a fast food restaurant and put the question to the young woman serving his soda. She stared at him blankly.

''What's a hurricane?'' she replied.

''I still to this day wonder what happened to that girl,'' Lyons said.

With the memories of Katrina fresh and the Gulf Coast still rebuilding, Lyons is preparing for the new hurricane season that started Thursday. The Weather Channel marks that event this week with several days of hurricane programming.

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2 june 2006

Katrina cars still not being towed
By James Varney Staff writer

Negotiations on a contract to rid a landscape checkered with cars wrecked by hurricanes Katrina and Rita continued Thursday, but a firm date on which towing of the eyesores will commence remains unset, officials said.

Louisiana’s attempt to drag away the abandoned, dirt-caked vehicles has been dogged by setback and scandal, but the situation appeared to clarify 15 days ago when the state picked DRC Inc. of Mobile to handle the job.

That selection came after the state’s first attempt to award a towing contract unraveled over questions about the financial wherewithal of an obscure consortium that bid roughly $62 million. The state’s false start, in turn, followed an embarrassing chain of events for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, whose administration first spurned a cash offer from car crushers to take care of the thousands of flooded cars cluttering city streets, then backed off a controversial plan to pay a national engineering firm more than $20 million to tow the cars before joining the state contracting effort.

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2 june 2006

June 2, 2006
Army Builders Accept Blame Over Flooding
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

In a sweeping new study of the causes of the disaster in New Orleans last year, the Army Corps of Engineers concludes that the levees it built in the city were an incomplete patchwork of protection, containing flaws in design and construction and not built to handle a storm anywhere near the strength of Hurricane Katrina.

"The hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana was a system in name only," said the draft of the nine-volume report, released yesterday in New Orleans.

Several outside engineering panels that have been critical of the corps have come to similar conclusions, and have found a more extensive chain of flaws in the design, construction and maintenance of the 350-mile levee system.

But the 6,113-page report is remarkable for being a product of the corps' own official investigation, which brought together 150 experts from government, academia and business to study what went wrong and how to build better systems for the future.

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1 june 2006

Complete corps final report

The Army Corps of Engineers has made available the Final Report of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce (IPET). The report is provided in nine volumes:

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1 june 2006

HUD officials try to stave off complex takeover
By Gwen Filosa Staff writer

The nation’s top housing official Thursday pleaded with public housing residents in New Orleans not to enter the shuttered complexes this weekend, and promised that help is coming for those forced from their homes by the Aug. 29 hurricane.

“I would encourage residents really not to break the law,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, in an telephone interview. “I do not want to see anyone hurt. Many of those units are not safe. I don’t want something to happen where people are exposed to heavy lead or mold.”

Thousands of New Orleans families who lived in the 5,100 occupied units of public housing before Katrina remain shut out of the city nine months after the deadly flooding.

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1 june 2006

June 1, 2006
For Many, Education Is Another Storm Victim
 

By SHAILA DEWAN BAKER, La. — For hundreds of children at Renaissance Village, this is their lost year. After fleeing Hurricane Katrina, they have landed in a vast gravel moonscape of government trailers, lacking even a playground.

All day they play video games, ride bikes or sit at a picnic table, watching men play horseshoes. They are not in school.

Of the 560 children who are evacuees and were enrolled in the Baker school district in mid-September, only 190 were still attending when the school year ended on May 19.

Part of the decline occurred because some families moved, but as of April there were still more than 800 children under 18 at Renaissance Village and the other trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Child health experts and advocates for evacuees say that Baker, on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, is not unique. Throughout the areas where hurricane evacuees ended up, they say, are pockets where education has fallen by the wayside, raising the possibility that thousands of children could become permanent dropouts.

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30 may 2006

May 30, 2006
An Autopsy of Katrina: Four Storms, Not Just One
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

Most people believe that a single Category 3 hurricane, Katrina, devastated New Orleans on Aug. 29 of last year. The flood protection system for the New Orleans area was designed to protect the city from a direct hit by a fast-moving Category 3 storm.

Yet Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm that did not strike the city directly, overwhelmed systems in dozens of places and cost more than 1,500 lives and billions in property damage.

Why? In part, say experts who studied the disaster, because the hurricane was more like four storms — at least — that battered the area in different ways. They say the system in New Orleans was flawed from the start because the model storm it was designed to stop was simplistic, and led to an inadequate network of levees, flood walls, storm gates and pumps.

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29 may 2006

BOUND TO BUILD
Broadmoor residents band together to bring their neighborhood back from destruction
Monday, May 29, 2006
By Coleman Warner Staff writer

Broadmoor resident Brian Sennett hadn't paid much attention to his neighborhood association. The New Orleans firefighter said he and his wife, Rosalind, a St. Augustine High School financial officer, mostly left that sort of thing to others. Advertisement

But that was before Katrina, before Sennett used a personal watercraft to rescue his wife, 16-year-old son and others from the family's South Dupre Street two-story, its bottom floor awash in 5 feet of water. And it was before residents of this diverse slice of New Orleans concluded that the city's official recovery process was useless if not downright destructive, and that they had to close ranks if they were to survive.

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29 may 2006

Evacuate. Leave. Get out. Confused?
Council tries to clarify what it really means
Monday, May 29, 2006
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

The call for a voluntary evacuation gave way to a "mandatory" evacuation order on the day before Hurricane Katrina hit the city Aug. 29. And still tens of thousands of New Orleanians, from choice or necessity, ignored Mayor Ray Nagin's appeals to flee the city. Advertisement

With that precedent in mind, and in an effort to reduce confusion, the city has a new law that tries to define "mandatory evacuation" more precisely.

But, confusingly, the law adds another term, "forced evacuation," to the discussion, and debate on the measure revealed that at least one of the most prominent holdouts last time still has no intention of fleeing the city, order or no order.

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23 may 2006

The man who knew too much
LSU scientist Ivor van Heerden long believed it was a matter of when and not if a hurricane would devastate New Orleans.
He only wishes he had been wrong.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
By Susan Larson Book editor

What haunts Louisiana State University scientist Ivor van Heerden most is that a disaster in New Orleans was inevitable. He and his colleagues at the LSU Hurricane Center predicted it. Advertisement

And after it happened, he knows the response could and should have been better. Planning for the future could be better too. After reading "The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina -- The Inside Story From One Louisiana Scientist," readers will know it too. And not just Louisiana readers.

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22 may 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Levee failure report discussed at town hall
By Sheila Grissett East Jefferson bureau

Forensic scientists investigating failures that transformed Hurricane Katrina from a nasty storm into a national tragedy — and exposed a local levee system that they say remains substandard — continued to push Monday in New Orleans and Baton Rouge for an overhaul of the nation’s levee-building system.

From the White House and Congress to local government buildings in storm-ravaged south Louisiana, the Independent Levee Investigation Team called for a sea change in standards, practices and attitudes that it says is necessary if levees in New Orleans and elsewhere are to be safe enough for people to live with.

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22 may 2006

Katrina report blames human errors
Poor levees, policies cited by investigators
Monday, May 22, 2006
By Sheila Grissett East Jefferson bureau

Hurricane Katrina wouldn't have breached the region's hurricane protection system had it been properly financed, designed, built and maintained, say a group of forensic scientists who are calling for strict new federal levee safety standards and an end to "dysfunctional" local government interference they say also hampers flood protection. Advertisement

"People didn't die here because levees were overtopped," said Independent Levee Investigation Team leader Ray Seed, a geotechnical engineer at the University of California-Berkeley. "People died because mistakes were made and because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced costs.

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19 may 2006

May 20, 2006
In New Orleans, Suspense but No Drama as Race Ends
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, May 19 — At rallies, in grocery store aisles and at church pulpits, the two candidates for mayor sought last-minute votes on Friday, the day before the election, under a blanket of muggy late-spring heat. But with the city's future on the line, the relaxed rhythms of New Orleans made an odd contrast to the tensions of the race.

Over the last weeks, voters have been treated to a series of tepid debates and halfhearted campaign appearances, which, far from defining the path the battered city should take, have only obscured it.

There are leisurely gaps between campaign events, with the two candidates, Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, apparently deciding to forgo traditional stumping. It is also difficult to accomplish, with so many voters still out of town.

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19 may 2006

New Orleans Race For Mayor Is Tight
Nagin, Landrieu Push for Today's Vote

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 20, 2006; A02

NEW ORLEANS, May 19 -- Mayor C. Ray Nagin made a final flurry of appearances in his campaign for reelection here Friday, jumping into traffic to lobby commuters, visiting senior centers and walking the aisles of a gourmet grocery, moving within a halo of news photographers.

"How you doing, baby?" he cooed to shoppers at the Whole Foods Market in Uptown. "I'm doing good, doing good."

Behind in fundraising and behind in major endorsements, and with his campaign undermined by some of his controversial remarks, Nagin is nonetheless running well enough that, to the surprise of many here, the race against Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is considered too close to call.

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18 may 2006

Parishes play tug of war over pump
Jeff wants more say over N.O.-owned site
Thursday, May 18, 2006
By Michelle Krupa Staff writer

With less than two weeks to go before hurricane season begins, officials on both sides of the Orleans-Jefferson parish line appear to be sparring over control of two huge pump stations, including one that drains neighborhoods in the city and the suburbs that flooded heavily during Hurricane Katrina. Advertisement

The main prize is Pump Station No. 6, which straddles the 17th Street Canal about a mile south of Lake Pontchartrain. The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board owns the facility and wields the lion's share of power over pumps there that drain about 7,500 acres of Broadmoor and Uptown. But because the station also drains about 2,500 acres of Old Metairie and Old Jefferson, Jefferson Parish pays for about a quarter of the cost to operate and maintain it.

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18 may 2006

Guard leaders adjust storm response
Officials of 12 states coordinate efforts
Thursday, May 18, 2006
By Robert Travis Scott Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- The next Hurricane Katrina will be met with earlier, quicker deployments of supplies and military units, and maybe not as much ice. Advertisement

That's the forecast as adjutant generals from 12 states met with Gov. Kathleen Blanco and state and federal homeland security officials Wednesday to plan emergency responses designed to deploy National Guard and, if necessary, federal military units to disaster areas sooner and with better coordination than after Katrina.

"Our state is prepared for the June 1 hurricane season," Blanco said during a media briefing on the planning session with about 50 high-ranking officials from the uniformed and civilian arms of the regional and national response operation.

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18 may 2006

3 cops disciplined in Katrina inquiries
One had 'no idea' city was evacuated
Thursday, May 18, 2006
From staff reports

Three more New Orleans police officers have been suspended for their actions related to Hurricane Katrina, bringing to 239 the total number of officers disciplined for failing to properly carry out their duties during the crisis, according to civil service records.

The latest suspensions were handed down several months after the initial wave of disciplinary cases. The cases were delayed because the officers were out with illness, injury or some other legitimate reason, said Assistant Chief Marlon Defillo, commander of the Public Integrity Bureau.

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14 may 2006

Par for the Corps A Flood of Bad Projects

By Michael Grunwald Sunday, May 14, 2006; B01

In 2000, when I was writing a 50,000-word Washington Post series about dysfunction at the Army Corps of Engineers, I highlighted a $65 million flood-control project in Missouri as Exhibit A. Corps documents showed that the project would drain more acres of wetlands than all U.S. developers do in a typical year, but wouldn't stop flooding in the town it was meant to protect. FEMA's director called it "a crazy idea"; the Fish and Wildlife Service's regional director called it "absolutely ridiculous."

Six years later, the project hasn't changed -- except for its cost, which has soared to $112 million. Larry Prather, chief of legislative management for the Corps, privately described it in a 2002 e-mail as an "economic dud with huge environmental consequences." Another Corps official called it "a bad project. Period." But the Corps still wants to build it.

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14 may 2006

Here is a highly informative graphic from the Times Picayune that shows how New Orleans was flooded:

http://www.nola.com/katrina/graphics/flashflood.swf

This is essential for understanding what happened on August 29, 2005.

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8 may 2006

AP Centerpiece: Post-Katrina real estate booming
5/8/2006, 12:11 p.m. CT
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The 2,200-square-foot house promises three spacious bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths — a bargain at $175,000. Except for the fact that the home, located in one of this city's previously elegant neighborhoods, has been gutted to the studs and has no drywall, no wallboard, no fixtures.

"Home was flooded by Katrina," reads the advertisement posted by the listing agent at one of the city's largest real estate firms. "Ready to turn into your dream home."

The pitch is less far-fetched than it may seem: Although vast swaths of this hurricane-battered city are still without electricity and basic services, residential real estate sales are at a fever pitch, a shining spot in an otherwise struggling economy.

For the first quarter of the year, sales of single-family homes in the greater New Orleans area zoomed to $826 million, a jump of 60 percent over the first quarter of 2005, when sales totaled $517 million, according to New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors; 3,829 residential units were sold, 960 more than the same period in 2005.

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8 may 2006

Campaign becomes vote on character
Nagin, Landrieu share vision for city's recovery
Sunday, May 07, 2006
By Gordon Russell Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze Staff writers

Ask the New Orleans mayoral candidates about their post-Katrina strategies for rebuilding flood-ravaged neighborhoods, sparking business development or reforming City Hall, and the answers are remarkably similar.

But it's another story if the question turns to who has the credentials to lead the massive recovery effort. To hear incumbent Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu tell it, only one man is fit to serve.

The Nagin take goes something like this: Landrieu is a tax-loving, old-school political hack who has promised to begin doling out patronage contracts to his cronies once billions of dollars in federal aid start rolling in this year.

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7 may 2006

Hurricane plan still fuzzy on details
Evacuation shelters, Amtrak use uncertain
Sunday, May 07, 2006
By Mark Schleifstein Staff writer

The mayor of Baton Rouge -- a likely refuge for tens of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans if a storm hits this season -- was more than a little irked. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin last week unveiled an elaborate hurricane plan without so much as a call to his counterpart upriver. Advertisement

The River Center, Baton Rouge's equivalent of the Superdome, would not be available for sheltering New Orleanians, Mayor Kip Holden announced.

More bad vibes emanated from Houston, which is still trying to figure out how to house -- and police -- Louisianians who fled there after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Nagin plan, which pivots on people without vehicles using public transportation, a first in the city's history, raised another urgent question: Given how many police officers went AWOL during Katrina, was it realistic to depend so heavily on bus drivers to get citizens out of harm's way ahead of a hurricane? Wouldn't they be more inclined to stay with their families even if that meant defying a mayoral mandate?

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7 may 2006

Houses no longer on solid ground
Foundations stewed in Katrina floodwater
Sunday, May 07, 2006
By Mark Waller Staff writer

Yet another side effect of Hurricane Katrina has emerged -- underneath people's houses.

Contractors are reporting a backlog of jobs to repair foundations that took a beating from Katrina. Not just house-raising jobs, a much-discussed topic in light of the latest advisories for rebuilding, but repairs to existing cracked and sinking foundations.

When trees went down, their roots often yanked at piers under raised houses. After water covered the ground for weeks, followed by several mostly rainless months, soils contracted and shifted. While gutting flooded houses, homeowners discovered floors that had probably grown uneven over several years.

"It was never like this," said Greg Abry, who represents the sixth generation of his family in the New Orleans house shoring business Abry Brothers Inc. "It's probably more than tripled."

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5 may 2006

Levee work to protect Lower 9, St. Bernard could endanger other areas
By Bob Marshall Staff writer

When the Army Corps of Engineers finishes rebuilding the east side of the Industrial Canal floodwall shattered by Hurricane Katrina to 15 feet by June 1, residents of the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish will have the hurricane protection they were supposed to have before the storm hit.

The completion of that job, however, will have the unintended consequence of putting the rest of New Orleans in a more dangerous position than before Katrina, storm experts and engineers said.

That’s because the canal’s west floodwall — which protects most of the city from the canal waters — will remain only about 12.5 feet above sea level, the elevation to which it has subsided since being built.

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5 may 2006

City hikes property tax to pay debt
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

Having postponed the politically unpopular task until after the April 22 primary, the New Orleans City Council voted this week to approve a package of 2006 property tax millages that includes a sizable increase in the city’s tax rate to help pay off its debts.

As soon as Mayor Ray Nagin signs the ordinances involved, the city can begin mailing out the long-delayed 2006 property tax bills.

Not counting millages in special districts such as the Downtown Development District and neighborhood security districts, the council approved a total 2006 millage of 112.53 mills, most of which is subject to the homestead exemption. The figure is 9.8 mills higher than last year, with the extra money to be used to keep the city from defaulting on its bond issues.

The total does not include millages levied by the Orleans Parish School Board and Orleans Levee District, or a small millage for the criminal sheriff’s office.

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5 may 2006

Party support for Jefferson waivering
By Bill Walsh and Bruce Alpert Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — Support for New Orleans U.S. Rep. William Jefferson began to waver within his own party Thursday as the two top Democratic House leaders called on the ethics committee to launch an investigation into bribery allegations that exploded again this week in a federal court.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who runs the party’s whip organization, distanced themselves from Jefferson the day after a Kentucky businessman pleaded guilty in federal court to paying more than $450,000 to a company controlled by Jefferson’s family in exchange for official favors.

Jefferson has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

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4 may 2006

Kentucky business man says he paid $400,000 in bribes to Jefferson's family

By Bill Walsh Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities ratcheted up their case against Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, on Wednesday when a Kentucky businessman admitted in court to paying more than $400,000 in bribes to a bogus company controlled by the congressman’s wife and family in exchange for official favors.

Vernon L. Jackson’s guilty plea is the second in the case since January, an investigation into what prosecutors describe as Jefferson’s four-year-long scheme to promote a small technology company in the United States and in Africa for secret monthly payments and a share of the company’s stock and profits.

Jefferson has not been charged and said Wednesday he was “surprised and disappointed” by Jackson’s plea. He again denied ever taking improper payments for performing his public duties and said in a statement that “this simple fact will be established in the proper forum as I am innocent.”

