Archive for the 'Caskets' Category

Do you believe in Robin Hood?

February 27, 2008

She said Green “has done everything he possibly could to make right his wrong.” While it is not a question I can truely ask or answer . . . I still believe.

Bill Quigley on the Reverse Robin Hood Effect

Robin Hood organization – New York

“Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen.”

Guthrie at Wikipedia -“This land is your land…this land is my land..”

Chorus:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

As I was walkin'  -  I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side  .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

Chorus

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.
Lyrics as recorded by Woody Guthrie, RCA Studios, Camden, NJ, 26 Apr 1940 From: URL

If you’ll gather ’round me, children,
A story I will tell
‘Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An’ his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you ’bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I’m an outlaw,
You say that I’m a thief.
Here’s a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

From wikipedia: “…In the oldest legends the outlaw’s enemy is the sheriff due simply to his profession,[8] but in later versions the sheriff is despotic and gravely abuses his position, appropriating land, levying excessive taxation, and persecuting the poor….”

…Robin Hood has become shorthand for a good-hearted bandit who steals from the rich to give to the poor. It is also a proverbial expression for somebody who takes other people’s giveaways and gives them to people he or she knows who could use them. This can be called “Robin Hood giving.” Many countries and situations boast their own Robin Hood characters; the Category:Robin Hood page tracks them.

“…The BBC has recently released the second series of Robin Hood starring Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Lucy Griffiths (Marion), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), and Keith Allen (The Sheriff). The third series will be aired in 2008.” See the BBC webpage on Robin Hood

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My so called blog pimping?! at LiveJournal

December 23, 2007

(This post is in reference to LiveJournal comments yesterday.)

Getting comments on anything that I presented, of course, would be too much to ask from anyone here. I just wanted to hear you cry about how I SPAM everyone. I mean, really, the Katrina Memorial doesn’t spark any conversation around Christmas time. You didn’t have any family or friends to literally lose or a house to rebuild. You could care less if someone besmirches the memory of some anon. elderly woman who died in Katrina. The fact that a Columbia professor has allowed that disrespectful comment to infiltrate his research (on line no less) didn’t spark any comments, make you raise a moral eyebrow, or insight your rebuttal, or rebuttal from anyone who goes to UNO, or Tulane, or Loyola, or seminary school. I won’t include LSU, because the Baton Rouge community hates me and considers my post SPAM. LSU alumni don’t protest, anyway. The fact that some so called assistance agency, didn’t contact me until 2007, didn’t raise any eyebrows. Why the heck would you comment? I’m just SPAM. I never suggested that this was my most eloquent post – it wasn’t intended as such. ( I do not like to make stray comments, such as this: *(&*^%$#!), either. I apologize. It was a rant. I was upset. AND I bet your momandadinem bought your first car, paid your college tuition for you, and gave you an allowance, too. I understand thinking of others during Christmas wasn’t on your agenda. Consider my post, please, because I matter. Regardless of your opinions of me as a SPAMMER, I had something to say, that someone else thought was important. I am someone’s whole little world. I’m a mom. An x-wife. Your neighbor. An alumni. Community activist. Former community librarian. Former college librarian. Former healthcare worker. Veterans advocate. Military supporter. Former military wife. Housing advocate. And Columbia (dot edu’s) worst nightmare . . . if when I check that website, (http://www.katrinalist.columbia.edu/results.php), that lists the Victims of Katrina, and the comment hasn’t been removed yet. This community, and the other communites I’ve posted to, better start howlin’. And you better not be howlin’ at me, either. What do you wanna bet, LSU alumni and Baton Rouge community, cares about this one?

Please forward this, just because you hate ME to: (see my previous post for this jerks email address.) 

Why are they still missing after Hurricane Katrina?

August 18, 2007

I’ve said it before…Katrina didn’t discriminate.  The following report indicates that the poor and the elderly were primarily impacted.  No Kidding.  It took a team of  Doctors and their data to prove that?  All of the hubbub about race playing a role in the aftermath of the disaster infuriates me.   Katrina didn’t discriminate. FEMA wasn’t discriminatory.  It was the leadership at the parish and state level that failed – not just at the time, but has been failing for years.

The news lately about the Recovery School District in New Orleans is a typical example of failure.  Over 17,000 dollars are being given to teachers who decide to come to this district.  Yes, the teachers are needed. No, I don’t think they understand the problems with the New Orleans School Systems existed prior to Katrina.  22 million dollars, for example, went missing….Teachers who didn’t work in the district any longer were being paid!  The measley 17,000 dollars they are being offered is a nice incentive.  I’m just skeptical of the offer. They might be paying for it in the end.

Read further for the complete excerpt of the Katrina related deaths and how the statistics tell the true story of the poor and elderly in Louisiana.  What’s been said about the ICMP and identification of remains and review previous posts on the issue.

Findings On Katrina-Related New Orleans Mortality Data

“Dana Troxclair, MD, Instructor of Pathology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, will present mortality data on Louisiana storm victims at a poster presentation at the 2007 Gulf Coast Post-Katrina Forum of the Gulf States Alliance on August 20, 2007 from 9:45 – 10:15 a.m., 2:45 – 3:15 p.m. and 4:30- 6:00 p.m. at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Biloxi, MS. The research team also included Drs. Robin McGoey, Gary Lipscomb, Richard Tracy, and William Newman, all of the Department of Pathology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSUHSCNO). Drs. Troxclair, Tracy and Newman were among the LSUHSCNO forensic pathologists who performed autopsies on bodies found during rescue and recovery missions following Katrina.

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans pathologists were responsible for performing more than 820 autopsies on recovered Louisiana victims and report that autopsy findings comprised the single most successful identification technique.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, 1,464 Louisiana residents perished as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding resulting from failed levees. Of those, 910 victims were examined and identified at two Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) locations.

The LSUHSCNO pathologists were tasked with conducting post-mortem examinations for the primary purpose of identification of the dead. Examinations included field case notes, personal effects, fingerprints, dental, x-ray and autopsy findings, DNA, and anthropology. Nine hundred ten post-mortem files including more than 1,000 dental charts and 30,000+ images have been compiled and stored digitally. Pre-Katrina US Census data on Orleans Parish were analyzed for comparison.

Ninety-six percent of deaths were storm-related and 97% of individuals were positively identified. Twenty-eight percent were identified using autopsy findings-the technique that yielded the highest number of positive ids.

