No Longer Big Nor Easy

1. We’re told that 40,000 Louisianians still live in FEMA trailers, down 50 percent from a year ago. Most of our people still in these boxes are having their homes rebuilt and will not be needing them much longer. And what of the others? That would be people who had been living in subsidized public housing for the most part and who have no place to go other than the FEMA trailer. We’re told the federal government has workers doing nothing but seeking out rental property and matching it up with the trailer dweller. Trying to get them out and on their own.

The FEMA trailer has been a lifesaver for a lot of people and a royal headache for the government. We have not reported it here, but formaldehyde has been found at high levels in many of the trailers, creating a health concern for the residents. Watch for the lawsuits.

Somewhere I read about a city employee–not one of ours thankfully; this must have been in the Reader’s Digest–who was backing his city truck up and crunched an automobile. The driver got out and discovered he had backed into his own car. So, naturally, he sued the city. After all, the city must have been at fault since a city-owned truck driven by a city employee was responsible. No word as to the outcome.

2. The Veterans Administration announced this week it wants to build its new hospital, replacing the old one which had been locked into cramped spaces and narrow streets and which took major damage from the hurricane and flooding, onto a 34 acre site not far from the old VA. Jefferson Parish had hoped to become the site for this major medical center. Ochsner Foundation Hospital in the community known as Jefferson, nearly 5 miles west of downtown, had offered the ground for the VA. Apparently, officials prefer that the VA stay downtown, next to what will become a brand new LSU hospital to replace the old Charity system. The new LSU medical center will be a teaching and research facility and the VA likes the idea of the proximity.

3. John Grisham fans will recall his book, “The Rainmaker,” I believe it was, which dealt with a young lawyer just out of school who takes the pro bono case of a dying man denied benefits from his insurance company. Matt Damon played the guy in the movie. As the case evolves, our man discovers that the company was engaged in a pattern of systematically denying everyone benefits at first and eventually, with only some of the customers receiving some degree of compensation after extraordinary effort. In the story, the jury was so angry at the insurance company’s hardheartedness, they awarded the victim’s family–the man had died by then–a whopping truckload of money.

One of the many post-Katrina lawsuits dealing with inadequate insurance compensation has uncovered what appears to be just that kind of scheme by Allstate. We shall stay tuned.

4. Up in St. Francisville, the trial continues for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, charged with 35 counts of negligent homicide for failing to evacuate their St. Bernard Parish nursing home before Katrina. The prosecution is putting other nursing home operators on the witness stand, testifying that they a) got the word to move out in plenty of time and b) were able to get their residents to safety with no problem. The Manganos argue that the mandatory call to evacuate came too late and they would have put their people at greater risk by moving them. A fellow testified this week that he offered them two buses to move the patients/residents and the Manganos turned him down, saying they had contacted most of the families involved and they felt they should stay put.

Some 59 residents of St. Rita’s Nursing Home had remained, with 35 of them drowning. The Manganos’ attorney insists that only six of the 59 could walk on their own, and that moving them was no simple matter such as loading them onto buses.

Whatever the verdict, there will be no winners in this matter and enough of grief to go around.

5. John Maginnis, in a Times-Picayune op-ed piece this week, commented on U. S. Attorney Jim Letten’s statement after City Councilman Oliver Thomas was nabbed for wrongdoing. Letten had said that while the public greets these revelations and charges with disgust, it’s actually good news, because it means corruption is not being condoned, that Louisiana standards have changed.

Maginnis writes, “The next week, more indictments, more good news.”

6. The best news for an entire strata of New Orleanians is the play of the Saints in pre-season football. The first game, they looked terrible and were routed. The second game, they looked great and almost won. The next game, they won handily. Last night, against the Kansas City Chiefs, they looked like Super Bowl contenders. To be sure, this is just the pre-season and the games don’t count, but still….

Pastor Fred Luter spoke for a lot of us recently when he said, “I am so ready for the football season.”

7. Thursday’s front-page story was the new maps from the Corps of Engineers showing the areas of the metro area most vulnerable to flood risk during what they euphemistically call “a 100-year storm,” whatever that is. I think we had one two years ago.

Just below the headlines, we are told that the Corps will be needing another $7.6 billion–that’s billion with a ‘b’–to finish the levees and gates by 2011. The news on radio and television Thursday evening was local and state politicians worrying about where that money would come from. Senator Mary Landrieu says not to worry.

Jefferson Parish officials are asking the Corps to recall the maps because they are “incomplete and needlessly alarming.” They say the Corps ignores large-scale improvements done through their area and gives misleading information.

Meanwhile–as has been the case for the last 2 years–the citizens sit back and listen as the people we depend on to keep us safe, bicker back and forth. A line which ought to be emblazoned on every “Welcome to New Orleans” sign is a ripoff of Galatians 2:11, “We live by faith.” Faith in levees, pumps, weather forecasters, government agencies, congressional compassion, political whim, and presidential-year attention.

No one unwilling to live by faith should ever move to our city.

8. In order to show outsiders–most of the readers of this blog do not live here–just how focused this city still is on Katrina-related issues, and this two years after the hurricane, I considered devoting one article to listing every item in one day’s edition of The Times-Picayune on this subject. I may yet, but right now. We need the coverage, want the nation to know what our situation is, and need the information the newspaper gives, but it becomes so wearisome after a while.

9. The City of New Orleans was getting so much flack from their demolition of uncared-for houses that they decided to back off and put the program on hold for a while, to give residents plenty of time to make certain they came to City Hall with photos of their property and evidence they are restoring their homes.

A spokesman for the Corps said this week he thinks the city has wrongfully tagged for demolition at least several dozen houses. Lawsuits are being filed all the time to stop the city from proceeding, or seeking compensation for a house or church already destroyed.

10. The new Inspector General for New Orleans is in town. Robert Cerasoli is meeting with various community leaders out of an office at Loyola University. When I invited him to lunch recently, he said, “I’ll have to pay for my own meal. I’m not allowed to take anything from anyone.” But he’s buying the coffee today when we meet at noon. Cerasoli doesn’t actually start work until after Labor Day.

Even though the city council provided for such an official years ago, we’ve never actually had an Inspector General and most people don’t know exactly what he’s charged with accomplishing. My understanding is he will be rooting out corruption in local government.

Which reminds me of a cartoon of mine which ran at this week (the Baptist Press website) and was directed at my old college roommate Joel Davis, the minister of seniors at Snellville, Georgia’s Annistown Road Baptist Church. Two kids are talking as Joel walks away. One says, “That’s Mister Davis. He’s our church’s minister of sinner adults.” The other kid says, “Wow. Big job.”

Big job, Mr. Cerasoli. Welcome to what used to be call the Big Easy, but which is no longer big nor easy.

3 thoughts on “No Longer Big Nor Easy

  1. Well done, attractive blog.

    Keep up thee great work in New Orleans and at your keyboard.


  2. It seems to me that people have been sitting too long waiting for the government to solve their problems. We have to take responsibility for our own lives.

  3. Prayers for Mr. Cerasoli. If he does his job well, there’ll likely be a price on his head. If not, he’ll likely be one more in a long line of indicted officials from N.O.

    Godspeed, Mr. Cerasoli.

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