According to the White House, the conference was “designed to highlight and strengthen the role of faith-based and community organizations in disaster relief and preparedness with a special focus on the Gulf Coast region. The White House Conference on Disaster Relief and Preparedness will discuss ways President Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative vision is engaged across the Gulf Coast region and will offer tools and training for social service organizations as they work to rebuild and sustain their communities.”
They can’t be serious. Not only is the idea of this conference in New Orleans an insult to the people who survived Hurricane Katrina, it insults all of the sector leadership who continue to put the city back together without the help of the White House.
This concept can only be considered a “Brown-ie” moment, as in when President George Bush turned to Michael D. Brown, his head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and exclaimed, “You’re doin’ a heck of a job, Brownie.” That was the guy who had to be told folks were stranded at the convention center for days without food and water. He resigned about two weeks after the storm swept across the city on Aug. 29, 2005 and the 17th Street Canal levee was breeched allowing the city to become part of Lake Pontchartrain.
The Louisiana Association of Nonprofits, the nation’s major charities such as The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, and communications groups such as TechNOLA Project, have struggled to get the city’s lights back on. They have pulled together and coordinated activity that should be responsibilities of government.
It’s true that it was a free-for-all when the storm hit. It can be argued that the only good response would have been to get people out of there. No matter the gravity of a situation, there are some people who will not leave their homes. What exacerbated the tragedy was that there wasn’t a plan for those people and to evacuate quickly the people who wanted to leave.
And, of course, the people of New Orleans still blame the federal government for ignoring decades of warnings that the levees were crumbling and endangering the city.
The federal government can’t ignore one of its major economic centers. But a “Do what I say, not what I do” attitude is incredibly arrogant.
This column generally starts or ends with an amusing quote that ties things together via irony. The suggestion of this conference is ironic enough. NPT
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