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3 may 2006

Brinkley drubs Nagin in Katrina account
Sources include his political opponents
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

Best-selling Tulane University historian Douglas Brinkley rips government leaders at all levels for their wan response to Hurricane Katrina -- with his most acidic prose reserved for Mayor Ray Nagin -- in an article that will hit New York City newsstands today in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Advertisement

Brinkley, who since Katrina has been outspoken in his criticism of Nagin in frequent appearances on national media outlets -- at one point calling his handling of the crisis "criminal" -- makes ample use of a historian's license to analyze and assign blame. He faults the government response to the killer storm from top to bottom in the article, which is excerpted from his 700-page book on Katrina to be released Tuesday.

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3 may 2006

Panel: Corps shouldn't have claimed Cat 3 protection
By Bill Walsh Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - Statements by the Army Corps of Engineers that the New Orleans area was protected against the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane were "at best a rough estimate and at worst, simply inaccurate," according to a Senate committee's final report on Hurricane Katrina released Tuesday.

Noting data from the National Weather Service about the severity of storms, evidence of subsidence that left levees and floodwalls below authorized levels and gaps created by unfinished projects, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee concluded that the system was not capable of protecting against a Category 3 hurricane, such as Katrina, with winds up to 130 mph and a storm surge as high as 12 feet.

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3 may 2006

Key figure in Jefferson investigation to plead guilty

By Bruce Alpert Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - The head of a technology company at the center of a federal investigation into Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to aiding and abetting the solicitation of bribes and has agreed to cooperate with the investigation, according to court documents and sources familiar with the case.

Vernon Jackson, CEO of Kentucky-based iGate Inc., has signed a 13-page statement of facts in which he says that Jefferson helped get his telecommunications firm listed with the General Services Administration so it could get government contracts, one of the sources said.

The statement also alleges that Jefferson, an eight-term congressman and a senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, later demanded payments to a company that included the congressman's wife and children in return for his help in gaining lucrative Internet and cable television contracts in Africa.

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2 may 2006

Nagin's plan relies on buses, train; does not include shelter-of-last resort

By Mark Schleifstein Staff writer

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin unveiled the city's first post-Katrina hurricane evacuation plan this morning with warnings that he will not hesitate to issue a mandatory evacuation for Category 2 or higher storms.

"It is a strong plan to protect the lives and property of new orleans during hurricanes and other disasters," Nagin said, adding that it includes the placement of teams of National Guardsmen and police officers at nearly every street corner to prevent looting and unrest before and immediately after a storm hits.

The new emergency preparedness plan, a work in progress, will not include the opening of the Superdome as a refuge of last resort.

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30 april 2006

Steel Frame Housing on the Rise
A fledgling industry is hoping that steel framing and durability turn into insurance discounts as Louisiana rebuilds
Sunday, April 30, 2006
By Greg Thomas Real estate writer

Steel-framed homes are touted for their speed of construction, their ability to withstand high winds, and their resistance to termites and fire. Advertisement

And if the industry has its way, another advantage will be attributed to the homes: lower insurance premiums . . . and a big slice of a new market along the Gulf Coast.

The steel-framed housing industry is lobbying Louisiana insurance regulators to give the homes they build a break on insurance premiums. The issue was first brought up by two builders at a meeting of Louisiana's Insurance Rating Commission nearly two weeks ago.

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30 april 2006

Official: Grants aren't lagniappe
Road Home to cover uninsured damages
Sunday, April 30, 2006
By Karen Turni Bazile Staff writer

Sheila Cayolle said Saturday that no one else paid flood insurance premiums for her eastern New Orleans home and that it's wrong for government officials to deduct her insurance settlement from a grant she may receive as part of a $7.5 billion post-Katrina plan to help homeowners rebuild.

The government "did not pay my premiums (and) now everyone wants a piece of it," Cayolle said. "That should not be."

Her view was echoed by others in a crowd of about 200 who attended an afternoon meeting of the Pontilly Association at St. Gabriel of the Archangel Church in Gentilly. State Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-New Orleans, Louisiana Recovery Authority officials and Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell attended the meeting to explain details of the state's Road Home rebuilding plan.

"This is a take-it-or-leave-it plan," Shepherd said. "I do like the plan to a certain degree. The best I can do is present it to you."

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27 april 2006

1.2-inch rain burns out three drainage pumps
By Bruce Nolan and Michelle Krupa Staff writers

An unremarkable 1.2-inch rainfall burned up three massive Sewerage & Water Board pumps Wednesday, officials said, underscoring the needs of a vast municipal drainage system that still requires almost $40 million in post-Katrina work and has received little public attention, even as much-publicized levee repairs have been racing forward for months.

The pumps, among the largest in the city’s unique drainage system, were located at stations in Lakeview, Gentilly and Mid-City, but no flooding was reported, officials said.

Like scores of similar pumps in the complex system, the burned out units were driven by huge electric motors that sat partly submerged in saltwater for as long as three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the city Aug. 29. The motors burned up when insulation failed as they began to turn under a normal operating load, said Joseph Sullivan, the S&WB’s general superintendent. Wednesday’s rain was the first significant precipitation in what has been an unusually dry year.

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27 april 2006

April 27, 2006
Evacuees Find Housing Grants Will End Soon
By SHAILA DEWAN

HOUSTON, April 21 — Thousands of hurricane evacuees who counted on a year of free housing and utilities are being told by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that they are no longer eligible for such help and must either pay the rent themselves or leave.

Of about 55,000 families who were given long-term housing vouchers, nearly a third are receiving notices that they no longer qualify, FEMA officials said. For the rest, benefits are also being cut: they will have to sign new leases, pay their own gas and electric bills and requalify for rental assistance every three months.

The process has been marked by sharp disagreements between the agency and local officials, and conflicting information given to evacuees about their futures. Although agency officials say they never promised a full year of free housing, many local officials around the country say yearlong vouchers were exactly what FEMA agreed to provide.

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25 april 2006

Katrina flooding reasons still being debated
Overtopping, says corps; breaches, says LSU analyst
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
By Robert Travis Scott Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, a heated debate continues over whether levee breaches or overtopping caused most of the flooding. Advertisement

While the Corps of Engineers contends that most of the damage from floods in the New Orleans area resulted from water topping levees, an analyst at Louisiana State University says that 87 percent of the flooding in the area was because of levee breaches and only 13 percent was from water flowing over the tops of the levees.

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25 april 2006

Only 'best residents' to be allowed back in St. Thomas complex
By Bill Walsh Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson shed little light Monday on the future of public housing in hurricane-battered New Orleans, but said that “only the best residents” of the former St. Thomas housing complex should be allowed into the new mixed-income development that replaced it.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters, Jackson was asked about the relatively small number of apartments in the 60-acre River Gardens development in Uptown that have been set aside for former residents of St. Thomas. Jackson estimated it was 18 to 20 percent, although housing advocates said it is less.

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24 april 2006

April 24, 2006
Vote for Mayor Points to Change in New Orleans
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, April 23 — Mayor C. Ray Nagin may have led Saturday's mayoral election, but he now faces a popular and better-financed opponent on a political landscape utterly changed by Hurricane Katrina, one in which the long-running dominance of the city's black vote has been significantly reduced.

Black residents, whose neighborhoods were the most devastated by the storm, voted in much smaller numbers than whites did on Saturday, even more so than usual. White turnout is usually higher than black turnout, but the gap was about double what it is normally, analysts said Sunday.

As a result, most of the votes here were cast against Mr. Nagin, who is black, even though he came out on top in a crowded field, with 38 percent of the vote. If that trend holds, New Orleans will elect its first white mayor in nearly 30 years on May 20, when Mr. Nagin will face Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who got 29 percent, in a runoff.

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24 april 2006

Giuliani says 9/11 comparison to Katrina unfair
4/24/2006, 2:03 p.m. CT
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It's unfair to compare the pace of rebuilding in hurricane-battered New Orleans with the swift recovery of New York after 9/11, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Monday on a visit to the city.

"They're two different kinds of things. One was a singular incident — on one day, in one place, with tremendous implications. But the rest of the city was not affected," Giuliani said at a pre-tournament gathering for this week's Zurich Classic PGA event in New Orleans.

While local and state leaders here were criticized for being unprepared and indecisive during Katrina, Giuliani became a symbol of effective leadership after the attacks, known since then as "America's Mayor."

Giuliani stressed the two disasters should never have been compared.

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24 april 2006

African-American precincts lift Nagin to top spot
By John Pope and Matt Scallan Staff writers

Mayor Ray Nagin carried a swath of precincts across the city Saturday to finish first in the mayoral primary, doing especially well in precincts that Hurricane Katrina pummeled.

Nagin is black, as are most of the New Orleanians whom the storm hit hardest. The other three top vote-getters — Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, Ron Forman and Rob Couhig — are white.

The only Katrina-ravaged part of New Orleans where Nagin did not do well was Lakeview, which is heavily white. Forman was the victor there.

Nagin carried 281 of the city’s 300 precincts where black voters are in the majority. He also led the field in a massive absentee vote, in which more than 21,000 New Orleanians cast ballots: nearly 10 times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2002 mayoral primary, which Nagin also led.

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23 april 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006
‘Crossover’ voting likely key to N.O. mayoral runoff
By Gordon Russell, Frank Donze and Michelle Krupa Staff writers

Mayor Ray Nagin is nothing if not unpredictable. Sailing toward an easy re-election just eight months ago, he was caught in the crosscurrents of Hurricane Katrina and left for dead by many political observers — only to rise, Lazarus-like, to a surprisingly strong first-place finish in Saturday’s primary, 9 percentage points ahead of runoff opponent Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu.

That said, Nagin is hardly a shoo-in for re-election. As many observers have pointed out, 62 percent of the 108,000 voters who cast ballots Saturday picked someone other than Nagin, a sign of serious trouble for an incumbent.

In a further complication for the mayor, it may be difficult for him to make additional inroads among black voters, who comprised the vast majority of his base in the primary. Although about two-thirds of black voters went with Nagin, most of those who didn’t — about 24 percent — cast their lot with Landrieu, according to an analysis by consultant Greg Rigamer.

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23 april 2006

April 23, 2006
Katrina's Tide Carries Many to Hopeful Shores
By JASON DePARLE

LITHONIA, Ga. — One afternoon last August, a young bus driver headed to an office in a suburb of New Orleans, humming the song to an old television show. He arrived just before his wife, who was pregnant with their first child and escorting four troubled teenagers from the alternative school where she worked.

At 24, the driver, Whitney Marcell, weighed 300 pounds, and answered to the name Big Man. His wife, Jeralyn, who goes by Fu, had just turned 28. She brought along the hard-faced adolescents because her own hard life had presented her with a gloriously teachable moment: Big Man and Fu, up-from-nothing products of New Orleans's roughest projects, were about to buy their first home.

"Are you sure you can afford it?" friends had sniped, but Mr. Marcell's only worry about the $86,500 loan was whether the terms would let him pay it off early. The couple signed a pile of legal papers and left the office owning a house in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

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23 april 2006

April 23, 2006
Runoff Election Is Set for New Orleans Mayor's Race
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, April 22 — Mayor C. Ray Nagin made a strong showing Saturday in the city's first mayoral election since Hurricane Katrina but failed to escape a runoff election next month in which he will face Louisiana's lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu.

With 94 percent of the city's 442 precincts reporting, Mr. Nagin had 39 percent of the vote, ahead of Mr. Landrieu, who had 28 percent. A third leading candidate, Ron Forman, a local businessman, had 17 percent.

Because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote, Mr. Nagin and Mr. Landrieu will compete in a runoff on May 20.

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21 april 2006

Endorsement snafu; Butler a no-show in court
By Gordon Russell, Michelle Krupa, Frank Donze and Michael Perlstein Staff writers

Endorsements have been hard to come by for struggling incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin. So when he announced the backing Thursday of perhaps the city’s second-most powerful (and also embattled) politician — U.S. Rep. William Jefferson — it should have been a banner day for the Nagin camp.

But the normally cut-and-dried process of issuing an endorsement, complete with glowing testimonials, soon turned into an episode of the “Keystone Kops.”

First came the initial news release, in which Jefferson was quoted saying Nagin is “an extremely capable individual who deserves to continue” as mayor, among other compliments. In the release, Jefferson also seemed to give Nagin most of the credit for securing federal aid.

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21 april 2006

NEW ORLEANS NOTEBOOK
Spring makes slow return to Crescent City
Legacy of Katrina colors tomorrow's mayoral election
By Bella English, Globe Staff | April 21, 2006

NEW ORLEANS -- Irises, tulips, and pansies have returned to New Orleans, just as they do every spring. But nearly eight months after two hurricanes battered this historic port city, fewer than half of its residents have.

Miles of neighborhoods remain boarded-up ghost towns, with homes and businesses alike standing vacant.

Nothing is easy in the Big Easy these days.

In the French Quarter and much of the Garden District, ''Help Wanted" signs are as ubiquitous as Mardi Gras beads in the souvenir shops. But with no housing, the jobs go unfilled.

Vulgar T-shirts hanging in the shops reflect residents' impatience with FEMA's restoration efforts, and with Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco, who came under heavy criticism in the aftermath of Katrina.

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21 april 2006

Nagin Among Front-Runners in New Orleans
Mayor's Popularity Grows Despite Missteps in Handling of Hurricane Katrina

By Peter Whoriskey Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, April 20, 2006; A09

NEW ORLEANS -- The barbs and accusations aimed at Mayor C. Ray Nagin these days reflect the political damage of one of the worst catastrophes in U.S. history.

"You drowned 1,200 people!" a challenger declared during a locally televised campaign debate. Others openly question whether the relentlessly glib mayor has the gravitas to lead the city through the post-Hurricane Katrina crisis. And on the streets, in reference to his now-famous speech suggesting that God wanted the city to remain "chocolate," popular T-shirts depict him as the fictional sweets inventor Willy Wonka.

Yet to the astonishment of some who had assumed that his missteps and post-Katrina despair would doom his reelection bid, Nagin the laughingstock is also counted as a front-runner as voters head to the polls on Saturday.

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21 april 2006

City Council sets deadline to begin work on homes
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

Concerned that thousands of residents are doing nothing to fix up their flooded homes, the City Council voted Thursday to set Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina’s first anniversary, as the deadline for people to clean, gut and board up their homes, or risk having the city seize and demolish them.

The ordinance was introduced by Councilman Jay Batt, who said ravaged, mold-infested houses, especially if not boarded up, can become “environmental biohazards” that will slow the recovery of whole neighborhoods by discouraging nearby owners from moving back or repairing their own homes.

The ordinance, approved 7-0, says “every owner of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall be responsible for mold remediation, cleaning, gutting and properly securing the premises of all properties” damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “in a manner so as to render the premises environmentally sound and not open to the public.”

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Money is city's biggest worry
Government could go broke in a month
Sunday, April 16, 2006
By Jeffrey Meitrodt Staff writer

When John Kallenborn sits down with a group of bankers to talk about a big loan he's trying to put together, he is usually 99 percent certain that he's got a deal by the time he leaves the room.

But when the New Orleans president of Chase Bank walked into New Orleans City Hall on April 6, Kallenborn knew he was facing a much tougher room. Though he had talked his bosses into lending the city $50 million, Kallenborn wasn't sure any of the other 10 lenders at the meeting would be willing to take a piece of the city's proposed $150 million debt placement.

"We think there is more than a 50 or 60 percent chance, but we're not at our usual 99 percent just because of what has happened to the city," said Kallenborn, who remains the only banker who has committed to helping the city through its current financial crisis.

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Signs of 'Katrina fatigue' in Houston

Survey shows stresses from absorbing 150,000 from storm

09:32 AM CDT on Saturday, April 15, 2006

By BRUCE NICHOLS / The Dallas Morning News

HOUSTON – For property manager Marcia Clark, the thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina still in Houston are "like a relative that came to visit and stayed too long."

"You still feel like they're family," she said as she waited to collect rent for housing some of them. "But ... can we just go back to the way it was? You're tired."

Reports of increased crime, fights in schools and landlords getting paid late have left some in Houston wondering whether Dallas Mayor Laura Miller was right to be cautious in welcoming evacuees.

A recent survey found signs of "Katrina fatigue" among Houstonians, and officials acknowledge stresses associated with an estimated 150,000 evacuees, many of them needy, still burdening public services.

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16 april 2006

Mayoral hopefuls stop playing nice
Attack ads begin as primary nears
Sunday, April 16, 2006
By Frank Donze Staff writer

Put the gloves away. Get out the brass knuckles. Advertisement

A cordial -- some say lackluster -- New Orleans mayoral contest has erupted into a street brawl. And with just six days left to reach voters before Saturday's primary, the melee is likely to get only messier.

For weeks now, pundits have speculated that the post-Katrina depression still gripping much of the shattered city would temper the negative campaigning characteristic of Louisiana politics.

Whether or not voters like it, the race apparently reverted to form Wednesday with the debut of the first televised attack ad. It begat an immediate, and even edgier, response.

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15 april 2006

Talk of race pervades New Orleans campaign

04:08 PM CDT on Saturday, April 15, 2006

By ROBERT TANNER / AP National Writer

NEW ORLEANS — High heels echoing, Ruby Ducre-Gethers crosses the floor of her airy but unlivable home - ear on her cell phone, eyes on the workers replacing her flooded-out walls, and mind on payback at the ballot box.

Across town, Irma Williams says the election for mayor this Saturday isn't truly an election without her neighbors to vote - but she says it's past time for street lamps to work outside her temporary trailer.

Alex Beard wakes up a thousand miles away and reads the New Orleans newspaper online, following each day's campaign news convinced that the storm brought a chance to rescue the city he adopted and then reluctantly fled.

Some people in New Orleans are angry about the government response to Hurricane Katrina and want to render judgment as the city casts ballots for mayor, city council and most every other elected official, from sheriff to assessor. Many want to look ahead.

