The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Sick of New Orleans?

I've been covering New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on a regular basis since Katrina. That's about 19 months. Whenever one of my stories makes Nightly, I get two very different reactions. Locally, people say "Thank you" to me and NBC for continuing to keep the city's plight before the eyes of the nation... from that nation I get, "Enough already! I am sick of hearing about New Orleans!"

Outside New Orleans the rest of the country has Katrina fatigue. Understandable, but if you think you're sick of it, then you can just imagine how the folks here are sick of living it. But there is little choice. Moving is not an option when you can't sell a house that's gone and still have to pay the bank back.

Experts here say instead of thinking of New Orleans as a national pain in the backside, Americans should realize there are great lessons to be learned, because it could happen somewhere else. If not a hurricane into a major city, how about an earthquake, or a massive terrorist attack that leaves a city and its society in ruins?

That said, tonight's lesson is health care. It's the current crisis in the Big Easy. Patients can wait up to eight hours in an emergency room to see a doctor. Ambulances sit parked at ER entrances unable to offload their latest case, and unavailable for another emergency run. In hallways and emergency rooms, patients lie on gurneys sometimes for days waiting for a hospital room to open.

What's the cause? Like most crises, it's not one big thing but the snow-balling impact of a number of little ones. Before Katrina metro New Orleans had 15 hospitals. Today only 10 have reopened. Before Katrina the city had 2,800 hospital beds. Today it has 635.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. As Mike Hulefield, chief operating officer at Ochsner Medical Center puts it, "The biggest challenge is not physical capacity, it's human capacity."

What he means is in addition to the lack of buildings and beds, staff is bleeding away. Many are themselves fed up with the daily struggles of life in this city. New Orleans before the storm had about 4,000 doctors. Now it's down to 1,900. In even shorter supply are nurses. There is a shortage nationwide so those that were here have been lured away to other cities where the infrastructure works, the schools are better and the hospitals can afford to pay more. Recruiting people to take their place is hard, because affordable housing is in short supply, the schools are weak and many worry about crime.

So health centers here are recruiting overseas in the Philippines and India -- importing their staffs. But that is an expensive and short-term solution and money is another thing in short supply.

"In Orleans Parish prior to the storm, it was somewhere around 40 percent of our population was uninsured." says Dr. Kevin Jordan, chief medical officer at Touro Infirmary. "That percentage is at least 50-52 percent now."

Part of the reason for the rise of the uninsured is the post-Katrina economic downturn. Jobs were wiped out and with them health-care benefits. So with nowhere to go, the uninsured join the lines at the area's remaining emergency rooms, which are obligated to care for all patients. But the uninsured drain away money that hospitals need to pay for more beds, more doctors and more nurses.

We asked Dr. Jordan of Touro Infirmary what he would say to America if he could. 

"Be very careful, because what happened here could happen to any community at any given time, given any natural disaster or given any kind of interruption in what they consider their daily lives," he said. This could be your future if in fact you're not prepared for it."

New Orleans has lots to teach, as long as everyone else isn't sick of listening.

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COMMENTS

You know it has been been a long time, but I can't say that I am one of those who am not tired of hearing about New Orleans. I am not from New Orleans, but it was always like my second home. I remember like Katrina was yesterday. I was just in New Orleans two weeks prior because my best friend and I went on a Carnival cruise. After going home,I remember my friend calling me to tell me that she and her fiance were going to evacuate to Houston, TX; but her mother refused to leave. The family members that didn't want to leave was sure that the storm will pass by as it usually did and that they would be alright. Unfortunately they weren't alright because the water started rising to unusual levels. They live in a two story home and the water was starting to rise to the second level. They tried to call for help, but could not get through to anyone local. They ended up calling my friend in Houston, TX, and she called me to see who could best get through. I tried to call the Coast Guard, but could not reach a soul. Finally, I had a thought to send an email. I didn't get a response, but they did get the email and went though with a boat to rescue all 4 of them.

Can anyone imagine the thoughts that went through my mind. I can remember it like it was yesterday. When people first see devistation and destuction they automatically feel empathy, but with time that eventually goes away. People get weary with kindess with time. Most people don't give to people out of the kindess of their hearts, but because they feel obligated; those are the people who get tired of hearing about New Orleans and the other cities along the coast. I guess it is o.k., since no one is obligated to do for each other; it just shows out humainess. I just can't help to wonder how much help they would have had if Katrina would have hit the Northeastern part of the country.

Thanks Donna for your comnments.

Hi Jim,

I feel bad about your experience here, but I am not sure what you were expecting. If you were working in unpopulated areas during the cleanup you likely ran across the looters and national guardsmen who are patrolling to catch the looters.

A large portion of this once urban landscape is now sparsely populated. It is a haven for looters of copper. These looters have come to New Orleans in droves from all over North America. Similar problems existed in Homestead after Andrew. It is an unfortunate reality that exists after natural disasters de-populate.
As people move back into their homes the unscrupulous contractors and looters have been finding it more difficult. That problem will solve itself as the city repopulates.

I believe that the city should have had an orientation process for companies (such as yours) who are working in unpopulated areas to restore/update services. You and your guys might have had a better understanding of what to expect. Also, I urge you to report confrontations with looters to the Authorities and the Media. That is very serious, and it deserves the attention of more than just a few bloggers.

