BATON ROUGE, La. -- Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Katrina altered both the landscape of Louisiana and the national psyche, most Americans seem poised for the next news cycle: the fight over the new Supreme Court nominee looks to be especially juicy, as does the fun brewing down in Texas over Tom DeLay. But here in what has become, by default, Louisiana's most populous city, the hurricane just won't go away, and the initial excitement of being the state's primary triage center, and suddenly finding ourselves elevated from Nowhere on the Bayou to the center of MediaWorld, has long since worn off.
For one thing, there wasn't just one hurricane, there were two, and while the national media focused on Houston's horrific traffic jams, Hurricane Rita managed to wipe out most of southwest Louisiana, displace additional tens of thousands and cause huge disruptions in the state's already crippled economy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, always on its toes, managed to confuse Iberia Parish, where hundreds of homes were wiped off the face of the earth, with Iberville Parish, which had minimal damage, and gave disaster relief to the latter while withholding it from the former. In some neighborhoods, garbage hasn't been picked up in weeks. Local energy rates, already among the highest in the nation, are about to go a lot higher.
Jobs are as rare as snow in August, and thanks to Washington's prevailing ethic of handing out the goodies only to chartered members of the Goodies Club, barely a trickle of cleanup jobs are going to Louisiana businesses or Louisiana workers, and those few that are magically trickling down into the local economy are grossly underpaid. This because the president suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that federal contractors pay workers prevailing wages on federally funded projects. The Louisiana State University system, which includes not only the state university but also three public hospitals, is about to lay off 5,000 more workers. Trailer parks intended to house the displaced are being set up in overstrained and underserviced areas that all happen to be -- surprise! -- majority black, while Baton Rouge's solid, if old and often abandoned housing stock, is left to rot. Meanwhile, the governor flails around, her heart in the right place and her hand in a wallet stuffed with IOUs. Happy fall, y'all.
What's the good news? Actually, there is some, but it's as amorphous as it is sad, having to do with the slow erosion of our shared national fantasy of an endless party, our waking up with a bad hangover, only to find that the living room is cluttered with empty bottles and overflowing ashtrays. Even in Louisiana, where the prevailing culture is almost outrageously laid-back and endlessly forgiving, people are getting angry.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The writer, Jennifer Moses is from Virginia, but has lived in Baton Rouge. This article, (read all of it' it's short)very accurately describes what Blageur has been feeling lately. Sometimes I wish I had not taken up the work of this blog, all the stories are depressing. Layoffs. Destruction. Indifference from Congress. Incompetence from FEMA. Near hopelessness that anything will be the same again for Louisiana. The bad news is a flood. The good news comes in little trickles.