But trumping all that as Election Day approaches, race - and all the history that comes with it here - has become the defining line for this election, dividing the city by neighborhood and color.

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14 april 2006

Katrina left flood of felons in Texas

DPS warns local police of Louisiana evacuees on parole or probation

08:44 AM CDT on Friday, April 14, 2006

By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – As many as 3,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Texas are on probation or parole in their home state but most are probably living under no form of supervision, and state officials are providing their names to local authorities because they could be suspects in new crimes.

In letters to many of the state's police chiefs this week, the Texas Department of Public Safety provides the names and criminal histories of the evacuees and urges local authorities to consult the list to "develop possible suspects for certain crime problems that have advanced since Hurricane Katrina."

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14 april 2006

Homeland Security: Criticism for Katrina response was deserved

04:00 PM CDT on Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lara Jakes Jordan / Associated Press

WASHINGTON-- Widespread criticism of the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina was largely deserved, the Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog concludes in a report rapping the agency for focusing on terrorism at the expense of preparing for natural disasters.

The report by Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, to be released Friday, includes 38 recommendations for improving disaster response missions by the department and its Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The report's executive summary and the recommendations were obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

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14 april 2006

La. rebuilding plan is under attack
Who gets what is one sticking point
Friday, April 14, 2006 By Laura Maggi Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco's $7.5 billion plan to help homeowners rebuild hurricane-damaged houses is drawing fire from both ends of the political spectrum, and there are questions about whether there has been ample opportunity for public input into the proposal.

Leaders of Blanco's Louisiana Recovery Authority have said that they want the proposed housing recovery plan, dubbed "The Road Home," to be approved by the Legislature by the end of the month. However, a resolution unanimously adopted Thursday by the House made clear that lawmakers have substantive problems with the plan, including provisions that would require that any insurance proceeds be deducted from the damage estimates used to calculate a homeowner's grant.

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14 april 2006

Advisories to raise houses also raising blood pressure
Damage estimate key to future for many local homeowners
Friday, April 14, 2006 By Gordon Russell and Brian Thevenot
Staff writers

Sometime soon, Leonard Lewis plans to head to the eighth floor of City Hall to challenge an inspector's assertion that his Mid-City home suffered flood damage that will cost more than half its value to fix -- a determination that will make the difference in whether he must raise his house.

Lewis' house sits 4 feet above the ground, a foot higher than the "3 feet above grade" recommendation laid out by the federal government in new advisory elevations announced Wednesday. His problem is that his lowest floors are 18 inches below what the government calls "base flood elevation," defined as the minimum standard needed to protect a home from a 100-year flood.

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13 april 2006

Wait Ends On Rules For Katrina Rebuilding
$2.5 Billion More for Levees Also Proposed

By Peter Whoriskey and Spencer S. Hsu Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 13, 2006; A01

The Bush administration proposed spending an additional $2.5 billion for New Orleans levee construction yesterday as it issued long-awaited construction guidelines for the flood-prone region that would require rebuilding many heavily damaged houses at least three feet above ground.

With tens of thousands of houses awaiting reconstruction, the move could resolve an impasse over how to rebuild the low-lying metropolis. Uncertainty over the levees has left homeowners unsure about whether to rebuild and about how high houses should stand to avoid future flooding.

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13 april 2006

FEMA release rebuilding guidelines
By Brian Thevenot Staff writer

In a long-awaited move that could free tens of thousands of New Orleans area homeowners from rebuilding purgatory, federal officials on Wednesday released new elevation recommendations for reconstructing flood-damaged homes or building new ones.

The standards go hand-in-hand with future plans for rebuilding and improving the levee system, also announced Wednesday, along with a White House commitment to seek an additional $2.5 billion to pay for them. Gulf Coast rebuilding czar Donald Powell said that money, which still needs congressional approval, would finance solid flood protection for 98 percent of the New Orleans metro area — in other words, everywhere but lower Plaquemines Parish.

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5 april 2006

Corps admits to 'design failure'
By Bill Walsh
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — In the closest thing yet to a mea culpa, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Wednesday that a “design failure” led to the breach of the 17th Street canal levee that flooded much of the city during Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. General Carl Strock told a Senate committee that the corps neglected to consider the possibility that floodwalls atop the 17th Street Canal levee would lurch away from their footings under significant water pressure and eat away at the earthen barriers below.

“We did not account for that occurring,” Strock said in an interview after the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. “It could be called a design failure.”

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4 april 2006

Storm aid to La. may be increased
Senate panel will consider bill today
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
By Bruce Alpert Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up a supplemental spending bill today that would pay for increased costs for the war in Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery efforts. Advertisement

Details of panel Chairman Thad Cochran's proposal weren't available Monday, but officials said they expect the committee to consider increasing the $4.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant money requested for Louisiana by the Bush administration. The House approved the bill without the specific earmark for Louisiana.

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4 april 2006

Brace for another active hurricane season, forcast says
By Jeff Duncan Staff writer

The upcoming hurricane season will be almost twice as active as in normal years, and the odds that another major storm will make landfall along the Gulf Coast are about 50-50, scientists predicted in a report Tuesday.

The June-to-November season is expected to produce 17 named storms, well above the average of 10, with nine of them spinning into hurricanes and five of those devloping into major storms, according to a forecast by Colorado State University scientists Philip Klotzbach and William Gray.

As bad as the news sounds, it's still better than recent years. Four major hurricanes made landfall in both 2004 and 2005, the latter of which proved to be the most costly and destructive year ever.

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4 april 2006

Landrieu threatens hold action on Presidential Appointees
Urges Action on Levees, Coastal Restoration

U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., said today that she intends to exercise her power as a member of the United States Senate to prevent further consideration of any and all Executive appointments until significant progress is made to secure White House commitments to levee protection and coastal restoration in Louisiana.

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31 march 2006

Levee Repair Costs Triple New Orleans May Lack Full Protection

By Peter Whoriskey and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 31, 2006; A01

The Bush administration said yesterday that the cost of rebuilding New Orleans's levees to federal standards has nearly tripled to $10 billion and that there may not be enough money to fully protect the entire region.

Donald E. Powell, the administration's rebuilding coordinator, said some areas may be left without the protection of levees strong enough to meet requirements of the national flood insurance program. Those areas probably would face enormous obstacles in attracting home buyers and investors willing to build there.

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31 march 2006

Senator puzzled by state deal to tow cars
Firm's office flooded, vacant, phone off
Thursday, March 30, 2006
By James Varney Staff writer

The featured local company in a proposed $62 million state contract to remove abandoned cars from southern Louisiana lists a flood-ruined 9th Ward address as its headquarters and has a disconnected phone, according to public documents and a cursory investigation by a state senator. Advertisement

The Department of Environmental Quality contract remains unsigned, although the negotiations have apparently been completed between the state and TruSource Facility Services of Georgia and L&L Steel Builders Inc. of 1939 Desire St. in New Orleans, state officials said. It is this contract that the city of New Orleans requested to join this week, following days of questions about its decision not to sell tens of thousands of hurricane-wrecked vehicles to crushers but instead to pay a company $23 million to clear the cityscape of the blight.

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30 march 2006

Levee restoration price doubles
Map release hinges on budget action
Thursday, March 30, 2006
By Bruce Alpert Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- The cost of restoring levee protection in the New Orleans area to pre-Hurricane Katrina levels will be about $6 billion, twice as much as the Bush administration and Congress have appropriated to date, Donald Powell, the federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding, told members of the state's congressional delegation Wednesday.

Powell said he wanted to update the delegation on the latest cost estimates, but he did not commit to a financing source or whether the administration would seek the traditional 35 percent local share for the work. He said that "will be part of the deliberations" in coming weeks.

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29 march 2006

Homeowners insurance hard to find
By Rebecca Mowbray Business writer

Tired of waiting for news on the fate of their flood-soaked neighborhood in eastern New Orleans, Sharon and Wayne Howard decided it was time to buy another home.

They found the perfect place in Algiers with three bedrooms, a sun room and a nice patio. Best of all, the house was seven feet above sea level and had no storm damage.

"I've got walls and windows," Sharon Howard said. "I've been wanting walls and windows since August 29."

But the Howards also wanted to retain the original insurance policy on their home in the East to protect it against liability, fire and theft. And Allstate, their insurer for 30 years, wouldn't issue the couple a second policy to cover their new Algiers home.

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29 march 2006

Thieves targeting homes under construction
By Michelle Hunter East Jefferson bureau

William Borrouso left the comforts of his daughter's Madisonville home to move back into the second floor of his flood-ruined Edinburgh Street house in Metairie after someone pried open a door there and stole a washer and a dryer worth $2,000 in February. The house, which was under renovation, had just two plugs for electricity and no hot water.

Despite the inconvenience, Borrouso said he was adamant about returning.

"It's was like we were camping," he said. "But I couldn't afford to get anything else stolen out of my house."

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28 march 2006

Post-storm New Orleans economy a huge question mark
3/28/2006, 2:46 p.m. CT
By ALAN SAYRE The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Most of Big Oil has returned to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras got the city back in the tourism business and the skilled construction trades can't get enough workers. The city's population — 455,000 before Katrina and almost zero after storm evacuations — is now near 190,000 and expected to climb.

But Tim and Renee Baldwin likely won't be part of any long-term recovery.

"It's hard to make a judgment about the future," said Tim Baldwin, a French Quarter bartender who lives in the city's Uptown section, which was largely spared from flooding. "It's a matter of day to day, a question of who's staying and who's leaving. We're probably leaving."

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25 march 2006

ARE WE SAFE?
Panel says corps engineering relied on poor judgment and recommends new analysis of entire levee system
Saturday, March 25, 2006 By Bob Marshall and Sheila Grissett Staff writers

The safety of the New Orleans area hurricane protection system is "open to question" until the Army Corps of Engineers evaluates every levee and floodwall in light of recent findings on how the 17th Street Canal failed during Hurricane Katrina, the agency's own external review panel said Friday.

"We conclude that a determination of the overall safety of the hurricane protection system cannot be made until such time as the remainder of the system can be evaluated with the benefit of this new information," the American Society of Civil Engineers' panel said in a letter to Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the corps' commander.

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25 march 2006

Judge revokes free bond for felon
But feds have already stepped in to arrest suspect
Saturday, March 25, 2006 By Michael Perlstein Staff writer

New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Charles Elloie revoked the controversial free bond he issued this week for a convicted felon accused of dealing cocaine and maintaining an arsenal of guns, but his action was quickly trumped Friday by federal authorities, who arrested the suspect in order to take the case to federal court.

Facing a public outcry over his leniency in the case of Brian Expose and a complaint filed with the state Judiciary Commission, Elloie issued a bench warrant Thursday to rearrest Expose, replacing his free bond with a $75,000 bail. Elloie let Expose go on the recognizance bond Tuesday after police said they caught the suspect at his Algiers home with 6 ounces of cocaine, two assault rifles, a Tec-9 with a silencer, four pistols and $189,000 in cash.

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24 march 2006

Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2006
Crime Comes Back To New Orleans
After months of relative calm following Katrina, the city's notorious murder rate is again on the rise
By AMANDA RIPLEY

The New Orleans funeral procession that took place this past Sunday might have been a symbol of recovery, a sign that the strange, haunted habits that make New Orleans so special had returned. This particular joyful, mournful parade through town was held for a man who had died in September, back when the city was too broken for its traditional rituals. But instead it turned into a symbol of a very different, dark side of New Orleans. As the procession danced and swayed through Central City, an 18-year-old man got out of his car and sprayed the crowd with bullets, police say, shooting two men and killing one before being shot in the leg by a police officer.

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22 march 2006

Arrested felons released on lenient bonds
By Michael Perlstein Staff writer

The New Orleans criminal justice system may have been ground to a virtual halt by Hurricane Katrina, but one controversial pre-storm practice is continuing unabated: the willingness of Criminal Court Judge Charles Elloie to bend over backwards to release jailed suspects on lenient bail.

In four recent gun and narcotics arrests — two involving the same felon accused of wielding an assault rifle — Elloie, by his own admission, issued either free or affordable bail over the telephone without determining the facts of the arrest. Elloie said he considered only the suspect’s rap sheet and new charges.

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21 march 2006

Director of N.O. Homeland Security discusses changes for upcoming hurricane season
05:14 PM CST on Monday, March 20, 2006
WWLTV.com

The Director of the New Orleans Department of Homeland Security said Monday there will not be a shelter of last resort for the upcoming hurricane season, and that he expects the season to bring added pressure from the federal government to evacuate.

Thousands of evacuees gathered along the I-10 at Causeway in the days following Hurricane Katrina to be airlifted to safety.

“My sense is the first time that a storm enters the gulf there will be a great deal of pressure across the nation from the federal government on down to get out of the city, so I think we’re going to be looking earlier in the cycle to get moving,” said Terry Ebbert.

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21 march 2006

Mayor presents BNOB plan
By Bruce Eggler Staff writer

After eliminating all recommendations that would have prohibited any of the city's neighborhoods from participating in its rebuilding process, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday night presented a blueprint for restoring and improving the hurricane-devastated city.

"It will take each and every one of us to pull this off, but if we work together, we can achieve great things," Nagin said at the end of a nearly hour-long speech accepting most of the recommendations presented to him in January by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission.

Nagin appointed the 17-member commission of developers, business people and civic leaders last fall, a few weeks after Katrina flooded most of the city.

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20 march 2006

Rebuild, but at your own risk, Nagin says
Recommendations from BNOB come with warnings and worries
Monday, March 20, 2006
By Frank Donze Staff writer

All along, Mayor Ray Nagin has been steadfast in his commitment to residents of New Orleans' flood-ravaged neighborhoods that they -- and not the government -- should have sole authority to decide whether to rebuild or relocate. Advertisement

Nagin isn't wavering on that as he prepares to unveil his Hurricane Katrina recovery blueprint tonight. But the final report from his Bring New Orleans Back Commission offers some weighty caveats for homeowners thinking about resettling in some of the hardest-hit areas, in particular the Lower 9th Ward and a pair of low-lying sections of eastern New Orleans.

In those so-called "delayed recovery areas," Nagin said, his administration will continue issuing building permits to all comers. But City Hall's pledge of cooperation comes with a strongly worded warning to people to rebuild there at their own risk, at least for the time being.

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19 march 2006

After Katrina, pundits criticized New Orleans, claiming too many residents had no flood insurance. In fact, few communities were better covered.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
By Jeffrey Meitrodt and Rebecca Mowbray Staff writers

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, public officials and insurance experts predicted that the vast majority of property losses from the most costly flood in U.S. history would be uninsured. Advertisement

Members of Congress rose up in righteous indignation to scold residents of New Orleans, one of the most vulnerable cities in America, for failing to buy federal flood insurance and then coming hat in hand and asking to be bailed out with federal money.

The irony, now revealed in data painstakingly worked up by aides to Donald Powell, the Bush administration's liaison to the disaster zone, is that Louisiana was a more enthusiastic participant in the National Flood Insurance Program than any other state in the nation.

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19 march 2006

City spurned offer of cash for cars
Abandoned vehicles can be hauled away
Sunday, March 19, 2006
By James Varney Staff writer

Katrina turned New Orleans into an auto junkyard and the flooded cars are still everywhere, mementos of the storm and of the city's continuing failure to clean itself up. Advertisement

Almost seven months after Hurricane Katrina, the Nagin administration still dickers over details of a contract that would gradually rid the cityscape of these vehicular eyesores -- at a cost of $23 million over another six months.

Which makes it of more than passing interest to discover that the largest car crusher east of the Rockies, K&L Auto Crushers of Tyler, Texas, offered in October to do the job in 15 weeks and actually pay the city for the privilege of hauling the junk away. How much? How about $100 per flooded car. With an estimated 50,000 vehicles on the street at that time, the city would have netted $5 million, rather than shelling out four times that sum, as it plans to do now

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18 march 2006

Call to Action

Faced with rebuilding his home, his life and his neighborhood, the author joins the group that he hopes will save Broadmoor. Now, if he could just figure out what's the deal with that big, green circle.

By David Winkler-Schmit
Photo by Donn Young

Broadmoor resident Dr. Janet Strangi tends to her house on Napoleon Avenue. The Bring New Orleans Back Commission report said that neighborhoods like Broadmoor would have a chance to determine their future. It's a warm, cloudy Saturday morning in January as I push my 2-year-old daughter, Claire, in her stroller. We walk up Napoleon Avenue towards Fountainbleu to meet a group congregating on the dead, matted grass of the neutral ground. The 30 or so people gathered are a mix of black, white, old, young, upper middle class, lower middle class, a few in strollers, and one in a wheelchair.

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18 march 2006

NOPD clears cops in looting probe
They had OK to take clothing, officials say
Saturday, March 18, 2006
By Michael Perlstein Staff writer

Four New Orleans police officers have been cleared of looting allegations stemming from a news videotape that shows them taking items from the Uptown Wal-Mart two days after Hurricane Katrina, but the officers were suspended for 10 days for failing to stop civilians from cleaning out the ransacked store, the New Orleans Police Department said Friday. Advertisement

The video, shot by an MSNBC crew inside Wal-Mart, shows the officers filling a shopping cart with shoes, clothes and other items. In the background, citizens can be seen calmly looting everything from sweaters to bicycles. When a reporter asks the officers what they're doing, one of them responds, "Looking for looters." She then hastily turns her back to the camera.

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17 march 2006

Vitter, Landrieu get big win for coast in budget bill

06:23 AM CST on Friday, March 17, 2006

Brett Martel / Associated Press

U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu secured a major victory Thursday in their effort to bring billions of additional dollars to Louisiana for hurricane protection and coastal restoration projects.

During debate on the federal 2007 budget resolution, the Senate approved an amendment that would divert a greater share of offshore oil and gas revenues to the Gulf Coast.

