I am posting this because so far, Edwards is the only candidate I've seen who has actually spelled out a vision for New Orleans. Here it is:
Building One America Starts in New Orleans
“We are not the country of the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina. We can prove it by fulfilling our moral responsibility to get New Orleans back on its feet.”
– John Edwards
Twenty-two months after President Bush promised to rebuild New Orleans on national TV from Jackson Square, vast stretches of the city and St. Bernard Parish remain deserted. Based on mail delivery data, the city’s population is barely 60 percent of what it once was and according to the latest data from FEMA, more than 80,000 families from the Gulf are still living in FEMA trailers. [GNOCDC/Brookings, 2007; FEMA, 4/12/07; FEMA, 5/24/07]
The pace of recovery is slow. The displaced African-American population, in particular, has been slow to return. The economy is growing stronger, but the availability of affordable housing and services are significant barriers to residents returning. Employment is down in the sectors where many moderate-income displaced residents worked, like health care and the public sector, including education. Murders have spiked. At the end of this past school year, only 45 percent of New Orleans public schools operating pre-Katrina had re-opened. [GNOCDC/Brookings, 2007]
John Edwards began his Road to One America tour in New Orleans because the challenge of building One America starts right here. Edwards announced a three-part plan for rebuilding the city: (1) rebuilding infrastructure – housing, schools, and hospitals – that is built to last so that people have something to come back to, (2) creating jobs to bring them back , (3) making the city safe from storms – with levees that can withstand another Katrina, and strengthening public safety to keep residents safe from crime.
Rebuild an Infrastructure That Is Built to Last
The rebuilding of infrastructure is stalled. New Orleans needs new hospital and clinics, schools and roads. Some say we can put off rebuilding the infrastructure until people move back. But that is putting the cart before the horse – people aren’t moving back because the infrastructure isn’t there. Today, Edwards proposed plans to:
Build a New Veterans’ Hospital Downtown: The Veterans Administration is trying to decide where to build its new regional medical center. There is no better place for America to fulfill its commitment to those who have sacrificed for our country than in the city of New Orleans. Edwards called on the VA to stop delaying site selection and choose downtown New Orleans, and then fast-track the design process so construction can begin. Constructing the new hospital downtown – to recognized flood-safe specifications – will enhance development of the downtown medical district, create hundreds of construction jobs for local residents and bring back health care workers to the city.
Build a 21st Century Infrastructure: Sadly, New Orleans is still far away from restoring basic infrastructure, much less an infrastructure to compete in the 21st century. Only 17 percent of pre-Katrina buses are operating in the city -- a figure that remains unchanged since March of 2006. Less than 30 percent of pre-Katrina acute care hospital beds are open. There is a particular crisis in mental health. The number of psychiatric care beds has fallen from 450 to 80, and suicides are up 300 percent. [GNOCDC/Brookings, 2007; LA Times, 4/30/07; Citation]
Integrate New Housing: We must end the old racial and economic isolation of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Edwards supports the construction of affordable rental and owner-occupied housing in economically integrated housing. He will increase federal funding for housing vouchers and the HOPE VI neighborhood revitalization program, and he will tie federal housing and transportation funding to state and local efforts to reform zoning and housing laws and promote effective transportation policies. That way, the poor housing that separated hundreds of thousands of city residents from good jobs, good schools and good health care – and new isolation of trailer homes – will be a thing of the past.
Preserve Livable Housing: One of the most urgent problems is the lack of affordable housing, but HUD wants to demolish livable public housing projects. We need more mixed-income housing, but Edwards opposes knocking down livable apartments until replacement units are ready. [AP, 6/7/07]
Create Good Jobs to Bring People Back
Create Good Jobs: Displaced New Orleans residents will not return unless there are good jobs to return to. Edwards will make sure the jobs of rebuilding New Orleans carry good, local prevailing wages. He has proposed hiring 50,000 Gulf Coast residents to fill stepping stone jobs dedicated to rebuilding infrastructure that will help local and returning residents gain skills and experience.
Protect Workers from Contractor Exploitation: The private contractors hired to repair damaged infrastructure have routinely exploited the local workforce. One study found that up to 60 percent of construction workers are being cheated out of wages. Unlike most states, Louisiana does not enforce wage violations because the state does not have its own minimum wage law. And the U.S. Department of Labor only had four bilingual investigators last year. Edwards will revive the Department of Labor, creating a new wage and hour taskforce to target the industries with the worst abuses.
Make the City Safe
It’s unreasonable to expect the people of New Orleans to return to a city that isn’t safe. And we have seen the cost of cutting corners. We can’t help New Orleans recover unless we help make New Orleans safe. Edwards is committed to protecting the city and the region from weather and from crime:
Protect the Gulf from Another Major Storm: The Army Corps has missed its deadlines for planning new levees. Now we are in the middle of the second hurricane season after Katrina and the city is not safe. The current target for the Army Corps of Engineers -- to protect against a 100-year storm – is inadequate. It would not have stopped Katrina, and global warming is raising the risk of future catastrophic storms. As president, Edwards will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Katrina never happens again. That means stronger levees and the restoration of coastal wetlands -- a natural barrier for storm surges that also protect ports, refineries, and other infrastructure. [Engineering News-Record, 11/6/06]
Strengthen Public Safety to End the Epidemic of Crime and Violence: Following Katrina, New Orleans has experienced an epidemic in violence. The homicide rate has shot up over the last year. The homicide rate is 15 times higher than New York City; there were 161 murders reported last year, but only one murder conviction. The police are still working out of trailers and rely on the help of the National Guard to keep the peace. Edwards will make sure the city takes as much responsibility as it can bear, while providing it with the funding it needs to make the streets safe again. [CSLJ, 2007; NOPD, 2007]
Paid for by John Edwards for President.