Friday, February 10, 2006


Katrina death toll may never be known

This is a pretty good read from the Houston Chronicle.

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly six months after Hurricane Katrina, more than 1,300 bodies have been found, but the real death toll is clearly higher. How much higher, no one can say with any certainty.
Cataldie noted that coffins, disgorged from the earth by the floodwaters, have been found great distances from their graveyards, and "if we have coffins that have washed 30 miles away, I can assure you there are people who have."

Full story here


Bush crony tries to cover incompetence by shifting blame

Might he be playing the blame game? Seriously, should we believe that this guy warned the president about impending disaster before the storm, when he seemed unaware of the magnitude of the damage after the storm?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former federal disaster chief Michael Brown told a Senate panel on Friday he had warned President George W. Bush that New Orleans was facing catastrophe the day before Hurricane Katrina struck.
Brown said he warned top administration officials on the call that a disaster was looming and that the government should go on top alert and cut through red tape in its response. "I knew in my gut this was the bad one," he said
He said he believed he had had a good relationship with Bush, but added: "Unfortunately he called me "Brownie" at the wrong time. Thanks a lot sir," he said, to laughter.
Brown said he had not sought to brief Chertoff directly because it would have "wasted my time."
Utah Republican Sen. Robert Bennett responded: "That is a staggering statement. It demonstrates a dysfunctional department to a degree far greater than any we have seen."

Full story here


New favorite photo from the aftermath

(Photo by Vincent Laforet/The New York Times)

This barge is sitting in the lower 9th ward, you can see the water rushing over the levee into the neighborhood. The place where it changes from turbulent to placid is the levee which has breached, destroying this neighborhood. It's amazing to see, and something that no picture can accurately convey.


"There's going to be some letting go, but sometimes we have to let go to go forward."

The above quote is from Rev. Michael P. Jacques, pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, regarding The Archdiocese of New Orleans and its closing 7 of its parishes, temporarially merging about 20, and consolodating or changing many of its 107 schools. This is going to be a tough step for many New Orleanians, but like the other changes that are currently being discussed this will be a positive for the long-term health of the Catholic Church in New Orleans.

There has been a lot of media coverage of this story today, you can read about it in the NYTimes or in the Times-Picayune.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Sheriff, Judicial consolidation bill through State House

This is going to be controversial, but I think it is extremely important that we take advantage of the opportunity that Katrina has presented us to streamline some old school systems in town. This article points out some perfect examples. I don't believe other cities have separate Civil and Criminal court systems, which require their own staff, buildings, etc. This is a no-brainer, and they should be consolidated. Same with the sherriff departments (which is different from the NOPD). Criminal Sheriffs run the city jail, and Civil Sheriffs provide support to the civil district court. There's no reason that those offices can't be combined, providing us with some savings in tax dollars.

The next big combinations that are down the pipe a ways are combining the seven elected assesors for Orleans parish, and of course consolidating the levee boards.

Katrina disaster seen as chance to fix New Orleans bureaucracy


Good reads for a Thursday

If you've got some time, check out these two articles in major publications across the country.

First, is from the Chicago Tribune, about the disparity in recovery speed, that the article attributes to wealth and race. That is somewhat true, I think it is more due to geography than anything, but the simple fact that wealthier people have the resources to rebuild without waiting on a government grant is a big advantage.

Second, a good piece from the Washington Post, calling us "Limbo Land". A most interesting quote from the article:

Mayor C. Ray Nagin has also been wrestling with ways to break the bureaucratic logjams that he says are preventing New Orleans from rebuilding. He recently met with officials from foreign countries, including France and Jordan, looking for help. "We had a little disappointment earlier from some signals that we're getting from Washington," Nagin told a local television station, "but the international community may be able to fill the gap."

Now, go read.

Chicago Tribune's article or Washington Post article


Office space in New Orleans for businesses in need

Sorry to post the whole thing, but this was an e-mail release...

BATON ROUGE, LA. - Louisiana Economic Development (LED) has teamed up with Louisiana Technology Council (LTC) to develop a business recovery and office incubator center for Greater New Orleans small businesses hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. The center will serve as temporary office space for displaced businesses and is equipped with donations from the Pittsburgh Technology Council (15 laptop computers), Cox Business Services (high-speed internet and phone service) and Waldemar S. Nelson Company (office furnishings).

The center can accommodate up to 13 companies in its 1,500-square-foot space located next to the LTC at 1215 Prytania Street, Suite 329, in New Orleans and is available now.. Each company located at the center will pay a small fee for the space and services provided. The LTC also expects to provide tech support and business-growth services to participants.