"These amendments open the door for significant new hurricane protection funding and support for our small businesses," said Landrieu. "While much more work is needed to get these funds through the entire legislative process, I look forward to continuing our fight for stronger levees and coastal protection."

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17 march 2006

Omissions revealed in levee design
No soil borings done at weak spot, experts say
Friday, March 17, 2006 By Bob Marshall Staff writer

The key to learning why the 17th Street Canal floodwall failed during Hurricane Katrina may lie more in what designers didn't do than in what they could have foreseen, experts now say.

Lost in the controversy swirling around a government panel's comment last week that the designers of the floodwall could not have anticipated the combination of forces that brought the structure down was its finding that one of the main triggers for that failure -- extremely low soil strengths under the toe of the levee -- would have been detected had the design team done soil borings in that area, an official with the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.

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14 march 2006

"IQ" nickname challenged for assessor candidates
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

A legal skirmish gets under way today to decide whether a slate of challengers running in tandem against the city’s seven assessors can use “I.Q.” as their nickname in the April 22 ballot. Lawsuits have been filed against two of the seven challengers who qualified listing the nickname, which stands for “I Quit.”

All seven have pledged that if elected they would forgo the post’s $90,000 anual salary to hire a professional appraisal firm to handle property valuations.

The two lawsuits are set to be heard today in Civil District Court — one against 4th District challenger Chase “I.Q.” Jones and one against 5th District challenger Ron “I.Q.” Mazier. The suit against Mazier has been allotted to Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson, sister-in-law of 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson.

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14 march 2006

"Unforeseen" events predicted in 1986 study
By Bob Marshall Staff writer

Findings by an Army Corps of Engineers-sponsored panel that the collapse of the 17th Street canal floodwall during Hurricane Katrina was the result of an “unforeseeable” combination of events is contradicted by a 1986 research project done by the corps itself, National Science Foundation investigators said Monday.

The Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, working for the corps to investigate the levee breaches, said in its second interim report Friday that the 17th Street failure was caused by rising water in the canal that forced the floodwall to flex away from the canal, causing a separation between the wall and the levee inside the canal. Water pressure building inside the opening then exerted force on a weak layer of soil under the wall and land-side toe of the levee, causing the layer to slip, bringing the levee down and the wall with it.

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13 march 2006

Locals not waiting to be told what to do
By Coleman Warner and Keith Darcé Staff writers

Big green spots covering portions of flooded neighborhoods on a map of a rebuilt New Orleans might have discouraged some people.

But in the densely built Broadmoor neighborhood, the symbol marking the area for possible new green space lit a fire under its neighborhood group.

"It didn't devastate us; it pissed us off," said Virginia Saussy Bairnsfather, a board member for the Broadmoor Improvement Association.

Within weeks of the map's unveiling in January by Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission, membership in the neighborhood group jumped 400 percent.

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10 march 2006

Corps: Floodwall break caused by unforeseen stresses
3/10/2006, 4:11 p.m. CT
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A foundation problem — although not the one targeted by earlier studies — caused the 450-foot-long break in a floodwall and levee on New Orleans' western edge when Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday.

Part of the levee was pushed 40 feet backward, and can be seen above the water — along with that section of floodwall — in an aerial photograph published as part of the second report by the task force set up to find out why the levees broke.

Unprecedented high water pushed back the floodwall, which is set into the center of the earthen levee. Once water got between the floodwall and the front half of the levee, it effectively cut the levee in half lengthwise.

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8 march 2006
March 8, 2006

Tough Hurdles for Companies in Move Back to New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, March 7 — When Frank A. Glaviano Sr. told friends that he believed his company, Shell Oil, would return to New Orleans despite the devastation done by Hurricane Katrina, many had a good laugh. Forget it, they said; you are moving to Houston.

After all, more than 100 Shell employees lost their homes when water covered much of the city and the surrounding suburbs. Mail delivery was still unreliable, air service remained thin, and only a small fraction of the previous hospital capacity was back. With Shell's American base in Houston, it seemed to make sense to move its exploration and production unit there from New Orleans.

But Shell, a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, returned last month to its marbled office building here at One Shell Square, after making an extraordinary investment to do so. It bought $32 million in residential properties in the area — 120 houses and condominiums in all — to lease to its employees. The company owned no residential property in the United States before Hurricane Katrina.

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26 feb 2006

Katrina rewrites relationship between city, suburbs
But city's survival critical, some say
Sunday, March 05, 2006
By Kate Moran East Jefferson bureau

Look past shared traditions such as Carnival and gumbo, and a deep-seated ambivalence has always loitered between New Orleans and its suburbs.

The tourism commission in St. Tammany Parish tripped over it several years ago, when it unveiled a logo designed to feed off the thriving tourism market in the city. While the new brand name, "New Orleans Northshore: St. Tammany Parish," might have tantalized visitors from out of state, it irked locals who associated the central city with rampant crime, poverty and other social ills.

"We do not want to be part of New Orleans," an angry resident wrote to The Times-Picayune in 1999, at the height of the uproar. "Visiting New Orleans, for us, is like visiting a hornet's nest and praying to get out alive -- not a place, or pace, we want to live."

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26 feb 2006

Probes find plenty of blame to go around
Investigators see storm blunders from City Hall to White House
Sunday, February 26, 2006
By Bill Walsh and Bruce Alpert Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Even as the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was still being assessed, a frenzy of finger-pointing and blame-fixing over government delays and failures was well under way. Advertisement

The harshest scrutiny fell first on the public officials who were most visible: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and then-Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown. Instant analysis made them the clear scapegoats of the unfolding disaster.

But six months, three federal investigations and dozens of public hearings later, a more complex and nuanced picture of what went wrong and why is emerging. Neither Nagin, Blanco nor FEMA are off the hook. But hindsight puts their failures into a context that shows blame can be spread much wider than it has been.

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26 feb 2006

Fear of blight confounds many wanting to rebuild
Few ways to force cleanup for now
Sunday, February 26, 2006
By Coleman Warner Staff writer

Leland Champagne is in a hurry to put his home back together on Argonne Boulevard, one of Lakeview's high-demand streets before Hurricane Katrina and a busted flood wall drowned the neighborhood. Workers crawl around the place as the orthodontic sales rep makes cell phone calls rapid-fire from the driveway. He wants to move in by April. Advertisement

But Champagne's push comes against a bleak backdrop. Several other homes in the 5900 block of Argonne show little or no sign of cleanup, much less gutting or renovation. Information is sketchy about what will become of them. A few still have moldering furniture inside and splintered doors. Personal effects are scattered about, as if the disaster just happened.

But six months have passed, and Champagne, now staying in Kenner, is getting antsy.

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26 feb 2006

February 26, 2006
New Orleans Running Out of Options as It Scrambles for New Loans
By GARY RIVLIN

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 25 — Somehow, some way, at some point in the future, city officials here will need to pay back all the money they are borrowing. In the meantime, though, the Mardi Gras parades must still be protected, the police must still patrol the streets and the garbage must be picked up.

And so, even though the city has already racked up $120 million in debt, officials here are scrambling for loans of as much as $200 million more so that New Orleans can continue to pay its bills through the end of the year.

"We can't keep borrowing money," said Oliver M. Thomas Jr., the president of the New Orleans City Council. "But the need for fire protection doesn't just go away. At some point, we need to rebuild our parks and restart recreation programs as children and families start coming back."

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26 feb 2006

Times Picayune Recovery Graphic - 6 Months Post-Katrina [Adobe PDF format]

26 feb 2006

6 months later, recovery gaining focus
City may be near turning point
Sunday, February 26, 2006
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

Six months after Hurricane Katrina, Louise Leflore is one of tens of thousands of New Orleanians still waiting to come home. And with all due respect to Atlanta, she's sick of it. Advertisement

This week, the post-Katrina era reaches the half-year mark. Millions of cubic yards of debris have been swept from city streets. More than a million cubic yards of clayey soil has been compacted into levees to replace what was washed away, a job the Army Corps of Engineers now says is 40 percent complete. The main post office in New Orleans is scheduled to reopen next month. Out of New Orleans' pre-Katrina population of 462,269, city officials estimate 189,000 have returned.

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26 feb 2006

Half a year later, New Orleans is far from whole

03:39 PM CST on Saturday, February 25, 2006

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — They're throwing Mardi Gras beads again - so many strands, they're landing in tree branches and getting snagged on the trellised balconies of the French Quarter.

You'll find them adorning the arms of Spanish statues. Tourists are wearing them, but these days so are contractors and the National Guard. It's hard to walk on Bourbon Street without stepping on them. You're likely to crunch them underfoot, long necklaces of plastic pearls brightening the asphalt.

At the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter, Pat O'Brien's is once again serving its syrupy, yet potent Hurricane cocktail. At Tropical Isle, you can get an equally potent Hand Grenade in a tall, plastic go-cup.

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26 feb 2006

Post-Katrina Rebuilders Hug Ground, Trust Levees
Some Say They Don't Have the Time or Money to Elevate Houses

By Peter Whoriskey Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, February 26, 2006; A03

NEW ORLEANS -- Hurricane Katrina revealed fatal flaws in the way this city is built. But as thousands of New Orleanians seek construction permits, many are planning to rebuild their homes in the same place, at the same elevation, without any guarantee that the levees will hold in the next big storm.

While residents say they have neither the time nor the money to elevate the homes they are rebuilding, experts say the rush of reconstruction could lead to a repeat of the disaster. Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency are studying safe building elevations for the city, but the agency has yet to adopt new guidelines.

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25 feb 2006

February 25, 2006
Mardi Gras Diary Amid Revelry, Evidence of City's Cruel Transformation
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 24 — For a long time I hated Mardi Gras, and tried to flee the city in those weeks.

It was the opposite of what made New Orleans beguiling, or so it seemed to me: loud and raucous, the city's ritual self-abasement enforced mass jollity. The workaday New Orleans, underpopulated, green and quiet, was best in its absolute regard for individual states of joy or gloom.

For years I failed to see the point, a distaste reinforced when visiting hordes from the mainland let their hair down and turned the French Quarter into a "Disneyland for drunks," as a dyspeptic bookseller friend put it. The history of Kings of Rex going back decades was commemorated in some of the city's grandest homes, while the city's crumbling social compact failed to receive similar attention. I knew too that some Jewish families in the Uptown neighborhood left town during Carnival because they would not be invited to the fancier balls.

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25 feb 2006

Report: study entire levee system, not just breaches

03:31 PM CST on Saturday, February 25, 2006

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — The federal investigation of what went wrong with New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina should study the entire system, not just the breaks that flooded the city, a new report says.

"While a few places failed, that doesn't mean other places won't fail in the future," said Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and chairman of the committee which put together the report for the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council.

Sections of levee close to failing might have remained intact because another section failed first and relieved the pressure, Clough said. In addition, by rebuilding the damaged and broken areas to make them stronger and more stable, the Corps might make breaks more likely in other spots.

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25 feb 2006

Forman pollster does a little pushing
ALSO: Incumbents challenged; Butler among them; Same show, new place

Saturday, February 25, 2006
By Gordon Russell, Bruce Eggler and Frank Donze Staff writers

A poll of mayoral candidates made public this week found that only 29 percent of Orleans Parish respondents said they had high "awareness" of Audubon Nature Institute's chief executive, Ron Forman, who is widely considered a leading contender in part because of his claim to a large war chest.

The downside of that lack of recognition, for Forman, is that he needs to become better known. The upside, presumably, is that he may get to publicly define himself on his own terms. Other top contenders with long political records, including Mayor Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, have no such luxury.

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25 feb 2006

Black leaders say Katrina forcing dialogue on poverty
2/25/2006, 3:27 p.m. CT
By PAM EASTON The Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — Black leaders who gathered Saturday to discuss issues affecting the community said Hurricane Katrina is forcing a much-needed dialogue on poverty in the U.S.

"The storm came. Lives were washed away. Ancient pains resurfaced. Now it is time for a sea of change," said broadcaster and author Tavis Smiley, who organized Saturday's State of the Black Union dialogue in Houston.

Marc H. Morial, President of the National Urban League and a former New Orleans mayor, said many along the Gulf Coast lost not only their material possessions, but their lifelong community ties.

"The government of this nation has the responsibility to make people whole," Morial said. "We all have to be advocates, because Katrina is not just about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Katrina exposed poverty and it also exposed neglect."

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23 feb 2006

February 23, 2006
Lieutenant Governor Makes Bid for Mayor of New Orleans
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 22 — Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu formally entered the race for mayor of New Orleans on Wednesday, adding a politically potent name to a foreshortened contest certain to raise the make-or-break issues facing this city.

The primary is on April 22, with a possible runoff in May. The stakes and shifting demographics here have made the contest unlike any other in recent memory.

In addition to Mr. Landrieu, two other well-known whites have entered the race, underscoring the possibility that New Orleans could elect a white mayor for the first time in more than 30 years. They are Ron Forman, president of the Audubon Nature Institute, credited with making a financial success of the city's zoo and aquarium, and Peggy Wilson, a Republican former city councilwoman considered a voice for wealthier Uptown residents.

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22 feb 2006

February 22, 2006
New Orleans Journal
Away From Mardi Gras, Glints of Life as the Hopeful Trickle Home
By DAN BARRY

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 21 — At evening time in parts of the Gentilly neighborhood here, headlights become searchlights, skipping spectrally across the facades of empty houses, street after street, in the pitch of absence.

This is how it has been since Hurricane Katrina, six months ago. But now isolated beacons of light suggest the return of the determined: here the glow emanating from the small windows of a government trailer, there the power lamps revealing the gut renovation of a house.

On an otherwise deserted Music Street, for example, Karry and Deanna Causey have set up a trailer, hired contractors, stripped the first floor of their home — and surrounded their storm-damaged house with bright lights to ward against the uneasiness that comes from camping out on the wilderness of their own property.

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18 feb 2006

Session is stormy for Blanco agenda
Levee compromise in, housing trust out
Saturday, February 18, 2006
By Jan Moller and Ed Anderson Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- The Legislature wrapped up a contentious 12-day special session Friday that produced a compromise bill to restructure southeast Louisiana's patchwork system of levee boards but failed to deliver on Gov. Kathleen Blanco's efforts to downsize New Orleans' government and to form a state trust to distribute federal housing aid.

In the second special session since the upheaval caused by two major hurricanes, lawmakers passed bills designed to make it easier for displaced New Orleanians to vote in the April 22 city elections and reshuffled the state bureaucracy by making the Louisiana Recovery Authority a permanent state agency.

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15 feb 2006

Study shows landfill reopening could threaten levee
By James Varney
Staff writer

The pressure from a monstrous pile of debris put into the Old Gentilly Landfill since Hurricane Katrina could push mushy soil under the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet levee, weakening another piece of New Orleans’ already shaky flood protection system, according to an investigative study of the site.

That finding was the most explosive in a final draft of the study commisioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and released Tuesday.

State environmental officials disputed the findings in the report and characterized its methodology as “haphazard.”

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15 feb 2006

Levee bill passes with separate east, west bank boards
By Robert Travis Scott Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE — In a major turnaround, a unanimous Senate passed the governor’s bills to overhaul the New Orleans area levee boards Tuesday after supporters of the proposal yielded to West Bank lawmakers who want separate authorities on either side of the Mississippi River.

The centerpiece legislation of the current special session, Senate Bills 8 and 9 by Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, still must pass the House before the session ends Friday to become law. Several challenges to the bills remain, including attempts that will be made to pull St. Bernard Parish out of the new proposed consolidated authority and to give West Bank officials more say in who will sit on their governing board and when the new law will take effect.

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14 feb 2006

Public weighs in on plans for Category 5 levees
Congress awaiting coastal strategy draft
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
By Mark Schleifstein Staff writer

LAFAYETTE -- A group of public officials and business and environmental leaders began an effort Monday to develop a plan to protect coastal Louisiana from the storm surge of a Category 5 hurricane while also protecting the coast's fragile ecosystem. Advertisement

The Army Corps of Engineers must send a first draft of the plan, dubbed the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan, to Congress by June 1, with a final version due a year later.

Several hundred people gathered Monday at the Cajundome to propose alternate routes for a series of levees and gate structures aimed at providing enhanced storm protection in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The meeting kicked off public participation in the drafting process.

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BUYOUT IN WORKS
Five parish leaders agree to make thousands whole
First phase of voluntary program focuses on owner-occupied homes

By Gordon Russell, Frank Donze and Laura Maggi Staff writers

In a major development that could at last provide definitive options to New Orleans-area homeowners sitting in limbo, the leaders of the five metropolitan parishes hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina have signed on to a plan to offer owners of flood-damaged houses the choice of a buyout at full, pre-storm market value or a renovation grant to cover most repairs.

The program, which New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has cheekily titled the "Failed Levees Homeowner Recovery Program," is the most detailed blueprint for making homeowners whole since the apparent death of legislation by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker that would have allowed owners of flood-ravaged homes to recoup 60 percent of their equity.

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12 feb 2006

New Orleanians wrestle bureaucracy, fear of abandonment
2/12/2006, 1:56 p.m. CT
By MICHELLE ROBERTS The Associated Press

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — For months, Earline Stelljes kept a brave face, scrubbing the black mold from her floor and eying the drywall sagging precariously from her bathroom ceiling.

Stelljes needs to repair her house, left damaged and without heat by Hurricane Katrina. But first, she needs a trailer to live in with her 12-year-old granddaughter. Polite as the folks at Federal Emergency Management Agency have been, no one can say when one might come.

When another neighbor recently got a trailer and she was left waiting — again — she lost it.

"I cried. I really cried," Stelljes said, standing on the front step of her home on a block full of travel trailers. "When I saw they were getting a trailer, I thought, 'What's wrong with me? Why me, God?'"

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12 feb 2006

Change is mantra of citizen group
'Now we see a way forward' for N.O.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
By Bruce Nolan Staff writer

As candidates line up for mayor and City Council races of historic importance in post-Katrina New Orleans, a new coalition of leaders from business, churches and non-profits continues to grow, hoping to emerge as a permanent force that politicians henceforth must reckon with. Advertisement

But that is hardly the half of it.

