Brief Update on MS Katrina Recovery and How to Get Involved

Cross-posted from my Katrina recovery blog.

The following is a summary of a recent conference call members of my church, St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene, ID, had concerning Katrina recovery efforts at Trinity Church in Pass Christian, MS and Camp Coast Care, the Episcopal relief operation in Mississippi. Read for an update on Pass Christian and information on getting involved with the recovery yourself. I have some photos of Trinity Church from when I visited it that I'll post later (I'd put them up now, but I'm not on my own computer and don't have access to them at the moment).

I was not on this call, but this message was forwarded to me:

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"Today's robust conversation on the conference call with other Trinity advocates identified several alternatives for future volunteers.

Chris Colby told of the wonderful progress in developing plans for the existing damaged church structure. It is to be refurbished to become the parish hall. A raised plaza is to be in front. And, a new worship space is to be built on the west side. That new facility is to be 6-8 feet above the ground to provide shaded parking under. Later, maybe next year, a third building is to be built for class rooms. Across the street to the east the city is planning to build both an elementary and a middle school. There will be a day care center and a full size gym. This concentration of children is encouraging to Jeremy, Trinity's youth director who is already developing plans for an expanded youth program. The outreach arm of the Billy Graham organization has donated funds and contractors to build a complete play ground in front of the Trinity church where about five acres of open space are available. One statistic observed by Chris Colby: If 50 houses per day were to be built it would take 10 years to replace the houses along the gulf coast that were taken away by Katrina. An interesting fact: Chris is looking for church pews that do not float to fill the rebuilt church. A chronic problem along the coast is a lack of contractors and that is the reason that volunteers are needed for homes. To donate, one can adopt a family through the Camp Coast Care operation. Pam, the Trinity secretary, is to move into her newly built home with donated furniture in March.

Places that really need volunteers:

Trinity youth program with Jeremy beginning in mid-June and lasting 6 weeks. He can be reached at 724-333-5966.

Join a work team to build houses through the existing Episcopal Camp Coast Care operation. See their web site which is very descriptive regarding volunteer requirements and other information.
Go to www.campcoastcare.com.

Join a work team with the Mennonites who are hard at work daily building homes along the coast.
Their number is, 228-452-1114."

Cross-posted from my Katrina recovery blog.

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Joe Biden on Iran: I'd Impeach Bush

In front of 350 people at Dartmouth College in NH on Tuesday, Senator Biden was asked if he would vote to impeach the President if Bush moves to invade Iran. The Senator said yes.
http://www.thedartmouth.com/article.php? aid=2007022801010

"Speaking about foreign policy in Iran, Biden declared his
intention to impeach the president if he started an unjustified
war with Iran.

"The president has virtually no credibility at home or around
the world," Biden said. "People have overwhelming doubt about
his motives."

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Sen. Joe Biden on New Orleans

The following is cross-posted from my Katrina recovery blog, The Wayward Episcopalian: Nathan in New Orleans.

Folks, I can't tell you how happy I am. I met with Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) earlier tonight. Biden is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a candidate for president in 2008. I asked him about rebuilding New Orleans, and am pleased to report that he demonstrated a much better understanding of the issue than any of the other presidential candidates I've yet asked (I'm in NH, so get to personally see and meet the candidates). Joe Biden actually understands the ongoing situation and, unlike other candidates, has some policy suggestions about how to deal with those realities.

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Dartmouth Involvement with the Ongoing Katrina Struggle

Cross-posted from my Katrina recovery blog.

Most of my diaries are news on Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans and Mississippi, and reflections on my three months as a recovery intern last year with the Episcopal Church in New Orleans. I don't mean to toot my own horn on these issues, however, so today's post is about other Dartmouth involvement with Katrina recovery. Read the full entry not just for a list of Dartmouth activity in the region, but for reflections from another student currently spending three months in Biloxi, Mississippi. Visit http://waywardepiscopalian.blogspot.com for accompanying pictures.

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Paul Hodes on New Orleans

Crossposted from my Katrina recovery blog:

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) is the new Congressman for NH-02, the district I vote in. He held a town hall meeting tonight at Dartmouth, then held a private meet and greet with the Dartmouth College Democrats. He is not running for President, but Congress still matters, so here's his take on Gulf Coast recovery issues.

At the meet and greet, I asked Rep. Hodes about New Orleans. He didn't know about the Road Home program, so I told him a little bit about that. I asked if he knew what Congress was planning to do to help New Orleans beyond waiving Stafford Act matching fund requirements. His answer was not a solid one, but it was encouraging. He said he did not know what specific moves Congress is considering, but that action will be taken. He said a lot of people were upset that Katrina was not included in the Speaker Pelosi's top priority "100 Hours" agenda, and that it has gotten lost, perhaps forgotten, amid higher profile issues like Iraq, but that the House will move on the issue as soon as possible.

I can't blame Rep. Hodes for not knowing more about the issue, or knowing what committees are doing what. He's only been in Congress for six weeks, so he's still learning about the system, and doesn't have much of a voice as a freshman. What encouraged me about his answer was this: while taking the next question, he looked to his assistant, pointed at me, pointed at his brain, made a pen-writing-on-paper motion, and mouthed the words "Road Home." After the meeting, the aid came over to get my contact information and said they'd be in touch with information.

