Archive for the 'Seattle' Category

Is the VOO program hiring commercial fisherman, first?

June 2, 2010

This story from Bayou, Le Batre, Ala. really started the day off.

“At issue, according to those there, is that recreational boat owners are being hired before those who make their livelihoods solely from fishing local waters.”

URL

Evidently, BP’s VOO program is in question, “We are adjusting the vessels of opportunity program to give priority to commercial vessels and fisherman.”

There’s a post in the Louisiana Sportsman forum stating that boat captains could be paid $35/hr just to drive the boat. I wonder what that’s all about.

Cop Killer’s Aunt: My House Looks Like It Was Hit By Hurricane Katrina

December 4, 2009

Totally Clueless Katrina Comment

Oh no you didn’t! I guess you think your house was slabbed? I don’t THINK SO!

Why did Gov. Jindal bring up Katrina?

February 26, 2009

KIRO Talk Radio attempted to make fun of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s speech yesterday evening. That part of the radio show was a success. Here is where KIRO talk radio invited chaos...they discredited Sheriff Harry Lee and they made fun of HURRICANE KATRINA victims and survivors by questioning , “Why did Bobby Jindal bring up Hurricane Katrina, again in his speech? What does Katrina have to do with it?”

I started crying inside. I wish that I had a cell phone handy at the time of the show when they said that they were taking calls and opened a discussion. I was busy at the time and couldn’t. They should be very, very, thankful that I didn’t call.

“As the president made clear this evening, we’re now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs; others have seen your college and your retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. You’re looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.” –Bobby Jindal

Here is what KIRO didn’t understand. People lost their jobs, their transportation, their homes, their lives, and everything about their lives changed … INSTANTLY during Hurricane Katrina. Many are still fighting insurance companies, even today. Many are still rebuilding. Many cannot rebuild. Many are still not home. Many are still fighting bureaucrats.

When Mt. St. Helens blew, 50 people died. I didn’t hear KIRO making fun of that natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina killed three times that number of people. Some of those were children. No children died when Mt. St. Helens blew.

KIRO Talk Radio discredited Sheriff Harry Lee and laughed about the fact that he has since passed on. “We’re trying to….get….let’s call him.” they said. They actually wanted to call Harry Lee and confirm the conversation that he had had with Jindal during Hurricane Katrina. Then KIRO realized that Harry Lee was dead. KIRO doesn’t understand how well liked and well respected Sheriff Harry Lee was and still is in Louisiana. KIRO Talk Radio screwed up. Maybe if Harry had better health care he would still be here today. Many people in Louisiana didn’t have access to health care prior to Hurricane Katrina as Louisiana was one of those states that was deemed a “healthcare shortage area.” I can’t expect KIRO to understand what that means after Katrina.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from across the nation for our ongoing recovery efforts.” KIRO Talk Radio wasn’t listening. And for those of us who cannot “go home” and are forced to listen to KIRO instead of WWL? It is because people “ignored the bureaucrats” that “There’s a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.”

Making fun of Jindals diction, tone, and meter in his speech was okay with me.

Making fun of Bobby Jinda’s RED WHITE AND BLUE TIE, was even okay with me. (Even though I’d like to wrap it around KIRO TALK RADIO’s NECK.) The fact that Bobby Jindal has ALWAYS worn a RED WHITE AND BLUE TIE, escaped KIRO listeners and KIRO Talk Radio.

Making fun of Hurricane Katrina victims and the travesty that REMAINS WITH US DAILY by KIRO TALK RADIO PERSONALITIES asking, “Why did Bobby Jindal bring up Hurricane Katrina, again?” shows complete and total, utter disregard, disrespect, ignorance, and poor taste in broadcast journalism. I can go on and on. I won’t. KIRO Talk Radio, like many other Americans, unfortunately, have no inkling.

The current so called “financial crisis” that America is facing cannot be compared to anything else but Katrina. The banks closed after Katrina. There was no cash to be had, no credit, NOTHING. KIRO couldn’t put up a radio station from scratch, I’d be willing to bet on it.

I’d like to see WWL interview these KIRO Talk Radio folks. I’d like to see KIRO get GRILLED.