Dozens of members of the new Common Good Initiative, as it has begun calling itself, hope to create a new corps of broad-based, private civic leadership that New Orleans historically has lacked. They hope to push forward some version of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission's reconstruction plan -- and most ambitiously, detoxify the city's bitter racial politics by forging interracial bonds among community groups in which the city's deep racial divisions can be freshly addressed.

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12 feb 2006

Mardi Gras revelers find solace in satire
2/12/2006, 5:55 a.m. CT
By MICHELLE ROBERTS The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The first Mardi Gras parade since Hurricane Katrina marched through the French Quarter pulling carts with blue tarps, effigies of Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco and floats with themes such as "Give Me That Mold Time Religion."

The Krewe du Vieux lampooned Katrina and public officials blamed for the bungled response to the catastrophe in their parade Saturday themed "C'est Levee," a play on the French phrase meaning "that's life."

Mardi Gras has long been an occasion for the city to laugh at tragedy and aim barbs at authorities. Given all the pain New Orleans has suffered in the past year, the irreverence should reach new heights this season.

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12 feb 2006

Race could define mayor election
Nagin already facing roster of white rivals
Sunday, February 12, 2006
By Gordon Russell and Frank Donze Staff writers

The first New Orleans mayor's race after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina has an intriguing racial undercurrent: How will a black mayor elected with strong white support fare against numerous white challengers while much of the city's black electorate is displaced? Advertisement

And in a city that has historically voted along racial lines -- but whose very future now hangs in the balance -- will candidates be able to persuade voters to look beyond race in casting their ballots?

The script that is ultimately written will hinge on how the electorate -- the segment living in New Orleans as well as the tens of thousands scattered across the nation -- judges Mayor Ray Nagin, the embattled incumbent who in many ways still sits in the eye of the storm.

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12 feb 2006

HAVEN and HELL
First, they lost everything. Then many New Orleanians seeking refuge landed in Houston's deadliest neighborhoods. Now they live in fear and find themselves scapegoats for a crime wave that was rising even before Katrina
Sunday, February 12, 2006
By Trymaine Lee Staff writer

HOUSTON -- The 15-year-old girl told police the men who raped her had New Orleans accents. No mistaking it. She said she recognized it the moment one of them jammed a gun in her face that day in mid-January and barked an order: Get in the van. She told police they drove her to a secluded area in southeast Houston and raped her until the sun came up. Advertisement

Her story seemed to burst like a napalm bomb over a city already seething with months of tension since more than 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees arrived.

Radio and television programs were jammed with angry callers lambasting evacuees. Police tore through neighborhoods filled with New Orleanians, questioning innocent Katrina survivors while looking for the men the girl had described -- one with dreadlocks and three teardrop tattoos under his left eye, the other with a single braid stemming from his goatee. Thousands of fliers featured police sketches and a reward.

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11 feb 2006

Hurricane Katrina stokes Mardi Gras satire
2/11/2006, 12:08 p.m. CT
By MICHELLE ROBERTS The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mardi Gras has long been an occasion for the city to laugh at tragedy and aim barbs at authorities, and given all the pain New Orleans has suffered in the past year the irreverence should reach new heights this season.

Armed with sharp tongues and images such as the blue tarps that still protect broken roofs across the city, the clubs that stage Mardi Gras parades are targeting Hurricane Katrina and the politicians they blame for the chaotic response to the catastrophe.

"It is hard living here now. We need to have our opportunity to release," said Keith Twitchell, one of the organizers of Saturday's Krewe du Vieux parade. "If you don't laugh, you're dead. There's a lot to cry about here."

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10 feb 2006

The Inquiry
White House Knew of Levee's Failure on Night of Storm
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

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10 feb 2006

Democrats: Katrina papers show levee breaches reported early Analysis comes as ex-FEMA chief prepares to testify
From Mike Ahlers CNN

Friday, February 10, 2006; Posted: 3:08 a.m. EST (08:08 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democrats investigating FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina say they have documented nearly 30 instances in which federal and local government officials gave early reports on Aug. 29 that levees had broken and that New Orleans was flooding, including one report at 8:30 a.m. the day of the storm.

That information is likely to raise fresh questions about why President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff were evidently unaware of the flooding until the day after the storm.

"The first communication came at 8:30 a.m. (Monday). So, it is inexplicable to me how those responsible for the federal response could have woken up Tuesday morning unaware of this obviously catastrophic situation," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, said.

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9 feb 2006

Levee bill faces multitude of threats
Senate panel gives OK, but its chances still iffy
Thursday, February 09, 2006
By Robert Travis Scott Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- The governor's bill for levee board consolidation won approval from a Senate committee Wednesday but remained under a cloud of doubt as legislators from all corners of the proposed new levee zone aimed potentially lethal criticism at it.

In a day of sometimes emotionally charged testimony, officials from the parishes of St. Bernard, Livingston, St. Charles and the west bank of Jefferson raised a storm of objections that led one committee member to predict the measure lacked enough votes to pass.

"The bill's not going to pass in its current fashion," said Sen. Robert Adley, D-Benton. "There's just no way."

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8 feb 2006

Blanco's 'housing trust' conflicts with Nagin's plan
By Laura Maggi
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE — A state housing trust would be in charge of doling out money for buyouts or reconstruction of flood-damaged homes, under a plan by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, setting up a possible conflict with a proposal by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s recovery commission.

While state officials insist that local planning processes will determine where people can rebuild, the governor’s legislation makes it clear that she wants the state to retain the authority to dispense whatever grants or loans will be available to homeowners.

That is at odds with Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission, which has proposed that a city-controlled entity be created to oversee the spending of federal dollars used to buy, sell and redevelop houses and neighborhoods.

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8 feb 2006

Levee board consolidation bill passes out of committee while Senators maintain its death
BATON ROUGE — A bill to consolidate several southeast Louisiana levee boards into a single state-controlled agency passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday even as two lawmakers on the panel warned that the legislation is ultimately doomed in its current form.

Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, cleared the Senate Transporation, Highways and Public Works without objection and now heads to the full Senate. Similar legislation was killed in the House during a November special session and faces an uphill battle again without compromises.

The bill is one of the top priorities of Gov. Kathleen Blanco for the special session that began Monday and runs through Feb. 17.

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7 feb 2006

Lawmakers introduce a range of options for levee board reform
2/7/2006, 2:53 p.m. CT
By DOUG SIMPSON The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Kathleen Blanco's plan to dissolve southeast Louisiana levee boards faces a slew of competing ideas, with several lawmakers arguing that some of the boards should remain because they perform well.

Blanco wants to do away with all the local boards and has the backing of outspoken business and community groups from the New Orleans area. Although levee construction was largely a federal project, local levee boards oversee the maintenance of the levees. Critics argue that nepotism, corruption and incompetence on the boards, which are made up of political appointees, contributed to the breaches. Blanco said displaced residents of New Orleans and other flooded areas won't return home until the levees get new caretakers.

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7 feb 2006

Police reports conceal looting
New code could obscure level of crime in Katrina's aftermath
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
By Michael Perlstein Staff writer

Just as ubiquitous as the debris mounds and ruined cars littering Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are the looting stories: homeowners hit two or three times, businesses ransacked, construction workers sneaking off with people's valuables. Yet the problem, while acknowledged by police, is not reflected in official crime statistics compiled by the New Orleans Police Department. Advertisement

Five months after the storm, police are still recording more than half of the city's looting complaints under a special code, 21K, developed shortly after the hurricane, internal police statistics show. The K stands for Katrina, and the 21 signifies "lost or stolen," a standard prestorm designation used mostly in cases in which criminal activity is not clear-cut, such as when there's no forced entry or a victim can't recall when he or she last saw the missing property. More significantly, "lost or stolen" cases do not show up in publicly released crime reports.

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5 feb 2006

La. Officials Focus on New Orleans Future

By DOUG SIMPSON
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 5, 2006; 2:19 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco is facing rebellious lawmakers as she opens the second special legislative session she has called to address Louisiana's recovery from last year's hurricane season.

Blanco planned to kick off the session Monday by taking legislators on a bus trip to New Orleans so they can see the hurricane damage, but a number of them said they've already seen the destruction and wouldn't take the trip. Others found the idea offensive, saying the emphasis five months after Hurricane Katrina should be law making, not sightseeing.

It's also unclear how many legislators would even attend the governor's opening day speech, to be delivered Monday evening at the New Orleans convention center instead of the traditional setting at the state Capitol.

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5 feb 2006

Address changes offer insight into city
But don't read too much into it
Sunday, February 05, 2006
By Gordon Russell Staff writer

The number of New Orleans mail customers who registered new addresses outside the metropolitan area jumped by more than 37,000 during the last two months of 2005, with the Houston area firmly establishing itself as the most popular destination for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, according to new figures released by the U.S. Postal Service.

Thousands of suburban residents also filed change of address forms in the last two months of 2005 for locations outside the metro area, although in much smaller numbers than city residents, the figures indicate.

The statistics, which include change-of-address filings through Dec. 31, show that residents continued to register addresses elsewhere well after the storm's initial impact. Demographers and political analysts said the increase seems to indicate that many evacuees are settling into their post-storm homes in ways that they weren't prepared to do immediately after Katrina. But at the same time, they say, it would be a mistake to interpret the filing of a change-of-address form as evidence of a desire to settle elsewhere for good.

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5 feb 2006

Katrina fuels calls for levee board mergers
Agencies waste money and are awash in patronage, critics say
Sunday, February 05, 2006
By Jeffrey Meitrodt and Robert Travis Scott
Staff Writers

It was a typical morning for Lt. Vincent Yetta, a 25-year veteran of the East Jefferson Levee District Police Department.

While patrolling the 30 miles of levees that ring the low-lying suburb, Yetta found two cars illegally parked near a bike path, scolded a resident for failing to keep his dogs on a leash and responded to a minor burglary at a warehouse on the batture near the Mississippi River.

Though Yetta believed the burglary was an inside job by someone who had robbed the business twice in the past month, he decided not to pursue the case himself. Instead, he turned it over to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, which has both crime scene technicians and a burglary unit.

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5 feb 2006

Local mail delivery slowly improving
But no magazines go to ZIP code 701
Sunday, February 05, 2006
By Michelle Hunter East Jefferson bureau

Lisa Barbiero, a displaced New Orleanian living in Houston, opened her mailbox there on Jan. 23 to find a letter from the American Medical Association. Forwarded around its original Crescent City destination, it bore a postmark of Aug. 31.

"It makes me wonder where that little purple letter has been all this time," Barbiero said.

Five months after Hurricane Katrina paralyzed mail delivery in southeast Louisiana, New Orleans area residents find the Postal Service still in rehab. Tardy letters, delayed billing statements, invitations to long-ago holiday parties, AWOL insurance checks and the continued ban of magazines and other periodicals for the ZIP codes beginning with 701 are among the common symptoms.

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5 feb 2006

E.R. TRAUMA
With just a handful of hospitals open, a crisis is unfolding in local emergency rooms bursting at the seams with patients needing critical care.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
By Bruce Hamilton West Bank bureau

John LeBlanc's father had been waiting in the East Jefferson General Hospital emergency room for seven hours when his son asked an admissions clerk how much longer. She couldn't tell him. Advertisement

Family members had rushed the 63-year-old Metairie man to the medical center suffering from congestive heart failure.

Becoming increasingly upset, the younger LeBlanc turned to the nurses. Although they didn't know either, he said they were sympathetic, adding that someone had waited 19 ˝ hours the night before.

After 9 ˝ hours, his father was admitted.

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4 feb 2006

Levees loom as contentious post-Katrina issue for lawmakers

10:44 AM CST on Saturday, February 4, 2006

By DOUG SIMPSON / Associated Press

The failure of the levee system was the root cause of the flooding and chaos triggered by Hurricane Katrina. But figuring out how to better manage those levees has sparked a hot debate.

The levee boards that now manage the flood-protection structures are made up of political appointees, caricatured since the storm by critics who say the board members are mere beneficiaries of their family and business relationships with members of the state House and Senate.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who opens her second post-Katrina special legislative session on Monday, now supports a plan to dissolve those boards and let the state oversee the levees in southeast Louisiana. Critics of the boards — including groups of New Orleans residents and business leaders — also support the idea.

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4 feb 2006

Rebuilding New Orleans, One Appeal at a Time
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 4 — Every day the line snakes down a spartan corridor on the eighth floor of City Hall here, as hundreds of people clutch a piece of paper inscribed with a fateful percentage that could force them to abandon their home.

The number is always over 50, and it means a house was so damaged in the flooding after Hurricane Katrina — more than half-ruined — that it faces demolition, unless the owner can come up with tens of thousands of dollars to raise it several feet above the ground and any future floodwaters.

But there is a way out, and that is why so many people stand in line every day, collectively transforming this half-ruined city. "What you need to do is talk to a building inspector and get that lowered below 50 percent," a city worker calls out to the crowd. And at the end of the line, in a large open room down the hall, that is exactly what happens, nearly 90 percent of the time, New Orleans officials say.

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3 feb 2006

Clerical error may have doomed levee
By Bob Marshall Staff writer

A difference in soil boring data transferred from one chart to another may have played a key role in engineering decisions that led to the breach on the 17th Street Canal floodwall that flooded much of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, National Science Foundation investigators say.

A cross-section drawing in the project design documents shows a weak layer of peaty soils running between 11 feet and 16 feet below sea level in the area that failed during the storm. But information in the individual soil borings that were used to draw the cross section show the peaty layer extending as deep as 30 feet below sea level.

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3 feb 2006

Building repairs ranked by urgency
State lawmakers criticize list's order
Friday, February 03, 2006
By Jan Moller Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Prisons outrank charity hospitals, and repairing the Superdome is more urgent than fixing university buildings, according to a list that ranks the state's priorities for repairing government property damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Advertisement

Despite complaints from some lawmakers, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget unanimously approved the priority list, allowing the state to embark on what promises to be a multiyear effort to repair the hurricane damage.

State facilities manager Jerry Jones said the list will allow the state to tell the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will shoulder the lion's share of the repair costs, which buildings should get their top attention.

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3 feb 2006

La. leaders, White House clash
Administration ups fund request -- and resistance to Baker bill
Friday, February 03, 2006
By Bruce Alpert and Laura Maggi Staff writers

WASHINGTON -- The debate over how to rebuild homes and communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina erupted into public warfare between Louisiana and the White House on Thursday as the Bush administration sharply denounced the state's preferred solution and the author of the Louisiana plan accused the administration of misleading the public in an effort to kill the proposal. Advertisement

In the wake of criticism that President Bush didn't say enough in Tuesday's State of the Union address about federal help to redevelop the Gulf Coast, the administration's hurricane recovery coordinator launched a media blitz Thursday that included appearances on national TV news shows and an op-ed column in The Washington Post. He also held a news conference in which he announced that the president will request an additional $18 billion in emergency spending for hurricane recovery efforts.

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3 feb 2006

EDITORIAL: What Mr. Powell doesn't get
Friday, February 03, 2006

When President Bush appointed Donald Powell as the federal government's post-Katrina reconstruction czar, greater New Orleans had reason to hope that the plain-spoken Texas banker would take up our case in Washington. And at least at first, Mr. Powell seemed to grasp the severity of the crisis facing our area. Advertisement

But even if he did, that understanding has not shaken loose the federal help that our region needs and deserves. Last week, the White House came out against U.S. Rep. Richard Baker's plan for federally backed buyouts of thousands of severely damaged homes. And Mr. Powell defended the White House's position on the Baker bill in an opinion piece in Thursday's Washington Post.

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3 feb 2006

Levee tests gnaw at termite expert

Corps says insects didn't contribute to wall failure
Friday, February 03, 2006
By Mark Schleifstein Staff writer

A termite expert is questioning whether tiny, voracious Formosan termites played a role in the failure of levee walls in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana State University entomologist Gregg Henderson said there are clear signs that the destructive insects were present, and he wants the opportunity to dig into the levees beneath the walls to find out if termite nests contributed to their weakening. Army Corps of Engineers officials, however, say no evidence has been found to indicate that termites undermined the integrity of the levees. Henderson, a world-renowned expert on termites, found evidence of insects -- both Formosan termites and fire ants -- in the joints between wall panels on both the London Avenue and 17th Street canals. Fire ants, an enemy of termites, tend to invade the channels created by the wood-destroying insects. The termites are apparently attracted to a paperlike material made of bagasse, the remains of cane stalks after the sugar is removed, that is used in making the concrete form for the wall joints. The material remained in the joints, along with plastic spacers, as the wall was built. Bagasse contains ascorbic acid, which also is used in commercial termite baits containing pesticides, Henderson said.

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3 feb 2006

February 3, 2006
U.S. Plans $18 Billion More for Gulf, but Local Officials Are Skeptical
By JAMES DAO

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 — The Bush administration announced Thursday that it would ask Congress to provide $18 billion more for Gulf Coast reconstruction this year, on top of $67 billion appropriated last year. But it provided no details about how the money would be spent, and made clear that it did not plan to request additional aid for the region in its 2007 federal budget.

Congressional officials said they expected the $18 billion plan, details of which will be released over the coming month, to call for rebuilding a damaged Veterans Administration hospital in New Orleans, strengthening levees and replenishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund.

But there was bipartisan concern among Gulf Coast lawmakers that the plan would not leave enough money for rebuilding permanent housing, widely considered the region's most pressing need.

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3 feb 2006

February 3, 2006
New Orleans Facing Election and New Order
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 2 — In great confusion and peculiar circumstances, this city has suddenly found itself in the midst of an unexpected mayoral election campaign. The result may once again upend this city's old order: a white man might be elected mayor in a city that was, until a few months ago, mostly black.

