Archive for the 'St. Rita’s' Category

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.) 

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What happend two years later?

September 4, 2007

Two years ago on September 4th, 2005 we had no electricity. The streets were full of debris. It was hot. The trees lost all of their leaves. It looked like fall. Gunshots were fired a few blocks away. Two people were killed, “looting”. I was supposed to have surgery the day Katrina hit. That got cancelled. Red Cross was nowhere to be found, yet. Phone service was non-existant. Mail service was post poned. Grocery stores were taking cash only. Gas lines formed. The banks were closed. I didn’t see anything get any better in the following week ahead. Things just got worse.

After we finally evacuated, Louisiana said that the health insurance would carry over out of state. It didn’t. The pharmacy said that that the crisis was over now – a month later. It wasn’t. I had to fight the state for identification verification. FEMA mailed a letter to the wrong address and gave out several identification case numbers. It was a confusing mess. It took over nine months to get the SBA to respond. The SBA was a waste of my time. FEMA contracted employees, inspectors, were sent twice. This took months and months. FEMA can’t contact their contracted employees, either. They have no idea who is working on your case.

Two years later, I still haven’t had my surgery. Healthcare in Louisiana was really bad prior to Katrina. Now? I know its nearly non-existant. I still think of my children as 8 and 10, even though two years have passed. Now they have a sister. She was born nearly two years to the day of Katrina. She’s the only damn good thing that’s come out of this…aside from getting to evacuate alive.

UPDATE Sept. 5, 2007

CNN’s Ruins, deaths don’t stop family’s return – posts issues of the tourist industry capitalizing on Louisiana’s misfortune along with the USPS erasing addresses from their mail routes.  The comments are significant here as most agree the disaster tours are in bad taste.  Some of these come here people just don’t know any better.  Here are some comments on the CNN article.

AND two years later some organizations are just NOW attempting to contact me by mail.  These people suck.  They want a long application and review process in order to assist.  They can take a flying LEAP … the JERKS.  Two years?! Give me a break!

ITEMS FROM THE NEWS TWO YEARS LATER

New Orleans, two years later…
By d.K.(d.K.)
On Wednesday, August 29, it will have been two years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and caused the deluge that resulted in the worst natural (and, I’d argue, man-made) disaster in the history of this country. …
A Silent Cacophony – http://asilentcacophony.blogspot.com/

Two years after Katrina
By Molly Reid
NewhouseMiji Park sits back in a chair near a giant eraser board where she and her co-workers jot down their thoughts at The Idea Village in New Orleans. Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans a beacon for entrepreneurs NEW ORLEANS — Five. …
Reports from The Birmingham News… – http://blog.al.com/bn/

Big Easy struggles 2 years after Katrina
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, much of the “city that care forgot” still lies in ruins. But Otis Biggs’ task as he shuffles his Tarot deck this moist August day is to peer into the future to 2015, the storm’s 10th anniversary. …
star-telegram.com: Breaking News – http://www.star-telegram.com/190/index.xml

Two Years Later…What have we learned from Hurricane Katrina?
By theexpositor
Newspapers this Sunday morning across the state of Mississippi are featuring stories measuring the effects of Hurricane Katrina two years after one of the most devastating disasters in American history. On my radio program, …
The Expositor – http://theexpositor.wordpress.com

Obama Outlines Plans for New Orleans
By rikyrah(The Angry Independent)
Strengthen the Levees: Two years after Katrina and despite a billion dollars spent to strengthen the levees, New Orleans is still not protected from a major storm. The levee rebuilding has been piecemeal and disorganized, …
http://mirroronamerica.blogspot.com/

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, a new lease — and view — on life
NEW YORK — Gulf Coast financial advisers are standing on higher ground two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated that region.
InvestmentNews Current Issue Headlines – http://www.investmentnews.com

Sense of optimism takes seed
By Mike Stuckey
A recent report from the Gulf Coast Business Council, titled “Two Years After Katrina,” paints a downright rosy picture on many economic issues, noting that annual retail sales in the three-county coastal area have increased 61 percent …
Rising from Ruin – http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/

Two years after Katrina
Two years after Katrina, several churches in the Diocese of Mississippi still struggle to rebuild:. Driving along what is left of the beachfront boulevard in Bay St. Louis, one sees a lot of green. Nature has reinvented itself; …
The Lead – http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/

