Sunday, September 03, 2006

Nobody's Criticizing the People of Mississippi

But you wouldn't know that from the defensive attitude of some Times Picayune letter writers. The residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast have every right to be angry about the scant media attention paid to their region, but more media attention paid to New Orleans has not translated to more federal aid for New Orleans. Some Mississippi residents and some national commentators (via Scout Prime) seem to think so, but it's simply not the case. More money may have been allocated for Louisiana than Mississippi ( the money getting here is another story) even though the eye of the storm hit Mississippi, but I'm sure that more money has been allocated for Harrison County than Hancock County--even though the eye of the storm hit Hancock County. The reason's is the same in both cases. In fact, in proportion to the damage done, less money has been allocated to Louisiana than Mississippi.

It's possible that I'm wrong about the last assertion, but I would think that the governor of Mississippi would know if that were the case. People use many adjectives to describe Haley Barbour, but nobody describes him as "unprepared" or "uninformed." Yet, when asked about damage estimates that showed the overwhelming majority of the damage caused by last year's storms occurred in Louisiana, all he could say was he didn't believe those figures. He said that before a senate committee when he went to ask for a share of $4.2B that the president had requested for La. The allocation was intended to supplement earlier funding that had greatly shortchanged Louisiana. It was an entirely predictable question for a governor who was asking for money; Barbour's non-response speaks volumes.

I should leave it at that, but I will add a few things.

To the Gulfport resident whose letter appeared in yesterday's paper: it doesn't bother anybody that Mississippi is recovering (or not) and we certainly don't put you down for it. But I do think that you misunderstood the intentions of the writer of the Aug. 27th letter that you found so objectionable. Nobody thinks that it was easier for individual residents to come back to houses that no longer existed. As a matter o of fact, I know that letter writer, I know her entire family--her brother has been one of my closest friends for nearly thirty years. They have close relatives who live on the coast--not people with second homes, but residents--that lost everything. Almost everybody in Louisiana knows what the residents of Mississippi have been through, Virginia certainly does. Her point was that total destruction did, in some ways, make rebuilding easier at the government level.

To the commenter on a National Geographic forum who said:
the rest of the world thinks that New Orleans was hit harder than the Miss Gulf Coast and this simply is NOT true. What happened in New Orleans was that the levys broke and flooded parts of the city, not Katrina. True the levys were weakened by Katrina but the levys should have been beefed up enough to do their job by the government officials in that town.

While the rest of your comment makes it clear that are you are sympathetic to both areas, you seem to be misinformed on this matter. Yes, the conduct of our levee board was disgraceful prior to Katrina, but the destruction in most of New Orleans wasn't caused by the failure of poorly maintained levees, it was caused by the failure of improperly designed and constructed floodwalls--floodwalls built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ACoE has admitted at least some responsibilty for the failures. Leaving aside the role of the ACoE constructed MRGO or coastal erosion in last year's destruction, the fact is the people of Louisiana can legitimately say that the federal government has some responsibility for the damage they suffered last year. The people of Mississippi can't say that, the people of Florida couldn't say that two years ago, people in the Midwest can't say that when they receive aid after a tornado and people on the west coast can't say that after an earthquake. Yet the people of Louisiana aren't asking for better treatment from the federal government, just the same treatment.

Finally, to Missippian who's recently made some comments on Wet Bank Guide, I'm a much bigger fan of Gene Taylor's than Richard Baker's--I wish we could import to take Jefferson's seat. As far as Barbour not being responsible for any of Louisiana' problems, it's certainly not for lack of trying. He truly has treated Katrina Reconstruction like a zero sum game. Also, one could argue that the actions of his lobbying firm have hurt the people of both Louisiana and Mississippi. When I do address that subject, the anger won't be directed at Mississippi's residents.

Ah, but they have to set it up as NOLA v. Mississippi, for fear we'd all get together and realized how badly we're all being gang-raped by the racketeers running the "recovery". So far, the main difference I can see between Barbour and, say, Dollar Bill is Dollar Bill ain't as smart. He should have been accepting consulting fees instead of cash.
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