The latest mortality data found that 75% of victims were residents of Orleans parish with 64% older than 65 years of age. The racial distribution was: 56% African-American, 40% Caucasian, 4% Asian, 4% Native American, and 2% Hispanic. For comparison, the pre-storm published Census data concluded that only 12% of the Orleans parish population was older than 65 years of age with a racial distribution as follows: 68% African-American, 29% Caucasian, 3% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 0.2% Native American. Twenty-six percent of families were below the national poverty line.

The researchers conclude that when final hurricane mortality data is compared to pre-storm Census data, the belief that the hurricane disproportionately destroyed any one race is not substantiated. In fact, deaths among Caucasian, Asian and Native Americans were all overrepresented; while the African-American and Hispanic populations were less impacted. Under appreciated is the fact that our elderly and poor populations, regardless of race, were the most devastated.

“We present that a lesson learned is about those left behind due to lack of physical or financial means,” notes Dr. Troxclair. “Furthermore, based on the remarkable success of the autopsy as a means of human identification, we emphasize its paramount importance as a component of a nation’s response to mass disasters. However, with 135 Louisiana residents still categorized as missing, and 23 human remains yet to be identified, the final impact of the storm remains uncertain.”

There is nothing in this story about the ICMP and the Louisiana Department of Health contracting with them to identify remains. There has been no email to date since the ICMP was questioned if they are still working on identification. Search ICMP on Louisiana Questions for more posts of this story.

From previous post…

Louisiana Questions if the ICMP is still in charge of making those identifications as declared by their 29 December 2005 news release. The news release can be found at the ICMP website. See: Beyond Katrina, ICMP , CNN , Associated Press,

Let nothing be forgotten in this place

Katrina victim’s memorial taken down.

RIP VERA

On Dean

“…Times like this, I can see that the post-traumatic stress disorder is far from post and more a way of life than a disorder.” — G – Bitch comments on Gentilly Girl

Ain’t DIS Fun? – posted by Craig Giesecke at 6:11 PM on August 17, 2007

“…That time of year again, when we pay more attention to what’s going on tropicalwise and try to prognoticate what the hell is going to happen. As a Gulf Coast resident for 25 years (and a Gulf State resident for nearly 50) it’s just part of What We Do.”

“…That said, it’s all just educated speculation for now. Do they take bets on this kinda thing over at Harrah’s?

Dean Expected To Reach The Gulf Wednesday As Category 4 Hurricane
Moreover Technologies – Louisiana news Aug 17 12:06
FortBendNow Aug 17 2007 2:41PM GMT

NOAA Dean

Is Louisiana Prepared if a Storm Comes Our Way?

More News from Humid City
Rising Tide II: Guest Post by Dangerblonde

Who cares for the welfare of the elderly of Louisiana?

August 11, 2007

Cheryl Martin, God Bless You!

Article(s) to read first:  Levees-Lawsuits and especially one from Victor Hull at St. Pete Beach, “Care facilities lack buses for evacuation”

“… Representatives from Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and other states agreed. They also cited communicating after a disaster, when cell phones and land lines typically fail, and deciding when to call for evacuations as other major hurricane challenges facing nursing homes..”

Find Law for Corporate Counsel reported on Friday, August 10, 2007 concerning Lafon Nursing Home. It was the first article I’ve found on Lafon.

Katrina Suit Defendant Must Disclose Nursing Home Residents’ Info

By KEVIN MCVEIGH, ESQ., Andrews Publications Staff Writer
The owner of a New Orleans nursing home sued over the deaths of 22 residents during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath must disclose the names and home addresses of all people who were living there when the storm hit, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk ruled that disclosure of the residents’ identities does not violate Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, because the information is necessary to determine whether the federal courts may continue to exercise jurisdiction over the class-action lawsuit against the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family. Cheryl Martin, who filed the suit, said she will use the information to show that more than two-thirds of the surviving residents and victims’ families are Louisiana citizens, thus making the case a “local controversy” over which Judge Africk may decline jurisdiction under the federal Class Action Fairness Act.

Martin’s mother, Ida Antoine, was one of 22 residents who died at Lafon in the days following Katrina.

Lafon, a Roman Catholic facility run by the Sisters of the Holy Family in eastern New Orleans, housed 130 elderly residents in 81 rooms at the time of the hurricane, according to the Washington Post.

Martin filed suit July 20, 2006, in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, seeking to represent a class consisting of all facility residents and visitors who suffered injury or died as a result of conditions at the home during and after Katrina.

She alleges that Lafon failed to evacuate the residents before the storm hit and disregarding warnings and the mandatory evacuation order New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued Aug. 27, 2005.

The storm hit two days later and cut the facility’s electrical power, which combined with the extreme heat to cause “unreasonably dangerous conditions” at the home, the suit says.

Lafon removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in August 2006 based on the Class Action Fairness Act.

The 2005 law provides federal courts with original jurisdiction over all class actions in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and at least one class member lives in a different state from the defendant.

Martin asked the court to return the case to the Louisiana state court, citing the law’s “local controversy” exception.

In January Judge Africk refused to remand the case, ruling that Martin had failed to provide any evidence that two-thirds of the proposed class members are Louisiana citizens, as required by the exception.

However, he said Martin could refile her motion once she conducted discovery of the class members’ domicile.

Martin served Lafon with discovery requests seeking the identities and addresses of all potential class members. Lafon responded that the information was privileged.

In May Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby ordered an alternative to discovery under which Lafon will submit names, addresses and next-of-kin information to the court, and the court will send questionnaires to potential class members.

The court will then review the results to determine the class members’ domicile.

Lafon filed a motion to set aside the order, arguing that Judge Roby refused to apply Louisiana’s health care provider-patient privilege, which expressly prohibits the disclosure of the private information of patients not involved in the litigation.

Lafon argued that the state privilege is applicable since the case involves only state law negligence claims.

Judge Africk agreed that the magistrate erred by not applying the state health care provider-patient privilege. However, he said the state privilege does not bar discovery of medical records in cases where courts determine that the interests of justice are served by the records’ release.

Any exception to the privilege should be narrowly tailored and should extend only to necessary and relevant information, the judge said.

He found that disclosure of residents’ identifying information is necessary to determine the jurisdiction issue and for Martin to fulfill her duties as lead plaintiff by notifying all potential class members.

“Releasing this information presents a de minimis intrusion into the patients’ privacy, which is offset by the potential benefit that plaintiff’s lawsuit may provide,” Judge Africk wrote.

To comment, ask questions or contribute articles, contact West.Andrews.Editor@Thomson.com.


Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
Copyright 2007
West, a Thomson business. All Rights Reserved.

