The Times-Picayune reports that Bush has hung out Louisiana Republican Congressman Richard Baker and his refinancing plan that would have been at least an attempt at providing some kind of real recovery plan for Katrina- and Rita-affected homeowners in Orleans, Cameron St. Bernard, Plaquemines parishes.
The T-P said the Bush administration's insistence that money already allocated through community development block grants would suffice to fund the recovery effort was derided by Baker as ludicrous:
“Clearly the $6 billion isn’t enough,” Baker said. “It ignores the vital recovery in the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, Cameron and parts of Plaquemines. That is unacceptable.”Looks like another faith-based initiative; that is, facts are irrelevant, we're going on the President's gut instinct. Why not? It's sure working wonders in Iraq, right?
The Louisiana Recovery Authority, the panel established by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to oversee the state’s recovery plans, estimated that 217,245 homes were destroyed in Katrina and Rita. Baker’s bill would have drawn on federal financing to pay owners of flood-damage property at least 60 percent of the equity in their homes and paid off their mortgages as well.
New Orleans recovery officials had planned to use the Baker plan, or something like it, as a way to help homeowners who wanted to move out of more flood-prone areas into a smaller “city footprint” on higher ground that did not flood during Katrina.
But Powell said the administration is encouraging the state to focus on a much smaller subset of flood-damaged homes: An estimated 20,000 outside the flood plain whose owners lacked flood insurance. The administration believes they are the hardest-luck cases because they had no expectation of flooding and now find themselves without insurance money to pay for repairs.
The Louisiana Recovery Authority has said that 77,340 homes would fall into that category, more than three times the administration’s estimate. But, significantly, Powell’s figures do not include rental property, only owner-occupied dwellings. He said those homeowners are the most deserving of financial assistance and could be covered by Louisiana’s share of $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants that Congress appropriated late last year. Louisiana’s share is expected to be announced today.
This will have catastrophic financial impact on families and affected communties:
But to accomplish the dual goals of creating population density and safer redevelopment of some low-lying parts of the city, a buyout of some property owners is seen as inevitable. A voluntary buyout program is viewed as needed to help homeowners who are willing to move to higher ground but otherwise will be forced to renovate their flooded properties where they sit, or walk away and face foreclosure, due to the limits of their flood insurance payouts.This marks the second time Bush has sold out New Orleans to Katrina and its aftermath in less than six months. You're doin' a heck of a job, Bushie!
While much attention has been focused on homeowners who did not have flood insurance because FEMA maps classified their neighborhoods as above the flood plain, even homeowners with flood insurance may not be much better off without a buyout option, particularly if their neighborhoods do not demonstrate a high rate of returning residents.
Federally backed flood insurance policies are intended to replace structures, but they do not compensate homeowners for the land. Therefore, the lack of a voluntary buyout option would encourage homeowners wishing to remain in New Orleans to renovate or rebuild where they are, regardless of the elevation of the property, essentially creating the potential for a cityscape that federal officials, members of the state’s Louisiana Recovery Authority and planners have warned against.
Moreover, mortgage holders have first claim on insurance payouts which, depending on length of ownership, could leave some homeowners still owing a balance. Or, if the insurance pays off the mortgage, an owner could be left owning a destroyed home and a piece of land in a largely abandoned block.
Meanwhile, as if sticking a fork in coastal Louisiana wasn't enough work for one day, the New York Times reports this:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.If Bobby Jindal, David Vitter or any other Republican in the 2007 campaign for Governor that they're salivating over dares use information contained in the thousands of documents that the Blanco administration turned over to Congress, they must be made to answer and defend every single action that the Bush administration has refused to take to help restore this state and its people!
The Bush administration has been criminally negligent in the handling of its flood control responsibilities in southeast Louisiana, in the appointment of a failed manager of a horse association as the director of FEMA, and in its refusal to come to the aid of middle and working class Louisiana homeowners who have been victims of the greatest natural disaster in our nation's history.
Add to that his imperial refusal to cooperate with Congress's constitutional obligation to provide oversight of executive branch performance, particularly in the wake of the above mentioned failures in relation to Katrina and Rita, and there exists a prima facie case for impeachment of this president based on his actions preceding and following these storms alone!
Go ahead, Louisiana Republicans! Defend the actions of your president! Which side are you on — Louisiana's or this incompetent, callous president? Consider yourself dared!