Most Huggable: Two Years After Katrina, Carbon Trading’s Dark Side …
Two years after Katrina, New Orleans is still struggling to revive itself. The Daily Green looks into the devastation that still pervades… SolFest rocks “the greenest show on Earth.” Eco Libris tracked down Stephen Morris for a …
TreeHugger – http://www.treehugger.com/

FULL REPORT: Two years after Katrina, blueprint for a failed recovery
By Chris Kromm(Bill)
The study also features “Where did the Katrina money go?” — an in-depth analysis of federal Katrina spending since 2005. The Institute reveals that, out of the $116 billion in Katrina funds allocated, less than 30% has gone towards …
Facing South – http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/index.asp

New Orleans Two Years After Katrina:
By Orin Kerr
This Douglas Brinkley essay is a few days old but still a very important read. Here’s a taste:…
The Volokh Conspiracy – http://volokh.com/

Two Years After Katrina, Still Struggling With Healthcare
I’ve just returned from New Orleans where I visited Share Our Strength’s partners and friends to see firsthand the progress and challenges that the city faces two years after Hurricane Katrina. Having been to the city in February I …
Sharing Witness – http://www.sharingwitness.org/

Countdown: Two Years After Katrina
By Nicole Belle
Keith Olbermann and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter look at the major thudding with which Bush’s quick jaunt to the Gulf Coast on the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was received and the slow recovery process for Katrina victims.
Crooks and Liars – http://www.crooksandliars.com

Q&A: Operation Photo Rescue, Two Years After Katrina
As the Gulf Coast region marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, a photography group remains hard at work restoring family photographs damaged in the floods. Operation Photo Rescue is a network of volunteers who use …
Digg / Design / upcoming – http://digg.com/design

Two years after Katrina, New Orleans recovery stalls
NEW ORLEANS
| Two years after Hurricane Katrina almost nothing seems the same in New Orleans, but one thing has not changed — a cool regard by business for what was once a major Southern commercial center.
Business Feeds – http://www.datasystemsplus.net/

Two years after Katrina, an insurance nightmare
By bhounshell@ceip.org (Blake Hounshell)
Many people are probably wondering today why, two years after Katrina, New Orleans remains something a little less than a shining city on a hill. The news on the Big Easy’s recovery is not all bad, but it’s certainly disappointing for …
FP Passport – blogging on global… – http://blog.foreignpolicy.com

Bush: “Better days” Ahead Two Years After Katrina
President George W. Bush on Wednesday declared “better days” ahead for New Orleans despite complaints over slow rebuilding and amid lingering political fallout two years after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. via 102.5 KIAK-FM.
US News – http://www.topix.com/us

New Orleans Residents Still Furious Two Years After Katrina
Not all residents of New Orleans are “furious”, but some of us are.
Digg / World News / upcoming – http://digg.com/world_news

Two Years After Katrina Entrepreneurs Return To New Orleans
By Jessica Stillman
Two Years After Katrina Entrepreneurs Return To New Orleans It’s two years today since Hurricane Katrina raged across the Gulf Coast, bursting levies and leaving large portions of New Orleans flooded. President Bush led a moment of …
BNET Intercom – http://blogs.bnet.com/intercom

Two Years After Katrina (The Leonard Lopate Show: Wednesday, 29
Rose’s columns that detail not just the city’s dislocation but his own. He joins Leonard to assess where New Orleans is two years after Katrina. If you want more info about ongoing relief efforts for Katrina victims, check out these …
WNYC New York Public Radio Most… – http://www.wnyc.org/

Two years after Katrina
By Sarah van Gelder(Sarah van Gelder)
There are way too many questions remaining two years after Katrina. An International Tribunal is meeting now in New Orleans to look for answers to why a moderate natural disaster became an unspeakable human tragedy that continues two …
Sarah van Gelder – http://www.yesmagazine.org/svgblog/

Two Years After Katrina: Race, Political Relavence, and Survival …
By mole333(mole333)
This diary was originally written once the lessons of Hurricane Katrina had sunk in a bit. This week is the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Two years ag…I remember watching on the weather channel as a category 5 hurricane was …
Mole’s Progressive Democrat – http://moleprogressive.blogspot.com/

Two years after Katrina…
By Nikita
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/news/katrina/ http://www2.oprah.com/tows/pastshows…omocode=cnnkat.
Comic Book Resources Forums – http://forums.comicbookresources.com

