During a flight onboard Air Force One on August 20th, Paul Conway, chief of staff to Homeland Security’s Gulf Coast Coordinator was briefing reporters prior to a speaking appearance of George W. Bush, the putative failed leader of Katrina disaster recovery efforts, in which Bush would discuss hurricane recovery efforts. Not surprisingly, even three years on from the time when Katrina hit, administration officials are still incapable of getting their arms around the challenges facing residents of the gulf coast, as noted in this transcript from the briefing aboard Air Force One:
Reporter: What year do you think that the reconstruction is basically going to be finished?
Conway: Well, the target date for the reconstruction is 2011.
Reporter: For everything? I’m talking the Gulf Coast.
Conway: Well, actually, let me — I’m talking about levees, so let me be perfectly clear. The levee protection system for Greater New Orleans, that target date is 2011. If you’re asking overall —
Reporter: I’m asking overall.
Conway: Ma’am, to be quite honest with you, it’s hard for me to estimate that as a federal official, because so much of this depends on how local government and state government and the feds work.
Reporter: So what percentage of the Gulf Coast has been rebuilt in the past three years?
Conway: Well, you would literally have to look at sectors, okay. For example, on education, if you look in the city of New Orleans, education is going along quite well.
Reporter: Do you have overall numbers for the whole Gulf Coast?
Conway: Well, you would have to look at it by sector, ma’am. If you’re talking schools, libraries, that type of thing?
Reporter: What about housing?
Conway: Housing? I can go ahead and start in on that. On the housing issue, everybody knows that there were several different delays on the Road Home program in the state of Louisiana. Now, you have — $7 billion has been transferred in the hands of homeowners; 115,000 — $7 billion — 115,000 homeowners now have received the benefits of the Road Home program. In addition to that, the state is using $1.4 billion in CDBG funds for rental houses.
Reporter: Right, but people don’t understand all this stuff. They want to know what percentage of what was taken away by Katrina has actually been rebuilt in the past three years?
Conway: I would say there are significant portions, but literally, literally, it’s not honest to say — you know, pull out a figure out of the sky and say, X amount is done. You literally have to look by sector.
Reporter: We’re talking about a sector. Let’s talk about housing.
Conway: Okay, in the housing area, you have just about 85% of the pre-Katrina population estimate coming back into the city. And in terms of the actual housing itself, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done still, remaining.
Reporter: There’s no way to quantify it?
Conway: It’s difficult to quantify. You have to go neighborhood by neighborhood and take a look at it, okay.
So it seems there has been big talk, and talk of large sums of government funds being disbursed, but Bushliburton officials really cannot quantify how much real help has reached all of the people displaced by Katrina. What this writer would like to see quantified is two numbers: how many total people were displaced due to Katrina, and how much housing has actually been rebuilt in hurricane effected neighborhoods in the past three years in response?
Are government and business interests trying to “wipe out poverty” in the New Orleans area by simply not allowing the poor and disenfranchised to put a roof over their heads, hoping they will just go away, or for those who had been displaced out of state just not come back? Local activists seem to think so, and have been jailed by their actions as reported at AlterNet.org.
Meanwhile, as we reported at about this time last year, those who were not necessarily displaced, and who live at decidedly higher up on the totem pole, have been able to further enrich their lifestyles with the help of government funds intended for disaster relief: Katrina Two Years Later: The Rich Get Richer & The Common Folk Still Get The Shaft.