Your concern for the "poor people" currently "stuck here" in this health crisis is understandable, however I mentioned in the previous entries about the new efforts in the charity hospital system that will actually create a better system than before Katrina. I also mentioned how the pending economic upturn (associated with the billions of dollars in insurance and federal funding) will lure professionals back in all fields.

Your concern for the poor people whom lack the ability to leave during the storm is also understandable. The evacuation associated with Katrina yielded the largest evacuation of a city in the history of this country. Over 80% of the city evacuated. I Would Be Shocked If The Next Hurricane Does Not Yield an even higher Percentage (Closer to 95%.) of evacuees.

By comparison, Houston only achieved evacuation of just over 38% of its population for Rita. This strengthens my concern that most American cities are not ready.

I share your concerns about our Mayor and Governor, but I would add to your list the President. He even failed to mention the Gulf Coast in our State of the Union address. I guess the state of the Gulf South does not count as a significant enough part of the union to garner a mention.

I hope that I am not presenting an overly optimistic view of the city. My entries have listed the Challenges and Solutions offered or enacted to mitigate those challenges.

You are entitled to not be impressed with the "Planning" that has occurred to this point. We are just asking that you remain open minded to the "Vision" that is associated with the planning. You might then feel a little bit better about how our tax dollars are being spent.

Once again, I urge you to come back to New Orleans and see for yourself. Jazz Fest is not in the French Quarter. It is in the Mid-city area which took on as much as 11 feet of flood water. This will be our second year of celebrating Jazz Fest since the hurricane, and it is a True Example of the “Revival” that you mentioned in your previous entry.

You don’t have to deal with crowds or drunks at Jazz Fest if you don’t want to. I suggest that you check out the Gospel and Jazz tents along with the incredible mix of extraordinary food. I guarantee that you will leave it feeling truly “Revived”.

The New Orleans Museum of Art is also not in the French Quarter with the “drunks”. It is in city park which also took on over 8 feet of water. it will allow you to experience a once in a lifetime viewing of original paintings from all over France.

Dear William-
Thank you for the lucid, intelligent, uplifting, and edifying comments. EXCELLENT! I am not surprised it is happening, just surprised to finally be hearing about it. I genuinely believe that this kind of news coming out of New Orleans will inspire more and more people to assist in such amazing work! Your words alone are inspirational. Hope sells--like honey! If we heard more reports nationally, and weekly- in just those words, then the struggle might not seem so..
well, hopeless. Remember when people were so easily rallied? We loved a good fight for a good cause. As Americans we were at our best, when things were at their worst. There have just been so much bad news. One thing after another. It seems as though someone is deliberatly trying to weaken our resolve to be good. Katrina felt like the last straw, and maybe it was. Maybe it was a force that no one could slap a law suit on, but still had to manage to fight back. The spirit of New Orleans LIVES. YES! This forum could be the basis for a live discussion. You, Sir William, could streamroll a new found energy for progress. You should nix the con men who contract to haul away debris, and then run off with the money..I would love to see you ahead of the aforementioned "Unite and Conquer". It would be so easy for someone as well spoken, and currently aprised as yourself, to challenge the Governor of every other State to find it in their hearts and budgets, to bring to New Orleans a "dump container", and leave with a container full of debris. A simple enough request, with such great impact. Just an idea, for your consideration. Mostly I wanted to thank you for your positive position on what most of us perceived to be a lost cause. It was so good to hear from you Sir! Thanks again, sincerely.

Hi William,
I think it's just you and me left. You sound optimistic and hopeful for the future, and I hope the future doesn't let you down.

Anyway, I stayed in Kenner, and worked all over New Orleans, Slidell, Baton Rouge, etc. I was there up until the middle of January this year, and to be honest with you, I wasn't very impressed. I did not spend much time in the French Quarter at all, as I don't drink and I don't like crowds, so if that is where the revival is happening, my apologies. However, a huge part of what I did see was pretty disheartening, mainly with the amount of trash and debris left lying around. I also had some bad experiences with customer service, and was constantly fending off people trying to con me out of money or just bum it off of me however they could.

I was responsible for managing a large group of employees updating cell sites for Alltel. If you're not familiar with this industry, for the most part, we have to work at night so as not to disrupt phone service. In that market, at least half of our work was done during the day due to security and safety concerns, at the direction of Alltel. Even still, I got constant reports of my guys getting literally chased out of neighborhoods by thugs, brazen attempts to steal our equipment, and an overall sense that this was a very dangerous place to be in. I experienced much of this for myself. You'll have to forgive me if I didn't come away favorably impressed.

What I mean by breaking point, is that place where so much has gone downhill, and so many people have left that it can't recover. As a case in point, the original article talks about the nursing shortage. As this gets worse, hospitals can't afford to hire replacements, more doctors can decide not to deal with it, more citizens can decide to go elsewhere, and the overall effect is a worsening healthcare system. If this happens to enough of the city, pretty soon, all that is left are those that can't get out, mainly the poor.

We saw this in action during Katrina: Long lines of those who said they had no way to evacuate because they had no cars. Not very many people who can afford one, don't have a car. In this case, the poor were left behind in the evacuation (thank you Ray!). New Orleans is in danger of this, because if the situation isn't noticeably improved, more and more people who have a good job will relocate. Which will leave New Orleans with lots of poor people who can't pay for the services they will need.