I’ll show you mine cowboy, if you show me yours. (I think I already know who won this fight.)

KIRO,? You’re FIRED.

Why would I buy all that if I wasn’t fixing it?

August 9, 2007

I understood that New Orleans and Louisiana, in general, had affordable housing issues prior to Katrina. Unsightly housing, or blighted housing has affected many in Louisiana. I’ve seen the old barge board, shot gun homes that people are actually living in today. I’ve walked through them before they were scheduled to be demolished. I’ve seen these places all over Louisiana. People need a place to call home, a place to live, and work, and rear their children. Regardless, of the substandard housing…they pay their rent and work and play like everyone else. Sure they complain to the landlords about the structural problems of their home. All of these landlords have one excuse or another as to why they never fixed the leaky roof, the plumbing, or the stove. The rent was cheap and so possibly some tenants did not complain. They were thankful for a place to live. The issues in New Orleans post Katrina are not new, unfortunately. It appears, as far as affordable housing is concerned, that they were only, and I use that term loosely and with sarcastic undertones, exacerbated after the disaster.

Some parishes, cities, or towns, have housing inspectors and some do not. Not everyone affected by Katrina lived in either Baton Rouge or New Orleans. It is an overlooked and under-exploited fact. Most of the inspection issues are applied both at the town, city, or parish level and require little else but an ordinance and the staff to conduct the inspections. Of course, the fees for the inspections are likely the responsibility of landowners. Inspections are just another financial issue for the homeowner/ landlord to deal with that they may not be able to afford.

The post office in the year since Katrina (now two years) had issues in delivering mail to the appropriate person(s) due to the mail forwarding time limits, names, families, etc. For those of you familiar with the postal services’ rules and regulations with regards to forwarding – you understand. I’ve sent letters off in the mail to Katrina damaged neighborhoods only to find the letter back inside my mailbox several weeks to a month later. I’ve had to call local Post Masters in order to verify addresses and tell them how silly they are being, all the while knowing that these people still live at the address I’ve listed, but I have received the letter stamped, “forward expired”.

The WAFB article dated June 2007 states that the city of Baton Rouge gave her six months in order to respond. The article was written in June, and said that the woman was given notice in August of 2006. The home was not damaged by Katrina according to the article, but was damaged by a fire after Katrina in the summer of 2006. The journalist was quick to point out that the original owner of the home, was dead, but did not go into detail. Assuming that the daughter kept her maiden name, which is a large assumption, there are a number of “Davis'” on the Katrina Victim list.

Did the journalist provide pertinent and adequate detail? “Woman Upset the City of Baton Rouge Bulldozed Her Home”.

Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine points out, “We’re here from the government, we’re here to help you.” August 6, 2007 A story from the Ninth Ward’s Jason Banks on KSAT San Antonio, Texas news online.

No One Knows Why Family’s Home Torn Down – Local News Story – KSAT San Antonio: “NEW ORLEANS — Jason Banks got his trash hauled away, obtained a building permit, gutted his Ninth Ward home and was ready to renovate.

But then, the brick house vanished, reduced to a slab in an unwanted demolition.

‘I was heartbroken. I was in tears. I was furious,’ he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said orders to tear down the house came from City Hall — but no one in City Hall is answering questions about Banks’ home.

‘They don’t know why. It happened it wasn’t on the blighted list. The last call I made yesterday, they told me FEMA did it. Then, a guy called me back from FEMA and said they’re not in the business if tearing down homes,’ Banks said.

Jason Banks said he kept his grass cut, paid his taxes and had the home appraised at $147,000. He was just waiting on money from Louisiana Road Home rebuilding program to make repairs to his house.”

And still more housing demolition articles gathered from The Truth Laid Bear.

Map with housing scheduled to be demolished in and around New Orleans. Disregard some misinformed, un-educated commentors who believe the map is a “propaganda” tool. The housing crisis before Katrina was too obvious to those who attempted to solve the problem. . . I wish it were all just propaganda! Internet maps are kewl and their display (ie linked icons – pins, circles, etc. ) oftentimes must be sized largely to create the internet link. Some of the comments here reflect extreme ignorance to both internet map making, and housing issues. Karen, listed below, also has a map of her photographed homes on the chopping block.

