David Rae had a number of hurricane Katrina-related photographs selected for the Acadiana Center for the Arts' recent Southern Open 2007 exhibit, and he asked me to pick up and hold onto a few of his photos when the exhibit ended. Can't make it to Lafayette to get the pictures right now, he said. He was going to be traveling and working in Mississippi, but he'd be back for the anniversary.
His shorthand description has stayed with me. No need to mention the name or date of the event that killed 1,800 people, drove more than 200,000 people from their homes and irrevocably changed Louisiana forever. If you were affected, the anniversary is understood.
Unfortunately ' no, tragically ' it's a travesty how many people both outside and inside our state don't understand the real reasons why New Orleans was devastated on Aug. 29, and how their uninformed viewpoints have devolved into talking points that continue to chip away at Louisiana's recovery efforts.
It all started with former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's ridiculous comment that it didn't make sense to him to spend billions of dollars rebuilding New Orleans since the city was below sea level. Hastert backtracked, of course, but the damage was done. That opinion still gets trotted out two years later on television talk shows and in letters to the editor across the country, often presented as a civil, measured, even logical argument. It's now a springboard for additional, equally insidious assertions: Why should U.S. taxpayers give money to a local and state government known for its corruption? After all, President George W. Bush has authorized $110 billion in recovery funds, and it's Louisiana's fault that the state doesn't have a recovery plan.
Pardon my French, but that's a load of merde.
A recent study by Tulane University notes that 51 percent of New Orleans is at or above sea level. And New Orleans was devastated because the levees designed and built by the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ' levees constructed so the rest of America could access the rich oil reserves that supply 30 percent of our nation's energy ' failed in the most horrific way possible. But instead of honoring his pledge to "do what it takes" and "stay as long as it takes" to help the Gulf Coast recover, the Bush administration still refuses to commit to Category 5 levee protection for the Crescent City, claiming it's too expensive.
Meanwhile, the price tag for the war in Iraq is now estimated at $1 trillion.
Yes, New Orleans has serious problems with its crime rate, leadership and education system. And New Orleans Councilman Oliver Thomas' recent guilty plea to corruption charges and Mayor Ray Nagin's beyond-idiotic statement that the high murder rate is a double-edged sword because it "keeps the New Orleans brand out there" are not helping the city's image or its recovery.
But that is no reason to let the callous, uninformed naysayers spout their nonsense about our state's recovery. Left unchecked, it spreads like a virus and inhibits the ability to see all the positive things ' especially the tireless activism and inspiring devotion to the rich cultural traditions of the Cresent City. Relentless negativity dishonors every honest, hard-working person, family and volunteer who spends their waking hours trying to rebuild one of America's greatest cities.
And what about Buras, Port Sulphur, Chalmette, Arabi, Meraux, Violet and every other community that was devastated by the storm? Like the victims of Hurricane Rita a month later, these towns and regions find themselves overshadowed by the lightning rod of New Orleans, but their struggle is no less painful, difficult or important.
As Louisiana faces continued challenges in our recovery, the anniversary is also a time to remember Acadiana's incredible response to Katrina. In the aftermath of the storm, countless volunteers' actions at the Cajundome and the relief and sheltering efforts from local nonprofits, churches, schools and businesses provided hope when it was in short supply. Despite immense hardships, our region sent a message that we can face this crisis together. Two years later, we cannot let that unity fade, and must stand together as one and continue to hold our leaders accountable as we rebuild our cities, homes and lives.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.