Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How does the richest, freest country on earth help its displaced citizens? 

Update: Big belated thanks to Crooks and Liars for the link., which set a one day record for hits at YRHT.
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Loki at Humid City posts a link to an extremely important and under-publicized article about FEMA trailer parks in South Louisiana. The images described are unbelievably outrageous, even for those of us who have practically subsisted on outrage in recent months and years. Picture this:


1. At several sites in South Louisiana, hundreds of identical white trailers stand in rows in cleared fields-- but over 9 in 10 of the trailers are empty.


2. One of the very few residents living in the Morgan City "Femaville" is a single mom with five kids-- 4 are under 12 years old. Since there's no bus service (or phones or mailboxes) at the trailer park, she must walk "several miles" to the grocery store. Frequently. In the South Louisiana summer heat. Lugging groceries and an 18 month old.


3. It gets worse. In one respect, FEMA seems extremely protective of displaced citizens' right to privacy. They refuse to give out displaced citizens' contact information to parish officials who want to make them aware of available temp housing near their former homes. So-- due to this lack of communication-- there are families who have lived in tents for the past six months because FEMA apparently won't tell them about available housing, and FEMA won't let Parish officials contact the displaced citizens, either.

HOWEVER, this "respect" for privacy suddenly evaporates when a Femaville resident wishes to talk with a reporter who is inquiring about the aforementioned outrages and absurdities.


[A FEMA spokesperson] confirmed that FEMA does not allow the media to speak alone to residents in their trailers.

"If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview," [a FEMA official] said. "That's just a policy."

Government "Minders" in your living room, watching what you say during an interview-- it's "just a policy".

Just a policy... Just a policy... That's quite a useful little phrase.


4. Were multi-million dollar trailer park contracts awarded to local construction companies that submitted the low bids? Hell no! They were awarded to out-of-state companies that bid millions of dollars more than the locals. And I'd bet the non-Louisiana companies come from a state that rhymes with "Lexus". Or "Vexes".

A Parish President laments: "Money has just gone out the window... My biggest disappointment has been the inexcusable waste of public funds..."

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Go read Loki's post, and the linked articles. I personally think a protest is in order. Can't you see it? "Citizen Journalists storm Femaville gates, Demand to visit with Catastrophe Victims in their homes without Government Minders present".


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Update: Editor B has more.
20 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

20 Comments:

I don't want reporters on my property unless I invite them in, and I guess the .gov has the same idea I have.

Most government facilities don't give reports free rein. Press contacts are closely controlled on .gov property. That has been policy for a long time.

I'm sure that this a local phenomena, probably attributable to an overzealous employee. Better that people get the govt out of their lives.

By Blogger Pawpaw, at 12:59 PM  

Paw, you sure do have a lot of faith in the government. I reminds me of the movie Short Cuts, where Tim Robbins covers up his car to keep the fruit fly insecticide off the paint job, but he tells his wife and kids, "it won't hurt you. The government wouldn't do it if it would hurt you!"

The government controls access to you when you sign on to work for them, but that is not the same as a person who is forced to live in a refugee camp. Even prisoners have the right to be interviewed by the press. The security guards in those trailer parks should be protecting property and life, and that's it.

By Blogger dangerblond, at 1:11 PM  

Dangerblonde. I have no faith in federal government, except to build roads and provide a common defense. I think those two things should be funded, and most other things should be NOT funded.

In my utopia, we would have exactly three cabinet members in a Presidential cabinet. State, Defense, and Transportation. The rest would be left to state and local government.

However, my utopia isn't the reality and I must bow to reality. Or what passes for reality these days.

By Blogger Pawpaw, at 1:46 PM  

We have a trailer park(40 trailers) finished in April and it is completely empty. These are regualar mobile homes not the travel trailers you see. They pay $24K/month to the land owners.

What a waste....