Still there are people who believe the housing crisis and issues in New Orleans are exclusive to the “African American” community. I have to give them credit for their media coverage, but I also have to interject that the short sighted focus on larger cities, and racial prejudice is getting into muddy water. Everyone deserves a place to call home – is my point exclusively. Others choose to make housing in New Orleans a racial issue. They can. It is their right. However wrong I feel about making this a racial issue, – the majority rules… and they are not home, yet.

Update: 11:25AM See also : Library Chronicles “It’s about G8d d*mmed time”

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal – It’s on today’s front page – link views actual paper.

Various Flickr Groups Photos
New Orleans
BloggingNewOrleans
louisiana
New Orleans Recovery
Hurricane Katrina
Defend New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina Photos – Pool
Humid City

Who dat ? Say it isn’t so…

July 29, 2007

Louisiana CrawfishAshley Morris offered links to the new Saints website developed by a Seattle, Washington consulting company.  Ashley was unimpressed with  the fact that the Saints didn’t “buy local”. They are our home team.  They should buy local. The Saints made me proud last year for the first time since the 80’s. Morris was right on that note. “Unimpressed”, wasn’t the word that first came to my mind.  Negligent, ignorant, selfish, foolish, corporate…buffoons!  I have a string of expletives I can’t share.

The buy local buy Louisiana campaign has long since been thrown under the radar and should be front page news daily.  The fact that most of the revenue base has been shipped to Texas ie evacuated and likely will never return is a sore spot for many of us. You can view the pdf file from the left about Houston area evacuees for those numbers.  Ashley rants further about the fact that a woman from Texas held a sign up during Mardi Gras, “We’re from Texas – You owe us!”  I have another string of expletives…

Someone should give at least a verbal credit to all of those companies that buy Louisiana products.  A journalist from Washington State wrote a story recently on sodas that use pure cane sugar.  A photo of Zatarain’s Rootbeer accompanied the article.  Zatarian’s  Rootbeer isn’t available on the West Coast.  There were addresses and phone numbers of local Washington State merchants  who offered various brands of home made soda products.  Of course, none of the merchants called had even heard of Zatarains rootbeer.  The author of the article would not return phone calls.  I was livid.  Zatarain’s, now a division of McCormick, stated to the effect that this was a “snafu” of sorts.  They were not informed of the use of the photograph and should have been. Here’s where I got ugly…

I’m reminded of the lack of milk during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and being surrounded by dairy country.  My recent post on the gas shortage lifted me somewhat as a Hammond area gas station offered free gas to a dairy farmer who needed it to milk his cows.  Buying local milk, however, is a bit more difficult considering the dairy industry.  Every container of milk you buy from Winn Dixie has a Jacksonville, Fla stamp.  You just can’t buy local milk!  It all gets thrown into one great big vat and shipped around.

Agriculture Hearings April 2007 – local dairy farmer speaks an talks about Katrina’s impact and current issues pertaining to the Louisiana dairy industry April 2007.

“…It is important for the Committee to note that Louisiana is a milk deficit state which means that we do not produce enough fluid milk to satisfy consumer needs and consequently milk from other states has to be shipped in at various times to meet demand. Maintaining as much milk production as possible from the existing dairy operations in the state is critical!…”

Press Release July 27, 2007 La. Dept. of Ag 

It’s frustrating to go into the stores and see Chinese shrimp for sale knowing that Louisiana Shrimpers are out there working for Louisiana in the Gulf.  I can’t find one Made with Pride in Post Katrina Louisiana sticker.

Here are two links for Louisiana food products. Cajun Shop  and   Louisiana Seafood .  And this is from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture Marketing.   Then there’s the export directory of Louisiana Products. This export list is from August 2005.  I’m not certain if it is accurate reflection post Katrina.  It will take some work to find out. The Ag website doesn’t give a specific date that i can immediately see, just “August 2005”.   The Ag website does have a 2007 list of Louisiana Food and Non-Food Products. I can’t download those to review right away — this post Katrina dialup puter is so slow. So check them out at your own leisure.

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.