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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  August 26, 2015 12:00am-2:01am EDT

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year after katrina, is now home to less than 50% of its population prior to the storm. a c-span video journalist traveled in august to take a look at recovery efforts in communities where some of the worst flooding occurred, the lower ninth ward where the industrial canal wall breached, the gentilly districts where the london canal street flooded, and the like you district where the walls did not help -- hold up. we talked with local citizens and officials about what is being done one year after katrina. i really should've gone out of town at some point. psychologists were recommending, you need to get out of town. once a month, get out of town. see friends. you've got to get away from this. it is bad for your stress level. >> we start our program with sue sperry of the preservation resource center, the organization working on preservation that preserving new orleans historic districts.
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the seventh ward. in new orleans. it is behind tremaine, behind the historic district. itis not historically district itself. even though there are historic homes here. this is where we are at a year after the storm. the houses, 5-6 feet. these houses were built in the traditional style. maybe not raised enough. this style of home is double shotgun.
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what is great about these homes as far as being built for this environment is they are raised. they can't be ventilated. they have windows and doors and all sides. good for air circulation. construction is what is the best thing about it. they have cyprus framing, and it's the old river cyprus that grows in water. it doesn't get flood damaged. many of these people have hard pine floors, which straighten out just fine. you see there is a big mix of homes, old and new. >> is this a predominantly african-american neighborhood? >> predominantly. for the most part. it reflects the city's balance, i would say.
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this might be the street. but, you see, you don't know. here is the high watermark on that home. you see the grade is a little bit higher and it is raised a little bit. when you see these high watermarks, it is standing water. and the water wasn't nice, fresh bottled water type of water. the water was from canals. here is an example of a home that can dry out just fine. you can see it is structurally sound. it is raised up. mold is something that everybody fears but mold doesn't really kill you. mold it's on paper, certain organic angst. but once it is dry, it dies. once it dies, it's not going to hurt you. the problem in this neighborhood, which is typical of so many new orleans neighborhoods is that people didn't have flood insurance or they were underinsured. this type of insurance is very, very expensive.
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the people that live in this house -- people that live in this house, they bought this house 50 years ago. they lived in it for 50 years. it is paid for. the man is a retired maître d'. the people that you rely on for every day who give their lives to serve others and they didn't deserve to have what happened to them happen. in fact, we got there home back together before the trailer could be hooked up. so we beat fema. don't need this trailer. they are back in their home. i hate to drop in on them, but
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we might. reporter: in your neighborhood, how many people have come back? you are the only once? >> it's hard to get a telephone. my son just called me. it is three month before he can get a telephone, a house telephone. they have the kids. it's quite to be three months before we can get a phone. but they wanted to give me a phone. it was $30 a month, 1000 hours, but no fees, you know, like, i'm on the senior rate now and no fees. it's not like a cell phone. and i need my cell phone because so many people do call me. you know. reporter: you're the only one in the whole neighborhood --
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>> this block. three people drowned. this is the senior area around here. homes that are square like this. three neighbors drowned. i am the first one back we are rebuilding together. other neighbors sold their property. they don't want to come back. the next or neighbor, she is trying to get back. everywhere else, all are in this area, and the only one. reporter: what about the services that are back russian mark are there grocery stores, that sort of thing?
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>> crescent city connection. sue: across the mississippi river. >> she knows about sam's where i have to get supplies from. they try to build up though. there are a few little family's dollars -- family stores that are trying to build up. we don't have transportation. reporter: any of the buses or any other types of transportation in this area? >> there are four different buses. reporter: how long have you been living in orleans? >> all of my life, 77 years. my daughter is 55. it is hard to get to me and to
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her doctor in the hospital and all that. she has an appointment friday and i have to call tomorrow morning, you know. reporter: what are the biggest differences for you right now compared to before katrina? >> shopping. ♪ shopping, transportation, communication, everything. it's hard for us right now. you know. but thank god we have a roof over our head. rebuilding together. reporter: why is the fema trailer outside?
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>> fema came before the house was finished. the trailer was there when we got home. the trailer got here a couple of days before the house was finished and we could move in. sue: she can't live in it. or open it up. there are seven contractors at a minimum to place a trailer. i had a trailer as well. some of these things make sense. there is somebody who comes in and inspects the site. then some he comes in and make sure that the electrical stuff is there. then they deliver the trailer. then someone else comes by. another sub sub contractor to inspect the trailer now that it
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is there. then someone else comes by to do something else, hook up the plumbing. >> yeah. sue: then it is all set up and ready to go. then another contractor comes and yet you keys and makes you sign things. >> right. it's been there a couple of weeks. sue: and it costs about $55,000 from what i read in "the times" for the process of a temporary trailer. that includes having to pick it up. whereas for $40,000, you can get people home and comfortable and familiar surroundings. >> and this is for the police environment. sue: the first responders. she has police officers across the street. >> we don't have violence, not in this area. sue: not with a whole trailer park full of cops.
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[laughter] you are not going to have that problem. reporter: are you waiting on fema to take this away now? >> i'm not telling them to take it away. it is not bothering me. we still use it. we worked so hard to get it. [laughter] so, whatever they say. whenever they are ready. because we are in the house now. everything is in the house. we are very pleased, very satisfied, very comfortable. i feel safe. i really do. we lock the doors at night. we really feel safe here.
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you know, you don't see problems around here or have problems around here. so we really feel safe around here, you know. reporter: so just the transportation is the biggest album. >> that is my biggest problem. go to the doctor, trying to get it right with the telephone and trying to get our doctors back again, all these doctors. reporter: have the doctors left town? >> yes. tulane university hospital, all of them haven't come back or they are retired and they are not coming back. but i feel good. i feel good. and i think god that we -- and i thank god that we are back home. it is not what we had before, the surrounds.
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i am back home in new orleans area no place like new orleans. we are back home thanks to rebuilding together. sue: that is the place that stayed open. people are just getting around to getting. there is an august 29 katrina anniversary deadline with getting your house that it -- gutted. but first seniors, especially if they have evacuated, it is just not possible arid they need to have some help. reporter: individuals have to do that themselves? sue: a lot of times, it is family members.
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the family gets together and does that work. there are a lot of agencies that handle it. many agencies handle that. people ask us about it. we don't do gutting. we did in the beginning in little bit. but there are so many volunteer groups that are doing it. we recommend that. that is a really hard process to go through. i went through it myself. it's like you just have to throw your entire life out on the curb. it is moldy and it stinks and it's hot and it's a heartbreaking process to throw everything away. but once you get into gutted and cleaned, you really feel like you can start again. announcer: a mile away from this area sits another fema trailer park or first responders. -- for first responders.