The constant barrage of Nagin and Blanco demonstrating how not to rebuild a city was the worst. I cannot honestly see how anything good can come about with those 2 in place. At least Blanco has had the decency to say she isn't running again...

Hi Jim,

Please allow me to clear up some misperceptions regarding what has been referred to as no additional “extra” precautions being made in New Orleans.

Flood Protection
The flood protection system for the city of New Orleans is now certified by the Army Corps of engineers as Category 3 worthy protection. I may have been missed by many; however it was covered by virtually every major media publication and electronic media outlet during the 3rd quarter of 2006. Prior to Katrina, Category 3 protection never existed in New Orleans. I am concerned that many others in the US also have the same misconception, because we are constantly barraged with questions or comments similar to yours. To be more clear - “The interior sections of Orleans parish are now protected by a Category 3 worthy system of flood protection!” Many specialists believe if we actually had category 3 worthy protection during Katrina, the flooding in the interior portions of New Orleans would have been minimal. Current plans are ongoing to move all pumping to the edge of the outflow canals. This will further guard against any potential for flooding in the city due to heavy rains. There is a really good article on the current flood control systems of New Orleans in last Sunday’s edition (2/25/07) of the Times Picayune (a local newspaper). You might want to check it out.
Long term flood control efforts are currently centered around finding funding and sorting through the various proposals to rebuild the marsh lands surrounding the state. The Army Corps is also working on a long term plan for flood protection for the outlying areas of the city (New Orleans East, St. Bernard Parish, etc, however the ultimate solution to those areas may be to require all homes and businesses to build to a certain height (similar to beach front properties). By the way, the aforementioned outlying areas represent roughly 38,000 of the 504,000 pre-Katrina households in the New Orleans metro. We are not suggesting that the entire city be placed on stilts only the outlying areas.

Current Rebuilding
The Headlines Read: “19 Months Later -Yet Still Thousands Are Not Back Home…The Future Looks Grim. Underneath The Headlines: We are currently in the final phases of unified planning effort for the city which included input from each neighborhood in the city. To most that might not seem very significant, however for a city the struggled for over 300 years with no consistent, unified master plan for growth it is totally amazing. This plan is in its final stages, and it has been met with much criticism (which indicates to me that is it working). The more it is hashed out and argued over the better the resulting plan. Ed Blakely (a world renowned recovery expert who worked in San Francisco after the earthquakes and in New York after 911) is spearheading that effort.

Overhaul of the Hospital System
The Headlines Read: Health Crisis in New Orleans – Only a Fraction of Beds Exist In Post Katrina New Orleans…Highly Skilled Professionals Are Leaving At a Staggering Pace. Underneath the headlines: There is an effort to completely overhaul the charity hospital system. The new system will focus on more neighborhood clinics and hospitals spread throughout the city. This will be done to promote more preventive medicine as opposed to reactionary health care.

Overhaul of the School System
The headlines read: Kids Placed on Waiting List as the Damaged School System Struggles to Provide Adequate Facilities” Underneath the Headlines: The New Orleans school system is being transferred from a public system full of corruption and ineffectiveness. New Orleans public schools are struggling, but they are struggling to meet higher goals never before imagined in this city. It is now comprised largely of Charter Schools (including open admission Charter Schools) and non-charter schools with highly qualified and certified teachers. This city now has a more active parental base that has organized, and has been demanding better facilities and educational opportunities for their children. Many national groups involved in education [KIPP (Charter School Network), Teach For America, New Leaders New Schools, New Schools for New Orleans, etc] are excited about what is going on in public education in New Orleans. The nation has essentially seized on the opportunity to radically alter this city’s educational system, and many in the country are watching to see how these models work.

I encourage you to run searches on the above mentioned areas. It may give you a more realistic view of the recovery efforts in this city. NBC and CNN have done a wonderful job covering the happenings down here, however there is only so much that can be covered in headline centric reporting.

Hi Jim,

It is hard to say what is going to happen in any urban city long term; however, right now we are experiencing efforts that have never before been witnessed. It is as if the hurricane came and forced people to pay attention.

We Have a Long Way To Go, but the city is coming back with a tremendous amount of Planning! The general idea is to take best practices from cities all over the world and apply them to New Orleans. Information has been sought from officials from many cities (Kobe Japan, Amsterdam Holland, Chicago Illinois, New York, Miami, San Francisco, etc) on a variety of topics ranging from flood control, crime, education, housing, city planning, disaster recovery, etc.

Education and Crime - are now truly the most important immediate term issues in this city. Crime fighting efforts have now basically become federalized. Federal agents and prosecutors are working with the NOPD to deal with the most violent offenders when legally possible. This is working; however it is only a stop gap measure. Ultimately, the people of the city will have to demand much more from the criminal justice system. That effort has already begun on a grassroots level.
(See NOCrimeCommunity.com)
As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised to see a recall effort for the District Attorney. Ultimately, the State/City will have to prioritize funding of the police and district attorneys offices in an effort to attract the best possible prosecutors and police force in the region. Efforts are underway to make that happen. There is also a general effort to adopt a zero tolerance policy similar to what Giuliani was able to accomplish in New York, but we are not close to being able to enact that type of policing just yet.