By Blogger Roux, at 1:52 PM  

I don't think this restriction on free association is a "reality" I will bow to. This is not a military base, or somewhere in which classified information is at risk. These are American citizens living in trailers because of the biggest engineering failure in American history (the ACoE's poorly designed floodwalls). And they can't invite a reporter to visit them in their own (temporary) homes without a Government Minder?! Public Housing communities have no such restrictions.

This is outrageous and (I would hope) Un-Constitutional.

By Blogger oyster, at 2:07 PM  

Paw paw: guns rights groups like your NRA didn't "bow to reality" when the gubmint banned firearms in the Femavilles. That decision was quickly reversed after LaPierre (or whomever) raised a ruckus.

But now, Paw Paw, you're quick to sigh and shrug your shoulders about an obvious infringement on the right to free speech and free association. Where's your outrage here?

Is it acceptable for the displaced to possess a firearm but not give an unsupervised interview in their own temporary homes? Is that acceptable to you? Surely not.

By Blogger oyster, at 2:22 PM  

People wanted FEMA to come and now we can all see what a disaster it is. BTW this is nothing new it happened in almost all of the disasters FEMA has responded to. Katrina/Rita are just bigger and thus the stupidity of bureacracy is magnified ten fold.

Also, the dysfunctional ways of Louisiana haven't helped. We are our own worst enemy.

By Blogger Roux, at 5:26 PM  

That's not true, Roux. Under Clinton, FEMA transformed into an agency led by prefessionals: not a dumping ground for political hacks, like it was previously. FEMA was praised during the 90's in its response to floods and earthquakes.

In a debate with Gore, even GWB praised James Witt, Clinton's appointee to lead FEMA (which was elevated to cabinet status after Hurricane Andrew). Witt had bona fide credentials in disaster management. And then of course W promptly appointed his campaign manager to head the agency, and then a horse show expert.

Katrina caused over twice the insured damages that Andrew caused. But I guarantee you that the waste under Katrina is orders of magnitude greater.

As we are witnessing right now, nothing is more expensive than incompetent, spoils system government-- and that's something that LA is well acquainted with.

By Blogger oyster, at 9:05 PM  

I remember back when FEMA was elevated to cabinet level and Witt was doing such a good job. I had a Clinton-hating libertarian friend who was convinced that FEMA was the leading edge of government take over of society. I can't imagine these assholes successfully taking over a snoball stand, much less society.

By Anonymous dangerblond, at 11:38 AM  

wow dude. this was posted on crooks and lairs. you big time blogger, you.

By Anonymous humidhaney, at 2:42 PM  

I worked with homeless people off and on from 1973 until 1993 and i can tell you that the poor in this country are treated as criminals by all levels of government all the time. In 1979 after the group i was working with forced the DC government to open several shelters (four for men and one for women) i ended up running the women's shelter with 6 other people. It was not long before the DC government sold the building we were using as an overnight shelter to the Canadian Government to build an Embassy there in 1984 on the condition that they tear down the building immeadiately.

So they came and locked 50 homeless women out on the street and opened up an office miles away on South Capitol and M Street. If the women wanted to stay there at night they had to sit all day in another office to be elligable to get in.

We finally said "to hell with this" and opened up our two story three bedroom house to 50 homeless women.

The story goes on from there but let it be known that most of the churches are as bad as the local and and Federal Government.

Charity does not begin at home, it simply does not begin; more often than not.

What kills me (actually it kills homeless people, literally, all the time) is that people in this country are convinced that the government is doing all it can to help people who are mentally ill and on the streets.

The real truth is that it does next to and often less than nothing.

http://junerevolution.blogspot.com/

By Blogger xoites, at 4:11 PM  

Excellent comment, xoites. Thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

By Blogger oyster, at 7:48 PM  

Just a little farther north (Pike Couty, MS) we have another story. Everything that was available for rent has been taken. As a result, many of the displaced are still resolved to hotel rooms. - And who's picking up the tab? Didn't the government cut funding off for that, you say? - Believe it or not, it's foreign aid.

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