"Ninety percent of Louisiana's businesses are small businesses," said LED Secretary Michael Olivier. "For those affected by the hurricanes, getting back on their feet is both a challenge and an opportunity. By supporting existing companies and helping develop new ones, we expect this center to contribute to sustaining and creating high-quality opportunities for New Orleans area tech sector entrepreneurs."

Mark Lewis, president of the LTC says, "We are very pleased to join efforts with LED on this initiative. We are committed to developing the technology industry to its fullest while at the same time helping other businesses with their needs." As time goes on, the center will be transformed to a business incubator to foster commercialization of technology ideas developed in Louisiana, according to Lewis.

The LTC Center is part of an LED-supported Business Counseling Center network with locations in Baton Rouge, Houma/Thibodeaux, Lake Charles and Greater New Orleans. In most centers, multiple partners combine to offer comprehensive services, including one-on-one sustainable business planning assistance and recovery information.

Anyone interested in the Louisiana Technology Council Center should contact Lee Pryor at 504-304-2912 or

The mission of Louisiana Economic Development is to provide excellence in leadership, policy and programs to create a business climate enabling public-private linkages, which result in capital investment, a diversified economic base and quality job opportunities for all Louisiana citizens. For more information, visit


Details of FEMA study released

None of this is surprising anymore....

The 2005 study by the Mitre Corp., obtained by CNN, warned of unclear lines of communication within FEMA; a dearth of top-level emergency management expertise; low morale; and a lack of manpower, training and money.
Among the comments in the report:

"No one's in charge. Everybody's in charge."

"The political appointees don't understand business, can't made [sic] policy decisions, and are driven by politics and the latest news clips."

"If the White House asks, 'Where are the water trucks?' I can't tell them."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Pictures of Katrina Bead


Katrina, the bead

Would you want to catch one of these??? Seriously, I would like anybody's opinion on this one. I'm not sure it's something that people would like, yet it might be an interesting keepsake. Thoughts???

GULFPORT - Manny Peixoto, owner of Mardi Gras Supplies in Gulfport, is quick to admit that he very nearly put the kibosh on a unique Carnival trinket, one that thus far is his best seller in 2006.

"When Rebekah (Musgrove, manager of the Pass Road store) came to me, I said, 'No, we've got enough beads,' but she kept on, and I finally said, 'OK, do what you want.'

What she wanted was to send along a Hurricane Katrina bead design to manufacturers in China. The product of her creativity is a 42-inch strand of shiny blue-green beads punctuated by a pair of comma-shaped hurricane emblems in red, green and gold. The center pendant shows a third "hurricane" coming ashore along the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The words "Hurricane Katrina," the landfall date, "08/29/05" and abbreviations of state names are in raised letters and numbers across the face of the pendant.

More here

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


First Official Mardi Gras Sponsor

Just announced on the news, and I'm not making it up....

UPDATE - full article from T-P here


Operation Photo Rescue

It's pretty great to see people of all walks of life using their unique talents to assist those who have lost so much. This is about a group of photographers and photo editors who are volunteering to work at restoring people's photos, which in talking to my co-workers who lost everything, are the things that they are saddest about...

Two staffers from The Free Lance-Star in Virginia spent nearly a week in Mississippi restoring residents' photos that were damaged during Hurricane Katrina - at no charge.

Photographer Rebecca Sell and Dave Ellis, the newspaper's photo assignment editor, set up a drop-off point at the temporary library in Pass Christian, Miss., and cleaned up pictures that could be saved, made digital copies and hand-restored photos back to their grateful owners.

Full story here

Monday, February 06, 2006


Mignon Faget thrives post-Katrina

An interesting piece if you're into her stuff. My favorite quote (filed under learning something new everyday)

"We read on the Internet that the fleur-de-lis was born from the tears of Eve when she was driven from the Garden of Eden," she said. "We decided this city is our own personal Garden of Eden."

Full article here


The world could use more people like this

There's no room in New Orleans for donated clothes or other personal goods, but please send more trucks like this one, and volunteers to help out!