Building Back: Two Years after Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, many coastal Louisiana horse owners said “enough’s enough” and moved farther inland, while others stayed behind to reclaim their farms that were battered and drenched by the storm. …
TheHorse.com News – http://www.thehorse.com/

Two Years After Katrina
By Ryan
Tonight I was kicking around my place killing time before Canada battles Puerto Rico and I was amazed by an article that Alexander Wolff wrote called “Two Years After Katrina.” The article is phenomenal and makes it worth buying this …
HoopsAddict.com – http://hoopsaddict.com

NOLA: 2 years on article compilation
By hupcollective(hupcollective)
“Two years after Katrina, our nation has an opportunity to change course and demonstrate its sincere commitment to those being left behind in the faltering recovery,” says Sue Sturgis, a co-author of the full report. …
hupcollective – http://hupcollective.livejournal.com/

Hurricane Katrina: Two Years Later
By vjack(vjack)
Two years after Katrina, less than half of previous New Orleans residents have returned. Those who have remain concerned about the levees. There is a palpable and realistic fear that this could happen again. …
Atheist Revolution – http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/

Q&A: Operation Photo Rescue, Two Years After Katrina
As the Gulf Coast region marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, a photography group remains hard at work restoring family photographs damaged in the floods. via Photo District News.
Photography News – http://www.topix.com/arts/photography

New Orleans, Drop Dead (two years after katrina and thousands are ...
By angryindian
New Orleans, Drop Dead (two years after katrina and thousands are still without homes_new. I guess I’m really a hard-hearted person, but as a survivor of Florida’s Hurricane Charley, which tore my roof off and forced me to spend many …
The News is NowPublic.com – NowPublic… – http://www.nowpublic.com

After Katrina, and after Hugo, and after Andrew…
By Fausta(Fausta)
Two years after Andrew hit journalists weren’t going to Florida to interview people whose rent was still being paid by FEMA. Interestingly, a large influx of illegal labor went to work in the rebuilding effort after Andrew, Hugo, …
Fausta’s blog – http://faustasblog.com/

Two Years After Katrina, Billions in Relief Funds Are Missing
By bubba2
Less than 42% of the money set aside has even been spent, much less gotten to those most in need. Channel: Do No Evil Tags: hurricane Katrina Gulf Coast long term recovery missing relief funds Bush.
Netscape.com Do No Evil Stories – http://www.netscape.com

Kinship Circle: [GULF COAST] Two Years And Still Counting
By Kelly
Unbelievably, nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, animals are still being found in houses. (November 2005). Kinship Circle – 2007-09-01 – 07 – Don Corsmeier of KAT 5. PHOTO: Rescue volunteer Don Corsmeier rides in …
easyVegan.info – http://www.easyvegan.info

New Orleans: Two Years After Hurricane Katrina
It’s now been two years since the destruction of New Orleans caused by defective flood protection built by the US Army Corps of Engineers following Hurricane Katrina. Check out the video of the “progress.”
Digg / upcoming – http://digg.com/

KATRINA
By Ann
-One year after the disaster there were still approximately 100000 people still living in more than 38000 FEMA-provided trailers. Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. In the days following the …
BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS… – http://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com

Two years after Katrina, New Orleans job recovery stalls
Two years after Hurricane Katrina almost nothing seems the same in New Orleans, but one thing has not changed – a cool regard by business for what was once a major Southern commercial center.
http://www.LoHud.com

Hurricane Felix: The 8th Category 5 Atlantic Storm in Just 5 Years
By Dan
There have now been eight Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes in the past five years (Isabel, Ivan, Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Dean, Felix); There have been two Atlantic Category 5s so far this year; only three other seasons have had more …
The Daily Green – http://www.thedailygreen.com

Racism and Criminal Justice in New Orleans
By jodietonita
Two Years Post-Katrina: Racism and Criminal Justice in New Orleans By Jordan Flaherty August 29, 2007. Two years after the devastation of New Orleans highlighted racism and inequality in the US, the disaster continues. …
She muses – http://shemuses.net

MediaStorm: Finding the Way Home: Two Years After Katrina by …
MediaStorm: Finding the Way Home: Two Years After Katrina
by Brenda Ann Kenneally.
While Seated (2point8 linklog) – http://whileseated.tumblr.com/

FROM NY TIMES:
But two years after Hurricane Katrina hit, Ms. Cassin and her husband, Joseph, are still stranded far from home; their insurer has offered them just $41000. Emile J. Labat III, a funeral home owner and real estate investor, …
http://defendneworleans.tumblr.com/

Katrina and New Orleans Demographics
By johnibii
Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina we have an opportunity to look at how the victims and displaced responded in a crisis. A Vietnamese-American friend who lives in New Orleans said to me: “Mother fled North Vietnam …
Peace and Freedom II – http://johnibii.wordpress.com

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.

