Hurricane Katrina

Friday, June 1, 2018

Editorial: The first day of hurricane season brings fresh worries for New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 2:52 PM

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials discussed the city's hurricane preparation at a press conference this morning at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials discussed the city's hurricane preparation at a press conference this morning at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Every year at this time we urge our readers to get a hurricane game plan, and we offer suggestions on preparing for storm season. This year it’s more urgent than ever.

The floods on August 5, 2017 exposed just how vulnerable New Orleans is to storms. The city’s pumps weren’t working, for the most part, and many storm drains were clogged with debris. Hundreds of jobs at the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) remained unfilled, and supervision of the S&WB under then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council had been lax. As residents swept water out of their homes and businesses, they had to wonder what would have happened in the face of a hurricane — or even a slow-moving tropical storm that could have dumped 20 inches of water on the city. Since then, improvements have been made — but a May 18 storm inundated much of New Orleans and caused Mayor LaToya Cantrell to state the obvious: “We are a city that floods.” Yes, but we do so far more often than in the past, and we have weaker defenses.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Warren Riley: An existential threat to Mayor Cantrell

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 12:31 PM

Former New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Warren Riley. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Former New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Warren Riley.

Nobody has a stronger survival instinct than a politician, so it’s surprising to see new Mayor LaToya Cantrell cling to an idea that threatens her political viability in an existential way. I’m talking about her refusal to abandon — publicly and unequivocally — the notion of hiring former New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley as her “director of homeland security and public safety.”

The title is a new one created by Cantrell. If it sounds like an amped-up police commissioner, well, that’s exactly how Cantrell describes it.

Which is what makes her continued talk of filling that position with Riley so surprising — and so dangerous to her own political survival.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Assessing Mitch Landrieu's legacy

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 1:32 PM

  • Mitch Landrieu.

Like mayors before him, Mitch Landrieu worries about his legacy. It’s understandable. Mayors spend much of their time saying “no,” either because there’s never enough money to do all that’s asked or because some things are just bad ideas. Then, at the end of their tenures, they get criticized for all they couldn’t or didn’t do — and for things that didn’t go very well.

Perhaps hoping to get in front of the inevitable evaluations, Hizzoner made the rounds of local media in recent weeks asking for “exit interviews.” He passed out slick reports touting his accomplishments. Fair enough. It’s beyond dispute that Landrieu left the city in far better shape than he found it — on many levels — and he has every right to crow about that.

On the other hand, Landrieu cannot deny that he could (and should) have done some things better — though, like most politicians, he offers a ready litany of excuses and explanations.

Herewith my “performance review” of his tenure.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mitch Landrieu: Gambit's exit interview

Posted By and on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 1:34 PM


After three tries, Mitch Landrieu won the New Orleans mayor’s office in 2010 by a landslide. It was a singular triumph for the then-lieutenant governor, coming one day before the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Everywhere else in town, however, things were not going so well. After eight years under now-disgraced — and jailed — Mayor Ray Nagin, the city’s post-Katrina recovery stagnated and citizens as well as businesses seemed to lose confidence in New Orleans’ ability to bounce back.

Landrieu brought new energy and focus to the job, and billions of federal recovery dollars have changed the cityscape dramatically. Landrieu points to new recreation centers, new schools, new libraries, a new airport (set to open early next year) and new additions along the riverfront as examples of what may be the largest municipal recovery program in American history.

Equally important, Landrieu worked with the City Council to pull the city out of a $97 million operating deficit in his first year in office. Today, the city’s bond rating is the highest it’s ever been — and the budget has been balanced for seven straight years, with millions in a reserve fund. His administration also has been free of corruption scandals.

But not all went well for Landrieu. The city’s violent crime rate remains too high; his early belt-tightening came at a frighteningly high cost to police manpower; and a downpour last August 5 exposed incompetence, indifference and severe infrastructure deficiencies at the Sewerage and Water Board. If finishing on a high note is what matters, Landrieu’s legacy is tarnished by the S&WB debacle — which is probably why he (with a coterie of top aides and department heads) has gone to great lengths to seek “exit interviews” with local media.

Here is ours.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Barbara Bush, New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: it's complicated

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 3:33 PM

Barbara Bush, in an official White House portrait in 1992. - WHITE HOUSE PHOTO OFFICE/COURTESY GEORGE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM
  • Barbara Bush, in an official White House portrait in 1992.

Barbara Bush, the former First Lady who died yesterday at 92, will be remembered for many things: her literacy campaign; her support of people with HIV and AIDS; and her fierce loyalty to her family. Encomiums to Bush have poured in from Democrats and Republicans alike, from President Donald Trump (who said scathing things about her during her lifetime) to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said in a statement, “She was an incredible first lady who served alongside her husband with class, grace and dignity."

New Orleanians who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, however, also remember her much-quoted statement that she made to NPR's Marketplace after touring the Houston Astrodome and meeting with Katrina refugees:
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this ... this is working very well for them."
Bush's statement was hardly the least sensitive delivered in those frightening, confusing days. Far worse was that of then-U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, who said, ""Given the abysmal failure of state and local officials in Louisiana to plan adequately for or respond to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans, and given the long history of public corruption in Louisiana, I hope the House will refrain from directly appropriating any funds ... to either the state of Louisiana or the city of New Orleans."