See Also: Martin et al. v. Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family Inc., No. 06-5108, 2007 WL 2228633 (E.D. La. July 31, 2007).
Nursing Home Litigation Reporter
Volume 10, Issue 04
08/10/2007
http://west.thomson.com/product/40211158/product.asp

The Fight Moves Forward!

And from Atlanta Daily Report there is news about St. Rita’s.

Monday, August 13, 2007
Couple faces trial in wake of Katrina
Nursing home owners accused of negligent homicide, cruelty to elderly after flooding leaves residents dead

TWO YEARS AFTER Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,400 people, the only individuals charged with any of those deaths will go on trial Monday.

Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, where flood waters left the dead amid mud and wheelchairs, are accused of 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to the elderly or infirm.

The combined maximum sentence for each defendant would be 415 years in prison. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

The trial was moved to St. Francisville, about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans. Prosecutors, defense lawyers and state District Judge Jerome Winsberg agreed that assembling a jury would be difficult in St. Bernard. The New Orleans suburb was devastated when Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005 and its population has been slow to return. Only six jurors are required but their verdict must be unanimous.

Prosecutors charge the Manganos’ refusal to evacuate St. Rita’s residents before the storm was a criminal act.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued the day before Katrina hit. Forecasters had predicted a 21-foot storm surge would hit St. Bernard. Of five nursing homes in the parish, only St. Rita’s was not evacuated.

St. Rita’s has been closed since Katrina and the Manganos say they have no plan to reopen the nursing home.

Speaking before Winsberg imposed a gag order, Jim Cobb, lawyer for the Manganos, said state law did not require nursing homes to comply with mandatory evacuation orders. A report compiled by the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, a trade group, showed 36 of 57 nursing homes in the New Orleans area were not evacuated as Katrina approached.

St. Rita’s was built 20 years ago, and the location had not flooded since. However, during that period no hurricane even close to Katrina’s strength had made landfall in the parish, which is ringed by waterways connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Manganos say the area didn’t even flood when Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965.

That history, they say, was the basis for their decision to ride out Katrina in the one-story building rather than evacuate, Cobb said.

“We’re talking frail people, people with special needs, people who would be at risk during an evacuation,” Cobb said. “The Manganos thought they were saving lives by sheltering in place.”

The couple, in their 60s, was so certain St. Rita’s was safe that they invited relatives, staffers and others to shelter there. About 30 people, including the Mangano’s children, accepted the offer, the Manganos say.

As the storm subsided, it appeared St. Rita’s was safe—the roof was tight, the parking lot was dry. But broken levees soon brought a torrent of water that over a 20-minute period flooded the building almost to the ceiling.

The Manganos and staff managed to rescue about 28 patients, floating some out windows to save them. Other rescuers arrived later that day but the bodies remained in the building for up to 10 days. No one other than patients died at St. Rita’s.

The defense contends that because of government negligence, including faulty levees that broke during Katrina, the Manganos could not have known about the potential for flooding in advance.

Among the witnesses defense attorneys have subpoenaed are Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, head of the Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the levees. Strock has since retired.

The defense wants Strock to repeat his statement at a news conference in June 2006 that defective levee design was the corps’ fault and caused most of the flooding. The federal government is fighting his subpoena.

Blanco and other public officials failed to organize an effective evacuation and help transport “at risk” people to high ground as required by state law, according to the defense.

In court filings, defense lawyers say responsibility for the tragedy can’t be determined “without evidence that the state and local authorities failed their duties.”

The Manganos sued the government this summer, saying federal, state and local officials failed to keep residents safe and evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached. If the levees had not failed, they claim, the St. Rita’s residents would have been safe.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the couple by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

The only other criminal charges connected to Katrina deaths are against six former or current New Orleans police officers who face murder or attempted murder charges from a shooting after the storm. But the is not tied to flooding or direct impact of Katrina.

At least 34 people died at Memorial Medical Center in Uptown New Orleans after the hurricane, but three women arrested by the attorney general’s office will not stand trial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Charges against nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were dropped.

Twenty-two people died at Lafon Nursing Home, a facility run by nuns of the Holy Family order in eastern New Orleans. Residents were moved to the second floor as flooding began, but the home lost electricity. Rescuers did not arrive at Lafon until Sept. 1 amid a heat wave that had gripped the city.

Attorney General Charles Foti investigated the deaths at Memorial Medical Center, St. Rita’s and LaFon. The results of the LaFon investigation were turned over to the New Orleans district attorney a year ago but no action has been taken. A spokesman for District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the case remains under investigation.

How fast can you hand-wheel out of the path of a 450mi wide issue?

July 24, 2007

Advocates decry lack of housing in New Orleans
High rents undermine aid extension, they say

“…HUD spokeswoman Donna White said 377 apartments are available, mostly at the Iberville complex. She said another 400 are being rehabilitated and should be available soon. Opening the doors to renters has been slow because the Housing Authority of New Orleans is required first to contact the former apartment residents to see whether they want to return…”

Of course, two years later most have HAD to MOVE on. FEMA rules indicate that if evacuees moved in with other family members they were not eligible for FEMA reimbursed housing assistance.

Poll: 1 in 3 would not evacuate for hurricane
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 1:50 AM EDT

“…Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor who directed the survey said he expected more people to say they would not evacuate after a mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season.

“It just shows how people can become complacent if they’re not immediately threatened,” Blendon said.

In addition to finding that 31 percent of respondents would not evacuate, the study found another 5 percent said it would depend on the circumstances.

The poll was conducted by telephone and surveyed more than 5,000 people 18 or older in coastal areas in eight Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. All respondents lived within 20 miles of their state’s coastline. The poll was conducted between June 18 and July 10…”

States other than Louisiana and Mississippi during Katrina did not sustain a high number of fatalities. I believe, Alabama, had between one to three fatalities from hurricane Katrina in only one county – Washington – and that was on the highway. Most of the fatalities in Louisiana were due to drowning . . . 60-70% were elderly or infirm.

EDITORIAL: Katrina’s lessons lost
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

“…Residents of hurricane-prone areas shouldn’t have forgotten the hard lessons of Katrina so soon, but a new survey shows that people have dangerously short memories.

The Harvard School of Public Health surveyed residents of eight states beginning last month and found that 31 percent would not leave this year if the order came to evacuate. That’s up from 23 percent last year. ..”

FEMA available for questions on formaldehyde
Published: Monday, July 23, 2007 6:35 PM CDT

This site has the ability to post comments in addition to providing the 1-800# to call for questions.

Defense wants attorney general’s recusal in Hurricane Katrina nursing home deaths case
By MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writer- ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP)

“…A couple charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina said Monday that they want the attorney general barred from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest.