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jeff: we have 53 mobile homes and travel trailers. what fema tried to do at the request of the city is put up first responders, firemen and policemen, very quickly a travel trailer site so they could able to provide essential services to the city. this is one of those sites. reporter: can we walk around a little bit? jim: sure. we have a few across the state, about 20 or so in the new orleans area. the travel sites are further folks who do not have a personal site set aside. if they are renters are other side is not suitable for red --
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or trailers, they are eligible to be placed in a group site. we established a these and various locations around the city. reporter: what is the estimated time folks will be living there jim: that is a good question. the ideal a temporary housing is that folks will be there for 18 months. they given the size and breath of this disaster, we will have to revisit that at the end of 18 months. generally speaking, we would offer the applicants the option of renting the travel trailer from us. we will just have to see when the time comes in february where we are in the rebuilding and recovery process. reporter: it is -- is it possible to go in one of these? jim: as i said, these are for first responders. there may be a policeman off
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shift. i don't mind knocking on a door in seeing if somebody is home and talking them -- talking with them for a moment. but we do need to respect the privacy. it would be like walking around in a neighborhood and asking to come into their house. we don't have any restriction on the press coming in and talking to the folks in the travel trailer parks. reporter: when did this come up to speed? jim: i don't have the date on that aired this was fairly quick, in september or october. since it was for first responders. but this is relatively typical of what our group sites are like across the state. as you notice, there were security guards on the way in that are either ontrack did by the contractors that built the group site or rectally by fema. group site or contracted
12:18 am by reporter: where did all these trailers come from? jim: they were purchased by fema. there were some contracts prior to the hurricane season. and there contractors a call -- across the country. so they could have come from anywhere. i am much or where these came from. some of them were bought directly off of travel trailer lots. reporter: do know how much these go for? jim: there are about $10,000 apiece and that doesn't include the site preparation, the utilities, the hauling and the setup. that adds to the cost per unit.
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reporter: how did you pick this area? jim: we sent out strike teams to identify potential areas to put group sites. these strike teams came back with recommendations. they approached the owners of the land. then we went through a process with the city and city council to get those sites approved. and then we went through contracting and got the sites least. our contractors came in and built them. it is not a turnkey operation. there are a lot of steps to that. we are still finding those steps sometimes cumbersome as we try to build more sites across the city. reporter: are these first responders for this specific neighborhood, for this specific area? jim: i don't know. it would make sense that we would put them close to their stations. some of these moved off the crew ships. we house a lot of first responders on the cruise ship. >> how are you doing? reporter: you live here.
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>> i do. reporter: would like to see what one of these looks like. do you mind? >> sure. go ahead. reporter: how long have you been living here? >> since february. turn on the lights in here. reporter: sure. >> there we are. we have the bathroom back here. you see i have a lot of junk here. there is a lot of stuff to put in here. reporter: how many here sleep?
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>> this can take up to five. this converts to a bed and this converts to a bed and there is the bedroom back there. so five people at the most. reporter: where is your bedroom? >> the bedroom is right here. reporter: what is it like living here? >> i like living here. as a matter of fact, the people here are wonderful and warm. i gave to barbecues here already. we are going to do catfish on saturday. you are welcome if you want. the cooking here is good. it is great. we have cooks here. it is fun. i love it. i am not that far from my job. reporter: what is your job?
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>> i work with the water board. we work with the drainage comps. reporter: you are from new orleans? >> yes, i am. reporter: tell me about that. >> we came here -- we stayed through the storm. we lost 60 cycle power. our water supply was off. we were trapped inside the station. the water got almost of the third level of the station where we were. as the storm went over, the water began to settle down and we went to work. we had generators. we had to read the stage up and get them running. once we got them running, we got the pumps running.
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we run the pumps 24 hours, around the clock for a whole month. it was white an experience. reporter: where was your home? >> in the gentilly area. got messed up. you had people coming in there investing your place and there was that understood owing on. reporter: what is the status of it, your home now? >> i lived in an apartment. i'm not sure if the landlord -- he hasn't done anything to it yet as of yet. i much or if he is going to do anything to it. i don't know. i will probably relocate somewhere else outside this paris maybe. because new orleans, i may come i never see nothing like that in my life. i was here for betsy. they had guys who got us on boats and we went to the claiborne bridge and we said if there -- we stayed up there until the water went down. katrina was worse. reporter: what were you paying
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in rent of the place where you are living? >> i had a one-bedroom. i was paying $995. but i don't do now. everything is going up. reporter: we have heard that the rental market is quite high. >> they are so in demand right now. supply and demand, that is what it is. reporter: can you go over again what the setup is here, first responders, will kind of assistance you are getting, when that will end. jim: the temporary housing assistance will end after 18
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months. then people would be asked to pay rent on their trailers. again, i'm not real sure what is going to happen at the end of 18 months at this point. but at this point, the guidance is they will be expected to pay rent on the trailers. reporter: 18 months will be up when? jim: in february. this travel trailer park was established for first responders and folks like nate who have to be here to keep the city running a be ready for the next storm or even a rainstorm, to keep it can't out -- pumped out. like you said, we live in able. reporter: nothing happened with your job. you still have your job. >> yes, sir. next month, it will be 20 years on the job. i love what i do.
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reporter: what is your impression as you drive around the city? >> wow, you know. devastation, man. everything is happening so slow. i can understand. you've got to get the funds and so forth. there is a lot of red tape to get things moving. i guess it will come back pretty soon. me, myself, i already know a couple people who committed suicide already, seeing the devastation of this city, emily displaced everywhere. two of my coworkers that i work with committed suicide. me, i have high spirits, me, myself. i just know things are going to come back your it may be not like it was before. but it will come back. reporter: what about family? do you have a lot still here in
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new orleans? >> i did lose a brother. i only have a niece and a nephew here and that is it. everybody else is gone. i keep in contact with everyone. they are all over the country. chicago, florida, texas, oklahoma. everywhere. i keep in contact. reporter: what about things that a lot of people outside of new orleans take for granted, shopping, gasoline, electricity, laundromats, all those types of amenities -- has that changed? >> yeah. a lot of people took things for granted. now we have those things in very small supply. we have very few stores opening and businesses and so forth. it will be a slow process coming back. but you just have to deal with
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it. you just have to readjust your life. that is what i have done. i have readjusted my life to where things are now. it is very difficult for other people to do that. they are so used to be able to go to the store at night. two or three month after the storm, things were closing by 6:00 or 7:00. you get off of work and everything is closed. but now they are starting to stay up until 9:00, 10:00. like i said. it is slowly coming back. slowly, for sure. reporter: your friend who committed suicide, was it a direct result of katrina? >> yes. i think it was a direct result of katrina. seen the devastation. a lot of people were depressed. after the storm, there were a lot of people on that boat. there was people coming back and forth from houston, texas to hear. she killed herself.
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i think it was going to houston, not liking it out there, coming back here and doing this devastation, you know, a lot of people went through some things with their insurance companies and all that kind of stuff. so many things i had to deal with and family all over the country, friends. that's why i try to give stuff here where people can mix and mingle and develop friendships. like catfish rise, barbecues, for the people at this site. they are developing fresh ships -- friendships and they are exchanging numbers and they can talk about it. yeah, i think it was a direct result of katrina, these people who have taken their lives. it's a sad thing.
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reporter: thank you. the fema trailer program, the fema trailer parks have come under so much scrutiny. fema got so much bad press about them. why? jim: in the early days we , probably weren't as prepared as we should have been to get this going. i don't think anyone likes being confined to a trailer to begin with. but it is the option we have available for temporary housing at this point in time. maybe one day we will have something better. congress appropriated $400 million to look at alternative trailer solutions or alternatives to this temporary solution for housing. we are starting to kick off the program in the gulf states and looking for ideas to better house people. you've got to remember, we put out about 140,000 of these among five states in the gulf and that is quite a bit. reporter: any mistakes with this
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program? jim: i would say the only mistakes we made was not being fully prepared. reporter: and with fema trailers being of such interest to the press, what is the policy with the press coming into these places? jim: our policy right now is that the press can come in as long as they show valid vessels. -- credentials at the gate area security has been informed to let the men. -- them in. we not stand in anyone half way -- we don't stand in anyone's way. reporter: you provide security for all of these parks? jim: we do. either through the contractors who built them or direct security contracted by fema. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] next a look at where the walls were built.
