Friday, September 02, 2005

The poor were stuck there

Yesterday I reversed my position on why people were in NO as the hurricane hit. Today I bolster my reversal by this piece in Attytood:

In the months leading up to Hurricane Katrina, it became increasingly clear to local officials that in the event of a killer storm, the No. 1 problem in a city with a 30 percent poverty rate was some 134,000 residents who did not have a car. They knew these people had no way to get out of town -- and that a Category 3 hurricane or stronger would likely bring a flood of Biblical proportions.

And so the plan do nothing.

Well, almost nothing. This summer, as local officials were streamlining the counter-flow interstate traffic plan so that better-off New Orleans residents could leave more quickly, they also prepared a DVD for local churches and civil groups urging the poor to find a ride out of town.

They didn't say who from. They only said who it wouldn't be: The government. Even more amazing, the mayor of New Orleans took the city's buses -- the most viable means for getting poor residents out of town -- and used them to bring people to the Superdome, even as he was acknowledging that conditions there were bound to deteriorate.

Also here is a personal piece from Philly Future:

My family survived the circumstances of our childhood poverty. But for those poor in Katrina's wake - who the Right is vilifying with such a broad brush - their nightmare goes on.


Yael said...

holy shit, that's a lot of posts!!

I just wanted to comment about the whole New Orleans thing, and I just picked a random post to comment under.

1. I'm glad you corrected yourself regarding the poor people who could not leave the city. They completely didn't have a choice, and even those of greater means who fled the city are now in a dire situation. A quote from a friend in Houston: "Katrina initially displaced about 1 million people from the coast, many of which have filled hotels throughout my home city of Houston. Over the past week, these families have been rapidly expending their available cash on hotel bills and basic necessities. Many of them no longer have a home or job to return to." And these are the people who are more well off.

2. I totally do not get everyone's obsession with race in this issue. The people who are homeless and foodless and dying in the flooded streets of New Orleans are generally speaking the *poor* people of New Orleans. Yes, most of them are black, and yes, this has many social and socio-economical reasons, but why is this the point right now? If you want to talk about the relationship between race and poverty, that's a great topic, but totally unrelated to what's going on in New Orleans right now. I'm just mystified by the continued obsession with race in what claims to be an "advanced" democratic society.

3. The looting: like you, I do not have figures in this issue, but I did read stories about people who were holding people at gunpoint to steal their wallets and stuff and shooting at policemen, and I think (I hope) this kind of criminal behaviour is what they're trying to crack down on, not people taking food from abandoned grocery stores. Let's face it, probably most of the criminals in the city are among the poor who couldn't get out of the city, and I think it's these types of people who are the dangerous looters. I also read, btw, that the manager of the main hospital there was afraid to send out ambulances transporting the sick to Houston, because crime was rampant and the streets just aren't safe anymore. And while I understand your sentiment about desparate people losing their morality, I'm not sure that desparation is a valid excuse for criminal behaviour. I'm not saying that what is actually happening there as far as police response is all justified, but I do see a real need to have a serious, no-nonsense response to this uncontrolled crime.

4. The government: I think the whole world agrees that the government's response has been less than terrible, without even going into the whole Iraq effect. I think that, even if you disregard the funds/people that have been invested in Iraq, response could have been about a million times better. Response, in fact, was almost non-existant. Every time I see Bush on TV, I say aloud "what an idiot!" because that is so what he seems like to me. He is such a *kid* (that is, he acts like one) in everything he says and does... how is this person the president of the US? For the second time in a row?? Boggles my mind.

This is long enough to be a post within itself! Hope it's not too long to be a comment...

Yael said...

Just rereading my comment: in number 4, when I said the government's reponse was "less than terrible", I meant *worse* than terrible. I just meant, very very unbelievably bad.

trace said...

Thanks for the comments.. they are apprecieated.

Let me re-comment back :

1) Yup.. you are correct, it's going to be really interesting to see what happens as more and more of the Middle Class from the area begin to run out of money for hotels and the like. The displacement problems are barely visible at the moment.

2) The race thing is a tough one. Personally I think it's more of a class issue and it's easy to see lower class as simply 'black' when one is looking at the south. I think that's what happening here. Just the media and the country reacting the fact that a group of people is being treated differently than another group.

3) Looting. We'll never know what it was like there, if it really was as bad as people were reporting. I don't think that it was a war zone, but I think in some cases it was a group of desperate people. Whatever, I'm all for law an order but the governer saying that she was giving the order to "shoot to kill" is simply sickening. The last time the National Guard shot and killed someone was in Ohio in the 60's and we all know how well that turned out.

4) No need to even begin to critisize the govt anymore since the media finally has some balls and is doing it for us.. as they should.