Defense counsel for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home, are expected to use evidence of alleged negligence against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana and the government of St. Bernard Parish at trial.

But Attorney General Charles Foti also has filed a $200 billion claim against the Corps, contending faulty levees caused floods that inundated the New Orleans area, including St. Bernard Parish…”

Now why didn’t I think of using the levees as an excuse for poor emergency evacuation planning? It seems that everyone else is blaming the levees instead of having personal responsibility for evacuations. A Plan, you know, would be prudent and essential. Now why or how this facilities plan fell apart has become a “levee” issue in the courts. Yes, the levees failed, however, the evacuation plan indicates ….hello? …an EVACUATION PRIOR to …the levee failure…the storm…a serious problem…a singular negligent homicide…encountering a 450 mi wide storm.

I hope someone who advocates for the elderly, nursing homes, and those who are defenseless is paying attention to this case. This is infuriating!

More LQ’s rant on this from Newsvine.

National Guard deployment raises questions over storm preparedness – 09:36 PM CDT on Monday, July 23, 2007
Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News Reporter

We can’t say thank you enough to the military for their response during hurricane Katrina!

Who is playing nice and who isn’t? The merry go round and round

July 17, 2007

You can blame FEMA, the State of Louisiana, and local governments and politicians, but that merry go round and round stops once and a while in the media. It’s too bad that all of those people can’t sing the clean up song like the St. Bernard Project.

“Clean up clean up everybody everywhere…Everyone does their fair share…” 

St. Bernard Project . org was featured on CNN last night.  God Bless both the homeowner and the couple who changed their lives to help others in St. Bernard Parish.  It was the only news CNN had to offer, unfortunately.

CNN – Cable’s Needless Notice
Anderson Cooper on CNN last night broadcast the criminals in New Orleans going free because of the justice system in New Orleans is backlogged or corrupt.  Cooper and his cohort barely skim the surface of the issues in New Orleans – No. Cooper and his cohort  don’t even touch the issues in New Orleans, but have burrowed into the “black hole” of journalism concerning real issues in New Orleans and Louisiana in the wake of Katrina.  The interviews with Jordan were, of course, fruitless.  I don’t know why I expect major media outlets to actually get to the meat of a story such as this one.  For one thing, I don’t think they know how. It is extremely disappointing considering the history of crime in New Orleans prior to Katrina.

 LQ’s comments on “Sometimes the cure is almost as bad as the disease” – From:  intellectualize.org  Jack Cluth

The federal muck and revolving door that local officials have to wade through in order to accomplish recovery gets a focus in this blog.  Intellectualize.org blames my President and the Federal Government. I disagree only to this extent.  Personally, I dealt with no less than 14 FEMA representatives, 5  different FEMA written responses, 3 FEMA contracted inspector, and several misplaced documents by FEMA.  This doesn’t count the web application that FEMA utilized to begin the whole process that crashed at least 10 times mid completion before the application spit out a FEMA ID number. Then I was sent no less than 5 different FEMA ID numbers due to the computer glitch.  By the first submission to FEMA, my local government had already failed. The local government’s right hand didn’t know what the left was doing and neither right nor left cooperated with the Governors’ office. It is ultimately up to the local politicians, leaders, and town councils in order to assist with the recovery process and from what news is available, outside of personal experiences and stories of recovery present on line, these local governments are all “what’s in it for me” and not the folks they were elected to represent before Katrina.  The little guy gets it again and Jack blames my Prez fruitlessly.  Issues in Louisiana are already the focus of several DOJ investigations and FBI investigations prior to Katrina – the numerous Federal Investigations have already been noted. Blaming my Prez gets you nowhere, it’s not his ultimate responsibility to clean up local politics and it’s local politicians responsiblity to FIND the issues pertaining to their constituents. “If it is to be … it’s up to me.”

Colorado AP reports a story on an elderly couple from Slidell.

Couple may lose home over $1.63 tax bill

posted by: 9 NEWS , Staff   Colorado 07/16/2007

Topix Comments on Couple may lose home over…

One commentor lambasts the uncaring local government. It’s a sadly familiar story.

FEMA red tape strangling local governments

Posted by Coleman Warner, Staff writer July 14, 2007 8:58PM

Categories: Breaking News

As Jefferson Parish still awaits millions of dollars in reimbursements for emergency-repair spending after Hurricane Katrina, its finance director, Gwen Bolotte, has grown increasingly weary of delivering the same records again and again to FEMA or state disaster recovery officials.

With money just now beginning to flow to bigger infrastructure repair projects, she blames a revolving door of FEMA officials and relentless document requests from the state. Send in two invoices under the same contract, and state monitors typically will demand a copy of the contract each time, Bolotte says.

“I would think there would be a permanent file; most auditors have a permanent file,” she said. “People are getting frustrated, having to produce the same paperwork.”

Bolotte is part of a large contingent of locals officials who are mired in what seems an endless slog as they try to land grants through FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

The so-called PA, unfamiliar to most citizens and perplexing even to many government officials seeking the money, is the top source of federal disaster funding to rebuild public infrastructure: schools, roads, sewer lines, hospitals and civic auditoriums, police and fire stations. The program also offers rebuilding money to certain private institutions, such as universities, that are deemed essential to civic life.

FEMA expects to spend a whopping $2.7 billion on repair and construction projects across south Louisiana, more than five times the city of New Orleans’ annual operating budget before Katrina hit. That doesn’t include billions of public assistance dollars directed to emergency purposes, such as overtime and debris removal.

The process of getting the money, however, has proceeded in slow motion, because of the program’s inherent complexity and because of a failure of local officials to master the bureaucratic labyrinth.

Of the $2.7 billion ultimately expected to be spent on “permanent” work, $2.1 billion, or 78 percent, had been reviewed and approved, or “obligated,” by FEMA as of June 28 — but just $532 million, or 20 percent, had been released by the state. State officials said the release of money is influenced in part by whether they believe an entity is ready to spend it.

As regional FEMA executive Jim Stark noted: “It is grant money with strings attached. There are t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted.”

The pace of reviews by FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness dictate how quickly the grant money flows. FEMA officials write and critique project worksheets before they obligate a grant, and then state officials conduct their own reviews — requiring extensive documentation from local officials — before they release money.

Moreover, the frequent need for an increase in the amount authorized for a project after locals demonstrate that FEMA’s initial estimates were too low requires a new round of FEMA and state reviews, consuming even more time.

Many local officials view the process as unwieldy and confusing, a drag on efforts to rebuild. Testifying before a U.S. Senate disaster recovery panel Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that while he is seeing “positive movement in our relationship” with FEMA, law and procedural changes are needed to make it easier for local entities to land PA money.

