It was this week 4 years ago that hundreds of thousands of human beings in the American city of New Orleans were left stranded as the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina rose all around them. It was this week, 4 years ago, that the truth about the lack of plan and the blatant incompetence of a government became clear. And having been born in a country, as well as a world, that has such a narrow and limited understanding of history, it is this week, 4 years later, that I reflect on a great crime committed against hundreds of thousands of people, many who died, and still more who have never really recovered from what took place in New Orleans.
In 2007, thanks to a bit of help from a supporter of this program, I went down to the Gulf Coast and visited with relief workers in New Orleans. Among the things I reported on, how people’s houses were being stolen from them.
In the coming days Ill be looking back at the podcasts I recorded during my journey, following the path of destruction and broken promises. After that, it is also important to get back to the present, as the situation has not been resolved, and the Federal Flood continues to make its victims suffer.
“If the Corps didn’t do its job, somebody should be held responsible. Somebody’s got to answer to something.” – The words of a former Lower Ninth Ward resident who lost a daughter to the flood waters that would swallow up his entire house.
The lawsuit filed by New Orleans based Katrina victims against the Army Corps of Engineers has begun, the slow quest for answers and accountability all these years later, has finally landed in the courtroom. The specific grievance, the Army Corps’ failure to maintain the MR-GO channel who’s 20 breaches were largely the cause of flooding in the lower ninth ward following Hurricane Katrina.? Between 10 billion and 100 billion $ in damages hang in the balance, but well beyond the money, for victims of the federal flood, this case is about holding government accountable, and breaking the long held assumption that the Army Corps is immune from any legal action for their actions.
One year ago this week I was in NOLA, heading down the Gulf Coast seeing how people were dealing with the damage and neglect of the Federal Flood. Here’s an excerpt from one of the posts on the subject of housing in New Orleans,
It was probably my second day in New Orleans and I decided to go visit the common ground legal clinic. I had heard they were providing free legal advice and a mini computer lab for local residents who want to get informed about their rights and perhaps how to manage property issues that have emerged after Katrina. After some nice emailing with one of the spokespeople… I figured going there would be an interesting experience.
As usual I drove around in circles, distracted every five minutes by another neighborhood of abandoned or destroyed houses. Eventually I found the legal clinic on a very lovely and typical new orleans street with the nice trees growing in the middle island that people seem to refer to as neutral territory. A large house with a dry cleaners on the ground floor, as I pulled up I could already see lots of people hanging out using their computers… I knew I had come to the right place.
Fast forward an hour or so, I’m sitting on the front porch sharing a little plastic table with a pretty young lady on her laptop, both of us typing away franticly.
At some point I strike up a conversation. She’s a law student from Seattle… as are many of the volunteers at the legal clinic. They come down in waves whenever they can, and right now it was spring break. When I asked her what tasks she was working on, she held up a stack of photocopied newspaper pages.
“You see these… they look like classified ads don’t they? These are printed in the big local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, everyday. Thing is, they’re not classified ads, they notices of properties that are considered abandoned, warning people that they will be evicted from their property if they don’t do something about it.”
I looked at the tiny print and the neverending list of properties, each one representing a life, or probably a family. Looking up at the young law student, I asked if this was legal?
Long overdue part 2 of the talk I gave at the Chaos Communication Camp over the summer, topic is of course Rebellious Communication and the Federal Flood. This part is about housing in New Orleans and my experience exploring this topic first-hand.
If you want to watch part 1, which I put out in December, here is the link. Of course you can learn more about the wonderful camp at the CCC website.
A recent court ruling may have dropped the case against the army corps of engineers, but it also pointed to them as responsible for the terrible state of the levees in New Orleans before the Federal Flood. Sandy Rosenthal, founder of levees.org joins me on this program to explain what is happening with the legislative and legal battles being fought in the quest for justice and accountability in NOLA.
Making the rounds on several of my favorite NOLA bloggers, I was especially captivated by Ray’s post a few days ago on a specific house that several bloggers had helped to gut. He featured a video which I wanted to include on my blog as well. Its 8 minutes or so long and contains the first visit to the house after the storm and you see the very grim pictures as they remove everything from the house that no doubt looks nothing like it did before the storm.
I recommend you read Ray’s entire post, the struggle and the pain continues down in the Big Easy.