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>> there is the major break where the concrete wall is. there was a barge in that green space. we talked earlier, mark, about this road clayborn being the dividing line of where the utility services have been provided and where they haven't. on the right side, you will see some travel trailers on private sites because there are utility -- utilities available now. generally on the north side, the utilities are not dependable enough to for travel trailers back in. isovery is a slowed -- slowed. another debris truck on its way.
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that is where they are working. they are doing the asbestos removal. >> is that when that is -- what that is? as you know, there is a whole process involved in taking care of hazardous material. you can see some of the puddles here are a result of a break
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in the water lines. that all adds to the challenges of getting utilities in here. the electricity is probably still not on, obviously. gas lines remain compromised. but we are pretty close to ground zero where the water just flowed right through here. if you look at it from the air, you will see a clear spot because all of those houses were demolished in place. reporter: what about for the inhabitants of this area? i don't know if it is a local, state, or federal policy, is it allowed for them to come back
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in. jim: i cannot speak for the city or the parish. as far as fema is concerned, we trailers or travel s that domes on site not have viable utilities. that is why you don't see them. lack ofame token, the utilities will probably slow development. my thought is right now the city or parish is not sure what will happen in the ninth word, and this area in particular. there are a lot fewer cars now. the vehicle contracts has been led by the state with some obligations by fema. those are being removed and salvaged and scrapped as they are picked up.
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reporter: do you know about when this was completed? their target date was 1 june, the beginning of hurricane season. and they met it, too. the corps of engineers, if they were here, they would tell you it was built in a different design from the wall that was here before.
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>> the way we see the ninth ward, it is not for us to say whether it should be built or rebuilt. i think it is reasonable to ask that they have a flood system -- protection system that is going to work. but when you see this just a few blocks up the road, there is the holy cross, and all of the vacant housing. you would think, well, first things first. maybe get people to higher ground. because that house cannot be rebuilt. it is not possible. and you can still smell that death smell. you will notice it later when someone tells you you smell bad. this is the kind of house where they are still finding people. because they cannot go in there
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until they demolish it. when they tear down a house like that, they bring the dogs first. that is a typical house where they would find a body still. this is, you know, this is really the shame of it really. this is where a year after the , event, the president should come down here and be ashamed. this is in america. all of this should have been dealt with. all of these people should have restitution or some kind of housing. you cannot bring a trailer down here. there are no services. there is no electricity, no water, nothing. and i don't think you need an expert to tell you -- reporter: [indiscernible] sue: oh, yeah.
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this is not inhabitable. there is a container from a ship. these would have been homes, or -- primarily working-class people. it is a misnomer that the ninth ward was the hood or the worst part of town. it wasn't. this was a good neighborhood, very stable. but a lot of working people, a lot of elderly. that is a lot of the deaths. occurredhe deaths that where the elderly people. couldn't go. they had nowhere to go. you can't pry them from their homes. they don't want to leave their pets. it is extremely difficult. so anyone who stay down here lost their lives. reporter: we can see what it looks like now.
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how much different as a look now than it did in those couple months after the storm? how much has been cleaned up down here? sue: oh, my goodness, it's a hundred times better. for the first five or six months after the storm, there were homes where we are standing in the street. and there were some twisted homes over by the wall. that was wide open. there was a giant barge here on the road on top of the school bus for months and months. and that was quite an undertaking, to float that they that thing off of an actual sidewalk or street. there were homes here, but they were all over the place. " -- close to the levee break. it is almost like his huge wall of water hit. it was like the evil head of mother nation -- mother nature pushing everything its path and eight large cluster.
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when you first saw it, it almost wave ofd water, a big houses twisted and piled on top of one another. you could come down here for a long time. you cannot live down here, there is no infrastructure whatsoever. but the fact that it is cleaned up and it doesn't smell like mold and death, you have to use to wear a mask. the scope of the disaster is such that i don't know that anyone could have coped with it that would have satisfied everybody. it is well documented. it has been very well documented and you can see that not enough , has been done. we have in the city a great amount of progress. but this is not an overnight solution. down here in this area, it would be good to see more things done. it would be good to get money in
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people's hands who deserve it. it would be good to have neighborhood plans that are all buttoned up. but when you are talking about 80% of a large city, you can't expect miracles. you won't find a lot of people who will say that the government response at any level was anything to be proud of. reporter: what is your opinion, if you were to come to this neighborhood a year from now? will there be people living here? is this ground zero and it is not going to come back or years? for years?rs -- sue: this is really one of three ground zeros that we have in orleans. this is the one that has garnered the most attention. this is really where you saw evidence of it in the most dramatic manner.
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no one will know what will happen a year from now. a year ago, my goodness, a year ago at this time, i think i was at the pool. never could have imagined what would happen. after the event happened, couldn't imagine that it would just go on and on and on. i think the city will just have what we feel like is a low-grade fever for a very long time, this underlying distress, this grinding and difficulty. but it's worth it. we feel it is worth it to live here. and the city has a great future. there are also great opportunities here. we can fix things that needed to be fixed. few cities have an opportunity to start over. it's just depends on how much our government and our business leaders and civic leaders will continue to support us. our country does not get
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tired of us in a years time, i would like to see some sort of plan for this area. it may be to the benefit of this area to not have development at this time. reporter: how is the city approaching different areas? is there a grand plan at this point on how to redevelop these neighborhoods? sue: the initial plan that was started immediately after everybody got back had a lot of consultants and recommendations. the urban land institute was in charge of that. and they really recommended that we start rebuilding in the original city footprint. and that is the crescent on high ground, like the holy cross, as you have seen.