While views differ on whether there is a need to change the Stafford Act, a federal law that guides disaster responses, state and FEMA officials running the PA program said they are working to streamline procedures while still guarding against abuses of the federal purse.

While the PA benefits don’t pay costs that are covered by insurance — and include penalties for entities that didn’t buy enough insurance — the program will, in theory, foot much of the bill for putting storm-ravaged infrastructure back together.

And, in a rarity for any government program, FEMA puts no cap on total spending, provided the storm damages are well-documented.

“As long as we can agree on scope of work, cost should not be an issue,” said Timothy Brunette, a trainer for FEMA officials handling PA projects.

But even generally grateful recipients moan over the tedious and confounding process of securing the money, from preparing the first worksheet to undergoing auditor reviews to completing the bricks-and-mortar work.

Reaching agreement with FEMA on the scope of work, as well as “reasonable cost” for a project in a post-disaster economy, can become a tug-of-war. Nor is it easy to assemble enough money to get a construction project going, since PA is set up as a reimbursement program, and many agencies — especially now — have little cash at their disposal for upfront costs.

Local agencies must furnish records covering everything from past maintenance to completion of bids for a repair, and, in an exercise familiar to citizens navigating recovery programs, they often have to furnish them more than once.

Those obstacles — along with varying directives from a rotating cast of FEMA project monitors — are cited by local officials as factors in the painfully slow release of PA money.

Just $23 million of $304 million FEMA expects to spend in two public school systems in New Orleans had been released as of June 21, for example, although $136 million had been obligated by FEMA, meaning the state can release it after its demands are met.

Also, PA-financed repairs to New Orleans streets, which could wind up costing hundreds of millions of dollars, are far from reality because the preparation of worksheet information by FEMA and the city is just now getting under way.

Weary of being a rhetorical punching bag, FEMA officials made it clear that the PA program depends on legwork by local agencies, which, even as they struggle with thin staffs, must assemble documents and help assess damages.

Federal administrators pointed out, for example, glaring weaknesses in construction planning by the Recovery School District and said Nagin’s public works department was months slow in preparing a list of streets that need to be repaired. They demanded the list by July 31.

Criticism of the school district led to a push by state Superintendent Paul Pastorek to ramp up work on damaged schools. Nagin’s public works director, Robert Mendoza, conceded that the city had done little to prepare the streets list, but he said that was largely because of a past dispute with FEMA about what sort of damage would be covered. Nevertheless, Mendoza said the July 31 deadline would be met.

At times, FEMA officials note, local officials who blame slow progress on state and federal bureaucrats have made glaring mistakes of their own in how they use the PA process.

Slidell’s finance director, Sharon Howes, noted recently that after the city landed — and spent — $569,000 for equipment and vehicles lost during Katrina, it faced a FEMA demand for documentation to justify the grant once again. The demand came when Slidell asked for a change in a Federal Emergency Management Agency “Project Worksheet” that would add $238,000 to the earlier grant.

“It’s almost like they’re trying to wear me down, so that I give up,” said Howes, who said she was given to feeling like a homeowner trying to settle an insurance claim.

But FEMA officials said a routine evaluation of how money was spent in the first part of a grant turned up a glaring problem: Slidell had taken monies provided to replace police vehicles with cars of a similar vintage and value and had used the funds to buy a smaller number of new, better-equipped police cars.

FEMA has a process for executing just that kind of transaction, but Slidell ran afoul of the rule. The city erred in not applying for an “alternate” use of grant proceeds, a process that would have meant a 25 percent cut in the size of the grant, FEMA spokesmen said.

Just what will be done about the mistake, and the request for more equipment money, is “under review,” the officials said.

FEMA officials say they can’t estimate how long it takes for a PA project to move through the system because they vary dramatically in size and complexity. But long waits for infrastructure repairs that clearly qualify for PA grants anger and befuddle residents who are slogging through their own rebuilding challenges and are counting on government to do its part.

Evy Assaf, a resident of Lakeview for 60 years, said she plans to contact the city’s Department of Public Works, which is just beginning to assemble a list of needed street repairs, to ask that it secure help for her street, Spencer Avenue, near the site of the 17th Street Canal floodwall break. The street is full of major holes, beyond the capabilities of the city’s celebrated Pothole Killer machines, and has a protruding manhole cover that threatens to rip out the underbelly of any car crossing it, she said.

The needs couldn’t be more obvious, Assaf says. How much longer before the work crews and heavy equipment show up?

“There certainly should be some kind of efficient policy in force to take care of some of these problems,” Assaf said during a break from cleaning windows and shoveling dirt at her home. “I really don’t know what the problem is, why there should be such a delay and such an inconvenience to people who are trying to come back.”

FEMA officials say they are working closely with local officials to smooth out rough points in the grant process, and that their efforts, guided by the nearly 20-year-old Stafford Act, face an epic test, with more than 600 workers assigned to the Louisiana mission.

The federal officials say they are trying to remove one key bottleneck in the quest for myriad repairs — thin staffing at the local level to handle paperwork and surveys — by explaining to the agencies how they can secure extra PA money for administrative costs.

Some local officials are, indeed, seeing traction in freeing up of PA grants, pointing to the influence of John Connolly, 49, an agency veteran who helped lead recovery operations at the Pentagon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A soft-spoken, casually dressed bureaucrat with an easy grasp of construction project minutiae, Connolly wants his division to squeeze the biggest impact from the PA pot, saying, “I’ve never seen the agency bend over so far to extend the maximum grant amount that we can.”

Connolly says FEMA will stick around in south Louisiana, for many years if necessary, to monitor rebuilding work, noting that the agency still keeps an office in Northridge, Calif., to handle issues from a 1994 earthquake.

New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board officials, who have sparred with FEMA almost since Katrina’s waters receded over how much of the utility’s badly damaged system should qualify for PA money, say FEMA representatives are becoming more helpful and pragmatic. In recent weeks, section chief Chris Colletti informed the board that FEMA had given up on trying to determine which pipe leaks were caused by Katrina and that the PA program will provide comprehensive repairs to the system, at least to the point of restoring its pre-storm capacity.

City officials celebrated the news.

“We’ve made more progress in the last 90 days than we had in the prior year,” said the board’s executive director, Marcia St. Martin. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

The water board has nearly 400 PA projects, many of them essential to quality of life, in the works. FEMA estimates that the program so far will provide $171 million for rebuilding needs. Of that, about $72 million, or 42 percent, has been released.