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Editorial: New Orleans prepares to turn 300

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 2:33 PM

A “NOLA 300” sculpture in New Orleans City Park. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A “NOLA 300” sculpture in New Orleans City Park.

As 2017 comes to an end — and with the mayor’s race almost over and the New Orleans Saints ascendant again — you’ll soon be hearing about a major citywide initiative that will encompass much of the city’s cultural life in 2018: the tricentennial of the founding of New Orleans, or what city leaders are calling NOLA 300.

Tonight, WYES-TV premieres New Orleans: The First 300 Years, a two-hour documentary narrated by John Goodman exploring the city’s history (the program repeats at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23), and there’s a coffee table book of the same name by Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, with an introduction by historian Lawrence Powell. Yesterday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and more than a dozen local leaders held a symposium at the Orpheum Theater “to recount the past, discuss the present and envision the future of New Orleans.”
Commemorative, Instagram-worthy “NOLA 300” sculptures like the one pictured, near the Big Lake in New Orleans City Park, are going up around town, and even Prospect.4, the New Orleans art triennial that starts this month, draws inspiration from the city’s history. After Jan. 1, opera, ballet, theater, art exhibits and concerts celebrating New Orleans history will be staged all over town. The celebration will culminate in late April 2018 (while New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival visitors are in town) with a tricentennial interfaith service, a weekend for international guests and dignitaries at the restored Gallier Hall, and a citywide celebration April 22.

Naturally, all this will be a major tourism draw and a chance for New Orleans to once again shine in front of the world. But NOLA 300 has to be more than a clever bit of marketing if it is to be a true celebration of New Orleans. Making sure that the city’s entire history — the good and the bad, the accomplishments and the still-imperfect — will be the challenge.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Want to have lunch with Donna Brazile and ask her a few things? Next week's your chance

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election. - CREATIVE COMMONS/TIM PIERCE
  • Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) head (and New Orleans native) Donna Brazile is coming home next week to speak to the annual Independent Women's Organization (IWO) at the group's annual fundraising lunch.

Brazile has been in the news a lot in the last week, mostly regarding her recently published memoir about Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. In it, she says the Clinton campaign controlled the DNC's fundraising, to the detriment of challenger U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Former Clinton staffers and many Democratic leaders dispute this.)

But it was one comment she made yesterday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos that may raise some eyebrows in Louisiana in particular: that her experience at the DNC was worse for her than Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

An open letter to Houston: Hope and the kindness of strangers

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts. - TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD/CAPT. MARTHA NIGRELLE
  • TEXAS NATIONAL GUARD/Capt. Martha Nigrelle
  • Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts.

Southeast Louisiana may have escaped the worst of Hurricane Harvey, but we’ll never shake the memory of Katrina and its aftermath. That’s why so many have Louisianans have rushed to repay the debt we owe Houston. In times of greatest need, we all depend on the kindness of strangers. And neighbors.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, Houston will need even more help. In addition to our dollars, we must offer hope and comfort where we can. In that spirit, I’m reprinting portions of a column I wrote last year — almost exactly a year ago, in fact — as an open letter to flood victims in Louisiana. The lessons we learned from Katrina still apply.

This time the letter goes to our neighbors in Houston:

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rodrigue Foundation reissuing Katrina Blue Dog print to raise money for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 5:03 PM

A detail from We Will Rise Again.
  • A detail from We Will Rise Again.

In 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, the late artist George Rodrigue produced a "Blue Dog" painting showing the familiar canine with a red cross on its chest, floating on an American flag in a sea of water. Sales from that silkscreen print, We Will Rise Again, raised $700,000 for disaster relief, according to the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA).

Today the GRFA and the Rodrigue family announced it will be re-releasing We Will Rise Again in a 2017 edition, with sales going to schools in Texas and Louisiana that have been damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

"We Will Rise Again shows the American flag covered with water," Rodrigue explained in 2005. "The blue dog is partly submerged, and its eyes, normally yellow, are red with a broken heart. Like a ship's SOS, the red cross on the dog's chest calls out for help."

The 27"x18" silkscreen prints will sell for $500. To learn more, visit the Rodrigue Foundation website.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How New Orleans can help survivors of Hurricane Harvey

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 3:43 PM


So much water. So much pain. And so much ahead.

While all Americans can sympathize with Houston and southeast Texas in the wake in Hurricane Harvey, New Orleanians can truly empathize with what our neighbors are going through — 12 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina felled the federal levees and flooded our city. We remember all too well the feeling of helplessness in the face of nature. We also remember the hope that sprang from strangers providing aid and comfort in our time of such devastating need.

Let’s channel those memories — and those feelings — into action. We can’t all hitch up our boats like the Cajun Navy, but the main thing survivors of Hurricane Harvey need now is money. Lots of money. Here are several ways to give:

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