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so their recommendation was tied -- high geographical areas and neighborhoods where the infrastructure and the housing stock, you know, was more repairable than you might be down here. the city issued a report with what they called priority for rebuilding. it just did not happen because these are private properties, private homes. whether a house can come back or what will happen to the house will depend on the homeowner and that homeowners own individual financial and other resources. but the city has a planning commission. they are understaffed, like everything is here, but the
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city's plan is what we have been doing for the last year, which is neighborhoods need to get organized. neighborhoods need to prove their viability. mr. nagin was very controversial when he said that. people were saying why should we have to prove our viability? it seemed very unfair. but when you look at it and you look at what has happened in some of the other neighborhoods that are coming back, maybe we did not have the best job if he -- best of geography, or maybe we didn't have a lot of wealthy people that could afford it who are doing tremendous work. people bother viability from the people who live in that neighborhood with their determination and press around -- perseverance that determines that. 's strength is due
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to the residents and homeowners. announcer: the holy cross area of the lower ninth ward was flooded but did not receive as much water as other parts of the lord -- ward. jim stark from fema talks with us about their efforts in the neighborhood. jim: we are still in the lower ninth ward. this is where modern utilities have been restored. as you can see, some trailers have been placed on private site, where people are rebuilding. reporter: what is the process they have to go through to get one of these? jim: applicants apply for the trailer. they call for the one 800 number and ask for a trailer to be placed on their site. we have a team come out and make sure the site is viable. make sure it has hookups for
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water, electricity, and gas. reporter: what do you normally tell folks about the timeframe it takes to get one. jim: generally we say 30-60 days. that is a long time. in nearly days, there was a -- in the early days there was a backup as we had so much demand. now the sites are harder and harder to make ready and there are fewer and fewer of them. reporter: what about the size of them themselves? are you dependent on the number of people in your family? jim: it is a number of factors. it is a number of people on the family, it is the size of a lot, if you have a large family, and you can accommodate a mobile home, then we will place a mobile home there is that of a -- they are instead of a travel trailer. reporter: what about size -- justin: i believe that will be about three or four people. you will see on several sites if
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there are big enough, there may be two. reporter: and the terms with these are different from the trailer parks. jim: this is still temporary. our commitment is for 18 months. reporter: if this goes beyond 18 months and you are not staying at a hotel. jim: typically, within the 18 months, some will find what is necessary. it looks like a couple of these houses are pretty close to being completed. i imagine pretty soon they will call our one 800 number and one of our contractors will take the trailer away. reporter: what about you personally? you lived in new orleans before this ever happened. what are some of your personal
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impressions outside the job and the future of the city. jim: i grew up in a place that was high and dry. a lot of the structures have suffered wind and water damage. there are a lot of travel trailers. interestingly, a lot of them are families who have been displaced from neighborhoods like this, who have relatives on the other bank of the river. for a lackmping out of a better term in their relatives yards. personally, we did very well on the west bank. things thatunate in went that way. i came back and i am committed to the city and the job i am doing now. it is discouraging at times to see the slow pace of recovery. we talked earlier about the pace of recovery and other disasters . this one overshadows the size and magnitude of any of the
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other was before. -- once before. hurricane andrew took two years before miami was back on its feet, especially the homestead . and we can see that here. it will take years. reporter: [indiscernible] jim: we were slow in responding. there were some command and control issues that needed to be worked out ahead of time. again, the sheer magnitude caught everyone and mistakes were made early on. and it should have been blamed on fema, quite frankly. for this year's season we are better prepared to move right in to the kind of response that is necessary. announcer: a couple of blocks away is another part of the holy cross neighborhood where rebuilding is taking place. sue: when the consultants first
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came and helped with the bring new orleans back. the initial recommendation, which made a whole lot of sense was to rebuild on the higher geography, where there was a lot of housing before the storm that needed to be dealt with. get home back in the service on the high ground, and this is among the highest ground. they still have no telephone service here. this is where garbage pickup is almost nonexistent. there is no mail service. the mail is picked up at the school. i mean, this is really -- you are a real urban pioneer to be here. this house, we are going to fix
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this house. this house will look as good as that house, which we fixed. that one is completely done, and the homeowner is living there. she is struggling and not happy with something. we did this house several years ago, the person who bought it, it flooded the person who bought , it, she could not have afforded to own a home otherwise. and she flooded. with her insurance proceeds, she did a lot of nice of rate. -- nice upgrades. not only did she repair the home, but she had these nice shutters and things installed and has worked really, really hard. she is the only one on this block that is living here full-time. this block is as far down that way too is far that way.
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there are only a handful of people that are living in holy cross right now. there is no reason for this not to have been a focus area, especially since so many people in the lower ninth ward lost everything, and have absolutely no ability to return. blighted and propertiesroperties, that people are selling for hardly any money, those could be back into service and repopulated by so many people on the other side of claiborne avenue that really are lost. that is what breaks my heart, personally. you look around, all of these are really good houses. half of them don't belong to anybody. reporter: let's walk down this way. sue: ok. this neighborhood has the whole mix of architectural styles.
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hi, we are with a preservation resource center. we are doing some houses, fixing that house, and a whole bunch of houses. >> i was on the bridge -- on my roof when it came. came in eight minutes. reporter: where are you living now? >> i just got a trailer. it's all right. i am working at the same time. else.ork for someone it was scary. i stood on the roof for about a day. a guy came out with a vote -- b oat.
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they picked us up and brought us to a school. the coast guard brought us to that bridge. they said they would have buses and trucks. [indiscernible] there was cooking for everybody. but that sunday morning when they really made us leave -- it was time to go. you couldn't do nothing. reporter: what is the neighborhood like now? three more on the street. and i have one of the nicest blocks on the side. no one is there.
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i called them and they said my trailer was there area it took them three weeks to loaded up. -- hook it up. . am in it i have been there for three weeks. sue: don't you think that this area, being on such high ground and so many homes that nobody , has been living in and can be fixed that the people over in your neighborhood, in that part of the lower nine, where their house is gone -- >> i was across the street. i was three blocks away from where the levy bust. sue: isn't this a good place? if people want to stay in the community.
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holy cross should be fixed up. >> they had a lot of people. i don't know why they wasn't fixing the school at the same time. they were just doing the side of the night. -- ninth. they said they were fixing the side. sue: this neighborhood is so great, it is the easiest neighborhood to get back into service. there are so many problems. someone is working on this. >> we are doing it for the church to sue: are they going to come back? reporter: do you have phone service? >> no.
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many cable. sue: is the reverend there? he needs to know that we are in the neighborhood, not stealing. .he thieves are sophisticated they know exactly how to dismantle a bracket. the national guard patrols but they are slick. they have a fake letter from a homeowner saying they are allowed to do this. they cannot stop them, there is no homeowner to verify. reporter: you talked about the woman in the house over there. is i hate to say it on the record. into. broken
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no phone. the usual suspects of life and a lot of neighborhoods. there is a rat problem. she has had a horrible infestation. she has had an exterminator. a rat attacked her dog. that is her last straw. i know she will leave, i know her, she is strong and independent. she is a single gal living on her own. she has weathered everything in this neighborhood that has happened. the one thing she cannot stand is rat's in her house. they are river rats. the rats have so much -- this is disney world to reference -- to rats. they can forage for all kinds of things because so much of this neighborhood is -- you can tell
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by the smell that people have not addressed maybe things in their refrigerators. reporter: what are these markings? sue: these are search and rescue markings. this is a painful reminder for everyone who lives here. we just love it when people come back and the first thing they do is paint over. , the top is the date that they came to do the search and rescue. on the left is the agency or unit who did the inspection. maybe a trip number, 118, i'm not sure. e means no entry. the bottom quadrant is how many were found dead. unfortunately they are still finding bodies here, just about
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every week. there could be someone stuck in an attic. here is something we are thrilled to see, when you're later they are starting on this, getting this church back shows faith in the neighborhood. they cannot get trailers, even though they have been begging for them. reporter: they can't get trailers? sue: they can, but there are not any. they had to wait for electricity. this was under look and leave order intel may. -- until may. that means you cannot be here after 4:00 p.m.. no one was allowed to spend the night here until the middle of may.
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hey, how are you? this is robert. mrs. ms. bennett's at sign -- son. your mom is coming home when you are done. are you waiting to go home? reporter: what are you doing? >> painting. sue: why are you tearing the ceiling down? -- the wholent roof got wet. sue: bad news. robert: where are you living?
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>> a trailer about four blocks away. reporter: is it in a trailer park? >> no, another house my daughter is in. reporter: you are coming back? >> yes, i did not have flood insurance. a lot of people did not have insurance. robert: one year later, what is it like? >> glad to be back home. the whole city was devastated. have almost 200,000 people. you cannot do nothing overnight. it could be better. robert: are a lot of people coming back? >> they are working on a grant -- waiting on a grant. robert: which one? by new
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bills -- up paying that eight my money up paying bills. before it was just the ninth --ard, now it is big. robert: you don't blame fema or the government. >> no, they did the best they could. this is big. it is not small. robert: how long have you been here? >> i am over there. about 70 years. i bought this house here. >> what is the biggest challenge? >> money. buying sheetrock, electric, everything. robert: how long would it take to get it fixed up?
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>> not long if we get the money. robert: where do you go for groceries? >> across the bridge. there are a lot of places up across the bridge. robert: groceries? >> he had flood insurance. -- last stopr list was that musicians village. it is a site being developed by habitat for humanity. sara evans of habitat for humanity spoke with us. sara: musicians village is a chance for musicians and nonmusicians to have affordable housing. mission is to revive safe, decent, affordable housing for hard-working families in need.