What’s in the news for da parishes 8/01/07?

August 1, 2007

The Daily Advertiser
Jul 31, 3:35 PM EDT

AG to judge: make lawyers for nursing home owners apologise

By MARY FOSTER
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Attorney General wants a court-ordered apology from lawyers for the couple charged in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina. The lawyers want Foti ordered out of the case.

The judge should not just deny the motions filed for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, who own St. Rita’s nursing home, but make their lawyers apologize publicly, Foti’s office said in court motions. District Judge Jerome Winsberg was scheduled to rule on the motions Wednesday.

One of the Manganos’ motions asks that the attorney general’s $200 billion federal court claim against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers be made part of the court record in their case.

The other contends that because the suit against the Corps blames its faulty levees for the floods that inundated St. Rita’s, the rest of St. Bernard Parish and 80 percent of New Orleans, the charges against the Manganos are conflict of interest.

Foti contends those motions “are part of an ill-conceived and desperate attempt to thwart the jury process,” said a motion filed Monday in the 20th Judicial District Court in St. Francisville.

The attempt to make Foti step aside is pure public relations – an attempt to get their side of the story in the press, Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry said.

He said the defense is also trying to create a red herring by accusing the attorney general personally and professionally of a conflict of interest, bringing politics into the case.

That “indicates the most frightening realization of how deep and broad the venom of public innuendo and baseless argument can be brought in a court proceeding,” he wrote.

If the court doesn’t make the Manganos’ lawyers apologize, it should penalize them in some way, he wrote.

The attorney general also filed motions to quash a subpoena for Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials, including Foti.

Defense attorneys could not respond to the motion because of a gag order preventing any discussion of the case. They did, however, file motions in opposition to the attorney general’s Tuesday afternoon.

The Advocate
State: Nursing home case targeting Foti

By JAMES MINTON
Advocate Baker – Zachary bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1B

ST. FRANCISVILLE — Attempts to bar state Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. from prosecuting two St. Bernard Parish nursing home owners are but one more “chapter in the book of character assassination” against Foti, a state response to a defense motion says.

Retired Judge Jerome Winsberg is scheduled to hear arguments today on a request by attorneys for Salvador and Mabel Mangano to bar Foti and his office from prosecuting the case.

The judge should require the defense attorneys to “publicly apologize” for what the state prosecutors call baseless arguments for Foti’s removal, the memorandum signed by Assistant Attorney General Burton P. Guidry says.

The prosecutors also filed motions Monday to halt the defense’s move to have Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Foti and members of Blanco’s cabinet testify in the case.

The Manganos, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home, face 35 counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of residents trapped by flood waters that inundated the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The couple also faces 24 counts of cruelty to the infirm.

Their trial, moved to West Feliciana Parish, is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Winsberg has issued a gag order barring attorneys from commenting publicly about the case.

The couple’s attorneys contend Foti has a conflict of interest in prosecuting the case because he also is claiming in a federal lawsuit that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the devastation that followed the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

Foti’s reply calls the defense argument a “red herring” and says no conflict of interest exists in his office prosecuting criminal offenses while also representing the legal interests of various state agencies.

“Our courts have been clear in delineating that the normal rules of conflict for private counsel do not apply in the same manner when the Office of Attorney General is concerned,” the state’s filing says.

The state’s reply concludes the defense arguments are intended to obfuscate the legal issues and are “part and parcel of an orchestrated public relations campaign to transfer blame to anyone but the Manganos.”

In a separate motion to quash the subpoena for Blanco’s testimony, the Attorney General’s Office said issuing a subpoena for the governor violates state law because no hearing was held to determine the privileged nature of the testimony and the applicability of constitutional immunity provisions.

Blanco and other cabinet officials subpoenaed are not witnesses to the alleged crime and have no knowledge of the case, other than through media coverage, the motion says.
Hammond Daily Star Online – By Don Ellzey
Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:01 AM CDT
Ponchatoula’s 1st Habitat house

PONCHATOULA – The city’s first Habitat for Humanity house was dedicated Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included a large turnout by local and parish officials, Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity representatives and the general public.

