On April 14, 2007, New Orleans-based writer-poet-musician-Marathon runner-activist Don Paul was the Chief Prosecutor for the "San Diego Citizen's Grand Jury on the Crimes of September 11, 2001 in New York City" event that was held at San Diego State University. He co-founded the organization Rebuild Green three days after Hurricane Katrina and moved from San Francisco to New Orleans in January 2006 to help with effort for recovery there. The author of more than 20 books and the producer of more than 20 albums, Paul was recently interviewed by email about the Democratic Obama Administration's first 100 days and about his most recent book: The World Is Turning: `9/11,' The Movement for Justice & Reclaiming America for the World. (The text of this interview was originally posted on the http://blog.puppetgov.com site. See below for parts 1 and 2).
When Barack Obama was campaigning for Democratic presidential primary votes in Louisiana last year he seemed to be promising U.S. voters that he would do a lot to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and elsewhere--if he were elected president. As a writer-activist who has spent a number of years living in New Orleans in the post-Katrina period, do you think the Democratic Obama Administration has done enough to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in its first 100 days?
Don Paul [DP]: Well, again I hate to say but have to say: I know of nothing new and significant that’s been done by the current U.S. Administration to help victims of flooding in New Orleans and elsewhere in southern Louisiana. About 1/3 of New Orleans’ pre-2005 flood natives are still not back in the city—despite widely expressed desires to return by these tens of thousands of dispossessed people—and the percentage is at least 2/3 in the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Lack of communication to pre-flood natives—lack of education, health-care, temporary lodgings, and living-wage employment altogether—are the main reasons so many are still not back. And the Federal, State and City Governments are all to blame.
What’s remarkable and heartening is how much has been done despite the failings of Government—done through work by thousands of volunteers here and done through the seven-days-a-week efforts of pre-flood natives who have formed new, post-flood organizations that are like New Orleans’ long-lived mutual-aid Social and Pleasure Clubs.
That said, the city and the whole Gulf Coast region remains a colossal sitting-duck, more vulnerable to Hurricanes than in 2005, and nothing proposed by any level of Government comes remotely close to meeting needs. Last September Hurricane Gustav veered west in its last 36 hours before landfall and so its main strength missed New Orleans. Still, with winds of only 80 miles per hour and a storm-surge of only nine feet, both walls of the Industrial Canal between the Upper and Lower 9th Wards were overtopped by water.
Immediately after Gustav, we formed a “Levee, Wetlands and Jobs” working group. We came up with a Plan that recommended three broad measures. One builds up levees to a height of 25 feet or higher to protect New Orleans and other communities that are threatened along the Gulf Coast. Two, plant 50 million cypress trees and bunches of spartina grass to restore wetlands lost due to oil-and-gas channels through lower Louisiana. Three, employ at least 50,000 people in the enactment of measures One and Two, giving preference in hiring to those who lived in the region before 2005’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Levees. Wetlands. Jobs: simple, urgent broad measures that arrive at fundamental and necessary solutions. (end of part 3)