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a keystone project would be the community center. that will be located around the corner from here. the idea is that there will be classrooms and practice rooms so musicians can teach their children, and the children of nonmusicians and pass on the traditions and cultures of new orleans. robert: whose idea was it? it was the brainchild of ellis marsalis and harry connick. they built houses with the new air lens -- new orleans habitat for humanity. robert: when did that start? sara: we started june 1. we now have 27 homes under construction. --will be dedicating the three have already been
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dedicated, we will dedicate onther 30 lots on this side august 19. families, 11 of them are musicians here locally. the 30 houses are complete, we will build on the interior of this 40 lots. some of those lots will be elder friendly, duplexes. those will not be sold. those the rentals -- will be rentals. that will make sure the older generations have affordable housing options. there will be 40 more homeowners going on this lot. the musicians village concept is bigger then this particular core area. is because core, our focus
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is the upper ninth ward in the next 1-3 years. we will be sustaining our building projects. we are committed here and will keep building. robert: why the upper ninth ward? sara: like every other neighborhood it needs revitalization. robert: have you qualify or apply? the first step would be requesting the initial application. there are three stages. the first of is a credit check, the second is a loan application, the third is a home visit. assess the need. they do a home visit where we go to their home, and assess their need for shelter. we take those factors into consideration. reporter: what has katrina done to the entertainment industry
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here? has it affected it? >> katrina has done an immense amount of damage to the musical community. what katrina has done is caused a cultural diaspora. our culture has been sprinkled out all over the country instead of concentrated in new orleans. we are all over the place now. in some sense that is a good thing. we are like cultural ambassadors. we bring new orleans to areas where they were previously not notice. -- noticed. now, we are spreading our culture throughout the united states. >> people are good musicians from here. half of them cannot read music, but that does not stop them from playing. >> new orleans has been a musical community ever since i can remember. -- as an amount relation
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modulation of different cultures. the african culture brought over here from africa, we have the irish to french. we have catholics and jews, protestants. now we have a growing asian culture as well as arabic culture. new orleans has always been a melting pot of cultures and this is how it affected the music. when you get these ingredients together, you get a good gumbo. [laughter] reporter: you say that is good. >> our music is different because the rhythms are syncopated. our rhythms are real syncopated. they come from africa and the caribbean. they are not straight up and down. [imitates beat] our music is [imitates]
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we are expressing it with their body movements. that is why people from new orleans dance like nobody else. we don't just jump up and down we shake our booty and , everything. >> you can see them around jazz fest and mardi gras. their suit might not look good, but they have a nice pair of shoes on and they are ready to dance. robert: you said it is a good thing because you are spreading new orleans. >> in some sense it is not so good because we need our musicians and artists to come home so they can preserve our culture and traditions and pass it on to the younger generations. this is going to be a difficult task if everybody is spread out. the object of musicians village is to get our artists to come back and reinvigorate our culture and pass it down. the culture is an integral part
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of new orleans. without it new orleans is going to suffer tremendously. in regards to terrorism, and other related industries. [harmonica] announcer: as you travel west from the ninth ward, you come along the lakeview area. up. main canal did not hold sue sperry from the preservation research center of new orleans drove us through. when you have a levee break or a flood protection wall collapse, in this case they came unhinged from underneath. it is like turning a water hose onto a place.
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one street over there is this one little sad thing. just in the vacant lot. polluting over here has been awful. people steal everything. mailboxes, windows, shutters. plant material. i don't know how long those tvs have been there.
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the cops may kick us out of here. reporter: the army corps of engineer is doing work over there. sue: they are doing all the work. announcer: the army corps of engineer's is constructing flood control devices to prevent another occurrence of flooding. we talked to an official at the corp. >> on the left is where the breach occurred. what happened here, unlike what happened in the industrial canal, the water was in up to the top of the floodwall. the floodwall collapsed. that produced flooding on the protective side.
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similar breaches occurred on the london avenue canal. robert: what has been done? things, wedone two made a temporary repair to those locations. the primary thing is what you see behind me. we no longer have to rely on floodwalls to protect against storm surges. we still need those because under conditions where the structure behind us has to be closed, when there is a storm surge greater than five feet, we have to have those canals to contain that water. it is to significantly lower levels. we will be making a permanent repair in the future. >> what is behind you? >> on the 17th street canal, that one of the canals
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convenes rainwater to the lake. is either side of that there is a floodwall. that floodwall failed. because we didn't believe we could rely on those floodwalls, what we are doing here is constructing a temporary closure that will take those floodwalls out of the line of protection. we have to make provisions for water to be pumped out of the city. in addition to this temporary closure behind me there are pumps installed in the temporary closure. what we have been doing since katrina is making work tears -- since katrina is making repairs to the levee system damage during katrina. that system, 41 miles to sustain some damage. the work that we have completed
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today is only 20% of everything congress has appropriated funds for us to do. in addition to the repairs, some still ongoing, there is an effort to rebuild levees. all of south louisiana is sinking. projects in the metropolitan area have been completed. additional slate of features that will improve the system and provide a durable system so that the kinds of things we experienced with this be less likely. in other part of the effort is a look at providing higher levels of protection. congress authorized to do this. they gave us six months to complete it.
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the thing that we know from that, although it is hard to draw a conclusion about what the future is, providing a higher level of protection will mean doing things that are fundamentally different. weorter: 11 months later, are in hurricane season now, a lot of people still do not believe [inaudible] what is your opinion? >> if another katrina took place exactly as katrina happened, following the track that katrina took, many areas that were flooded would be flooded again. it is a reality that katrina was an enormous powerful storm. it overwhelmed the system. that would unfortunately happen again. some of the things that happened like the failures on the outfall
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canals, we are protected against those now. sue: on holy cross, it came and went, here it stayed for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. reporter: what kind of neighborhood was this question mark middle-class? was high net these homes were expensive. you can see a little mcmansioning. ,ven a house like that actually, even a house like that was $250,000, which is a lot. house.ring it is a tiny these nicer ones, these newer ones, closer to the lake, the more expensive. 300 $50,000-400
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$50,000 houses. -- $350,000-$450,000 houses. the two-story ones, ones with a pool. this neighborhood is very challenged. again, they are severely damage. they have a very strong neighborhood association. they have done a lot. we have been working with them. we have been working with them quite a bit. south lakeview is a historic district coming back. late fee will be back -- lakeview will be back. it will take a while because of the damage. most of the people here had insurance, they have more means. this land will always be valuable because of where it is.
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again, when people say give us category five levees, we will do the rest. is pretty sue: it is. this is where the wealthier lived. i am almost afraid to go and visit other family members and other cities or go out of town. i don't want to feel normal again, until we are normal here. i do not want to get a normal life and everything to be perfect. i don't want the influence to not come back. i am staying. this time six , 9, 10, 11 months
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ago, we have come a long way. i could not believe what i was seeing a month after. look at it. we have cars on the roads. when this was -- this was a road where people were sleeping and dying. we have rush-hour. i never thought i would be happy to say it. we have traffic. we have stuff open. reporter: are you optimistic one year later? sue: i am very optimistic. i would not live here if i was not. i do have family and other cities i could live in, perfectly good cities like atlanta. optimistic that the city will come back and be strong, and attract business.