Under a broiling sun that had almost everyone sweating during the mid-morning ceremony, Rosie August was presented the key to her new home at 333 Cedar Lane.

Blair Edwards, executive director for the Hammond-based Ginger Ford Habitat for Humanity, said the mission of providing homes for people in need is a Christian ministry to change lives.

“It’s amazing how something as simple as picking up a hammer can change people’s lives,” Edwards said.

The family of Mayor Bob Zabbia donated the lot. Waste Management and Charter Communications were the project’s corporate sponsors.

August accumulated more than 1,000 hours of “sweat equity” working on this home and the homes of others. She will move into the gray frame house with her four children, Brittany, Alicia, Quinten and Terry. The house will allow them to leave behind a lifestyle of living with friends and family.

Among those recognized during the ceremony was the Ponchatoula High School Future Farmers of America Chapter. Edwards said chapter members helped build the house and will work with Master Gardeners of Tangipahoa Parish this year to landscape the lot.

The Junior Auxiliary of Hammond provided some clothing and furnishings.

Community support was a key to the success of the project, Edwards said.

Cars for Homes also helped, she said.

Marcia Rundle of Seattle, director of Habitat’s Cars for Homes program, said the organization gets donations of cars and other vehicles to raise money for the Habitat program. Rundle said a resident of a Northeastern state donated a power boat, the sale of which started the Ponchatoula house.

Hurricane Katrina was a “perfect storm” that caused much devastation and hardship, she said. After Katrina, the Habitat for Humanity program was a “perfect storm” of love that has resulted in such projects as the one in Ponchatoula.

“I wish you luck in moving forward with this ministry and the building of more homes,” Rundle said.

Zabbia said it was great to see the culmination of the project. Much effort from many people went into the construction.

He thanked his family for agreeing to the donation, and said he was looking forward to more such projects in the city.

Jim Laurent, director of government relations for Charter Communications, commended Edwards for her role in coordinating the project.

In closing the ceremony, Edwards commented on the “theology of the hammer.” When someone picks up a hammer, regardless of their religious affiliation, they manifest love by building a house. That love passes through the hammer to others.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a Bible with a hammer on top was passed along the line to each participant.
The Daily Iberian
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN
Comeaux takes parish president’s post
To fill the void created by the resignation of Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, the Parish Council turned to its elder statesman Monday.

Committee to discuss pay hike for top official
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:36 PM CDT
BY JEFF MOORE, THE DAILY IBERIAN

“…A measure that would boost the salary of the parish president by nearly $24,000 will go before the Finance Committee of the Iberia Parish Council on Wednesday.

The committee will discuss increasing the salary of the parish’s top elected official from $103,060 to $126,963…”

Cajun Jokes – Cajun telecommunications
Friday, March 9, 2007 11:34 AM CST

Cast your Vote for LSU Tigers to win the SEC Conference at The Daily Iberian.

Hurricane victims get additional year to sell vacant land The Courier
Houma Today.com August 01. 2007 7:58AM

July 31. 2007 10:51AM
Disagreement over Lafourche levee bill remains at stalemate
BEN LUNDIN- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

July 30. 2007 12:01PM
Locals say illnesses may be linked to FEMA trailers
NAOMI KING- Staff Writer Houma Today.com

Wallace Trosclair (right) stands outside his FEMA trailer home, which he says may be to blame for his recent health problems. In the background (from left to right) are Trosclair’s daughter Amanda Trosclair, 20, Amanda’s daughter, Ansleigh Lovell, and friend Ashely Luke, 17.
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DULAC — At first he didn’t notice the labored breathing, but, Wallace Trosclair said, once he compared his health before and after living in a FEMA trailer, he saw a difference.

The 40-year-old commercial fisherman said he and his 39-year-old wife, Melissa Marie Trosclair, have experienced health problems since they started living in a FEMA trailer. Hurricane Rita flooded the couple’s house in 2005.

“She got diagnosed with asthma. Right before that, I got diagnosed with it,” he said Sunday afternoon, while working to remove the pillars that once supported his now-demolished Shrimpers Row home.

As of Friday, about a dozen Terrebonne and Lafourche people living in FEMA trailers have reported health issues or concerns they say are related to a chemical called formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used in a variety of products, including composite wood and plywood panels used in the trailers that house hurricane victims throughout the Gulf Coast.

