Monday, December 10, 2007


Pundits wonder why people have no faith in their government. What's going on in New Orleans these days ought to give the talking heads one answer.

They still got people living in trailers down there yet authorities and HUD want to tear down four public housing developments in New Orleans.

A press release found on the Gulf Coast Reconstruction site put it like this:
"Homelessness in New Orleans has doubled since Katrina struck in August 2005, according to recent reports, and thousands of families still live in temporary FEMA housing. Yet despite a housing shortage, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has authorized the demolition of more than 4,000 units of public housing in New Orleans – most of it barely damaged by Katrina. The homes are slated to be razed this week, without provisions for replacing them with affordable units."

At the same time, Congressional legislation to help homeowners, renters and public housing residents hurt by Katrina – the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (S. 1668) – has languished for months in the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, on which Sen. Dole sits. A bill with the same name (H.R. 1227) passed overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 302-125 in March."

Are these elected officials and government bureaucrats stupid, crazy or just cruel. You tell me. I would guess all three.

Mostly, I think, they just don't care much about the lives of working and poor Americans...of any color. After all the decision makers have nice warm comfortable homes. They have a place to lay their heads at night. Their families are doing A-okay.

How to deal with them?

Joe Hill, in a different context, before his execution put it like this, "Don't mourn me. Organize!"

They're giving that a shot down in the Emerald City.

Protesters showed up at a meeting of the New Orleans Housing Conservation District Review Committee today in an attempt to save their housing. (see article below).

Besides New Orleans, demonstrations are taking place in other parts of the country today (which happens to be Human Rights Day).

According to a statement from Kali Akuno, director of the Stop the Demolition Coalition:

"What is at stake with the demolition of public housing in New Orleans is more than just the loss of housing units: it destroys any possibility for affordable housing in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Without access to affordable housing, thousands of working class New Orleanians will be denied their human right to return."

Although this situation is unique and urgent in the city of New Orleans, it does not occur in isolation. The plans for redevelopment here are part of a national assault on public housing, in which tens of thousands of homes have been demolished in the past decade."

Yesterday public housing residents and advocates went to Mayor Ray Nagin's house to protest the planned demolition the four public housing developments.

The Times-Picayune reported several dozen members of the Coalition to Stop the Demolitions never got to see the mayor, though some in the crowd speculated he may have been in a car that pulled up to the Park Island residence and then left.

After leaving Nagin's residence, the protesters took to the streets, chanting slogans.

"The residents have a right to come back," said Jasper, a resident of the St. Bernard complex. "They have the right to come back home to their units that are just sitting there."

Rapper Sess 4-5, who once lived in the former Desire public housing complex, said the four housing complexes should be saved to house the city's growing homeless population, former public housing residents who lived in the complexes all their lives until Katrina, and renters who can't afford higher rental rates in New Orleans since the storm.

Jasper said that just like Nagin, she wants to celebrate the holidays with her family, but her relatives are still displaced.

"We live like normal people," she said. "He's with his family. A lot of people would like to be with their family during the holidays."

Kali Akuno, of the Coalition to Stop Demolition, explains why many people who do not live in public housing are joining residents in this fight.:
“In the past two years, New Orleans has faced a series of social crises that have struck a blow to our collective vision for a more just and equitable city, not simply one that is more inviting to elites. Yet none of these crises has been as uniquely urgent as this. What is at stake with the demolition of public housing in New Orleans is more than just the loss of housing units: it destroys any possibility for affordable housing in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Without access to affordable housing, thousands of working class New Orleanians will be denied their human right to return.”

Hello America. Are you listening.

Keep in mind there is no reason why this couldn't happen to you.

The following is from the Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

HANO hits roadblock to demolitions

The Housing Conservation District Review Committee on Monday refused to approve demolition of one of the four public housing developments scheduled to be torn down this weekend by a vote of 3-3.

The committee reviews planned demolitions in historic neighborhoods not under the jurisdiction of the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

The decision, which came after a raucous three-hour meeting filled with anti-demolition protesters, means that developers and the Housing Authority of New Orleans must appeal to the City Council before sending wrecking crews to the Lafitte development, located near Treme.

HANO and its team of developers did win approval, however, to begin demolishing the C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper developments, the first step toward what the agency says will transform the city's aging brick buildings into "mixed income" modern-day housing.

About 100 people crowded into an 8th floor conference room at City Hall in an effort to halt the demolitions, calling them an attack on the working poor. In the end, they were only partly successful.

"Open up your hearts," said Sharon Sears Jasper, who was a resident of the St. Bernard complex until she forced out by the storm in 2005. "You're taking away our families, our homes. Look at the diamonds on your hands for taking all them bribes. We work, we go to church, we have families. We live in public housing. We want our homes back."

In response, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a two-page statement saying HANO is merely removing "thousands of run-down public housing units" in favor of "safe, vibrant, economically sustainable" communities. "It's a decades-old strategy that has enjoyed success in cities like Atlanta, Chicago and elsewhere in New Orleans," the HUD statement said.

HUD, which has run HANO since 2002, announced in June that it would raze the city's four largest developments: C.J. Peete, St. Bernard, B.W. Cooper and Lafitte.

On Saturday, wrecking crews may begin tearing down scores of buildings at B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete, but not the 76 buildings at Lafitte that developers want to remove and replace with new housing.

The St. Bernard development in the 7th Ward will also proceed. Developers did not need the committee's permission to begin work because the complex is not within the conservation district.

Of the four developments slated for demolition, only Cooper has been re-opened since Hurricane Katrina. About 267 families presently live there.

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