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we will prosper economically. the one thing i worry about is will we preserve that culture. architecture, our culture, food, can we preserve that? the city is not an insular little city anymore. we have people coming in from everywhere. the city will change. we just want it to change in the right direction. we want to preserve all of the great things. and fix all of the things that should be fixed. i think we can be a best practice for urban planning. this has never been attempted before. no one has ever had this tragedy of opportunity like we have a new orleans. -- in new orleans. you have not since the civil war, certainly not in modern times wiped the slate clean and
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started over. how should the city be planned? how should it function? this is an opportunity that is very unique in the united states. i don't want to see addressed in a dresden -- of -- type thing. i don't want the fabric and character to change. that is what i loved about it. that is why came -- i came. reporter: think you ran much -- thank you very much. we haver: all this week special programming about hurricane katrina. join the conversation on or c-span on twitter.
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saturday august we night marks the 10th anniversary of hurricane katrina, one of the five deadliest storms in u.s. history. on wednesday night at 8:00, c-span store at st. bernard parish in louisiana. >> you cannot describe it. it is your whole life. you have nothing but rebel. not only are house, but your community. your friends, family, everyone is gone. now, one you're later, your family and friends you do not see. not forget you will never forget of the rest of your life. announcer: followed at 9:00 with a 2005 town hall meeting in new orleans. >> i am relying on you. i know this is state level, federal level, and other levels.
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i do not have them. meoted for you to represent on a local level. i do not know where else to go. i do not know what else to do. announcer: thursday night starting at 8:00 more from the atlantic conference indoor lens -- new orleans. then we will show you president obama's trip to the region and remarks on the recovery effort 10 years later. hurricane katrina anniversary coverage all this week on c-span. we will have live coverage of president obama's visit to new orleans and his remarks thursday at 5:00 p.m. eastern here on seas and -- here on c-span. announcer: on the next washington journal, william kristol the weekly standard founder and editor is here to talk about the presidential campaign.
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then a discussion on police reform. de ray washington journal is live every morning on c-span. you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. announcer: wednesday, a look at how young people involved in democratic processes can deter radicalization. the international foundation for electoral systems hosts. this sunday night on q&a, brookings institution senior andow talks about the u.s. their counterinsurgency efforts in afghanistan. >> the u.s. did in chief -- achieve -- improvements in security.
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i increasingly questioned myself, we do not know how it will end. it is possible that five years down the road we will have a new civil war and afghanistan. -- in afghanistan. there is the prospect that isis is worse than the taliban. if we end up five years down to get -- down the road in a new civil war, a new safe haven for the taliban and isis, i would say it was not worth it. announcer: sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on q&a. announcer: c-span's coverage of hurricane katrina's 10th year anniversary.
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the panel was held in response to allegations of racially motivated mistreatment of hurricane katrina victims by the authorities. this is two hours and 15 >> today we better hope to understand the experience of gold coast residents and those that were supposed to evacuate. only by hearing those directly affected by katrina can we determine where, how and why the
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government responds at all levels were so terribly inadequate. we cannot ignore the fact it has spawned wide reaching debate. some have suggested that race and class factors and this hearing will examine those issues closely. discussnesses wish to their organizations goals. while the committee is not charged with investigating issues surrounding long-term we cany in the region, and should review how decisions made or not made right before during and after the storm will affect longer-term challenges. the committee will hear testimony from people representing affected communities on how government preparation is affecting the long-term challenge of the gold coast. witnesses will testify about what challenges they believe the gulf coast now faces. little question katrina
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sparked renewed debate about race and class and institutional approaches to toward vulnerable population groups in the united states. in the aftermath of the storm a wide array of media reports, public statements, polls, underscored this reality. in a september 15 speech to the nation, president bush touched on the issue. as all of us saw on television, there is also some deepercies tent poverty in the region as well. that poverty has roots in discrimination which cut off generations from the opportunity of america, the president said. since then the debate has become increasingly heated. while visiting new orleans shelters jesse jackson quoted as saying it's like looking at the hole of a slave ship. louis farrakhan said in a interview with fox news, in that levee there was a 2 foot hole which suggested it may have been blown soup water would destroy the black part of the town. while not all commentary has necessarily been constructive, accurate or fair, the committee believe it is issue warrants further discussion, especially
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within the context of understanding the experiences of those caught inside the storm, and within the context of maebing sure government response is superior the next time. we know from e-mails and other documents from federal, state, local officials that they were almost immediately sensitive to public perceptions of race as a factor in the inadequate response. a aide to louisiana governor blanco cautioned colleagues about how to respond to a request from representative maxine waters for security escorts in new orleans shortly after the storm. please handle this very carefully, aide johnny anderson wrote, we're getting bad enough national press on race relations. e-mails reviewed by the committee from aides to rm toer fema director brown reflected similar concerns. a cnn gallup poll from september 8 to 11 reported that 60% of african-americans but only 12% of whites believe race was a factor in the slow response to katrina. another poll by the pew research center found 7 in 10 blacks believe the
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disaster showed racial inequality remains a major problem in america, a majority of whites disagreed. november survey of 46 katrina evacuees published by the national hazard center at the university of colorado boulder concluded issues of race and class were central to evacuation experiences. for many the' rackuation process was complicated by age, mental, physical disability, need to care for dependents, material possessions they were trying to take with them. "the washington post", the kaiser family foundation and harvard university conducted face-to-face interviews with 680 randomly selected adult evacuees in houston. when asked is your experience made you feel like the government cares about people like you or has made you feel like the government doesn't care, 61% reported they felt the government doesn't care. additionally the evacuees suggested an intersection between race and class. 68% of respondents thought the federal government would have responded more quickly if more people trapped in the flood waters were
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wealthier and white rather than poorer and black. in an early november forum at emerson college, louis alisa, reportedly suggested that race had to be a factor in the inadequate response. quote, i'm telling you as professional that you could not have had a mistake of this nation if something else -- nature if something else is not afoot. whether or not one believes races charges are well founded the committee should discuss the socioeconomic and racial backdrop against which katrina unfolded. brookings institute reported in october, new orleans which once had economically and demographically diverse neighborhoods grew segregated by race and income by the time of the storm. as a result, brookings conclude, blacks and whites were living in quite literally different worlds before the storm hit. at the very least the committee should further he can splor at this hearing how socioeconomic factors contributed to the experiences of those directly affected by the storm. the uc boulder survey found
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almost all interview wees described the process as disorderserly, disorganized with minimal communication about where evacuees were heading, when the next transportation would arrive. this created a state of uncertainty, insecurity. predominantly working class african-americans did not evacuate because they did not have the financial resources to do so. the committee hopes to learn more about whether government messages to gulf coast residents about the dangers of the coming hurricane could have been presented in a more effective manner, a question of which also carries racial and socioeconomic implications. if you don't hear the message from someone you trust, you tend to be skeptical, margaret sims, vice president of the center for economic studies told a magazine. if you get conflicting information from people you're not sure of, inaction may be the most prudent form of action from your perspective. the same magazine article notes disaster response may have been hampered by not taking the circumstances of area residents in to account. the people created the verbal image measures don't
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take in to account access of physical barriers to opportunities in certain communities said linda, director of the center for risk communication research at the university of maryland. in other words, the committee should examine to what extent problems stem from messengers and the message. we'll also hear about the events that reportedly transpired in gretna, on september 1, 2005, three days after hurricane katrina made landfall, thousands of new orleans evacuees attempted to cross the river, the greater new orleans bridge to gretna, a suburb in jefferson parish, approximately 2/3 white. news reports indicate evacuees believe gretna could provide a refuge but three police agencies blocked entrance to the west bank, former evacuees that gretna was not prepared to provide food, water, shelter. gretna mayor reported in addition to being unable to accommodate evacuees, we are concerned about life and property, it was quite evident a criminal element was contained in the crowd of probably mainly decent
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people, unquote. also quoted as saying this was not a 9/11 tragedy with good heartedness all around. had you ann narc key and civil disowed bead yens. the city council passed a resolution supporting the police chief decision to block the bridge. since then bret that officials criticized for what some have seen as racially motivated denial of assistance, beginning of november our colleague mcdonald's kinney introduced legislation that would deny federal funding that blocked access to gretna. controversy over the decision illustrates the speculation about whether race played a role in the response to hurricane katrina. as i said before, hard not to point fingers and assign blame in the aftermath of tragedy. i understand human nature, and i understand politics. but i think most americans want less carping and more compassion. i think most americans want a rational, thoughtful, bipartisan review of what went wrong and what went right. i think most americans want to know we'll be prepared better the next time.