In the St. Tammany public school system, risk manager Kirt Gaspard, the district’s point man for PA requests, said there have been moments of indecisiveness on FEMA’s part because of turnover among project officers and times when the same documents have been requested more than once.

But he praised the efforts of FEMA and the state Office of Homeland Security in pushing rebuilding projects forward. He said they have been especially cooperative in the case of Salmen High School, which was ripped apart by an eight-foot storm surge, quickly allocating about $15 million to get a temporary campus open by August 2006. FEMA has tentatively approved spending more than $20 million on a permanent Salmen campus. Completion of architectural drawings is still months away.

“This is kind of a new scenario for FEMA as well because of the magnitude of destruction that Katrina caused, so you can expect they had a lot of new hurdles to overcome themselves, but overall we’ve done well in navigating the process,” Gaspard said.

A recent decision by Congress and President Bush to waive a requirement for a 10 percent local match for PA repair projects eliminated a key chokepoint, officials say.

While the Louisiana Recovery Authority previously had agreed to use Community Development Block Grant money to cover the required PA match, the dual funding sources and their differing rules created a paperwork nightmare and delays, LRA Executive Director Andy Kopplin said.

Congress has discussed revamping the Stafford Act, which governs FEMA assistance, to add flexibility and to give local FEMA officials greater leeway to cut through red tape, particularly in response to overwhelming disasters like Katrina and Rita. But that idea hasn’t gained momentum in a Congress restive about the spiraling costs of the Gulf Coast recovery.

Meanwhile, some would-be beneficiaries of PA grants fume about the slow delivery of help. Among them is Nicholas Felton, president of a union for New Orleans firefighters, who five months ago complained loudly about lack of progress in securing millions of dollars from FEMA for repairing uninhabitable firehouses that are plagued by sewage backups and rodents.

He still complains but can’t pinpoint exactly whom to blame. Many firefighters are still housed in trailers that aren’t safe in foul weather.

“We have not seen any movement, any money, from federal, state or local officials,” he said. “We have only been successful enough in repairing fire stations with generous donations from people around the city and country, and with firefighters putting in the work. I wish I knew where it (rebuilding money) is so that we could go tell folks to let it loose.”

Officials in Nagin’s administration who handle PA paperwork, including Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, say little, “other than they’re working on it, and they’re trying to get it. But it’s been almost two years and we haven’t gotten anything,” Felton said.

Sylvain-Lear couldn’t offer a timeline for fire station repairs. She blamed the lack of progress on a broader problem: Project Worksheets prepared by FEMA that estimate repair or rebuilding costs using figures that are far too low, forcing the city to ask for an amended Worksheet. Without the use of higher figures, the city is forced to find money elsewhere in its budget to fill the gap, she said.

While FEMA officials are willing to change worksheets repeatedly when given evidence that their cost estimates are too low, delays caused by those negotiations pose a big problem for local agencies, Kopplin said. State officials are urging FEMA to develop a policy, he said, that would allow a PA recipient to borrow against other approved projects to cover temporary funding gaps of the sort described by Sylvain-Lear.

In St. Bernard Parish, officials rail about the lack of upfront money for PA projects that they say makes it difficult, if not impossible, to advance major restoration projects. Such projects include rebuilding the parish’s sewer system and repairing St. Bernard’s civic center and government complex in Chalmette. Ironically, the last two projects, expected to cost more than $3 million combined, were cited by FEMA officials among 20 south Louisiana projects that will show a positive PA impact.

Unlike some local parishes, St. Bernard has little flexibility in its budget to cover early costs of a construction project while waiting for a FEMA reimbursement, and many contractors won’t bid if they aren’t sure when they will be paid, said Joey DiFatta, chairman of the parish council.

“We need federal help up front rather than on the back end,” DiFatta said. “How the hell do you spend it if you don’t have it?”

FEMA officials say that while PA offerings are labeled reimbursements, federal law allows advances on the money. But the state decides the details of when and how to front money.

Mark Debosier, disaster recovery chief for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, said DiFatta is misinformed if he thinks construction advances aren’t available. The state has a policy of advancing, when asked, up to 75 percent of the cost of a project, in increments that can be spent in a timely fashion.

“I don’t know that St. Bernard has ever even asked,” he said. “It’s primarily a reimbursement program, but there are provisions for advances.”

The state’s offer of 10 percent of FEMA-estimated project expenses for design and engineering is well-known. But Debosier said there has been limited use of other construction advances. He suggested that many agencies don’t apply for them because they haven’t figured out how to pay the portion of costs not covered by the PA grant.

The LRA’s Kopplin said the state hasn’t promoted use of construction advances until recently. To be sure, Slidell’s finance director said she had not heard about the availability of construction advances. And Tommy Couvillion, district manager of Associated General Contractors, said many companies that have landed PA-related work, most of it through the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, reluctantly agreed to extend themselves, not sure when FEMA reimbursements would arrive.

“They’re being good corporate citizens, trying to help the city get back on its feet. If you can’t treat the sewage, and you don’t have potable water, we’re all dead in the water,” Couvillion said. “The unknown is always fraught with anxiety, you know? You’re betting the payments are going to come sooner (rather) than later. You’re hoping, and you keep the fingers crossed.”

Coleman Warner can be reached at cwarner@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3311.

COMMENTS (9)Post a comment

Posted by xfire on 07/14/07 at 9:54PM

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SAY “FEME” RED TAPE IS STRANGLING THEM ————-
Now thats pure amazement…….and it’s only taken them 23 months to come to this concludion…….anyone could have known this just by talking to anyone who had to deal with FEMA……

Posted by skydaddy on 07/14/07 at 10:25PM

Just wait until we get government run health insurance coverage that all these idiot main stream media types are trying to convince us that we need. What would anything to do with the government be like if they didn’t have red tape?

Posted by xfire on 07/15/07 at 1:22AM

SNAKE24:
You had me right up to “Obama and Clinton”….You must be kidding…..

Posted by nolano on 07/15/07 at 6:11AM

now imagine “the folks down city hall way” trying to deal with getting anything correct, folks, looks like we will all be needing 4 wheelers soon to “drive” our streets, I heard it took 3 hours ever day just to get meal orders correct for the connected “lunch crowd”, I b having a shrimpss on bum ,no mayo, but lots of hot stuff and plenty dem pickels , oh budda aslo, i b tankin u

Posted by mdsolutions on 07/15/07 at 6:26AM

Its not FEMA as much as it is the State and Louisiana politics. FEMA passes money to the state and the state has a machine in place that is highly inefficient and primitive. Why? If the state machine can make the processes obnoxious enough so that most normal individuals will avoid bidding – then the friends of the state will use their contacts to cut special deals for each other and receive the high awards.