In light of recent reports that formaldehyde vapors from FEMA trailers led to health problems for its occupants, federal government workers distributed fliers warning of the danger to the more than 45,000 travel-trailer residents in Louisiana and set up a hotline for people who have concerns. And FEMA officials started working with scientists last week to set up a way to test the trailers for the chemical.

Trosclair said he received one of the health-warning fliers and, though he hasn’t reported his health problems to the agency, he suspects that he’s having difficulty breathing at night because of time spent in the trailer.

Trosclair said he hasn’t talked to a doctor about his labored breathing, which is more pronounced while he’s sleeping, because he wants to test his theory that the trailer is to blame by sleeping elsewhere for several nights in a row. He plans to sleep on his boat, he said, and see how he fares.

“I’d have to stay somewhere else to see if I get a different reaction,” he said. “Because then it would be fresh air.”

Farther down Shrimpers Row, Patricia and Joseph Verdin say they and their three kids haven’t had any health problems because of their FEMA trailer.

“No health problems. I just smoke too much,” said 41-year-old Patricia, who spends most of her day inside the trailer, time typically spent cooking, cleaning and browsing the Internet.

If she did notice anything, Patricia said, she would definitely consult a doctor.

“If any of us get cancer, I’ll question it,” she said, adding that the possibility concerns her.

The Verdins said they’re not sure if they can trust FEMA, which handed out fliers without discussion.

“No one was around to speak to you. They just duct-taped them to the FEMA trailers,” Patricia said.

As for official complaints of health problems, FEMA hotlines registered nine calls from Terrebonne, FEMA officials said.

Four of those calls were health questions that FEMA officials referred to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The other five callers asked to review other living options paid for by FEMA.

Five people from Lafourche called FEMA with concerns. Four of those had health-related questions, and the other was interested in finding an alternative place to live, officials said.

Bob Josephson, external-affairs director for Louisiana’s FEMA office, declined to provide specifics on who made the calls or the extent of reported health problems.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible. But we can’t cross the line of people’s privacy,” he said.

The CDC is encouraging anyone who may have health problems to see a doctor. It’s important to tell the doctor that the affected person lives in a FEMA trailer.

Symptoms associated with illnesses from inhaling formaldehyde include:

# Headaches, fatigue and irritation of nose, eyes, throat and skin.

# Symptoms can be worse for people with asthma and other chronic health conditions.

FEMA trailer residents can protect themselves from overexposure to formaldehyde by:

# Airing out the trailer by opening the windows and turning on fans.

# Not smoking inside the trailer.

# Keeping indoor temperatures moderate. The warmer the temperature and higher the humidity, the quicker the gas will be released.

At a news conference in New Orleans last week, FEMA officials declined to comment on recent allegations in Congress that FEMA lawyers ignored requests from workers to test trailers for formaldehyde.

“I’m not going to comment on what the lawyers may have said,” said Jim Stark, director of the Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office.

Tuesday, a crew of scientists, epidemiologists, hygienists and other medical experts canvassed New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Biloxi to look at trailers — their design, use and interior humidity.

The information will be used to establish guidelines for testing more trailers in the future.

Though the federal government regulates how much formaldehyde is allowed in homes and buildings, no rules have been made regarding travel trailers.

“At this time, frankly, there is no commonly accepted or federally regulated level for travel trailers,” Stark said.

The goal is to find what is a “reasonable level” of formaldehyde for travel trailers, Stark said.

The scientists also will look at all indoor-air-quality issues, including mold and other potentially harmful chemicals.

As of last week, 291 people from throughout the state had called FEMA’s toll-free number to report a health problem or ask questions about the chemical.

About 30 percent to 40 percent of the callers asked to move out of their trailers, FEMA officials said.

“We’re always trying to get people to transition to more suitable housing,” Stark said.

As of May, people in Terrebonne Parish had 520 trailer leases with FEMA; Lafourche had 215.

In the past few months, FEMA has also offered to sell trailers to those who live in them. So far, 284 people in Terrebonne and 131 in Lafourche have expressed interest.

But only six trailers have been sold so far, FEMA officials said. If people want to return the trailers they buy, FEMA will reimburse them.

Officials at the CDC said they couldn’t comment on the extent of problems being reported. Instead the center gives information about the possible heath risks and tells callers to consult local doctors, said spokeswoman Dagny Olivares.

Formaldehyde can be found in a range of everyday items, including cleaning solutions, shampoos, clothing, couch cushions, gas appliances, cigarettes and plywood. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer, asthma, bronchitis and allergies.

