Hurricane: I understand the frustration, but these owners are just being stupid and in other cases unrealistic.
|The occasion was supposed to be more hopeful in tone, an ambitious attempt to move on. The mass meeting, billed as a “back to business’’ workshop, brought together local entrepreneurs and state and national heavy-hitters, including Vice Adm. Thad Allen, who is heading the federal response to Katrina. It was the first such event in what will be a monumental effort to restore a wrecked local economy.
But it quickly devolved into a morass of angry questions that showed how hard, and how contentious, it will be to bring this city back to life.
Business owners complained that a reduction of National Guard forces had left the city unsafe. They criticized plans to reopen toll booths, citing fears of discouraging business. They said business loans have come too slowly. They expressed anger at lagging trash collection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They asked why there’s no timeline for electricity to be restored throughout the city.
The biggest gripe came from local officials and business owners who complained that sinking Louisiana enterprises aren’t being used in the massive cleanup job as they wait for a lumbering bureaucracy to kick into gear.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials responded that local businesses were unavailable just after the storm, when the work was being doled out. But they vowed to work harder to see that Louisiana gets more recovery dollars — two-thirds of which are going to companies outside the state.
“Now the business are coming back, so we can tap you, and we do intend to do so,’’ said Ashley Lewis, a FEMA director for contracting.
Next time, FEMA should sit on its hands and just wait for local businesses to come back and then start the cleanup. FEMA is going back and reopen contracts which is great, but they are unrealistic demands by the locals.
|Lack of housing for workers also was cited as a major obstacle. Claude Beudot, who owns 87 houses he rents or leases to lower-income families, said he fields calls every day from people who ask him when he’ll repair the homes so they can come back and work.
Shaking with emotion, tears of frustration in his eyes, Beudot said he was “completely ruined’’ because he was refinancing the houses when the storm him, so he had no insurance coverage. Applications for disaster-relief loans have gotten him nowhere, he said.
“I’m clueless,’’ he told officials. “Are you?’’
....Louisiana’s Secretary of Economic Development Mike Olivier, and Eugene Cornelius, Louisiana’s district director for the small-business administration, promised to do that.
“It’s not all doom and gloom. Washington hears us,’’ said Cornelius. “I assure you that those numbers will increase rapidly, exponentially.’’
Olivier blasted the U.S. Small Business Administration for being slow to award business loans, having approved only six loans in the six weeks since the storm. Administration officials said it has taken this long to process the loans for many reasons, including a lack of documentation from some flooded businesses. They said loans should pick up soon. |
Punta Gorda, Florida got hit last year and still hasn't been rebuilt completely, why does he think after 5 weeks he can be up and running again. I oppose writing an open check to the Louisiana officials and I oppose fast tracking loans and grants like you are giving out candy. BTW, how do you lose insurance if you refinance your property?
|In a passionate speech that brought the crowd to a standing ovation, the mayor criticized the no-bid contracts awarded by FEMA in the days after the hurricane and demanded that the nation’s big recovery contractors hire local workers at decent wages.
“I can tell that you are ready to go, and you don’t want to necessarily hear a political speech,’’ Nagin told business owners.
He added that businesses are probably wondering how the city can “make sure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers.’’
He apparently was referring to the hiring of immigrant workers at low wages. Calls to Nagin’s spokeswoman, Sally Foreman, to clarify the remark were not returned Thursday. |
Oops, sometimes things slip out that you shouldn't say in polite company. There is a great worry that Mexicans will come over for the work and stay changing the demographics. Gregory Rodriguez of the LATIMES has already pointed this out.
|NO MATTER WHAT ALL the politicians and activists want, African Americans and impoverished white Cajuns will not be first in line to rebuild the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Latino immigrants, many of them undocumented, will. And when they're done, they're going to stay, making New Orleans look like Los Angeles. It's the federal government that will have made the transformation possible, further exposing the hollowness of the immigration debate.