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to get there, we need to acknowledge the fact that disasters bring out the best and yes, sometimes the worst in people. in the possibility that different people may hear different things when they're elected officials are telling them to evacuate, that we need to have a better understanding of the reality to ground so missed information does not evolve in to overt racism. members will have seven days to submit written statements for the record, i ask unanimous consent mr. taylor, mississippi, mr. malone laugh larks mr. jefferson, louisiana, ms. mckinney of about georgia, bobby scott be permitted to participate today and without objection, so ordered. anyone else like to make an opening statement? ms. mckinney? >> thank you, mr. chairman. first of all, i want to thank you for allowing us to have this very important hearing today. this is an opportunity for us to crystallize exactly what the katrina experience was all about. it was about the lives of the people in the gulf
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states. it was about the people who are the witnesses here today who are going to tell their story before this committee, before this congress. and i hope that we will adopt legislation that will make their lives easier, that will redress the problems that they are going to outline for us today. i want to thank the members who have come in to washington, d.c. early so that they could participate in this committee meeting today. today is about the citizens who were except up in the storm and it's their opportunity to speak. i would like to take the opportunity to recognize there are three people out in the audience, one of woman is reverend yearwood with the hip hop caucus who joined me in a park in new
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orleans and we were determined to do something that was denied the people of new orleans who were trying to seek high ground. some people sunk to low ground and we were determined to change that. and so we crossed the gretna bridge and i want to acknowledge the people who made that crossing here with us today. i want to set the stage for the racism, for the role that racism had and played in the daily presence of the lives of the people that are testifying here today. racism is something we don't like to talk about, but we have to acknowledge it. and the world saw the effects of american style racism in the drama as it was outplayed by the katrina
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survivors. it is reported that during the 1980s, jefferson parish sheriff harry lee ordered special scrutiny for any black people traveling in white sections of the parish. he is quoted by the new orleans as having said it's obvious two young blacks driving a rinky dink car in a predominantly white neighborhood, they'll be stopped. in 1994 the gambit report sheriff lee withdrew his officers from a predominantly black neighborhood after protests erupted when two black men died while in his care. he is reported to have said to hell with them, i haven't heard one word of support from one black person. in april of this year, blacks complained that jefferson parish officers using a caricature of a black man for target practice. sheriff lee laughed when presented the charges and is reported to have commented, i looked at it, i don't find it offensive and i have no interest in correcting it.
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in may of this year, a 16- year-old joy rider in a stolen car was murdered when 110 shots were fired in to the stolen truck striking the 16-year-old and injuring two other teenage passengers. in response to criticism from black ministers over the incident, sheriff lee is reported to have responded, they can kiss my ass. i don't talk like that but i'm quoting the sheriff. city of gretna police chief arthur larson is equally impressive. his justification for trapping katrina survivors in new orleans is he is reported to have said, if we have opened the bridge our city would have looked like new orleans does now, looted, burned and pillaged. eyewitnesses report that before they were close enough to speak, officers began firing their weapons over the heads of new orleans survivors. other officers are reported to have said that they wanted no superdomes in
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their city. no wonder reverend yearwood and i were threatened with ar when we crossed the bridge that had been closed to new orleans residents trying to escape katrina's flood waters. dr. king said that racism, poverty and war were the three pillars of injustice and i think it's very clear that racism, poverty and war have been unmasked in the american setting through what happened to the katrina survivors. the pentagon has admitted that the war did effect their response and it's now time for this congress to acknowledge and address the roles that racism and poverty played in the conditions facing black people in new orleans.
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this committee should recommend passage of the congressional black caucus legislation introduced in order to address the issues that katrina has exposed to us. including seriously addressing the issue of poverty in this country. i want to commend the witnesses for taking the time, the effort, the resources, the precious resources to come here and enlighten us today and i hope that we all will be listening. thank you, mr. chairman. >> ms. mckinney, thank you very much. any other members, your statements will be submitted to the record. >> thank you. mr. chairman, grateful that you responded to so positively to this hearing. i think it's absolutely essential in fact i want to say differently, the reason why i wanted to serve on this committee is the faces i saw, the families, the victims of katrina and we're
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hearing from just a very few families that have been effected, but this is why we have this hearing, to understand what you went through, understand why you went through it and to make sure it never, ever happens again. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. let me say to the witnesses, how grateful we are to have you here today. the story you tell, you're speaking for we know thousands of people in similar situations. it's our policy that we swear witnesses in before we testify. our witnesses today are mr. terrell williams, new orleans evacuee, owns a construction business, now living in washington, d.c.. ms. doreene kieler, also work for the no aids task force. ms. patricia thompson, attempted to cross the bridge to gretna, turned back by police. ms. lee hodges, new orleans evacuee who helped rescue elderly resident of a nursing home. and ms. diane french, new orleans community leader who did not evacuate and opened
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her home as a makeshift shelter. again, our policy we swear you in before you testify. if you would rise and raise your right hand. [oath administered] >> mr. williams, as i explained earlier, we have a light in front of you. the light goes on when you start. after four minutes it turns orange, red after five. i know what you have to say is important, feel you need to go a little bit after that, we understand. but we're trying to keep on a schedule as best we can. for those of you who have submitted written testimony, that entire testimony is part of the public record. mr. williams, we'll start with you and go straight down the line. again, thank you for taking the time to be with us. >> thank you. i live in -- >> there's a button you push right in front of you our
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microphone. try it. >> thank you. i lived in uptown new orleans, not far from memorial hospital. i finished paying for my house three years ago, started my own construction company. for the 18 years prior to that i was computer systems engineer at the national finance in new orleans as a federal employee. initially i decided not to evacuate because the storm was heading east of new orleans. my decision was rational at the time, especially given the fact that the hurricane itself caused little damage to my home. on saturday before the storm, i recall hearing the mayor ask, make one radio announcement calling for a mandatory evacuation. as katrina made landfall i listened to a battery powered radio. information i was getting was non-information essentially. the announcers were saying the same things, stay in your home, et cetera. after the storm passed through, radio announcers
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reporting horror stories from downtown including convention center and the superdome. people were also calling in with accounts of damage they had seen throughout the city. on monday, there was no real information about what the government was doing and i assumed the pumps were already working to pump water out of the city. on monday or tuesday i went to check on my mother, who was also living uptown. physically she was unharmed and hadn't needed to go to the attic or roof to escape the water. i'm a brother, i and my brother got her out with a raft. that point there was about ten feet of water in some areas and i was unable to return to my house. my brother took our mother to safety and i took a boat, left behind by fire rescue crews to my house. there was about six feet of water in my home, so i rescued my dog, returned to my mother's house. i was there for about a week until september 8th or so. at which point a rescue crew comprised of state and local
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police as well as armed military officers forced me to evacuate. they arrived in a truck and two tanks and confiscated my weapons. i didn't resist them and the officers weren't rough with me. as we were leaving my mother's house, the team came upon a group of teenage boys. the louisiana police officer told the teenagers they would have to evacuate. when the kids resisted, he and the military officers pulled guns on them. the officers then escorted the teenagers to their car and told them to leave. at first i felt it seemed excessive but looking back and considering all the stories about violence i understand why they did what they did. the rescue team took know the convention center, which at this point was mostly empty and from there i was immediately taken by helicopter to the airport. the airport was chaos with more soldiers there than evacuees. and we spent one night there.