Housing - Most in the city agree that the long term solution to crime in this city (and every other American city) is Education. I have already mentioned what is happening in the city on that front. The second most important long term solution to crime in this city (and every other American city) is breaking up the concentration of poverty. All poor and lower education citizens should not be bunched up together and stuck away from the rest of us. Mixed income housing was the most popular concept in this city Prior To Katrina, and it is Even Hotter Now! Efforts are underway to breakup the public housing developments which have become catalysts for turf wars in this city. They are to become mixed income housing communities. One of these communities has already been developed, and it is thriving. Now, you will likely soon see headlines which will read: “Maxine Watters Successful in Reopening Housing Projects in New Orleans”. In reality, they are only going to reopen housing developments on a limited, temporary basis while construction and development of other developments is underway. This will be a tenuous process, because many people will have to move from one place to another while building is complete. Ultimately, the resulting system will be a mixed-income/ mixed-education community.

I am not sure how to answer your questions about being “eaten up from inside as crime rate skyrockets” or our “breaking point on survival”.

I think when you visited, New Orleans might have still been in a recovery mode. You might want to visit sometime soon to get a more realistic view of the city as it exists today. The crime rate was horrible before Katrina, and we somehow survived it. The breaking point on survival occurred in the 4th quarter of 2005, and we somehow made it through. The brain drain that is occurring does concern me a little, however the enormous disaster spending associated with the recovery of the city will bring a tremendous amount of economic activity. Professional level jobs tend to follow the money. Dr. Tim Ryan (chancellor of UNO) has written much on what occurs to the economy of cities 2-5 years after a major disaster. You might want to Google him for more information.

The threat of another Cat 3-5 hurricane does disturb me primarily because of the folks that live outside of the Levy protection area (St. Bernard and Lower Night Ward). They will not have any substantive flood protection for quite some time. I stand behind my belief that those areas should be developing as if they were on a beach front with elevations far above the potential surge plain. (Once again, that only pertains to roughly 38,000 of the 504,000 pre-Katrina households in the New Orleans metro).

Overall, I am as worried about our ability to deal with another hurricane as much as the spring thaw should worry the folks in St. Louis. To be honest I am more worried about the hundreds of communities on the east coast that are probably not ready for this hurricane season. One of my favorite cities outside of New Orleans is New York. I am sincerely concerned about areas of lower Manhattan and Queens. As waters get warmer the likelihood increases for a hurricane to remain strong as it travels north on the Atlantic seaboard.

The general quality of life in New Orleans after Katrina (while not perfect) is still better than one might think. Last night I witnessed a performance by the Julliard String Quartet at Tulane University. This weekend my fiancée and I are going to check out a once in a lifetime exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art which features hundreds of paintings from museums all over France. (Femme, Femme, Femme is the name of the exhibit). On Saturday we are going to be working on a Habitat for Humanity home in the Treme’. In a couple of weeks we will be celebrating Jazz fest with over 500,000 people from all over the world. There is so much to enjoy and so much good work to be done that it is impossible to not find fulfillment in this city.

Jim, I have appreciated the dialogue with you about our city. My hope is to shed light with you and other readers on this blog about what is really going on here. When inaccurate perceptions are allowed to fester about New Orleans, it only stunts our eventual evolution to a world class city that all of America can one day be proud of.

We hope to see ya’ll at Jazz Fest, and while you are here don't forget to check out Femme,Femme,Femme at NOMA.

Also, Habitat for Humanity has weekend opportunities for volunteers every weekend.

Hi William,
Thank you for the information in your letter. I sincerely hope that nothing big enough to overwhelm the levees and pumps comes along, as the city has had enough for one lifetime. I wish you all luck.


What do you think is going to happen to New Orleans in the short and long term? I was only there for about 3 months, which allowed me to develope opinions of the area, but I don't live there, as you do. I am wondering about your perspective on the way the city is now, and the direction it is going in. Will there be enough time to get turned around before the breaking point on survival is reached? Can New Orleans get repaired before it is eaten up from the inside as the crime rate skyrockets, and the professional class hits the highyway? And what do you think would happen if another hurricane hits this year or within the next few years?

Thanks for the discourse, I have enjoyed it.

Hi Jim,

Please allow me to clear up some misperceptions regarding what has been referred to as no additional “extra” precautions being made in New Orleans.

Flood Protection
The flood protection system for the city of New Orleans is now certified by the Army Corps of engineers as Category 3 worthy protection. I may have been missed by many; however it was covered by virtually every major media publication and electronic media outlet during the 3rd quarter of 2006. Prior to Katrina, Category 3 protection never existed in New Orleans. I am concerned that many others in the US also have the same misconception, because we are constantly barraged with questions or comments similar to yours. To be more clear - “The interior sections of Orleans parish are now protected by a Category 3 worthy system of flood protection!” Many specialists believe if we actually had category 3 worthy protection during Katrina, the flooding in the interior portions of New Orleans would have been minimal. Current plans are ongoing to move all pumping to the edge of the outflow canals. This will further guard against any potential for flooding in the city due to heavy rains. There is a really good article on the current flood control systems of New Orleans in last Sunday’s edition (2/25/07) of the Times Picayune (a local newspaper). You might want to check it out.
Long term flood control efforts are currently centered around finding funding and sorting through the various proposals to rebuild the marsh lands surrounding the state. The Army Corps is also working on a long term plan for flood protection for the outlying areas of the city (New Orleans East, St. Bernard Parish, etc, however the ultimate solution to those areas may be to require all homes and businesses to build to a certain height (similar to beach front properties). By the way, the aforementioned outlying areas represent roughly 38,000 of the 504,000 pre-Katrina households in the New Orleans metro. We are not suggesting that the entire city be placed on stilts only the outlying areas.