It’s not clear, however, what constitutes long-term exposure, Olivares said.

“A lot of the work that’s been done has been worker related,” Olivares said of studies.

Workers tend to be at work eight hours a day, she said. So, someone living in a trailer could conceivably be exposed for longer periods of time. That factor will be taken into account when CDC scientists establish “reasonable” exposure levels, she said.

Staff Writer Naomi King can be reached at 857-2209 or naomi.king@houmatoday.com.

N.O. project to provide housing
By JOE GYAN JR.
Advocate New Orleans bureau
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 14A

The Advocate Baton Rouge, Louisiana
E-mails: FEMA knew about toxin
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
Published: Jul 21, 2007 – Page: 1A

WASHINGTON – When FEMA tested unoccupied trailers in Baton Rouge for formaldehyde, the move confused staff attorney Jill F. Igert.

Igert raised red flags to FEMA administrators that the testing would not yield a realistic reading of how residents who were complaining of toxic fumes were living. FEMA had tested the trailers over a 14-day period in September 2006 with the windows open and the air conditioners running, according to documents released Thursday by a House oversight committee.

“I don’t understand why Sample B is focused on the utilization of the air conditioner and virtually nothing else since it is unrealistic that an applicant will use it 24 hours a day,” Igert wrote in a report.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency officials used that testing to conclude that the only step occupants of the trailers needed to take was “airing out” their campers.

The Igert report was part of the documents released Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Igert wasn’t alone in her concern. E-mails released by the committee show that FEMA field workers recognized a problem.

“We need to take a proactive approach,” staffer James Lowery wrote on March 17, 2006. “The implications are much too large not to take immediate steps to assure safety of our units.”

“This needs to be fixed today,” wrote James Russo, another FEMA staffer, also on March 17, 2006.

However, dozens of e-mails released by the committee and reviewed by The Advocate show that FEMA lawyers were more concerned about being sued than protecting residents.

“Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK,” FEMA attorney Patrick Pearson advised in an e-mail. “While I agree we should conduct testing, we should not do so until we are fully prepare (sic) to respond to the results. Once you get the results and should they indicate a problem, the clock is ticking on our duty to respond to them.”

Lawmakers rap FEMA
House members participating in the hearing on the matter Thursday accused FEMA of covering up the reports of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, despite receiving 200 complaints.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, requested the hearing. E-mails showed that FEMA was more concerned about negative publicity and being sued than it was over the potential health risks to travel trailer occupants, he said.

FEMA issued 120,000 travel trailers after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in 2005, FEMA said. About 62,000 trailers are still in use, including 44,000 in Louisiana, according to the agency.

“This is more than an isolated problem and they refused to treat it as systematic,” Jindal said. “What you never see in the e-mail chain is someone saying ‘What about the health of the children?’ ”

FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison told the House panel that he did not instruct agency attorneys to recommend holding off testing. Paulison said he lets the office of general counsel operate at its own discretion.

But Paulison acknowledged that the final responsibility rests with him. The agency replaced 58 trailers, including 18 in Louisiana, Paulison said.

“The department did not stop dealing with formaldehyde,” Paulison said. “We were not formaldehyde experts. In hindsight, we could’ve moved faster.”

U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., told Paulison that attorneys trying to protect the agency may have put it in more legal hot water.

“You should get new lawyers,” said Norton, an attorney. “You have increased your liability. Plaintiffs may be able to show you knew.”

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Paulison for not being more hands on.

“That’s not hindsight,” Waxman said. “You didn’t have the foresight to listen to your own staff.”

First complaints
The first complaint about formaldehyde came in March 2006 when a Mississippi couple reported problems to a local television station. FEMA’s test of the trailer – the only occupied trailer the agency has tested – showed levels that were 75 percent higher than the maximum workplace exposure level recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Safe levels were recommended at below .01 parts per million, but parts of the trailer tested as high as 2.4 ppm. A room that contained bunk beds tested at 1.2 ppm.

“Who sleeps in bunk beds?” asked committee member U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. “Our precious children.”

FEMA also was criticized for not providing residents with contact numbers to address their problems. James Harris, a 46-year-old minister from Gulf Port, Miss., testified that the contractors representing FEMA changed often.

Not being able to reach FEMA representatives to complain, the married father of one tried to make the best of the situation by buying a $470 air purifier. On Monday, Harris ended up in the emergency room with respiratory problems.