Katrina might not be high on Rep. Hodes' list, but I was encouraged by his desire to get more information and get back to me on it. I don't think I saw him do that on any other issue. I like Rep. Hodes - I voted for him - and this is one more reason to smile.

Crossposted from my Katrina recovery blog.

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New Congressional Push for Katrina Recovery

Finally, some good political news for Katrina recovery efforts! House Democrats presented a plan today to waive a Stafford Act requirement that local and state governments pay matching funds for disaster relief, for governments affected by Hurricane Katrina. These funds were waived following 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew, and waiving them now will save the state of Louisiana $700 million. An additional $3.6 billion will in aid will be tacked on to an Iraq/Afghanistan spending bill. Kudos to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). There's a good editorial in today's Boston Globe about the renewed push.

Unfortunately, the real problem with the federal response to Katrina isn't a lack of funding, it's a lack of oversight. As I wrote about earlier this month, the official homeowner grant program has $7.5 billion to distribute - but out of 101,000 applicants, only 632 have been paid as of February 12. The "Road Home" program has been in full operation since October - why so slow? Why so many errors? And of the $350 million for "alternative housing" that FEMA shelled out last month, why did Mississippi get $280.8 million to Louisiana's $74.5 million?

Hopefully increased oversight and accountability will accompany the increased funding. Senator Joe Liebermann's (I-CT) Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Rep. Barney Franks' (D-MA) House Financial Services Committee have both opened investigations into issues surrounding Katrina recovery. I say huzzah, it's a good start.

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Barack Obama: Lukewarm on New Orleans

(Third in a series, cross posted from my personal Katrina recovery blog.)

I saw presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at a town hall meeting in Durham, NH last night. I myself was not called on during the Q&A, but thankfully, another audience member did ask about New Orleans. Obama's answer was the best I've heard yet (meaning better than Edwards or Dodd), but that's not saying much. Overall, I give him a C+ on the issue - short on specifics, but containing some.

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Good News From New Orleans

Yesterday, I wrote about John Edwards' lack of substance on New Orleans. Among the criticisms I recieved was that I was being too negative - some folks didn't like the negativity on Edwards, and some just didn't like the negativity. Well, if you're in the former camp, I can assure you that on topics Katrina, I treat all the candidates the same and don't let my bias affect me. If you're in the latter camp, here's some good news on a non-profit scale, from an intern at the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's house gutting program:

"Last month (December) we regularly had 260 volunteers per day. I believe we gutted around 120 houses, give or take. We had college groups galore, individuals, parishes, and more. We are also steadily progressing on the rebuilding program, which hopefully will be up and going by March." Volunteers shouldn't be everything, but sadly, given the lack of response from all three governments (state, local, federal), New Orleans has come to depend on the generosity of volunteers - and 260 a day at the Diocese! 70 are a lot for a typical day, and I know this was Christmas break, but 260!!! WOW!!! That's almost enough to restore your faith in humanity!

For more, visit my New Orleans recovery blog at http://waywardepiscopalian.blogspot.com/

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The Truth about John Edwards and New Orleans

From my Katrina blog, The Wayward Episcopalian: Nathan in New Orleans:

"I am very glad that John Edwards highlights New Orleans recovery while the MSM largely ignores it, but a deeper analysis shows that sadly, Edwards is no Gulf Coast champion and neglects the issue almost as much as the media. As of today, the phrases "New Orleans,""Gulf Coast," and "Katrina" do not appear once on his campaign's issue page, blog frontpage, or homepage. In a speech last week here at Dartmouth, Edwards barely mentioned New Orleans - it only got a passing half sentence while he discussed the broader issue of poverty. In his reply to the President's State of the Union address, he does not criticize the President for failing to mention hurricane recovery, and in fact does not even mention the region himself. In post-SOU interviews, Edwards only discussed New Orleans when Cooper directly asked him about it - the issue didn't come up with King or Scarborough... For a man who brought hundreds of student volunteers to the city last spring, this neglect was shocking, unexpected, and depressing."

Visit The Wayward Episcopalian: Nathan in New Orleans for the rest. Yesterday's post dealt with Road Home program, the largest recovery failure. Other posts are reflections on time with the Episcopal Office of Disaster Response.

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Katrina Recovery Incompetence Gone Wild

UPDATE: BROKEN LINKS FIXED

Excerpted from http://waywardepiscopalian.blogspot.com/2007/02/road-home-or-road-to-nowhere.html:

"Road Home is the official, federally-funded ($7.5 billion), state-administered program for helping Louisiana homeowners get back on their feet...

Any homeowner whose house suffered heavy damage - there are about 120,000 of them - and is willing to stay in New Orleans is eligible for a rebuilding grant of up to $150,000... In the end, the average grant is $79,693 - enough for a family to pay off the mortgage and crawl out of debt, but not enough to actually rebuild.

The real problem with Road Home is that out of 103,710 applicants and 31,914 calculated benefits, only 391 homeowners had actually received their money, with an additional 321 scheduled for payment. That's 712 homeowners out of 104,000."

The program has been in operation since October. For more, see my post at http://waywardepiscopalian.blogspot.com/2007/02/road-home-or-road-to-nowhere.html.

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