That outcome would have been undreamed of before the hurricane, but the high probability of one of Louisiana's most potent political families entering a race that almost didn't happen could further transform a political calculus that has prevailed here for nearly three decades.

Mitch Landrieu, the state's lieutenant governor and son of the city's last white mayor — Moon Landrieu, who left office in 1978 — is expected to announce any day his entry into a race that will help define a radically reshaped city.

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3 feb 2006

A City Fears for Its Soul
New Orleans Worries That Its Unique Culture May Be Lost

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2006; A01

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans, the theme park?

Frightening as it sounds, the prospect of this sultry, eclectic city rising from the muck of Hurricane Katrina as a sterile imitation of itself is becoming an abiding preoccupation. Even as the city's riverfront high ground -- now dubbed the "Isle of Denial" by one scholar -- gamely revives, miles of culturally vibrant neighborhoods that once smelled of simmering red beans and hosted funky second-line parades lie dark and empty, their futures in doubt.

A quiet but increasingly urgent conversation about that culture's survival consumes this city, both on its street corners and in its institutions. In the Lower Ninth Ward, a woman who stables horses on the Mississippi River levee frets about "a land grab" that could bulldoze her home to make a "playground for the rich." In the Bywater neighborhood, an acclaimed photographer longs for the sound of teenagers blowing horns from porches. At Loyola University, authors and academics convene a panel to ponder whether New Orleans culture can be saved.

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2 feb 2006

Rebuilding Wisely

By Donald E. Powell
Thursday, February 2, 2006; A21

President Bush made a commitment that the federal government would be a full partner in the recovery and rebuilding of the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and he is keeping that commitment. The federal government has already set aside $85 billion for the recovery effort, and more is on the way.

But the president also established important principles that will guide the federal role in the response: State and local leaders -- not those in Washington -- must develop the recovery plan; taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, with strong congressional oversight and accountability mechanisms in place; and, finally, markets must be able to work properly without interference from the government.

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2 feb 2006

HANO calls on residents of the Iberville housing development to come back home

11:10 PM CST on Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Ben Lemoine / WWL-TV News Reporter

When every public housing development on the east bank of New Orleans was damaged during Hurricane Katrina, federal housing authorities promised a new way of rebuilding them, but the old buildings have currently been renovated and many residents of the Iberville development have been told by HANO to come back home.

The worst part of evacuating for Kim Aburime and her family was just being away from home. Aburime fled her Iberville housing development apartment when the water was five feet high. Even though FEMA has been paying for a place for her to live in Baton Rouge, Aburime said she’d rather pay her $172 a month rent to come back home.

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2 feb 2006

February 2, 2006
Investigators Criticize Response to Hurricane
By ERIC LIPTON

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — No one from the federal government was clearly in charge of the response to Hurricane Katrina, Congressional investigators said Wednesday, and in the absence of clear leadership the general federal approach was "to wait for affected states to request assistance."

In a preliminary report, the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, criticized Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, for waiting until Tuesday, the day after the storm hit, to designate Hurricane Katrina an "incident of national significance," a status that more clearly put his department in charge.

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2 feb 2006

February 2, 2006
White House, Chertoff Faulted Over Katrina
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 12:10 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff failed to provide decisive action when Hurricane Katrina struck, congressional investigators said Wednesday in a stinging assessment of slow federal relief efforts.

The White House had no clear chain of command in place, investigators with the Government Accountability Office said, laying much of the blame on President Bush for not designating a single official to coordinate federal decision-making for the Aug. 29 storm. Bush has accepted responsibility for the government's halting response, but for the most part then-FEMA Director Michael Brown, who quit days after the hurricane hit, has been the public face of the failures.

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1 feb 2006

Times-Picayune Updates

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bucktown to be replaced by floodgate
By Sheila Grissett
East Jefferson bureau

The remnants of Bucktown’s venerable old fishing fleet and the site of Sid Mar’s historic waterfront restaurant, as well as the popular Coconut Beach Volleyball Complex at West End, are among the local landmarks and institutions being sacrificed to construction of a temporary floodgate in the 17th Street Canal, according to the latest design plan federal engineers were finalizing this week.

“Sid Mar’s will have to relocate, and the fishing boats won’t ever be able to come back,” said Janet Cruppi, a real estate division supervisor with the Corps of Engineers, which will build and operate the new floodgate and some additional levees on both sides of the big outfall canal. “It’s such a shame that landowners are finding out before we can even get in touch with them, but that’s the nature of the emergency.”

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1 feb 2006

EDITORIAL: Not on our feet yet

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Residents of greater New Orleans have been holding out hope that President Bush will make our region's recovery from Hurricane Katrina a top priority this year.

Because of the failure of a flood-protection system built by the federal government, more than 1,000 people in our metro area lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands have yet to return home. Surely the catastrophe that befell this community should weigh on the president -- and on Congress, and on a nation that eats our seafood, warms itself with our oil and gas and uses all the products that pass through our ports.

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1 feb 2006

Blanco: No offshore signoffs unless La. gets royalty share

Money could finance hurricane protection
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
By Jan Moller and Pam Radtke Russell
Staff writers

Gov. Kathleen Blanco warned this week that the state would not support future offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico unless Louisiana gets a share of the federal royalties generated by oil production there.

"It is abundantly clear that allowing development to occur where inadequate provisions are made for the protection of that development is irresponsible," Blanco wrote to the Mineral Management Service. "The amount of oil and gas activity off our coast means little if we have no coastal communities to take advantage of this activity."

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1 feb 2006

Bush doesn't get it, Landrieu says

 
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
By Bruce Alpert
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Louisiana congressional members expressed disappointment late Tuesday that President Bush didn't offer any new initiatives or plans to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina in his State of the Union Address.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she doesn't sense that the president grasps the magnitude of the problems on the Gulf Coast by devoting only one short paragraph to Katrina recovery.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get what we were hoping for -- or expecting, but we are going to press on because we need this president to be our champion, not our critic," Landrieu said.

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1 feb 2006

Nagin to testify on Katrina response today
Lack of supplies at Convention Center at issue
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
By Bruce Alpert
Washington bureau
 

WASHINGTON -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is expected to face questioning from a Senate committee today on why he was unable to get food and water to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for 48 hours after he opened it to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Documents released Tuesday night by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs show that the city opened the Convention Center a day after the hurricane slammed the city Aug. 29 and that the Superdome became more and more uncomfortable because of failing sanitation and no air conditioning. Thousands of people from flooded New Orleans neighborhoods and downtown hotels looking for shelter eventually made their way to the Convention Center.

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1 feb 2006

Aftershocks of Katrina
Published February 1, 2006

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- When the fights between Texas and Louisiana students worsened at White Middle School, its remedy was a field trip to a nearby strip mall for a lesson in peace and understanding.
Two blocks from campus in a former pizza parlor, the students were brought together to brainstorm ideas, practice tolerance and freely mingle at a workshop that Principal Rick Canales hoped would ease tensions that have troubled the school since 32 Hurricane Katrina refugees arrived in September.

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31 jan 2006

Pre-Katrina Emergency Plan for Elderly Faulted

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 31, 2006; A07

Louisiana officials did virtually nothing to prepare to evacuate poor, sick or elderly people as required under a state emergency plan adopted months before Hurricane Katrina hit, according to newly released documents.

State Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry told Senate investigators that he was assigned the task in April, months before the Aug. 29 storm. But his department had no buses or drivers to execute the mission.

"We have done nothing to fulfill this responsibility," Bradberry said, according to a transcript of a Dec. 21 deposition obtained by The Washington Post. "We put no plans in place to do any of this."

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31 jan 2006

City enacts laws to cut red tape
Any electrician can now do inspections
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By Bruce Eggler
Staff writer

New Orleans' handful of city electrical inspectors, perhaps the most in-demand people in town for the past four months, could be about to find out how the Maytag repairman, "the loneliest guy in town," felt in all those TV ads.

The city has suspended requirements that city inspectors must sign off on all electrical work done by contractors, whether on permanent buildings or on temporary housing such as trailers.

Mayor Ray Nagin also has agreed to suspend the requirement that the city's Housing Conservation District Review Committee review the proposed demolition of many buildings in older neighborhoods.

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31 jan 2006

Squabbles hindered rescue efforts
FEMA denied request for rubber boats
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- A day before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries fired off an urgent request for 300 rubber rafts to rescue people from what was expected to be high water in New Orleans.

Marked "Red-High" priority, the plea went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Denton, Texas, where a team of disaster experts considered it. As Katrina lashed southeast Louisiana and ruptured New Orleans' levees Aug. 29, FEMA gave its answer: "Request denied."

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31 jan 2006

Landrieu to announce he'll run against Nagin
Forman considers joining the fray
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
By Frank Donze
Staff writer

Handing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin perhaps his most formidable political challenge to date, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu has decided to place his name on the April ballot, a key Landrieu supporter said Monday.

Landrieu could not be reached for comment.

But an ally who requested anonymity said Landrieu informed key supporters across the city and state during the weekend of his intention to run for mayor.

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30 jan 2006

January 30, 2006
Editorial
Louisiana in Limbo

New Orleans waits. While some heroic efforts at rebuilding are taking place, hundreds of thousands of residents have put their lives on hold until they know what the government's next steps will be, leaving the shells of their houses as placeholders. But the Bush administration has now rejected the most broadly supported plan for rebuilding communities while offering nothing to take its place.

It has been five months since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and for many the norm is still the claustrophobic new reality of tiny trailers and multiple families crammed into single apartments. Louisiana is trying. You can hear jackhammers pounding and buzz saws whirring on Canal Street in New Orleans. Dedicated workers endure a grinding daily commute from points north, like Baton Rouge, as they try to make the city and the region whole again. But the mission is far from complete and the challenge is beyond the scope of a broken city and a poor state.

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30 jan 2006

January 30, 2006
Entergy Fights to Recover From Hurricanes
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:07 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Faced with staggering damages from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, Entergy Corp. is maneuvering through a maze of challenges, including the loss of much of its New Orleans power market.

The question of federal aid for the utility holding company is up in the air. Its Entergy New Orleans unit has sought bankruptcy protection. To increase customer bills -- one way to pay for $1.5 billion in damage to its transmission systems from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- it must go through often-skeptical utility regulators.

Entergy is hoping for federal help, similar to the $250 million ConEdison Co. received following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. It hasn't placed a dollar amount on how much help it would like, or expects, but the company has warned that without assistance, customers in New Orleans could face rate increases of up to 140 percent -- a charge that economic developers say would stymie, if not kill, the city's recovery.

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30 jan 2006

Suspect: jury system unfair with fewer blacks in Orleans area

08:01 PM CST on Monday, January 30, 2006

Associated Press

A suspect in a federal drug case failed to persuade a judge that the post-Katrina jury pool violates his rights because too many black people have left the region.

Mervin Spencer, 40, of New Orleans faces allegations that he twice sold crack cocaine to undercover state troopers in May 2004.

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30 jan 2006

Houston Examines Post-Katrina Spike in Violent Crime

Morning Edition, January 30, 2006 ˇ Police in Houston late last year noticed an increase in homicides. At the time, they downplayed the potential role of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Now, the Houston Police Department says hurricane survivors were at least partly responsible for the spike in violence.

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30 jan 2006

Levees must be armored, corps says
Fabric, rock layers would add strength, slow erosion
Monday, January 30, 2006
By Bob Marshall
Staff writer

During nearly 300 years of living in one of nation's most flood-prone spots, New Orleanians have spent a lot of time talking about levees -- How high? How strong? How safe? -- while hardly ever mentioning the word "armoring."

Hurricane Katrina changed that.

As state and federal agencies race to fix almost 170 miles of local levees damaged by the storm before the next hurricane season begins June 1, armoring -- protecting the surface of levees with concrete, rocks or synthetic fabric to prevent erosion and scouring -- has become a constant in discussions about the effort.

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29 jan 2006

Is New Orleans Ready for Tourists?
And More Important, Are They Ready For New Orleans?

By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 29, 2006; P01

On a recent January Thursday night at the Gumbo Shop, a stalwart dispenser of Creole comfort food in the French Quarter, the line for a table crossed an important threshold: It went out the front door.

"I haven't seen that before," said Jennifer, a harried waitress eyeing a queue that spilled onto the sidewalk of St. Peter Street for one of the first times since the restaurant reopened in early December. Some of those waiting were obviously college students. (Tulane and Loyola universities had just resumed classes, and the restaurant's $6.95 bowl of gumbo has long drawn the kind of hungry twentysomethings who were noisily getting reacquainted by the hostess stand.) Others seemed like local people or relief workers, and a few -- including one couple flipping through a Zagat guide -- were obviously tourists. "Everyone's talking about how busy it's been getting," Jennifer said.

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29 jan 2006

Law Enforcement increases patrols to stop looters

07:12 PM CST on Sunday, January 29, 2006

WWL-TV

Five months after Katrina, law enforcement officials are still working to stop looters in New Orleans area neighborhoods. In response to a growing number of lootings, the N.O.P.D. and Criminal Sheriff's office plan to put extra patrols in recovering neighborhoods.

In the past four and a half months, Dennis Areaux of Lake Vista said he has been the victim of looters three times.

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28 jan 2006

Post-Katrina Promises Unfulfilled
On the Gulf Coast, Federal Recovery Effort Makes Halting Progress

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006; A01

Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, President Bush's lofty promises to rebuild the Gulf Coast have been frustrated by bureaucratic failures and competing priorities, a review of events since the hurricane shows.

While the administration can claim some clear progress, Bush's ringing call from New Orleans's Jackson Square on Sept. 15 to "do what it takes" to make the city rise from the waters has not been matched by action, critics at multiple levels of government say, resulting in a record that is largely incomplete as Bush heads into next week's State of the Union address.

The problems include the slow federal cleanup of debris in Mississippi and Louisiana; a lack of authority for Bush's handpicked recovery coordinator, Donald E. Powell; the shortage and poor quality of housing for evacuees; and federal restrictions on reconstruction money and where coastal communities can rebuild.

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28 jan 2006

New Orleans Feels Cast Adrift
Perception of Washington Indifference Compounds Despair

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006; A10

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 27 -- It has been an especially disheartening week for the people of New Orleans as they struggle to rebuild.

President Bush announced he would not support a popular plan for a government buyout of damaged houses. Word leaked that the White House had ignored e-mail warnings of Hurricane Katrina's potential danger in the 48 hours before the storm, including predictions of breached levees and massive flooding. Administration officials said they would not provide information to a Senate inquiry into the government's response to the hurricane.

Even Laura Bush raised ire during a visit to the area when she had this to say to local reporters about governmental relief: "I know it's very, very slow. That's how government works."

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28 jan 2006

Katrina Evacuees in Texas Held in Killings
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:45 a.m. ET

HOUSTON (AP) -- At least 23 people who evacuated to Houston during Hurricane Katrina were either the victim or the suspect in killings here between September and December, police say.

Now, eight members of rival New Orleans gangs have been arrested in connection with the slayings of 11 fellow refugees and other violent crimes in the city, police spokesman Alvin Wright said Friday.

''They were doing the same thing in New Orleans,'' Wright said. ''The hurricane brought those rivalries to Houston.''

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27 jan 2006

Stress After Katrina 'Recipe for Suicide'
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:09 p.m. ET

With a newborn daughter, an autistic child and a fledgling music business, life was chaotic enough for Jerome ''Slim Rome'' Spears and fiancee Rachel Harris.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit, chasing them from New Orleans, throwing both out of work and putting Spears' plans to ''dominate'' the hip-hop scene on indefinite hold.

This week, in an Atlanta-area rental home hundreds of miles from the Big Easy, Spears shot his fiancee to death, severely wounded her 4-year-old son with a bullet to the back of the head, and then killed himself. The couple's 5-month-old daughter, born amid the Katrina chaos, was unharmed but is now an orphan.

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27 jan 2006
January 27, 2006

Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its black population if its most damaged neighborhoods are not rebuilt and if there is not significant government assistance to help poor people return, a detailed analysis by Brown University has concluded.

Combining data from the 2000 census with federal damage assessment maps, the study provides a new level of specificity about Hurricane Katrina's effect on the city's worst-flooded areas, which were heavily populated by low-income black people.

Of the 354,000 people who lived in New Orleans neighborhoods where the subsequent damage was moderate to severe, 75 percent were black, 29 percent lived below the poverty line, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and more than half were renters, the study found.

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27 jan 2006

Crime sprees by New Orleans evacuees are hitting various cities as a "thank you" for their hospitality.

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27 jan 2006

Jindal emphasizes state role in recovery
U.S. focus on levees, jobs, housing urged
Friday, January 27, 2006
By Kate Moran
East Jefferson Bureau

The federal government has a responsibility to rebuild levees and restore the degraded coastline, but Louisiana must invest in its own recovery instead of leaning on federal largesse, especially in the areas of health care, education and public housing, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal said in a speech Thursday night.

Speaking to a packed audience at Loyola University, the freshman congressman painted hurricane recovery as a joint venture by the federal and state governments, which must make separate but equally important commitments to the rebuilding effort. He outlined three responsibilities that each should tackle.

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27 jan 2006

Ball now in La. court, Bush says
State needs a plan for recovery, he says
Friday, January 27, 2006
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- Responding to complaints that his administration is short-changing Louisiana's hurricane recovery, President Bush on Thursday said the federal government has already made a "significant commitment" and suggested that more money is unlikely until the state produces a detailed recovery plan.

At other points during a White House news conference, Bush sounded more accommodating, calling the passage of three hurricane-related spending bills and two tax-relief packages since September "a good start, a strong start" and indicating he would address the increasingly controversial pace of Gulf Coast recovery in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

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26 jan 2006

Study profiles victims of Katrina
Those who suffered most are black, poor
Thursday, January 26, 2006
By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer

African-Americans and the poor living along the Gulf Coast were disproportionately victimized by Hurricane Katrina, according to a study by Brown University due for release today.

