The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that John Kerry “fears that problems are festering” in New Orleans. Kerry will be following up on his promise last week, to “raise the roof” about the complaints he heard during his recent visit to New Orleans, about the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
Sen. John Kerry will tell colleagues today that he is “stunned by how little is happening compared to how much more must be done.”
In remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor, Kerry, D-Mass., will contrast the change in attitude he found last week compared to his first visit to the city several weeks after the hurricane struck.
“When I went to Louisiana the first time, I saw a region damaged by a storm, but strong in spirit,” Kerry says in his speech. “I talked to people who proved their resilience and their love of their state when they committed themselves not to give up, not to leave — to rebuild their homes and businesses. On this trip, I met people who feel little more today than disappointment in the federal government’s inadequate response.”
He said he left the city after his tour with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., “convinced that the Gulf Coast doesn’t have a morale problem,” but “Washington has a leadership problem.”
Susan Aspey, a spokesperson for Gulf Coast recovery coordinator Donald Powell, took “issue with Kerry’s comments.” She pitched the Republican party line that “the president” is doing a wonderful job…
“The facts tell a different story,” she said. “The president has visited the Gulf Coast a dozen times and more than $87 billion in direct aid has gone to the region to provide housing, rebuild levees and help people begin the process of getting on with their lives. Another $20 billion more is pending in Congress. The president has a strong, unwavering commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast better than ever, and any claims to the contrary are simply absurd.”
John Kerry, Ranking Member of Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said that “the recovery in New Orleans is being compromised by the failures of the Small Business Administration to provide the loans that many small businesses need to resume operations.”
Only about $1 billion of the $9 billion in loans approved for Gulf Coast small businesses have made it to the businesses, Kerry says, and even worse, over half of those who applied were rejected.
Eight months after the president promised the revitalization of small- and minority-owned businesses, the businesspeople who have stayed in New Orleans are still fighting to keep their doors open in the face of a slow and woefully inadequate federal response, Kerry says. “Orleans Parish, the center of Louisiana’s economy, had 12,695 small businesses, employing 245,000 people, in operation before (the Katrina hit) Aug. 29, 2005. Today, it is estimated that only a little more than 2,000 have re-opened. Where is the response from Washington?”
Kerry says that despite more than $10 billion in contracts for debris removal, emergency response and reconstruction efforts, he didn’t see any trucks lined up to haul debris out of eastern New Orleans.
“In fact, there seems to be little activity from the federal government,” Kerry says in his remarks. “Piles of debris remain standing before every building as a constant reminder of the devastation Katrina and Rita left behind. Local officials told me of their fears that mosquitoes and rodents are carrying diseases as a result of the piles of garbage on the streets.”
The richest country in the world, he says, shouldn’t leave parents to worry that their children are at “risk for third-world health problems.”
The Picayune reports that “Republicans accused Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and a likely candidate in 2008, of playing politics.”
“It’s clear the Democrats continue to shamelessly use the natural disaster for personal political gain,” said Danny Diaz spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “John Kerry was rejected by Louisiana voters on Election Day 2004 and his political posturing once again will be rejected . . .”
I’ve got one question for Danny Diaz… You tell me Mr. Diaz, how anyone with a conscience can call telling the truth about the conditions in New Orleans playing politics?
When a U.S. Senator goes down to New Orleans and sees “Piles of debris remain standing before every building as a constant reminder of the devastation Katrina and Rita left behind, “ and “Local officials” tell him of “their fears that mosquitoes and rodents are carrying diseases as a result of the piles of garbage on the streets” — you call that playing politics? What is playing politics, Mr. Diaz is to condone that these conditions exist in New Orleans and NOT enough is being done to help the people there!
For more information see John Kerry’s earlier report: Promises Made, Promises Broken: The Bush Administration’s Record on Rebuilding the Gulf Coast.