That is just how Louisiana works. It is well rehearsed and the standard operating procedure. Accept it.

How to get involved? It costs money.

How to stop it? Impossible. The state runs on these relationships.

Posted by deadbeat007 on 07/15/07 at 8:15AM

The Department of Defence has managed to spend over 440 billion dollars in Iraq over the past 4 1/2 years, maybe they ought to take over that part of FEMA’s function.

Posted by powerpakt on 07/15/07 at 8:56AM

HAS ANYONE HEARD OF THE 12.5 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF ICE THAT IS SIMPLY GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO MELT, RATHER THAN GIVE OR SELL FOR LESS AT ONES OWN RISK? IT WAS SENT TO NOLA AFTER KATRINA, BUT BECAUSE OF UNCERTAINTY OF ITS SAFETY AND STORAGE COST, THEY HAVE CHOSEN TO “LET IT MELT” UN-BLANKIN-BELIEVEABLE

Posted by vidicon on 07/15/07 at 11:10AM

I tired of hearing local and state government blaming everything on FEMA. Obviously the TP interviewed cry babies from Jefferson Parish,these people would not last one week in a real job. I dealt with both Fema, SBA and very graceful for their help for both personal and business.State Government is a joke! The largest budget in history and real problem were not address ex: Homeowners and commercial ins., hurricane protection, health care in targeted areas.

Posted by russian on 07/15/07 at 5:19PM

I understand that people cannot wait and patience. That is very real slow progress of rebuilding take longtime for 25 years They could not take a day or a week for rebuilding. They are not sure, because hurricane could hit in Gulf Coast again. That is why Governor Blanco hold $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Let me explain you that it will have an other major hurricane in 2009. Betsy-Katrina hit in Gulf Coast (1965 -2005) for 40 years. Camille-????? will hit in Gulf Coast (1969-2009) for 40 years. I hope not.. God Bless……….

I have my comments for you. I lost my everything in Eastern New Orleans. If I am elect Mayor or Governor I would like to demand in Eastern N.O. closed for good. I am very curious that what is your opinion comments.

 

63% of Louisiana Nursing Homes Not Evacuated: Why was Lafon nursing home not evacuated?

July 13, 2007

September 8, 2007 Update – Here. 

The lack of proper planning shouldn’t justify the deaths of Long Term Care patients during a hurricane. The mis-placed blame for the deaths at St. Rita’s is disgusting enough, however, LQ was unaware of the lack of evacuation at Lafon Nursing Home in Eastern New Orleans.

At Nursing Home, Katrina Dealt Only the First Blow

Nuns Labored for Days in Fatal Heat to Get Help for Patients

By Anne Hull and Doug Struck

Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 23, 2005; Page A01

{…Three weeks later, Lafon is being investigated by Louisiana’s attorney general, along with other nursing homes where people died after a failure to evacuate…}

Search LQ @ Word Press for further information concerning St. Rita’s and the LTC evacuation preparations that are being tossed back into the Federal lap instead of aiming at the local Nursing Home administrators and owners for personal responsibility for evacuations. The legal blamegame must stop in order to progress! The tax paying citizens who helped found our present should not be left behind just because local money grubbing whiners that own nursing homes lack personal responsibility in running their so called “businesses” for the Long Term Care institutions.

Louisiana Questions has posted previous articles of meetings in Florida concerning the Lack of transportation for Nursing Homes in an evacuation. Someone should be questioning Joseph Donchess.

Herald Tribune – Southwest Florida Newspaper Article excerpt May 23, 2007

Joseph Donchess, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, said he has been assured by state and federal officials that enough buses will be available if needed this year. But he expressed skepticism, given that his pleas for state police to help escort nursing home evacuees through pre-storm traffic jams have been rejected.

See Levees lawsuits and then click here for previously posted info on St. Rita’s.

Also see the DRA’s July 6th Newsletter.

July 6, 2007

Improving Transportation In The Delta

By Pete Johnson

During an intense planning retreat in 2005, the Delta Regional Authority board decided to focus its regional initiatives in the areas of transportation, health care and information technology. This has been a busy year for the authority in each of these areas, especially the area of transportation. Just six months into the year, we’ve already released the Delta Development Highway System plan, begun work on a multimodal plan for the region and continued promotion of an improved corridor from Interstate 55 in Mississippi to Interstate 40 in Arkansas.

Since the late February release of our Delta Development Highway System plan, we’ve received a great deal of media attention and numerous requests for copies of the report. Basing our efforts on the tremendous success of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s highway system during the past four decades, we’re proposing a 3,800-mile system in the eight states we cover. It wouldn’t be cheap. Our plan estimates the price tag would be $18.5 billion in 2007 dollars. But the return on investment would be huge. We predict a return of $3.5 billion in benefits per year once the system is completed. Now, the task for Delta advocates in all eight states will be to make the case to Congress that this plan should be funded.

Of the roads in the plan, 27 percent already provide four or more travel lanes. The remainder are two-lane roads that would be enhanced. Our plan calls for improvements to existing corridors and, in some cases, new corridors. The proposed miles in the Delta Development Highway System are 383 in Alabama, 704 in Arkansas, 174 in Illinois, 230 in Kentucky, 591 in Louisiana, 753 in Mississippi, 566 in Missouri and 442 in Tennessee. If you would like to view the Delta Development Highway System plan, go to http://www.dra.gov , click on “Programs To Advance The Delta” and then click on “Transportation.” I think you’ll be impressed with what we’ve proposed.

This plan represents the culmination of thousands of hours of work by those of us at the DRA and some of the region’s top transportation experts. We received input from transportation executives and local organizations in all eight states. Public meetings were held throughout the region last fall. Our consulting team consisted of Wilbur Smith Associates, the Michael Baker Corp. and Neel-Schaffer Inc. Staff members from the Federal Highway Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission provided additional assistance.

Our transportation activities this year have not focused solely on the Delta Development Highway System. When Congress passed a highway act in 2005, the DRA was directed to prepare an overall multimodal plan for the region. To meet this congressional mandate, we’ll assess the transportation assets in the 240 counties and parishes we cover — highways, bridges, railroads, airports, river ports, ocean ports and more. We next will assess the demands being put on the current assets. Once those assessments are completed, we’ll prepare a plan that hopefully will address the demands far into the future. Our board recently selected the professional contractors to help us prepare this plan, which we hope to release in 2008.

