Putting this site together has reminded me of the stuff I was writing in the immediate aftermath of Katrina and how those thoughts have either remained the same or evolved over the past 4 years. This was a letter to Congress that I personally delivered to all of the Senator’s offices (and tried to deliver to the House offices before being kicked out) along with a pair of Mardi Gras beads, in October of 2005. I assume that the House members got the message but I never heard from any of them.

Rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

Why should we help New Orleans?

Because New Orleans is still one of the most strategic cities in the country. Because New Orleans is the port by which the goods for the great mid section of the country go out to the world. Because it is the right thing to do. Because it is the economic engine which drives the economy of almost everything within a 100 miles of it. Because we have 400 miles of devastated coast from Ocean Springs, Mississippi to Orange, Texas and this is one of the largest natural disasters to hit the United States and if the Federal Government can’t or won’t respond then it will be seen as some sign of the United States ineffectiveness in dealing with its own problems. If you can’t do it for love of a great city and region, do it for pride in a great country

Is rebuilding the Gulf Coast something that the Federal Government should be involved in?

If not the U.S. Federal government then who? We are still part of the U.S. We still pay taxes. We live in a place that might be a little more hazardous, doing jobs that other folks might not want to do (like loading ships and refining oil) so that the country can trade with the world and have energy to operate.

One of the basic responsibilities of government is protection and mutual aid. If the Federal Government can’t even participate at that basic level then why be a country at all. If we have to assist other regions in their disasters and not get the same courtesy then why even be part of the U.S? If you weren’t going to help rebuild our city then why did you buy us from the French. The U.S. bought New Orleans and got Iowa (and 10 or so other states) for free. I’d say we were well worth the price and well worth fixing now that we have a bit of trouble.

But isn’t New Orleans and the Gulf Coast just one of those places that humans shouldn’t be living?

This country was built by people who lived in places where it was hard to live. If our forefathers hadn’t done the hard work of living in places that were hard to live in most of us would still be in Europe. There is no place in this country that is completely safe from natural disasters. San Francisco, Los Angeles and the west coast is awaiting an earthquake. No one suggested we write off Florida and return it to the Seminoles after the 4 hurricanes that swept through it last year. Oklahoma and other parts of tornado alleys have small town regularly wiped off the map. Even Nashville, TN, with some of the most benign weather in the country had a tornado hit its downtown a couple years ago.

We have the technology that the original settlers couldn’t have even imagined in protecting the places we live from natural disasters. We can rebuild the levee system, move the pumping stations to the lake for greater perimeter control and keep the city from storm surge flooding. They are doing it in the Netherlands. Are we less committed to one of the most strategic cities in the country than the Dutch are to their cities?

Can you put this in a way I can tell to my constituents that will make them realize how important New Orleans is to the nation?

If a tornado hits a small town and all that is destroyed is the bar then everyone breathes a sigh of relief and while there is some detoxing from the winos, life goes on. However, if that same tornado hits the general store, or the grocery store or the feed store or all three and the grain silo then people are in a world of hurt and everyone tries to figure out what they can do. I am frustrated that folks just think it hit the bar. The place where people go to have a good time and… well, they can go to Vegas instead. No! It hit the grain silo. The place where all those mid-western farmers that ship the grain down on barges to get loaded onto ocean going tankers bound for the rest of the world. It hit the general store. A large port that imported steel and rubber and other materials from around the world for US manufacturing. It hit the grocery store. New Orleans is one of the largest coffee ports in the country and had some of the largest roasting and packaging facilities. Gulfport, MS is one of the largest banana ports in the country. Everyone wants to focus on the French Quarter but there is so much more to the city than that.

Who are you and why are you doing this?

I’m Anthony Favre. Just a guy from New Orleans. Normally I work on Conventions in New Orleans. (Antonin Scalia might not remember me but I just did the sound and lights for the 5th Judicial Conference this spring at the Sheraton in New Orleans), but there aren’t many conventions in town and I was in the neighborhood and figured I’d let Congress know how important it was to get Rebuilding and Recovery money down to the Gulf Coast. I’m 4th Generation New Orleanian in ways that I count, Great Grandpa Ciaccio from Sicily, probably more than 4 in ways I don’t (like my grandfather’s mother was a Brunet, a French Family that has been around the city for centuries). On the Gulf Coast, one side of my dad’s family has been there since the French got off the boat and the other side, being Choctaw and all, was there before that. My dad grew up in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and my cousins were living all over the coast.

What about corruption and incompetence?

You want oversight? I want oversight. I think we have a couple of people in our current governor and mayor who aren’t out to enrich themselves and are working as hard as they can to make it right. Also, don’t you think we learned a powerful lesson with this storm that the state of our local government matters? Don’t you think we will be watching out for what officials do at all levels of government? But, if it makes you feel better to have someone trustworthy and respected doing the auditing of the funds, then it’s alright with me.

But your representatives put in things like alligator farms in their bill. What about that?

At least we didn’t ask for something really silly like a snow shoe repair facility or a ski lift. Yeah, it’s a little extreme but, I know it seems exotic but an alligator farm in Louisiana is something that people actually do for a living. And everyone knows that if you don’t ask for something in Congress you will not get it. Don’t be irritated at us for asking. And if this seems a little excessive to you, don’t fund it. We still have many, many other things that were destroyed in our 400 miles of storm ravaged coast.

Oh, and your (governor, mayor, paper) said bad things about our (FEMA director, admiral, president) and we are irritated…

People get frustrated when they are in a desperate, life and death, situation. They say things they probably shouldn’t. It would be extremely petty to hold that against an entire region.

What are you gonna do if we don’t help you out?

We are going to do what we can. We will try to fix our houses and move on with our lives. But it will be tough. And without the money to fix the flood protection and the coastal erosion it is going to be tougher still to get anyone interested in helping us rebuild.

How do we pay for this?

A couple of years ago, back when there was a surplus, Congress passed a bill that provided tax cuts to people getting dividends and capital gains. Well, now that a lot of things are going on the National Credit Card, it might be time to look again and see if that was such a good idea

What kind of things do you think would help?

A Category 5 levee system built in 5 years. The extension of Interstate 49 speeded up to help with evacuations. Some help with paying the NOPD and other police forces in the region. Coastal erosion help.

Anything else you want to tell us?

Yes.. Please hurry. The entire tax base of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquamines Parish, as well as Hancock County, Mississippi has been destroyed. These folks can’t meet payroll for essential public services. We need some short term help and long term rebuilding, and we need to start this process as soon as we can.

Also.. it’s my home and I love it. Don’t make me move from my home. I might be really irritated and end up in your district.

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