Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An open letter to outsiders attempting to make political hay out of this crisis...

Dear Jackass,

Having evacuated from my home in the Lakeview area of New Orleans (1/2 mile from 17th Street Canal breach), I'm one of the fortunate who've escaped with my family's lives. This excruciating waiting game gives me a lot of time reading over the Internet/watching your interview, and something you've said/written prompted me to respond.

Though your point-of-view is not unique to, rather representative of, a subclass of people who find political advantage in this tragedy, I would appreciate the opportunity to enlighten you, man-to-man, about some facts in this story because, at the very least, I believe in giving you the benifit of the doubt that you have the ability to grow up a little.

Thus far, the Federal response, while not as fast as we would like it (when I say we, I mean those of us who have a stake in this community, and not people who dislike certain politicians), is on a timetable that was known well beforehand. The problems arose, at least in New Orleans, because the leadership structure quite literally fell apart. Our city is a living example of the "Grasshopper and the Ant" parable. Doubt what I say? Look at the orderly restoration taking place in ALL the surrounding parishes and counties. The cops didn't have any stand-by food or water, instead being left to fend for themselves in small, well-armed packs of "official" looting. The firefighters, unable to do their job due to gunfire and being stranded by the NOPD in unsafe conditions, had gone "Alamo style" to the outskirts of the city at Holy Cross College, choosing to protect themselves until order could be restored. No one is reporting this for various reasons, but I know about it because of firsthand accounts from friends in the NOPD and NOFD. When you hear about "rumors" of desertions in the NOPD, know that those "rumors" total between 100-300 officers out of a force of 1500. That's freakin' insane.

The second reason for this problem is something much deeper and more difficult to solve. New Orleans is a segregated community with a large underclass of almost entirely black citizens. The public schools are almost entirely black with a handfull of 1st generation immigrants, with the exception of the three magnet schools. The schools are so deplorable and so much has been written before, I'll leave the description to you to flesh out. Needless to say, if you're born to a poor family, your chances of educating yourself out of poverty are limited. Part of the blame lies with the families, but part of it lies with the rest of us who see the need and avoid getting dirty.

Ours is a service-based economy, so most jobs don't pay well. That's not the Federal government's fault, but our own. What CEO would want to locate his business in a community where the sales taxes are high, the roads suck, and the public schools don't function? We've a hidden tax of private schooling, whereby you pay property taxes to the public system, then pay again to send your kids to a decent school, usually a Catholic one. Ours was not a well-functioning community, before and inspite of Katrina.

No one could foresee the exact outcome of this storm, but our local leaders sure could have prepared better. Ask yourself "why did this only occur in New Orleans?" St. Bernard and Slidell were much worse off, Gulfport and Biloxi were devestated, Long Beach is gone. All these are places with similar demographics, but only New Orleans turned riotous. Can you come up with any reasons from the safety of your perch in Anywhere USA?

In sum, this is a problem we've grown up knowing could happen at any moment, and we obviously didn't do enough to prepare to our eternal shame. If anything I've said has enlightened you in any way or piqued your curiosity, I'd be more than glad to offer more information. However, while I'm still looking at the sattelite photos of my water-submerged house, I'd thank you to stop using this issue and that forum to further your political causes.



At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you're awesome.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless you and your family. New Orleans will bounce back because of the people who love New Orleans - Not any damned politician.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's all this about FEMA and the poor response? Everyone I know who applied to FEMA online received a $2,000 credit to their bank accounts immediately. Another who applied online Saturday morning without a bank account number was approved Sat. night and received the $2,000 check in today's (Tue)mail. Contrast that to the Red Cross where people have waited in line for days and finally got their golen moment at the desk draped with red cross banners, then were told to call a number for an appointment. You guessed it - constantly busy for days more. This, despite running the tv ads that have collected over $500 million so far.

As for blame, I'm sure there's enough to go around. However, the CITY and STATE are the first responders in disaster. The feds are follow-up and relief. The mayor and governor failed miserably by not having the necessities of life available for its emergency employees, and for being under staffed for years. Why didn't the gov have the national guard, state police, and hundreds of Charity sytem employees from other parts of the state on standy? Where is/was the city's Homeland Security Director, other than at the bank collecting his six-figure paycheck?

Heads should be lopped off.

Peter Fenerk


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