While the 16-page report surveys the entire region, most of it is devoted to New Orleans, culminating in the prediction that the city is at risk of losing more than 80 percent of its black population, and 50 percent of its white residents, if people cannot return to their flood-damaged neighborhoods.

In the city, 75 percent of residents of damaged areas were black, while in undamaged areas the majority of residents were white, the study found. Also in damaged areas, 53 percent of residents were renters, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and 29 percent were poor.

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25 jan 2006

AP Interview: Blanco outlines levee consolidation plans
1/25/2006, 4:42 p.m. CT
By MELINDA DESLATTE
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Kathleen Blanco's push for consolidating Louisiana levee districts envisions the state taking over the districts' investment properties — like the airport and marinas operated by the New Orleans levee board.

Also, lawmakers would no longer nominate members for the boards, under Blanco's plan.

"We're going to try to get more professionally oriented boards focused on flood control," Blanco said in an interview with The Associated Press in which she outlined some of her levee consolidation plans.

Blanco intends the proposal, pitched as a way to strengthen Louisiana's hurricane protection, to be the centerpiece of a special hurricane recovery legislative session that begins Feb. 6, but she has been guarded on specifics so far.

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25 jan 2006

White House deals blow to Baker "buy-out" plan
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — In a severe blow to state and local plans for rebuilding hurricane-devastated areas, the Bush administration Tuesday came out against a homeowner bailout proposal that many in Louisiana saw as the key to economic recovery and the rebirth of a redesigned New Orleans.

Donald Powell, President Bush’s choice to oversee the Gulf Coast recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said that grant money already appropriated by Congress — as much as $6.2 billion for Louisiana — would be “sufficient” to take care of homeowners who suffered the most in the storm.

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24 jan 2006

Senators slam White House over storm alert
1/24/2006, 2:40 p.m. CT
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators lambasted the Bush administration on Tuesday for failing to heed devastating predictions from a hurricane preparedness test that began a year before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.

The top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also accused the White House of trying to block or delay the panel's inquiry into the government's sluggish response to Katrina.

The preparedness exercise that began in July 2004, dubbed Hurricane Pam, warned that a Category 3 storm would overwhelm the New Orleans area with flood waters, killing up to 60,000 people and destroying buildings and roads. State and federal officials were concluding Pam's findings when Katrina, an actual Category 4 storm, roared ashore on Aug. 29.

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24 jan 2006

Federal report predicted cataclysm
White House had research before Katrina hit land
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau
 

WASHINGTON -- As Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast, President Bush's top disaster agency warned of the likelihood of levee breaches that could leave New Orleans submerged "for weeks or months," a communications blackout that would hamper rescue efforts and "at least 100,000 poverty-stricken people" stranded in the city.

Those remarkably accurate predictions were in a 40-page "Fast Analysis Report" compiled by the Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 28. Documents show that the report was sent by e-mail to the White House Situation Room at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the deadly storm made landfall.

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22 jan 2006

January 22, 2006
Competing Plans to Repair New Orleans Flood Protection
BY JOHN SCHWARTZ

At the halfway mark between the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina last year and the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season on June 1, the Army Corps of Engineers has completed only 16 percent of its planned repairs to New Orleans's battered flood protection system, according to corps representatives.

The corps says its work is on track for restoring the system to its pre-hurricane strength by the June 1 deadline, but in the meantime many groups that have studied the disaster are coming up with proposals of their own that they say could be cheaper, faster or stronger.

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22 jan 2006

ANOTHER VOICE
Chocolate with nuts

The Philadelphia Inquirer

By now, you've probably heard or seen a tape of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's idiotic comments about God wanting the Big Easy to be a "chocolate city."

Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray. At least he figured out he needed to apologize.

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22 jan 2006

Hot Air in the Big Easy
The mayor's racial comments mar his re-election bid.
By Arian Campo-Flores
Newsweek

Jan. 30, 2006 issue - Peggy Wilson couldn't believe what she was hearing on the radio. Addressing a crowd on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mayor Ray Nagin was claiming that God wanted New Orleans to remain majority black. "This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. "I don't care what people are saying Uptown," referring to a mostly white area of New Orleans. Nagin also suggested that God unleashed last year's hurricanes because he was "mad at America"—and particularly at the black community, for failing to take better care of itself.

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22 jan 2006

The Nation
In New Orleans, Smaller May Mean Whiter
By JAMES DAO

MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN of New Orleans was greeted with yowls of protest last week when he declared that it was God's will for New Orleans to be a "chocolate" city. Whites shouted racism; tourist groups threatened to cancel bookings; even his friends rolled their eyes at Mr. Nagin's penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

But one group, the displaced black residents of New Orleans, might have welcomed Mr. Nagin's message. The city, nearly 70 percent African-American before Hurricane Katrina, had lost some of its largest black neighborhoods to the deluge, and many fear it will never be a predominantly black city again, as it has been since the 1970's.

Indeed, race has become a subtext for just about every contentious decision the city faces: where to put FEMA trailers; which neighborhoods to rebuild; how the troubled school system should be reorganized; when elections should be held.

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22 jan 2006

Looting Still Problem Post-K

[From The Times-Picayune]
Sunday, January 22, 2006
By Michael Perlstein
and Trymaine Lee Staff writers

Knowing their two-story, Katrina-damaged home in Lakeview was a sitting duck for looters, Scott and Jill Cabes took every precaution. They lined up contractors quickly, gutting the first floor within weeks of the storm. They removed obvious hot-market items like TVs and stereos and sentimental valuables like jewelry. They dropped by the property frequently.

But sitting on Vicksburg Street, surrounded by miles of desolation and darkness, the Cabes' stately colonial-style home proved too tempting and too easy for criminals eager to take advantage of the disaster.

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22 jan 2006

Nagin Explains 'Chocolate City' Remarks in Lakeview and on CNN with Anderson Cooper
By Gwen Filosa
Times-Picayune staff writer

A contrite Mayor Ray Nagin said Saturday that emotional stress from witnessing Hurricane Katrina and a history of accusations that he doesn’t care about black people led to his gaffe-filled Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech in which he said New Orleans will be a “chocolate city” again.

At an outdoor meeting of several hundred Lakeview residents, Nagin said that when he was elected, “I took great pains to bring in every segment of the community. I got attacked. I was called ‘Ray Reagan,’ and that white man in black skin stuff. I had a stigma that Ray Nagin does not care about black people.”

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22 jan 2006

Anderson Cooper on Suicide Post-Katrina

Well, Katrina claimed more than 1,000 lives. And with new reports that more than 3,200 people are still missing, the final death toll could be much higher. But tonight, I want to tell you about the other victims of the storm. They survived the hurricane but they could not survive the misery that followed. CNN's Drew Griffin has more on the disturbing suicides out of New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This story of Dr. James Kent Treadway is closely woven to the state of his city. These pictures of debris, disaster and despair are New Orleans closing in on five months after Katrina. In many areas, it looks like the storm hit yesterday.

TYRA TREADWAY, WIDOW: Depression is...

GRIFFIN: Tyra Treadway is a Katrina survivor.

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22 jan 2006

Planning leaders see chance for a better city
By Gordon Russell
and Frank Donze
Staff writers

Like many cities, New Orleans has evolved at varying speeds, growing steadily into one of the most powerful and wealthy cities in America by the turn of the 20th century, eventually swelling to a metropolis of 630,000, and then beginning a slow decline in population and influence.

The way Tulane University School of Architecture Dean Reed Kroloff sees it, Hurricane Katrina sent the clock into overdrive, knocking New Orleans over the precipice toward which the city had long been headed.

But with the tragedy came opportunity, according to Kroloff and architect Ray Manning, who have been drafted by Mayor Ray Nagin’s rebuilding commission to oversee a planning process that could reshape the city.

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21 jan 2006

Nagin speech piques hunger
Potential mayoral candidates awaken
Saturday, January 21, 2006
By Bruce Eggler and Frank Donze
Staff writers

Mayor Ray Nagin's now-infamous "chocolate city" address was barely over Monday when political consultants' and kingmakers' cell phones started ringing, igniting a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity in what had been a largely dormant mayor's race.

As potential challengers weighed how Nagin's words would affect his chances of winning re-election, the general conclusion was that he had shot himself in the foot, if not higher, and the ballot was about to get more crowded.

Combined with the news this week that the postponed mayoral primary is likely to be April 22, with qualifying taking place March 1-3, less than six weeks away, Nagin's remarks appeared to launch the 2006 campaign in earnest.

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21 jan 2006

Looters violate a home, wound a spirit
Friday, January 20, 2006
Rhonda Nabonne

They can't imagine the pain they have caused. Nor do they care.

Looters.
They invaded my home. Twice.

Scarred by the howling winds of Hurricane Katrina and the mucky, corrosive floodwaters that followed, my house has become the gravesite of my life. Looters preyed on the remains of my home.

Gone is the crystal cruise ship I bought in Grand Cayman to celebrate my years of travel. My crystal Christmas Nutcracker soldier and the gemstone globe were swiped, too. My leather briefcase was locked, so the burglars tore it open.

The burglars must have a fetish for my furnishings and collectibles trimmed with antique map print. They pounced on a cabinet jam-packed with CDs that would be the envy of any music lover -- jazz, New Age, rhythm and blues, classical, you name it.

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19 jan 2006

Insurance panel OKs rate increase
It's likely to be first of many after storm
Thursday, January 19, 2006
By Rebecca Mowbray
Business writer

BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission reluctantly approved its first post-Katrina increase in homeowners insurance rates Wednesday, beginning what is likely to be a painful stream of rate increase requests over the next few months.

"We do have a little indigestion," commission member Christine Berry said. "My concern is we are setting a precedent here."

After an hour and a half of debate, the commission voted 4 to 1 to allow ANPAC Louisiana Insurance Co. to increase homeowners insurance rates by an average of 23.3 percent statewide. New Orleans area homeowners likely will bare the brunt of that increase and see their rates rise much more than the average 23 percent.

The approved increase comes on top of a 9.9 percent increase the company didn't have to take to the commission, plus another increase of about 9 percent to replenish reserves of the state's insurance company of last resort.

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19 jan 2006

Impact of Nagin's gaffe still being weighed
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

The impact of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s controversial Martin Luther King Day comments landed squarely on the shoulders of tourism officials Wednesday, one day after the mayor and his staff launched a major damage control effort to temper the firestorm.

As pundits and talk-show hosts parodied Nagin coast to coast, local tourism officials spent the day trying to soothe angry, disillusioned clients while political observers weighed the potential impact the mayor’s comments might have in Washington.

Whether the damage caused to the city and mayor was a temporary setback or a critical blow remains to be seen, business, civic and political leaders said. Nagin spent Tuesday repeatedly apologizing to anyone offended by his remarks, with critics saying he offended just about everyone.

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18 jan 2006

January 18, 2006
Plan Shifts Power to New Orleans Schools
By ADAM NOSSITER

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 17 - Vowing to further change an education system already transformed by Hurricane Katrina, a mayoral committee set out a plan on Tuesday to decentralize this city's troubled schools.

The plan, one of a series proposing to change various aspects of life in posthurricane New Orleans, recommends shifting power to individual schools from the much-discredited central school administration. Control over budgets and hiring and firing would shift to principals.

The proposal was made by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, appointed by Mayor C. Ray Nagin last year to develop a blueprint for reconstruction. To be enacted, the plan would require the approval of the mayor, the governor and top state education officials.

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18 jan 2006

Houston says 20 percent of homicides linked to evacuees

06:00 PM CST on Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- The number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees linked to homicides in Houston more than doubled Wednesday after police double-checked records and updated numbers.

The latest figures show that at least 23 evacuees were either the victim or suspect in killings between September and December, when the city absorbed more than 150,000 displaced residents who have remained in the area since the hurricane.

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18 jan 2006

Does anybody happen to have an Everlasting Gobstopper handy?
Mayor Wonka and the Chocolate City
 

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Chris Rose

I wake up in the Chocolate City mad as hell.

It's like this: I'm supposed to be on vacation this week, cooling my heels, and then our mayor, Willy Wonka, loses his grip in public again and that's hardly headline news in and of itself, but this time he really lets one go.

I mean, he really gasses the place up, if you know what I mean. Now, how am I supposed to sit this one out?

First thing I do, I follow the mayor's lead and call Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, it takes a while to get through because he died in 1968 so he still has one of those avocado green rotary dial phones on his kitchen counter and no call-waiting.

As you might imagine, his line was pretty tied up Tuesday morning.

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18 jan 2006

What was Ray Nagin thinking when he spoke on MLK Day?  Some T-P and NOLA.com readers let Ray have it.

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17 jan 2006

As the recovery steps up, is the New Orleans area moving backward or forward? SENSE OF DIRECTION

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
By Coleman Warner
Staff writer

Urban historian Arnold Hirsch has studied New Orleans' cultural evolution, the intricate layers of its past. But he can't fathom what the city's future holds.

Many neighborhoods remain dark at night, working-class people are largely absent and too much trash remains on the street, he said. The University of New Orleans professor is dismayed at what he sees as race- and class-based resistance to FEMA trailer parks. And when Carnival arrives, those joining the scaled-down celebration may have wildly varying motives -- showing faith in the city or simply escaping its hard realities, he said.

"It's such an unprecedented situation -- we're really kind of feeling our way," Hirsch said. "We're groping in the dark."

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16 jan 2006

Watching and waiting

Times-Picayune Editorial
Monday, January 16, 2006

The Army Corps of Engineers promises that it will fix what Hurricane Katrina did to our levee system by June 1, in time to protect us from the storms of another season.

Getting the job done on time isn't enough to reassure metro area residents, though. Our faith in levees was betrayed last August. We need to know -- for certain -- that the quality of the repair job is beyond question, that these levees won't crumble because of inferior materials or flawed design.

Col. Lewis Setliff III, director of Task Force Guardian, says he understands that the corps is rebuilding public confidence along with the levees. "We know the world is watching us," he said. "There is no room for failure."

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16 jan 2006

Senator: Federal government hasn't done enough for Gulf Coast
1/16/2006, 1:25 p.m. CT
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has not done enough to help large swaths of the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, a key Republican senator said in a push for Congress to retain its focus on delivering aid in the new year.

Though lawmakers have approved $67 billion for Gulf Coast emergency relief and long-term recovery programs, and President Bush has called for an additional $1.5 billion to strengthen New Orleans levees, hard-hit areas in Mississippi and Louisiana need more federal resources and attention, said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

"I don't think the government has done enough," said Collins, who is leading a delegation of senators on Tuesday to Gulfport, Miss., and St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana — two areas that she said have been overlooked compared to New Orleans. Both areas were nearly obliterated by high wind during the Aug. 29 storm.

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16 jan 2006

Debate heats up over public housing in New Orleans

09:44 AM CST on Monday, January 16, 2006

Ben Lemoine / WWL-TV News Reporter

An overall lack of housing continues to haunt people in south Louisiana; some have said a simple solution would be to reopen more public housing developments that were shut down after Hurricane Katrina. But city officials said it's not that simple.

At a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King on Sunday, some blamed government officials for blocking off developments. Last year, Housing and Urban Development President Alphonse Jackson said the buildings would not be repaired, but instead redesigned into mixed-income units. Jackson gave no timeframe on when that would take place.

"I mean, we have tens of thousands of people in public housing. You are going to try to eliminate the poor in order to accommodate the rich,” said housing activist Jomo Kenyatta-Bean. “You can't just shut them out just like that. We are going to lose a large population of black people in this city.”

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16 jan 2006

Transcript of Mayor Ray Nagin's speech

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin gave this speech Monday during a program at City Hall commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.
I greet you all in the spirit of peace this morning. I greet you all in the spirit of love this morning, and more importantly, I greet you all in the spirit of unity. Because if we're unified, there's nothing we cannot do.

Now, I'm supposed to give some remarks this morning and talk about the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You know when I woke up early this morning, and I was reflecting upon what I could say that could be meaningful for this grand occasion. And then I decided to talk directly to Dr. King.

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16 jan 2006

Nagin: "Knuckleheads" to blame for parade triple shooting

01:11 PM CST on Monday, January 16, 2006

Associated Press

"Knuckleheads" are to blame for the shootings that wounded three people just after a parade organized to show unity and support for New Orleans' rebuilding, Mayor Ray Nagin said Monday at a Martin Luther King Day ceremony.

In the face of the devastation still remaining, four months after Hurricane Katrina hit, people still came together to have a float-less "second-line" parade and have a good time, Nagin said.

Framing his speech as a conversation in which he asked King's opinion about what has happened to New Orleans, Nagin said he told the slain civil rights leader: "And then knuckleheads pull out some guns and start firing into the crowd. And they injured three people."

"He said, `I definitely wouldn't like that,"' Nagin said.

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16 jan 2006

Three wounded in second-line shootings

Celebration in N.O. ends in gunfire
Monday, January 16, 2006
By Susan Finch
Staff writer

Three people were wounded by gunfire Sunday afternoon on Orleans Avenue after a second-line parade that attracted thousands of people, including hurricane-displaced residents who were back in town for a day of celebration.

Police were busy Sunday night trying to figure out what prompted the shootings, which broke out at least twice between Claiborne Avenue and Broad Street, the end point of a procession that started in front of the Backstreet Cultural Museum on St. Claude Avenue. One onlooker said there were two gunmen.

The parade ended about 4 p.m., and shortly afterward police officers patrolling the parade route heard gunfire. They first found a 34-year-old man with multiple wounds at Orleans and Dorgenois Street, police spokesman Gary Flot said.

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15 jan 2006

STOP AND GO

More than half the city's stoplights are still broken, and for drivers, relief is at least six months away
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By Brian Thevenot
Staff writer

More than four months after Hurricane Katrina, fewer than half the 450 traffic lights in New Orleans are working, creating herky-jerky commutes across a stop-sign-dotted city and a daily reminder of the long wait for even basic services.