Current Rebuilding
The Headlines Read: “19 Months Later -Yet Still Thousands Are Not Back Home…The Future Looks Grim. Underneath The Headlines: We are currently in the final phases of unified planning effort for the city which included input from each neighborhood in the city. To most that might not seem very significant, however for a city the struggled for over 300 years with no consistent, unified master plan for growth it is totally amazing. This plan is in its final stages, and it has been met with much criticism (which indicates to me that is it working). The more it is hashed out and argued over the better the resulting plan. Ed Blakely (a world renowned recovery expert who worked in San Francisco after the earthquakes and in New York after 911) is spearheading that effort.

Overhaul of the Hospital System
The Headlines Read: Health Crisis in New Orleans – Only a Fraction of Beds Exist In Post Katrina New Orleans…Highly Skilled Professionals Are Leaving At a Staggering Pace. Underneath the headlines: There is an effort to completely overhaul the charity hospital system. The new system will focus on more neighborhood clinics and hospitals spread throughout the city. This will be done to promote more preventive medicine as opposed to reactionary health care.

Overhaul of the School System
The headlines read: Kids Placed on Waiting List as the Damaged School System Struggles to Provide Adequate Facilities” Underneath the Headlines: The New Orleans school system is being transferred from a public system full of corruption and ineffectiveness. New Orleans public schools are struggling, but they are struggling to meet higher goals never before imagined in this city. It is now comprised largely of Charter Schools (including open admission Charter Schools) and non-charter schools with highly qualified and certified teachers. This city now has a more active parental base that has organized, and has been demanding better facilities and educational opportunities for their children. Many national groups involved in education [KIPP (Charter School Network), Teach For America, New Leaders New Schools, New Schools for New Orleans, etc] are excited about what is going on in public education in New Orleans. The nation has essentially seized on the opportunity to radically alter this city’s educational system, and many in the country are watching to see how these models work.

I encourage you to run searches on the above mentioned areas. It may give you a more realistic view of the recovery efforts in this city. NBC and CNN have done a wonderful job covering the happenings down here, however there is only so much that can be covered in headline centric reporting.

Hi William,
I am not arguing that the levees around New Orleans shouldn't be held to the standard to which they were designed, which is a category 3 storm surge. Unfortunately, that doesn't provide much consolation if a bigger storm comes along. My point is that with NWO already beat up so bad, let's spend some quality time making it stronger. It would seem that now is a real good time for some urban renewal, and to try and put the city in the position of not having the levees as their last and only line of defense.


As for the Midwest, if I recall, there was some water on the ground here about 10 years ago, and when it was gone, they built bigger levees, and added some building codes to account for the flood plain dangers. I don't hear about any extra precautions happening in NWO, which is surely a shame, and likely to lead to more heartbreak. To paraphrase myself, stupidity can be defined as "Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result."

It isn't hard to defend the need for a port on the Gulf, right where NWO is. It is also home to large amounts of invaluable fishing, oil production, and shipbuilding, etc. The perception of NWO, however, is Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, and the drunken, shirtless hordes that seem to be in the headlines all of the time. This is mainly because the city leadership has been content for that image to be the one broadcast to the world. The criminal element, and the large poor population haven't helped it's image much either. When was the last time you heard anyone crying about the nasty living conditions in Detroit? Americans don't seem to feel a lot of empathy for this condition, assuming that if it's that bad, then it sucks to be them, and be glad they don't live there. NWO needs to get its image cleaned up, and elect some people who care about the long term health of the city before they will truly be able to shake off the continuing apathy that is pointed their way.

As for me and mine, once the Wife finishes school this summer, we head back to Colorful Colorado, where all I have to worry about is sunburn, droughts, and the occasional wandering Elk.

Hi Jim,
Imagine if the Mississippi River levy were to breach this spring directly underneath the Gateway Arch. Would you suggest that we spend our hard earned tax dollars to move St. Louis residents further away from the river, or would you demand that the Army Corps be held accountable for ensuring that the levies work.

St. Louis is located where it is because of the river. We apply good science and engineering to keep the river from flooding St. Louis in the spring.

The same should be true for New Orleans and every American city. Developers made the decision to build in the lower parts of New Orleans because of a promise that the Army Corps made to the city’s residents. A similar promise has been made to the citizens of St. Louis and virtually every major city with a flood control structure.

I guess it is OK to feel fatigued by the post Katrina coverage, however I hope that you will at least increase you level of scrutiny of the Army Corps for your own levies and flood control measures.

Do you know when the levy inspections occur for St. Louis?
Did the Army Corps follow proper procedure when inspecting levies?
Was there any work done on your levies this year?

Katrina taught us to ask these questions. Today in New Orleans monitoring levy inspections is now as popular as watching the Saints. Seriously!

This country needs a city in at the mouth of the Mississippi. Much of the grain that Missouri farmers harvest is exported out of this country through the port of New Orleans. The grain is transferred from barge to ships at that location. Much of the nation’s natural gas and crude oil is imported through that port complex.

New Orleans is not just a place for partying, however I will admit that it is our fault (New Orleans) that much of the country does not understand how strategically important it is to have the city where it is.