It’s important to look at much more than just highways as we seek to improve the Delta economy. For instance, freight rail systems are an integral part of the region’s economy. Particular attention will be paid to activities at the east-west gateways of Memphis and New Orleans. Commodity movements within the region will be identified. In addition to assessing our freight rail systems, we’ll identify passenger rail providers and service in the eight states. At the same time, the plan will identify all general, commercial and freight aviation facilities. In the area of waterways, we’ll review statewide waterway and port plans along with data collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This will ensure that all port and lock facilities are identified and their services are documented.

As we develop the multimodal plan, we’ll meet with the key stakeholders throughout the region while ensuring that our plan melds well with the various state plans. The movement of freight will be among the critical factors we examine. We’ll interview freight shippers who can assist us in identifying and addressing the needs in the areas of highways, water, rail, trucking and aviation. Finally, we’ll develop a program of proposed projects with a thorough economic analysis of those projects. I’m confident that enactment of the proposals we make will help us lower the cost of doing business, strengthen our economy, improve the nation’s productivity and make travel safer and more efficient. All America will benefit from what happens in the Delta.

We’re also working with business, government and civic leaders in Arkansas and Mississippi to promote the idea of a four-lane connection from Interstate 55 at Batesville, Miss., to Interstate 40 at Brinkley, Ark. This route would, in essence, serve as an additional loop south of Memphis, allowing traffic to avoid the congested Memphis metropolitan area while speeding up the flow of goods across the country. Less congestion in Memphis would also make it easier for the area to meet air quality standards. Such a corridor would require a new bridge over the Mississippi River at Helena-West Helena, Ark. This bridge would be south of the worst areas of the New Madrid earthquake zone, ensuring the continued east-west flow of goods should a major earthquake destroy the Interstate 40 and Interstate 55 bridges at Memphis.

The Delta already is one of most important warehousing, distribution and logistics hubs in the country. With a systematic planning process and the political will to enact the various proposals that come out of that process, we can ensure a brighter future for the Delta and a strengthened American economy.

Pete Johnson of Clarksdale, Miss., is the federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. He was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2001.


St. Rita’s owners can blame feds
Scope of testimony grows in ’05 deaths
Friday, July 13, 2007
By Paul Rioux
St. Bernard bureau

The owners of a St. Bernard Parish nursing home where 35 elderly residents drowned after Hurricane Katrina can present evidence at their negligent homicide trial next month that the government was responsible for the deaths, according to a state appellate court decision upholding a ruling by the trial judge.

But the First Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the judge’s ban on testimony and evidence about the fate of other local nursing homes, a double-edged sword for both sides in a case that has drawn national news media attention.

Prosecutors want to focus on the other three St. Bernard nursing homes, all of which were evacuated before Katrina made landfall in late August 2005 and had just one death among them.

Defense attorneys say they will seek to introduce evidence that the majority of nursing homes in the New Orleans area did not evacuate, including Lafon Nursing Home in eastern New Orleans, where 22 residents died. No charges have been filed in connection with the deaths at Lafon.

The ruling released Thursday was in response to a writ filed by prosecutors arguing that Judge Jerome Winsberg had erred in prohibiting evidence about what happened at other nursing homes while allowing the defense to blame the government for the tragedy.

Jim Cobb, an attorney for St. Rita’s owners Mabel and Salvador Mangano, who are facing 35 counts of negligent homicide, said he’s pleased with the ruling to permit testimony about third-party fault.

“It allows us to present evidence of who really was at fault for the deaths of the poor folks at St. Rita’s: the Army Corps of Engineers for the failed levees and a host of state and local officials who botched the evacuation,” he said. “It’s a critical part of our case.”

The state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Examining other homes

In a partial victory for the state, the appellate court overturned Winsberg’s blanket ban on evidence about other nursing homes, instructing him to consider the admissibility of such evidence on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling fell short of prosecutors’ request that Winsberg be ordered to allow testimony about evacuations at St. Bernard’s three other nursing homes.

“In total, 188 frail, elderly folks were evacuated, many by ambulance, with the loss of only one life because the owners and administrators heeded clear warnings of danger and honored their obligation and duty to care for those entrusted to them in spite of the difficulties and cost of doing so,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors argued it is impossible to assess whether the Manganos’ decision to not evacuate amounted to negligence without looking at what other nursing homes in the parish did.

“The whole theory of negligence presupposes some uniform standard of behavior,” they wrote.

Although defense attorneys have sought to bar comparisons between St. Rita’s and the other St. Bernard homes, Cobb said a broader comparison with homes in the region — not just in St. Bernard Parish — is more favorable to the Manganos.

He said figures compiled by the Louisiana Nursing Home Association indicate 36 of 57 nursing homes in the New Orleans area did not evacuate as Katrina approached.

“The truth is that most nursing homes did exactly what St. Rita’s did,” he said.

Cobb also said he will seek to introduce testimony about the little-publicized tragedy at Lafon Nursing Home run by the Sisters of the Holy Family. More than 100 elderly residents rode out the hurricane at the home on Chef Menteur Highway, and 22 died in the subsequent five days as help was slow to arrive.

Cobb has said it was improper for Attorney General Charles Foti to charge the Manganos but not the nuns at Lafon.

Trial to begin next month

The trial is slated to begin Aug. 13 in St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, where it was moved after Winsberg granted a defense motion for a change of venue.

Winsberg, a retired New Orleans judge, is presiding over the case because all St. Bernard judges recused themselves, most because they knew some of the St. Rita’s residents who died.

Katrina’s massive storm surge flooded the one-story nursing home near Poydras to the ceiling within 20 minutes, overwhelming the elderly residents, many of whom were confined to beds or wheelchairs.

The Manganos and staff members saved 26 residents, floating many of them out windows on mattresses. In addition to the negligent homicide charges, the couple is charged with 26 counts of cruelty to the infirm for the hardships endured by the survivors.

The couple had allegedly ignored a mandatory evacuation order from the parish and refused an offer by parish officials to bus residents to safety a day before the storm hit, authorities have said.

The Manganos, who are in their 60s, have maintained their innocence, saying through their attorneys that the nursing home had never flooded in 20 years and that they were worried some of the frail residents wouldn’t survive the ordeal of an evacuation. The couple also said they were never ordered to evacuate.

. . . . . . .

Paul Rioux can be reached at prioux@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3321.

Update: 7/29/07 Evacuation issues in North Carolina

Southeastern North Carolina from Project Disaster

If a major hurricane – a Category 4 or 5 – hit the region tomorrow, local emergency services wouldn’t be able to evacuate all of the medical facilities and people with special needs here.

“Potentially, we would have a shortfall of ambulances,” said Warren Lee, New Hanover County Emergency Services director.