2 thoughts on “Sublette on New Orleans

  1. Oh, thanks for reminding me about Lydon; he had a radio gig in the Twin Cities for a while, and I was sorry it ended.

  2. Another good N.O. alert from Sublette:


    Katrina recovery review ordered by new FEMA leader

    by Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune
    Wednesday January 28, 2009, 9:18 PM

    In her second week on the job, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a comprehensive review of Hurricane Katrina recovery progress, drawing praise from state and local officials who hope the move will increase the flow of federal money for public projects stymied by disputes over damage assessments and mitigation efforts.

    “This sends a strong message that she wants to do something different, ” said Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

    Included in the examination ordered Wednesday are about 1,200 public structures and other projects that state officials describe as “large scale” because the respective applicants are seeking at least $500,000, with a total cost exceeding $3.2 billion.

    The projects fall under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program, the primary federal disaster relief option for government and nonprofit entities. And many also involve applications under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program intended to help prevent damage in
    future storms.

    The list ranges from improvements at Orleans Parish Prison and Tulane University’s main library to the question of how much the Louisiana State University System is due for flooding at Charity Hospital, a dispute with strong implications for LSU’s effort to build a new academic medical complex in lower Mid-City.

    Besides calling for a Public Assistance inspection, the secretary’s directive requires that offices under her control, including FEMA, analyze Hazard Mitigation Grant spending, measure the effectiveness of temporary housing relief for displaced residents and explore whether recovery could be more efficient if FEMA and relevant state offices worked in the same physical spaces.

    Napolitano, the former Arizona governor who assumed her new post Jan. 20, expects an oral report by Feb. 10 and a final report by Feb. 24.

    A hopeful outlook

    Around south Louisiana, local authorities echoed Rainwater’s sentiments and expressed optimism that Napolitano and her eventual FEMA director will bring a fresh outlook following multiple rounds of wrangling with former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and FEMA Director David Paulison during the Bush administration.

    LSU System President John Lombardi said Napolitano’s action feeds his confidence that FEMA eventually will endorse the state’s argument that damage at Charity Hospital, where the basement flooded after Katrina, exceeds half of the building’s replacement value.

    That would require that the state be paid $492 million under FEMA rules and the federal Stafford Act, an amount that would finance more than a third of LSU’s plans for a $1.2 billion academic medical complex north of Claiborne Avenue not far from its existing medical school buildings. The Bush administration disputed that Charity is effectively totaled: Its last offer was $150 million.

    Lombardi said LSU officials and the state facilities division are continuing, independent of Napolitano’s order, to craft an appeal of the Bush administration’s most recent damage estimate.

    The city of New Orleans on Wednesday released a list of some of its largest projects — including the parish prison, the Museum of Art, the district attorney building and several New Orleans Police Department properties — that currently are a combined $14.7 million short of rebuilding costs.

    The review, Mayor Ray Nagin said, “is consistent with what we have been asking for and working on for the past few years.”

    Asking the right questions

    New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Marcia St. Martin said, “Just the fact that she asked these questions tells us that there is a significant level of understanding.”

    St. Martin said denied requests from her agency include elevation of a berm around the east bank wastewater treatment plant and restoration at ground level of several sewer lift stations that originally were built below grade. “I think they will recognize the total needs of the system to bring us back to pre-Katrina functionality, ” she said.

    Tulane University, meanwhile, has more than $217 million worth of work that school officials think is eligible for Public Assistance reimbursement. Yvette Jones, the school’s chief operating officer, said FEMA has “obligated” — or agreed to pay — $56 million, with the rest held up for various reasons.

    The largest project affected is the school’s main library, where the basement flooded, ruining collections that included U.S. government documents housed in the Uptown building because it is a federally designated repository for such records.

    Jones said Tulane remains at odds with FEMA over whether and how to add floors to the building to avoid future flooding. In the meantime, the facility is using the same temporary HVAC unit that has been in place since the months after Katrina.

    Besides the major projects, also pending are hundreds of smaller disputes that Rainwater said emanate from the constraints of the Stafford Act, which requires that FEMA pay only to restore facilities to their conditions before the storm and to replace specific equipment and supplies just as they were before a disaster. In some cases, that initially forced school libraries to document their precise inventory of books, before they reached a less onerous compromise with FEMA.

    Referring to a passage in Napolitano’s order — “Are there legislative or regulatory requirements that are impeding speedy resolution of these projects?” — Rainwater and Nagin said they hope the review prevents such bureaucratic exercises in the future.

    “Secretary Chertoff always said they felt like the Stafford Act was not a problem, ” Rainwater said of the Bush administration. “Now you’ve got a secretary who seems willing to take a look.”

    Nagin said the result could be “changes that can fix FEMA and the Stafford Act to ensure that no other American city faces the rebuilding and recovery challenges that New Orleans has faced.”

    . . . . . . .

    Staff writer Michelle Krupa contributed to this report. Bill Barrow can be reached at bbarrow@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3452.

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