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the next morning i was put on a delta 757 airplane, along with approximately 150 other evacuees. passengers weren't told where they were going until after the plane had taken off. some people were upset, most were just thankful to be leaving new orleans. they landed at dulles and were driven to the d.c. armory where people were outside cheering for us. the army was also chaotic, especially given the different backgrounds of all the evacuees. i saw people trying to buy drugs and knew not to leave my personal items lying around because they would be stolen. i didn't fear for my safety, however, because there were so many armed guards. even though the armory was unorganized, there was a lot of presence by groups like the american red cross, fema, at this point fema was already under scrutiny, strong families, hud, u.s. postal service, et cetera. the department of state was also there offering some
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evacuees jobs that would last for 120 days. i stayed at the armory for about a month until the beginning of october. i'm now living in southwest d.c., currently looking for a job with the federal government. my family has been spread out to such states as colorado, texas, alabama, north carolina. my ex-wife is hoping to return to new orleans, her house is in algiers, had minimal damage. thank you. >> thank you very much. ms. kieler. >> hello. my name is doreene kieler, my home is located at 5020 legions field avenue in new orleans. on saturday morning, august 28th, after watching news and weather reports the day, during the day, that day and during the week i decided to evacuate because of hurricane katrina. i contacted my in-laws,
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three senior citizens over 70 who refused to leave. my daughter and i prepared by disconnecting electrical items, placing treasured items on table tops, high shelves and adding to regular hurricane provisions. i went to my office to back up my computer and disconnect electrical equipment while my daughter went to the atm, got gas, started evacuation plan and the route. we convinced family to leave, packed the cars and headed east. this was 5:00 a.m. august 29. we listened to local news reports for as long as we had reception. local weathermen told viewers to leave, the mayor stressed leaving, but we were all well out of a louisiana by then. several hours later national news media reported that mayor nagin called for mandatory evacuation. i was surprised and frightened. we traveled to efbs georgia, arriving at 10:00 p.m. approximately 17 hours later. two days later the levee broke and water took away our house, car, my job and my daughter's school.
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when it became clear our lives had permanently changed i remained in georgia for one and a half weeks making sure inlaws were settled with their children and went to my family in texas. my goal in texas was to get my daughter settled back in college and seek assistance and services. the state university welcomed back but services in texas were poor. at the center, the red cross gave us a voucher for 100 for clothing for the two of us. the person taking information for fema stated that she was only a typewriter and couldn't answer questions. fema representatives were busy solving computer problems. we were there for six hours with no answers. the next day we went to the austin convention septemberer to speak to someone about assistance but were not allowed in because we did not reside in the shelter and we were not brought there directly from new orleans. after our time in texas we went to florida so that my daughter could get settled in school. four hotels wouldn't accept fema number as payment not
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sure she would be reimbursed. we settled at an on hotel for 65 a night at our expense. after talking with friends i went to the red cross in tall has sir, we were given 600 and voucher to stay near in a hotel near fsu. i stayed there for two more days before i returned to texas. this stay for for three days, accepted an invitation from friends to stay in arkansas, while i remained until two weeks ago when i returned to new orleans. a couple of key points i want to make. first, the citizens of new orleans have endured hurricanes forever. it is very difficult to convince senior citizens, especially native new orleanians to leavef an and torrey evacuation called earlier, would have made it easier to move seniors out of the area, many lives would have been saved. took me almost 24 hours to get my in-laws to leave. others tell the same story. the severity of the storm was not stress you by officials. the officials told new orleans citizen of the
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potential destruction of katrina i would have done more to secure my belongings. i had the remote, known the remote possibility of water rising above two feet i would have placed belongings on the second floor of my home, taken pictures and mementos with me. instead i unplugged electrical equipment, place it items on shelves and tables as i had always done. that did not save them from 10.2 feet of water. no continuity of services or information among the organizations. red cross services varied from state to state. i relied on information from friends on what services i could get. i then had to go the red cross several times, in several locations seeking assistance. this took days and only received assistance and useful information from florida. while i was out of new orleans, the only sources i had to rely on for information it was internet and national media. national media broadcast stories and homes covered in water, alleged violence, smiling politicians visiting shelters. no information given on how to a play for services, what
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was going on in specific areas, instructions from elected officials. accessing local media through the internet the only way to obtain nonsensizationalized information on local questions. no branch of government was prepared for this disaster. they started with complete confusion and migrated to finger pointing, pointing fingers at each other when citizens of new orleans are scattered across the nation. the mayor is saying all of new orleans would be rebuilt while the corps of engineers saying that may not be possible in all areas. governor is saying help is coming to the area, but also saying that the federal government is not releasing funds. fema is saying they will put trailors properties, thousands, myself included are still waiting. i'm also wondering what will happen if and when i do get a trailer. we are six months away from the next hurricane season and national weather service predicts that season 2006 will be as active as season 2005. unless this is come compotioned super strong bricks or flotation devices
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i'm looking at another disaster. finally, when the levee broke, my daughter and i lost everything. we lost our home, car, job, her school, very precious memories. fortunately for her, her old school welcomed her back and kind strangers gave us sof sofa to sleepo i thought within this semester i could have help and i could have answers. no such luck. christmas break is coming and i don't know what to tell her. i don't know if she should come back to new orleans because i may have to leave the place that i'm living at right now at the end of the month. she can stay with family and friends we will make do like we did for thanksgiving, but i have to have answers about next semester. there's no job and there's no way to pay for housing, books, tuition or living expenses. what is worse, she is a 4.0 student, grades are suffering because she is worried. this isn't fair. if we can get answers to basic questions like where we can get shelter, food, medical care, at least
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present a positive element in this entire situation. we could have a start. for now, we are in the same position we were in three months ago. we need answers, we need help. thank you for your attention. >> thank you very much. thanks for being with us. >> can you hear me? okay, good. my name is patricia thompson, i live in central city, i'm a life-long resident of new orleans and my address was 2310, apartment c i was i was doing part-time work with the 6th gap thift baptist churn when we first heard about the hurricane, we did what we always do, we got candles, bottled water, caned goods but nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to encounter. the mandatory evacuation came less than 24 hours before the hurricane, before it made landfall. the lights went out long before the hurricane hit and
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the water rose two days later. the first thing i did was to gather extended family because i live on higher ground. my children are all grown and only my 20-year-old still resides at home. i told my other children and their families to come to my house. i thank god i did because my first and second daughters lost all of their possessions and they would have lost their lives as well when we went back to new orbls the line where the water stopped was like right around my head. both these daughters have young children that cannot swim. so i was invited to leave new orleans before the hurricane but like a mother, i was not leaving my children, even though they're grown, i was not leaving them. and i'm so glad i didn't. in these, in the two locations where these two