There was no 911 fatigue, because the world understands that New York is the financial capital of the world. We need to make the world understand why New Orleans is important not because of the music or food; but because of how it affects your pocket book.
By the way…while I am on that topic….Much of Lower Manhattan and a part of Queens (Rockaways) is at or below sea level. The last hurricane to hit New York (1821) caused a tremendous amount of damage in a city that was only a fraction of the size that it is now.

Martin is correct. Despite the annoyance, we should all learn from the lessons of Katrina.

Hi Donna,
It's always good to have an open and honest debate.
My family and I contributed to charity in the aftermath of Katrina, and I also worked in the city for almost four months around these last holidays. I have made it clear that my concern is my tax dollars are being spent on a hopeless cause. Unfortunately, hurricane season happens every year, and always includes the risk of destroying New Orleans. Not with the physical damage that would happen to other coastal cities, but due to the flooding. Geography is the enemy here. There are giant bodies of water on all sides of New Orleans, and huge chunks of the city are below sea level. The rest of it isn't very far above it. The levees are only designed to hold back so much, the pumps can only do so much, the city can only take so much. When the next hurricane comes along that is beyond the designed ability to withstand, then it all goes underwater again. It's only a question of when, not if.

That being said, the next question is what do you do to correct the issue? By doing nothing different, you are wasting time and money. With so much of the city already destroyed, it would be so much easier to get some kind of plan together that better fortifies the city. I have no problem with citizens staying, and trying to rebuild their lives, over and over. It is a free country. Just quit demanding that I help you do it.


I still don't understand the feelings people develop for the physical location they live in, otherwise known as the city they call home. As your e-mail states, people are what count, not things. Well, when the people are at risk because of where they live, and can reduce that risk and improve their lifestyle, you would be foolish to stay. If you lived in a gang infested 'hood in a big city, would you not be looking for something better? Of course you would, and you would foolish not to.

And you probably shouldn't pretend to know what the plan from God is, as the Bible has some story about 2 cities being destroyed as they became too corrupt.

Now, now, Mr.Jim-St.Louis, MO. Based on your mixture of comments, I'd have to say you have answered yourself. "The People" are the city. The question is not whether or not to help people, but actually how to help people. If you have not read the Bible, you should just skip to the end and you will see, what the battle is for and who will win. I understand it to mean that every soul is worth working and fighting for. Your judgement call, is a little bit off the mark, and if you consider yourself a survivalist, you should reconsider exactly what kind of walls you honestly want to build around yourself. It might just become your prison. Katrina was no sign from God, unless you want to seek an opportunity to rise above the negative and find a way to show people everywhere that people matter first, not politics, not geography, or failed attempts to prioritize other peoples lives. Ther have always been good and bad things that happen to people everywhere. What matters is how we react. No matter how negative your attitude, or reation, "they" are suffering no shortage of hope in LA. and MS. and TX. "They" have accomplished SOOOOO much, maybe it is not good enough for you, but you probably didn't help them either. Isn't that amazing enough for you to believe that your attempts to dispair "them" are wasted and will only be viewed as part of the problem. People like yourself that have decided that the people who have property there are not worth your time and effort to pitch in, should take a little comfort in this, --
The victims who do not have the strength, the will, or the means to do the work it takes to recover -- won't recover, not in New Orleans anyway. Many have relocated already. The people who refuse to say die, will inherit some good and some bad, but "they" will have worked for it, and not even you can take that away from them. I agree that the leadership is not equiped for such an undertaking, but why can't you consider that to be just one more obsticle "they" have overcome. You have already proclaimed yourself to be the man who gets gone when the going gets tough, that gives you no valid oppinion on issues you haven't the boots to address appropriately. I am really surprised at your last post. I thought I heard some encouraging remarks early on. I guess I was wrong about you before. Nothing personal, I do love a good debate!

Interestingly, I have yet to see anyone respond to any of the comments relating to the survivability of New orleans in the long run, and why trying to return the city to it's previous condition is worthwhile.

There are, however, plenty of comments that attempt to defend the charactor of the citizens of the city, which is understandable, especially if you still live there. As in any situation, there is no real "they", as much as there are a lot of individual people living in one place. However, that collective of individuals voted in the last election, and demonstrated, that on average, citizens might not be thinking clearly. Where can you possibly justify re-electing Ray Nagin? Jefferson? These are clearly signs of people voting for skin color, and not for their abilities. That means the citizens now become "they", and should get used to being charactorized by their leaders.

Now that we have let off a little steam, and said some things that we didn't really mean to, or have the nerve to, I would like to really commmend some of our heros and offer some constructive thinking to dear NOLA.
I admit I expected more progress from the most powerful industrialized nation in the world.
I am at the same time deeply moved by the efforts of some of the citizens who think failure is not an option. Your work(believe it or not) truly is an inspiration, because you still have hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
I would like to suggest a more plausible step in a positive direction:
If your most motivated citizens and leaders could agree on a proposal to submit to every city and county manager, or state governor and mayor a "challenge". Ask them to bring to New Orleans by truck or by train, a certain number of "dump containers", along with the employees or voluteers needed to remove a container full of debris, and return it to their respective state, and dispose of it at their own landfill. The Bible may call this strategy "divide and conquer". You should call it "Unite and Conquer".
I can imagine more and more people helping a little, but accomplishing a lot.
It is not the end of of the "War on Katrina", but certainly a battle we can win together.