A crew of volunteer builders returned to the metro after a week in hurricane damaged Louisiana. A team of 58 people gave their time and energy, repairing homes in a small community just north of New Orleans. Last week, the group loaded up a semi truck full of donated supplies. Their mission was to fix roofs damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

More here

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Once again, our legislators do us a disservice

Source article here

I'm pretty upset by this, because we can only blame ourselves for not receiving greater federal funding. First, there was the big $250Billion bill that was proposed by Landrieu & Vitter that was laughed away once the Washington Post reviewed the bill and pointed out the ridiculous requests that were included. Now, we have the failing of our legislators to get the Baker Bill through, and this looks mostly because we are inflating the numbers of damaged houses in the Katrina affected area. Take a look at this passage from today's T-P:

The latest federal estimate is that 167,000 homes across the state were damaged during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita , Arrington said, about 45,000 fewer than the state's most recent estimate. The number includes homes with minor problems to houses that were destroyed during the storms. It appears that the state numbers included severely damaged rental units along with the owner-occupied homes that have been the focus of most bailout discussions.

The fact that we came in 45,000 houses over the federal estimate, and that we haven't worked together to resolve any disputes on what the actual number is, is a failing of our elected officials. There's no excuse for that.

There's been a lot of talk about the Community Block Grants, that we have $6.2Billion to distribute there, and probably another $1.5Billion in Hazard Mitigation dollars that will cover buyouts and other projects intended to prevent future damage. We can't just blanket this money over every homeowner, there's just not enough. This should be focused, and I like Mel Lagarde's ideas below:

While the group has not zeroed in on specific numbers, Chairman Mel Lagarde said the operating theory is that homeowners in "nonrecovery neighborhoods" would be eligible for more generous buyouts than those offered in areas expected to rebound. There is also talk of offering grants to homeowners who want to rebuild their damaged houses, as long as they are in areas expected to flourish.

The one state elected official that consistently impresses me is treasurer John Kennedy. This guy is sharp, and always seems to come up with pragmatic solutions to difficult issues. If we don't come up with the federal dollars that we need, it's going to take more ideas like his to help our state in the long run:

Treasurer John Kennedy has suggested refinancing some of the state debt using tobacco settlement funds, which could potentially raise about $1.6 billion over five years.

Interesting stats about the federal estimates:

Out of the 167,000 figure, the federal government estimates that there were 20,000 homes outside the flood plain that lacked flood insurance, while another 17,000 homes outside the flood zone had some flood coverage.

Inside the flood plain, a total of 90,000 homes had flood insurance, according to the estimate. About 40,000 homes inside this zone weren't covered, with 20,000 lacking flood insurance and another 20,000 lacking any insurance coverage, Arrington said.

Powell's staff emphasized that the numbers are critical because they show that 64 percent of houses will be covered for at least some of their flood losses. Powell has said repeatedly that people outside the flood plain who did not have flood coverage are the most deserving of assistance, with his latest evaluation of the type of damage to those houses showing that they could be helped for about $1 billion, leaving at least another $5 billion that could be spent on assistance to other homeowners.

(Note: Be careful of federal claims that they have spent $85 Billion on recovery efforts already, this inflated number includes flood insurance expected payouts: "The White House has estimated the federal government has provided at least $18 billion more in flood insurance and other assistance." As my compatriots in the blogsphere have noted, I didn't realize that paying claims was optional.)

I don't like the government's idea of giving the grant money to homes outside of the FEMA flood plain more money than others, it's just ridiculous. If this is going to be an argument about having flood insurance or not, let's make it just that. Help the people who had insurance, don't help the others. There were flood events in 24 states last year according to the FMEA website. I'm sure that many of them did not have flood insurance, and were probably not the benefactors of such a generous program as the community block grant that Powell is proposing.

Another issue that is often lacking in discussion is the whole reason that flood insurance is a federal program in the first place. It is expensive! If insurers thought they could make money writing it on their own, they would. Guess what? They can't. It's a behemoth of a risk, because houses don't flood one at a time, they flood one neighborhood or city at a time. The average homeowner's claim in the area is currently around $10,000, the average flood claim is over $100,000. Homeowners don't pay the premiums that are necessary to support this program, and it is just going to get worse, in light of paying for federal recovery programs here. From all that I have seen, flood insurance rates haven't gone up, but they probably need to, and are very likely to.

That's enough ranting for today, or for now at least.


Quick Hits - busy weekend edition

It's just going to get busier through Mardi Gras, I'm sure.

Mardi Gras still unsponsored (I do think this is temporary, though. From what I understand, a lot of this is still in negotiation.)

When all else fails, extort money from the hotel that has been housing you.

Katrina fails to blow away one man's dream to own a coffee shop


Little things have huge impacts

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 during Hurricane Katrina, National Science Foundation investigators say.

A cross-section drawing in the project design documents shows a weak layer of peaty soils 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.

More here

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