February 21, 2009

Maybe Someone Got the Message?

Filed under: Katrina — PolitiCalypso @ 12:03 am

I do not harbor any delusions of grandeur, but I find it highly interesting—maybe even hopeful—that a day after I wrote a long tirade bashing Congressional Democrats for turning their backs on Hurricane Katrina survivors, President Obama steps up and takes some steps toward getting the Gulf Coast back on track. I have not been happy with everything that he has done since being inaugurated (let alone being elected—I do not like Hillary Clinton even now), but if he follows through on this, it will be a good thing.

President Barack Obama said Friday that residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast still are trying to rebuild three years after Hurricane Katrina and have not received the support they deserve from Washington.

[…]

“The residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who are helping rebuild are heroes who believe in their communities and they are succeeding despite the fact that they have not always received the support they deserve from the federal government,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “We must ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated.”

Nice talk, certainly. We all know that he has a way with words. But it looks as though this is being followed up with some action, a rarity for a politician:

To provide more support, Mr. Obama said he would extend the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, a position created by Bush that was set to expire at the end of this month, until September.

This is also a good thought. I am unsure exactly what is the chain of command for dispersing the earmarked recovery money that is “tied up” and “bogged down,” but if this Federal Coordinator has any say over it, he or she needs to get the process moving. The fact that the extension was only till September gives me some hope that perhaps this person really will kick some bureaucratic butts; as federal positions go, that’s not much of an extension!

Moreover, the President acknowledges that the Gulf Coast is still in rebuilding mode (something that the general public does/did not realize), and he must understand the point I was trying to make yesterday—namely, that the economic stimulus money will not be especially useful in an area that is still recovering from a catastrophic natural disaster, and that no useful public works projects can be started with this money until the Katrina recovery process is well underway (if not completed) because such projects would depend on what was planned out for the hurricane recovery.

There is a part of me that is skeptical, of course. Gulf state residents have been burned before, which was of course the subject of my last post. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on this, all things considered. But I consider it a good sign that, in a situation where he really has nothing politically to gain from it (the nation as a whole does not care, the MS coast is Republican, and Louisiana is trending GOP because of the migration from New Orleans) and in which the area’s own Congressional representatives were not especially concerned about the situation, he makes a point of speaking about it anyway. Dare I hope that, even though the Congresspeople were not concerned about the bogging down of earmarked funds and the futility of economic stimulus in those conditions, he was given the bad news about the stimulus act and decided it was unacceptable for the Gulf recovery to be left out?

If this process really does get moving quickly and the interminable paper-shuffling with regards to the earmarked Katrina money is ended, then the future of the coast is brighter than it appeared to me yesterday.

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