People living outside New Orleans have no inkling what its citizens are going through. All they see is a mayor calling the city a chocolate city & imbeciles talking on TV. New Orleans isn't like that.

Again, it really doesn't matter. New Orleans got hit with a destructive force it couldn't deal with. Yes, some of the weakness is manmade through shoddy workmanship, but the overall result is still the same as if a larger hurricane had hit instead. This continued effort to blame the Corps of Engineers might make you feel better, but it's not resolving the issue of rebuilding. There is no real effort being shown that indicates that anything beyond some better flood insurance is needed to prepare for hurricane season. Seriously, we cannot be expected to help in the rebuilding of New Orleans everytime there is a nasty storm. Besides trying to put stilts under some houses, what is being done? I have't seen anything coming out of Mayor Nagin's office that shows any planning to beef up the inate abilty to survive a hurricane.

And, as it has been pointed out many times, if you really believe your best interests are served by putting your fate in the hands of a giant government organization, than you should get caught up on Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, because you are living in a dream.

I grew up in San Diego, and lived most of my life in Southern California. This is arguably some of the nicest real estate in the country. However, when it became obvious that the crime and overcrowding were eating into my quality of life, I went elsewhere. You are a fool if you get so attached to some geographical location simply because you were born there. Get a grip, you have the freedom of choice in this country to live where it best suits your lifestlye and needs. If you insist upon living in a danger zone, don't be surprised to find out it's dangerous. And don't expect the country to keep bailing you out everytime it blows up either.

Not everyone blames the Army for using the capabilities of the time, to build a safety feature. Many engineers clearly approved. I remember being glued to the tv with white knuckles, knowing that Katrina was headed straight for New Orleans. I also remember the short lived relief we all felt when she took a turn and spared you a direct hit. (Please do not take that to mean we wanted Ms. to get hit, no one did). Do you remember, the flooding did not occur during the hurricane, but in the hours after? The tragedy named Katrina in New Orleans was a direct result of your beloved city's location-it is similar to a perfect storm. So many factors came together to make this catastophe happen, the storm was the only force of nature. Other factors contributing are just as difficult to change-- 1. Generations ago, your city was founded as a haven or refuge for all of the port city's traffic. Supplies, food, fresh water were the main reason to establish trading. As traffic increased and the shanties became homes, there was no stopping its growth, but the culture was the beginnig of a newer melting pot, transient/permanent. Many people became wealthy from the port trading, and the establishment or governing peoples invested much in businesses, and very little on infrastucture. No one seemed to contradict or object. Money was flowing and the main focus was supply and demand-- demand for creature comforts dominated in society. Not unlike modern day New Orleans. If you could find it in your heart to stop trying to blame someone-anyone, then your mind may begin to drift toward a realistic path toward recovery, for your city and you personally. There is no one absolute solution. I know you think that if everyone could show up and clean up and rebuild then everything would be good again. I think even if that were possible, you should not wish for things to be right back where you were on the day before that *^%$^%$ hurricane hit you. We wish for a practical plan to redesign--not rebuild it before it happens again. I believe that the "developers" are your "go-to-guys". If there were not so much decisiveness, "they" most likely would have built a better New Orleans, or at least the foundation for it. Please, please believe that if there were a realistic, and simple solution someone would have reached it by now. Redesign and they will come! xoxoxo

Before you blame the citizens of New Orleans, read the following article in todays Times-Picayune

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-7/1174456253193610.xml&coll=1&thispage=3

As has been stated numerous times the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to blame for the flooding of New Orleans. Had they done their job we would not be having these conversations.

I have seen the destruction in person, and I can tell you it is very hard to do justice with a description. Huge areas where houses still sit with those crazy little spray painted marks on them, and the debris clearly visible from the street. The question at hand is really what to do next? New Orleans sat in the path of endless streams of hurricanes every year that threatened to blow it off of the map, and they all missed. Unfortunately, 2 quick hits in one year laid the obvious open to all observers: The city of New Orleans is not designed to withstand impacts from storms of that magnitude. Nor were the city, the state, and the federal government prepared to deal with the size of the calamity. Again, it happened, now what?

Before an attempt is made to repair the damage, something should be done to make the city more survivable. If Katrina did this much damage, and it didn't even run straight into it, what will a center-punch look like?

I believe that condemning large parts of the lowest parts of the city, and going about the process of filling it in to bring it up to sea level and higher, while installing barriers to help survive storms is the most reasonable I have heard of. Property owners would be able to get some compensation, and the city could reduce its stretched emergency services personnel from the outlying areas. Concentrate the available resources to rebuilding the most survivable and economically important parts of the city. You could then expand into these rebuilt areas as they are needed to meet demand.

If something constructive isn't done, than nothing we do there will matter. There is NO way any system of levees would restrain a really large hurricane, and we've all seen that there is a very real chance of that hurricane pounding them on the chin. And for those of you who don't think another hurricane is a possibility, and we may have had a once in a lifetime hit, remember that "Probability has no memory".