“When you’re helpless, that’s one thing, but when you’re hopeless that’s worse,” Harris said.

FEMA e-mails indicate that one agency representative advised another not to put a contact phone number on information handed out to residents.

“I don’t see a number on it,” staffer Sidney Melton wrote. “Are y’all going to put your MDC numbers on it? We here in (Mississippi) would put our call center number on it.”

Martin McNeese, a FEMA staffer in Louisiana, wrote back: “Hi Sid, we are trying to not generate a lot of calls, just get the facts out as we know them so we are not putting our number on it.”

Paulison denied committee claims that FEMA intentionally tried not to respond to complaints. Each trailer had a number posted on it so people with problems could call a FEMA maintenance center, he said.

But after the hearing, Paulison acknowledged that FEMA should have used the formaldehyde warning brochure they eventually put out to alert residents to call the maintenance centers.

“We should have done that and we didn’t do that,” Paulison said.

Media reports sickness
E-mails also show that FEMA workers initially were suspicious of people complaining about formaldehyde. That was especially true in Mississippi, where the first media report of sickness surfaced during a local television newscast.

Lindsay Huckabee, a mother of five from Kiln, Miss., testified that she never saw the TV report. Huckabee said her ear, nose and throat doctor warned her to get out of her trailer because he had seen other travel trailer patients with similar respiratory symptoms.

Over-exposure to formaldehyde, a solvent used in press wood and adhesives, can result in burning eyes, coughing, sore throats, chest pains and nose bleeds, scientists say. Huckabee’s daughter suffered chronic nosebleeds, she said.

“I was told by our ENT that we needed to get out of the trailer as soon as we could,” Huckabee said. “He had many repeat patients with the same symptoms all living in FEMA trailers.”

A class action suit was filed about six weeks ago against the travel trailer manufacturers. Daniel Becnel, an attorney in Reserve, is handling the case, representing “a couple of thousand” FEMA trailer occupants from Florida to Louisiana, he said. Becnel is seeking $2 billion in his lawsuit.

And formaldehyde exposure is the subject of a lawsuit in Baton Rouge federal court. Desiree Collins, 47, who moved to Renaissance Village after losing her home in New Orleans, sued River Forest Inc. and other makers of the FEMA trailers.

Collins died earlier this month of lung cancer; it isn’t clear yet whether formaldehyde played any role.

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., represents a district where 60 percent of the nation’s travel trailers are made. Souder criticized the hearings Thursday, saying none of the testimony implicated trailer manufacturers.

“We don’t have any experts on this panel,” Souder said. “What we have here is terrible personal stories that the government should have responded to. You cannot say on the record that it was the way they were made.”

On Wednesday, the eve of the committee hearing, FEMA announced it had asked the national Centers for Disease Control to conduct short-term tests on the air quality in occupied trailers and long-term tests on the possible health ramifications of those who may have been exposed to the toxins, which were used in campers.

“This agency has made the best decisions it could with the information we had,” Paulison said. “Now we have to do something different than we’ve done in the past.”

Ex-Saint No. 1 on bad list
Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson.
‘Most wanted’ poster lists delinquent parents
By EMILY KERN
Advocate staff writer
Published: Aug 1, 2007 – Page: 1A

“Former New Orleans Saints player Rickey Jackson, who earned millions of dollars on the gridiron, holds the top spot in Louisiana as the noncustodial parent who owes the most in back child support.

Jackson and 17 others are featured on this year’s “Most Wanted” poster by the state Department of Social Services Support Enforcement Services division. They owe more than $759,000 combined — Jackson owes $160,000 — in court-ordered child support…”
Technorati Blog Searches Katrina

http://gigglesngrinsphoto.typepad.com/giggles_n_grins_photograp/2007/07/701-days.html
Giggles n Grins Photography: 701 days

http://www.fordrealtyco.net/blog/?p=53
tomsblog The Road Home

http://www.fordrealtyco.net/blog/?page_id=2
About Tom – Where is he from?

http://swampytad.livejournal.com/51604.html
LiveJournal User – Home owners insurance up 50%
Nothing to say … tired of rant….signing off

http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?p=645
Oversight Hearing on FEMA Preparedness
The Gavel

http://brothersjuddblog.com/archives/2007/07/it_wasnt_the_rain_but_the_regi.html
Brothers Judd Blog: It Wasn’t the rain, but the regime

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.