What's more, city and state officials said, it will be at least another six months before all of the city's traffic signals are back on. Just one of five state projects to fix the damaged lights has been awarded to a private contractor, with the other four still in the bidding process, according to state Department of Transportation and Development officials.

The one project awarded, to Toomer Electric of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, will fix 35 of the 170 most severely damaged traffic signals at a cost of $2.5 million. In all, the repairs are expected to cost about $25 million, city public works officials said.

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15 jan 2006

Engineers race to fix levees five months before storm season

11:10 AM CST on Saturday, January 14, 2006

By MATT CRENSON / Associated Press

In New Orleans, the apocalyptic clock is ticking — again.

Ravaged last year by one hurricane and slapped by the fringes of another, the city faces a 2006 storm season that begins in less than five months — not much time to repair the tattered ramparts that keep New Orleans from being swallowed by the sea.

This year's hurricane season begins June 1. By that date, the U.S. Corps of Engineers expects to have the Crescent City's levees restored to pre-Katrina condition.

The job is massive. It will take about 4 million cubic yards of fill — a nearly Superdome-sized pile — to repair the 170 miles of levee destroyed or damaged by Katrina.

"So far we're on schedule and we're doing pretty good," said Col. Lewis Setliff, the leader of the repair effort.

There are many who fear that may not be good enough.

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15 jan 2006
New flood maps will likely steer rebuilding

But FEMA says it's still too soon to guess what they will look like
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By Gordon Russell and James Varney
Staff writers

The new federal flood maps for New Orleans scheduled to be released this year will provide critical information for residents trying to decide whether -- or how high -- to rebuild their damaged homes, members of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission say.

The maps also could drive new building codes and standards that try to minimize future flood damage, should city leaders decide to adopt them quickly.

For those reasons, one of the key recommendations of the commission's land use panel was to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which draws the maps, to release preliminary versions within 30 days.

But that's unlikely to occur, something Joe Canizaro, chairman of the BNOB's land use committee, conceded shortly after the panel issued its report Wednesday.

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15 jan 2006
A responsible plan (Times-Picayune Editorial)

Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans' landscape in ways that would have been unimaginable to most of us before the storm washed over the city.

With so many houses in ruins and so many residents scattered across the country, it is unrealistic to expect the city to be rebuilt exactly as it was. Not every resident will come back. Not every home can be saved. That doesn't have to mean that New Orleans becomes a lesser version of itself. The city can be rebuilt with the same charm. It can retain the qualities that are so important to its residents: devotion to neighborhood, connection to history, reverence for tradition.

But that will not happen spontaneously. Without a practical, clear-eyed plan, some homeowners could find themselves alone amid blocks of rubble and blight.

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14 jan 2006
Editorial

Hard Decisions for New Orleans

It would be nice to believe that New Orleans could be made whole, exactly as it was before Hurricane Katrina devastated it. But that kind of wishful thinking, apparently prevalent among some New Orleanians and encouraged by some city leaders, will only stymie the reconstruction process. The nation cannot rebuild everywhere in New Orleans, nor should it.

The city's rebuilding commission took an important step this week when it recommended that only the areas that could muster sufficient population should be rebuilt. Not surprisingly, that announcement drew the ire of residents of some neighborhoods where generations have lived on the same plots of land. While that is an ideal that should be protected wherever possible, it cannot define the rebuilding process.

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14 jan 2006
Engineers Race to Fix New Orleans Levees

Filed at 12:39 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- In New Orleans, the apocalyptic clock is ticking -- again. Ravaged last year by one hurricane and slapped by the fringes of another, the city faces a 2006 storm season that begins in less than five months -- not much time to repair the tattered ramparts that keep New Orleans from being swallowed by the sea.

This year's hurricane season begins June 1. By that date, the U.S. Corps of Engineers expects to have the Crescent City's levees restored to pre-Katrina condition.

The job is massive. It will take about 4 million cubic yards of fill -- a nearly Superdome-sized pile -- to repair the 170 miles of levee destroyed or damaged by Katrina.

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13 jan 2006
New Orleans Schoolgirls Have a Message for the President

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 12 - It was not exactly a protest, but it was pretty pointed nonetheless. As President Bush hustled through town Thursday morning, the proper young ladies of the Academy of the Sacred Heart were in Jackson Square, wearing life jackets over their plaid-skirt uniforms, and politely but firmly demanding better levees.

"Do what it takes, do what it takes!" more than 200 of the high school girls chanted, many holding aloft signs reading "Category 5 Levees and Coastal Restoration" and "Party Affiliation: Louisianian." Cars passing through the French Quarter honked in support.

The girls of the academy, a stately, turn-of-the-century institution in the Uptown neighborhood, do not normally forsake the school's ornate high iron gates for the streets. And school officials were at pains to emphasize that they were not protesting anything, and that politics had nothing to do with it. Mr. Bush won a mock election at the school handily, they said.

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13 jan 2006
In New Orleans, Bush Speaks With Optimism but Sees Little of Ruin

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 12 - President Bush made his first trip here in three months on Thursday and declared that New Orleans was "a heck of a place to bring your family" and that it had "some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun."

Mr. Bush spent his brief visit in a meeting with political and business leaders on the edge of the Garden District, the grand neighborhood largely untouched by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, and saw little devastation. He did not go into the city's hardest-hit areas or to Jackson Square, where several hundred girls from the Academy of the Sacred Heart staged a protest demanding stronger levees.

Mr. Bush's motorcade did pass some abandoned neighborhoods as it traveled on Interstate 10 into the city.

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11 jan 2006
New Orleans Panel Begins Releasing Recovery Proposals

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 11 - The commission devising a blueprint to reconstruct the city proposed today a complete reorganization of the troubled school system, the elimination of a 76-mile shipping channel that was a prime cause of flooding after Hurricane Katrina, and the formation of a recovery corporation that would have the power to buy and sell property for redevelopment.

At other public meetings this week, the commission also plans to call on the city to create an economic development corporation fashioned after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which New York created to oversee the downtown rebuilding effort after Sept. 11, 2001.

"We believe the devastation is so great that you need a single independent organization to help coordinate with all the entities involved," Doug Ahlers, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard who has been working with the commission's economic development committee, said today.

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8 jan 2006
All Parts of New Orleans Included in Rebuilding Plan

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 7 - The city's official blueprint for redevelopment after Hurricane Katrina, to be released on Wednesday, will recommend that residents be allowed to return and rebuild anywhere they like, no matter how damaged or vulnerable the neighborhood, according to several members of the mayor's rebuilding commission.

The proposal appears to put the city's rebuilding panel on a collision course with its state counterpart, which will control at least some of the flow of federal rebuilding money to the city.

The primary author of the plan, Joseph C. Canizaro, said teams of outside experts would try to help residents of each neighborhood decide whether to rebuild or relocate. Those teams would help increase the odds of success for those residents who decided to return, Mr. Canizaro said.

The commission will propose that the city should discourage homeowners from rebuilding in the hardest hit areas until a plan can be hammered out, but will not forbid them from doing so.

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5 jan 2006
A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans

BATON ROUGE, La. - Into the void of the post-Katrina policy landscape, littered with half-ruined proposals, crumbling prescriptions and washed-out initiatives, an obscure and very conservative congressman has stepped in with the ultimate big government solution.

Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from suburban Baton Rouge who derides Democrats for not being sufficiently free-market, is the unlikely champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans - for a while, at least. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.

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21 dec 2005
New Orleans Wonders What to Do With Open Wounds, Its Canals

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 16 - It was the canals that betrayed this city, but they never left the scene of the crime. The fingers of water that overflowed sit there like open wounds, and many residents and engineers would prefer never to see them again.

"Those canals are like knife cuts into a person," Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Hurricane Center at Louisiana State University, said. "They're just waiting to fester."

The Bush administration agreed last week to pay for gates to cut off the three main drainage canals from Lake Pontchartrain, the source of the storm water that pushed into the canals and then into thousands of houses.

Many here say the gates will be inadequate as long as the canals remain. Either way, it is clear that repairing the canals has become a linchpin of any plan to move the city forward.

Read more...

19 dec 2005
Louisiana's Deadly Storm Took Strong as Well as the Helpless

By SHAILA DEWAN and JANET ROBERTS
NEW ORLEANS - More than 100 of them drowned. Sixteen died trapped in attics. More than 40 died of heart failure or respiratory problems, including running out of oxygen. At least 65 died because help - shelter, water or a simple dose of insulin - came too late.

A study by The New York Times of more than 260 Louisianans who died during Hurricane Katrina or its aftermath found that almost all survived the height of the storm but died in the chaos and flooding that followed.

Of those who failed to heed evacuation orders, many were offered a ride or could have driven themselves out of danger - a finding that contrasts with earlier reports that victims were trapped by a lack of transportation. Most victims were 65 or older, but of those below that age, more than a quarter were ill or disabled.

Read more...

13 dec 2005
Political Willfulness

New Orleans Is Not Ready to Think Small, or Even Medium

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
NEW ORLEANS

THREE more bodies were found here last week, hidden away in forsaken homes where mold had crawled over the walls in a Jackson Pollock splatter. One hundred days after the hurricane, these belated discoveries seem to be one more sign of how far New Orleans has fallen. Even the dead are not yet at peace.

But if the listless recovery has raised doubts about whether the city can reclaim its former self anytime soon, the political culture here won't listen to them. It has become almost taboo to discuss any proposal more modest than an immediate and total rebuilding: for example, directing the money and energy toward getting less-damaged neighborhoods up and running.

Read more...

11 dec 2005
December 11, 2005
Editorial

Death of an American City

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

Read more...

8 dec 2005
Evidence points to man-made disaster

Human mistakes led to N.O. levee breaches
Thursday, December 08, 2005
By John McQuaid, Bob Marshall
and Mark Schleifstein Staff writers

As investigators and residents have picked through the battered New Orleans levee system's breaches, churned-up soil and bent sheet pile in the 100 days since Hurricane Katrina struck, they have uncovered mounting evidence that human error played a major role in the flood that devastated the city. Floodwall breaches linked to design flaws inundated parts of the city that otherwise would have stayed dry, turning neighborhoods into death traps and causing massive damage. In other areas, poorly engineered gaps and erosion of weak construction materials accelerated and deepened flooding already under way, hampering rescue efforts in the wake of the storm.

These problems turned an already deadly disaster into a wider man-made catastrophe and have made rebuilding and resettlement into far tougher and more expensive challenges.

Read more...

5 dec 2005
N.O. levee inspections fell short of federal mandate

Other engineers incredulous at haphazard examinations
Monday, December 05, 2005
By Bob Marshall
Staff writer

Before Hurricane Katrina, levee inspections in New Orleans were so superficial that one engineer who used to work for the Army Corps of Engineers said he conducted more diligent inspections on Florida levees that protected cattle.

Engineers familiar with proper levee inspection routines across the country said the annual tours of New Orleans' vital hurricane protection levees -- described by critics as cursory drive-bys more about fellowship and lunch than looking for problems -- sounded nothing like the serious geotechnical investigations conducted in other places.

Read more...

4 dec 2005
A SISTER CITY FLOURISHES

After Hurricane Hugo ravaged Charleston, the historic city demonstrated that a city can prosper if it takes care to keep its charm as it rebuilds
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
By Elizabeth Mullener
Staff writer

Jeffrey Rosenblum had a mess on his hands after Hurricane Hugo tore through Charleston, S.C., in September 1989. He had lost a lot of trees, including one that went right through his roof, wreaking havoc inside.

But he got hold of a generator, so he had air conditioning, television and a fridge. And he got a tarp for his roof so he kept dry. He moved back in and went about his business.

An architect, Rosenblum's practice was hectic in the hurricane's aftermath and, in the fashion of the cobbler's children, he put the repairs to his own house on hold. When his insurance adjuster came by for the first time, Rosenblum told him that he hadn't yet assessed the damage and the man said fine and told him to contact the company when he had.

Read more...

3 nov 2005
Brick housing biting the dust
 
New homes planned for poor, HUD says
Thursday, November 03, 2005
By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer

Public housing as New Orleans knew it before Hurricane Katrina is over, the nation's top federal housing official said Wednesday, promising that rebuilt developments will not isolate the poor in the tall, brick complexes that were home to thousands of families forced to evacuate as floodwater rose.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development will spend more than $1.8 billion on public housing along the Gulf Coast, particularly in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, starting with the demolition of a long-troubled Central City complex, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said.

But what is rebuilt in its place will be different, he said.

Read more...

3 nov 2005
Levees' Construction Faulted In New Orleans Flood Inquiry

Contractors' Misdeeds May Have Led to Breaches, Panel Is Told

By Joby Warrick and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 3, 2005; A03

Investigators yesterday added a possible new explanation for some of the flooding that devastated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: contractors who may have skimped on construction materials in building the city's floodwalls and levees.

Experts probing the cause of the flooding have received at least a dozen allegations of major cheating by builders and possibly others involved in levee construction, two investigators said in testimony before a Senate panel. They said these were potentially criminal acts that may well have contributed to the collapse of the city's flood-control system on Aug. 29.

Read more...

27 oct 2005
DEFLATED

Katrina's debris-strewn streets produce stray nails, flat tires and plenty of exasperation
Thursday, October 27, 2005

By Manuel Torres

St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau

Certainties are few in post-Katrina south Louisiana. But drive around and you may run into what seems to be one of the few sure things left: Getting a flat tire.

With enough debris around town to fill up 12 Superdomes, much of it is ending up lodged in tires, leaving motorists fuming and keeping tire shops busy with repairs that more than double pre-Katrina volumes.

Read more...

23 oct 2005
SHRINKING CITY

No one disputes that Katrina will reduce the population of the New Orleans area, but just how much is unclear
Sunday, October 23, 2005
By Kate Moran
East Jefferson bureau

As residents stream back into New Orleans and its suburbs, the question that rolls off every tongue -- right after "How'd you do in the storm?" -- is whether far-flung friends and neighbors also will return or whether the region has been permanently shrunk in the wash.

Mayor Ray Nagin predicted a month ago that New Orleans would be reborn as a city of 250,000 people, about half its pre-Hurricane Katrina population, and interviews with a dozen scholars last week also paint a picture of a city considerably less populous than in its antediluvian days.

Read more...

23 oct 2005
WHERE THEY DIED

When it came to choosing its victims, Hurricane Katrina spared few neighborhoods. In fact, Gentilly and the lakefront may have suffered as many deaths as the Lower 9th.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
By Coleman Warner
and Robert Travis Scott Staff Writers

Although Hurricane Katrina's deaths are widely believed to have been concentrated in the Lower 9th Ward and eastern New Orleans, new estimates show large numbers of bodies were found in a swath from the Industrial Canal to the 17th Street Canal.

And more than a few people died in Mid-City, Central City and Uptown.

Read more...

23 oct 2005
Groceries rise from rubble

Stores aim to serve areas rebounding after Katrina
Sunday, October 23, 2005
By Ronette King
Business writer

If you didn't know better, the Winn-Dixie store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard seems ordinary. There's fall foliage in the floral department, piles of Granny Smith apples in the produce coolers and a table piled high with Christmas toys.

But if you look again, you'll see these are not ordinary times. There's a curiously high number of men in workboots loading up on bottled water in the early morning. There's a 10-foot-high pile of rubbish at the end of West End Boulevard as homeowners return to clear their flood-ravaged Lakeview homes. And there's often a line of shoppers at every register.

Read more...
18 oct 2005
Critic's Notebook

New Orleans Reborn: Theme Park vs. Cookie Cutter

NEW ORLEANS - Optimism is in short supply here. And as people begin to sift through the wreckage left by Hurricane Katrina, there is a creeping sense that the final blow has yet to be struck - one that will irrevocably blot out the city's past.

The first premonition arose when Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced that the model for rebirth would be a pseudo-suburban development in the Lower Garden District called River Garden. The very suggestion alarmed preservationists, who pictured the remaking of historic neighborhoods into soulless subdivisions served by big-box stores.


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14 oct 2005
Investigation into levee failure uncovers culprit

By John McQuaid
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - Soil tests indicate that a soft, spongy layer of swamp peat underneath the 17th Street canal floodwall was the weak point that caused soil to move and the wall to breach during Hurricane Katrina, an engineer who has studied the data says.

"The thing that is remarkable here is the very low strength of the soils around the bottom of the sheet pile" base of the floodwall, said Robert Bea, a geotechnical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who examined the test results. Bea is a member of the National Science Foundation team that is studying the levee system's performance during Katrina.

Read more...
15 oct 2005
The Cleanup

In New Orleans, the Trashman Will Have to Move Mountains

By JENNIFER MEDINA
NEW ORLEANS - On one front lawn, a two-foot-high pile of garbage takes the place of a hedge. A rusting mattress lies next to a bottle of cleaning fluid and a television set. The stench of paint combined with weeks-old food is choking. Flies hover over the whole thing, zeroing in on a handful of chocolate eggs.

This is just one pile. There are thousands upon thousands of others, totaling 22 million tons of waste. They have baked in the swampy heat for weeks now, making this city look and smell like a landfill.

Read more...

3 oct 2005
washingtonpost.com
 
9th Ward: History, Yes, but a Future?
Race and Class Frame Debate on Rebuilding New Orleans District
 

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 3, 2005; A01

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 2 -- No one here wants to say it aloud, but one day soon the bulldozers will come, shoving away big hunks of a neighborhood known for its poverty and its artists, its bad luck and its bounce-back resilience.

It is likely to be the largest demolition of a community in modern U.S. history -- destruction begun by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and finished by heavy machinery. On Saturday, firefighters put red tags on hundreds of homes deemed "unsafe," the first step in a wrenching debate over whether the Lower Ninth Ward should be rebuilt or whether, as some suggest, it should revert to its natural state: swamp. 

Read more...

26 sept 2005

Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated

6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center


By Brian Thevenot
and Gordon Russell
Staff writers


After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Read more...
 
 
 



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