I've lived in New Orleans all of my life. I would like to point out one difference in what we are dealing with in New Orleans compared to the other areas also devastated by Katrina. In other areas, a storm surge came in, did massive destruction, then within 24 hours went back out to sea. Volunteers and rescue workers were able to enter those areas almost immediately. However, in New Orleans, homes, schools, office buildings, churches, restaurants, gas stations, stores, etc. sat stewing underwater for weeks. We were not allowed back into New Orleans for a very extended period of time, during which time every remaining surface was completely covered in mold and mildew. So if the water alone didn't destroy your property, it was destroyed by this mold and mildew. As others who have seen (and smelled) the devastation in New Orleans firsthand have pointed out...if you have not witnessed it for yourself (and I'm talking IN PERSON), you have no idea what we are dealing with. I only hope it never happens to you, because it is BEYOND overwhelming!

Jim, St. Louis, MO -- well said!

The city of New Orleans was in deep trouble before the hurricane, and it's only gotten worse. The local inhabitants were largely (67%) illiterate, indigent, and used to living out of someone else's pocket to survive. The highest crime rate is happening in the “projects”, huge areas of public housing that contain generations of families. Corruption in the government, including the police departments, is so rampant that it makes Chicago look pure. I am not making this up. Read the local newspaper (Times-Picayune) for yourself. I am not advocating forgetting that Americans live there, but when you keep handing people money, and nothing changes, what are you supposed to do? If I walk by a homeless man every day, and give him $20 dollars, what have I really done? I have enabled him to continue being homeless, and he'll be back tomorrow for another $20.

The money that the Federal Government is trying to distribute to New Orleans comes out of the taxes we all pay. I am tired of giving that money to a hopeless and unappreciated cause. What are we supposed to do when that next hurricane comes along, and hits them right in the middle of downtown? Shall we just pour another $100 billion in the hopper to try and get it fixed in time for next hurricane season? Where does it stop? Why is New Orleans being rebuilt to the same levels as before so important?

The definition of stupid is often said as "Doing the same thing over and over, and getting the same result".

I demand that my tax dollars be better spent than to keep pouring it down the drain called New Orleans.

I am so embarrassed! I've read most of these blogs but had to stop because they were so pathetic. What's the matter with most of you? Don't you even care? I have never had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans or most of the Gulf Coast but I can only imagine what it once looked like and will hopefully again.

I don't know what the people there are going through but as an American I will never turn my back on them and say that I'm tired of hearing them cry out for the help they should have received months ago. Whether it's a check or a carpenter!

I can't imagine trying to bring an entire city back to life (especially when most of it's citizens had to leave or passed) or the strenght and will it must take. These people have endured so much. Not only losing their homes, their jobs and businesses, but loved ones and now their spirit. They are remarkable. For all the rest of us to turn away because of our own laziness is inhumane.

But for those of you who do wish to turn away because you think you are morally superior or that they are lazy or that their local goverment is to blame as apposed to the national goverment (that oversee's the local gov't) or for what ever other reason you can think off, then please turn the news off when you see Martin Savage come on or anyone one else who is still reporting what should continue to be on the news until they have made signifigantly more progress.
I feel this way about many other topics that aren't covered on the news not just the Gulf Coast.

There are few things that all people can agree on, but no one has tried to argue with the fact that there was total devistation in New Orleans. Who can say what needs to be done and when, and who will do what first. If a caravan of trucks full of volunteers showed up(again)today, with all the tools and materials to to gut or demolish every abandoned or condemed building, for you, for free, where would it go? Would you dump that in Lake Pontchatrain too? There are miles and miles of furniture, cars, boats, trees, trash, bikes, roofs, windows, walls, broken concrete, street signs, billboards, toys, plastic pools, rebar, cables, wires, fences, pipe, televisions, microwave ovens, refrigerators, washers and dryers, more items than one person can even name, and it is all debris. It is no wonder that so many people there are overwhelmed. I really don't believe for 1 minute that people are sick of hearing or talking about Katrina, no way. It is very sad for the honest hard working people, who are paying for strikes against the criminals who scare us away. I feel sorry for, and proud of the citizens of Houston, who did not hesitate to help, but paid dearly for that. They deserve some emergency management funds to pay for housing and schooling and new correctional facilities. Maybe they need to refurbish the AstroDome or throw a Mardi Gras party too. Since we can't go back and not build New Orleans in bowl below sea level, or use your tax revenue for evacuation plans instead of a theme park, or use the gas and oil income to rebuild the levies, can you consider using the "billions of dollars" from fema and private donations to avoid any of the problems that proved to be so devistating to every citizen to this day? No?
Too bad we can't just bulldoze all the debris and destruction into the bowl, cement it over and rebuild a Brand New Orleans above sea level, with all the things you love, and none of the things you don't. Who wouldn't help you with that? I wish you Kharma, Love, luck, hugs, and prayers, oh, and let the good times roll, like anything could stop ya.

Everyone must REMEMBER! MAN HAS NO CONTROL OVER WHAT MOTHER NATURE CAN AND WILL DO. ALL OF YOU, WHO POINTS THE FINGER AT NEW ORLEANS HAS 3 POINTING BACK AT YOURSELF. WAIT UNTIL THE DAY THAT YOU THINK IS NOT COMING DO COME! I BET YOU'LL RECOLLECT WHAT YOU SAID THEN. IT MAY NOT BE A HURRICANE, IT MAY NOT BE A TROPICAL STORM OR DEPRESSION, REMEMBER THE HAND OF GOD HAS A MIGHTY BLOW!

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