Gayle Williams, a New Orleans business owner, complains to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin about the lack of help she has received since Hurricane Katrina struck. Nagin visited with evacuees Wednesday at the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum shelter in Shreveport. Williams disagreed with Nagin about conditions in New Orleans. (Robert Ruiz/The Times)
I love it.
New Orleans Mayor Nagin recently visited local shelters to speak with evacuees. They are none too pleased and did not cut Nagin any slack:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin received a less-than-warm reception from evacuees being sheltered in Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport.When a La politician answers you with a 'slight grin', run people - RUN FAST.
Nagin, who has been criticized for failing to move out many of his city's impoverished black residents before Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29, made Shreveport the first stop on his tour of American Red Cross shelters throughout Louisiana, including Monroe and Alexandria.
"I want to hear from them, find out what their needs are and get information to help them get back to New Orleans," he said.
What Nagin heard was a large dose of skepticism from evacuees concerning his ability to revive their city and bring them back.
New Orleans evacuee Avery Johnson left the building Wednesday to avoid hearing the mayor speak. "I just refuse to listen to any more lies. You hear them from FEMA, you hear them from Red Cross and I just didn't want to hear it from him."
Nagin's visit gave him the opportunity to hear firsthand some of the anger and frustration felt by displaced New Orleans residents. He met with them behind closed doors about 30 minutes before allowing the media entrance into the building.
With Nagin standing before the roughly 145 evacuees, one man asked where he would live after 18 months when his FEMA trailer expires. "We are working on that, too," Nagin replied with a slight grin.
I especially liked the end of the story:
Julius "Catfish" Holley lost his home in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, which was flooded by Katrina and again by Hurricane Rita three weeks later. He was rescued from his roof after Katrina, when his house was covered in 14 feet of water.
Holley described Nagin's visit as "political propaganda."
"Yes, the city has electricity, but not in the houses," he said. "They have water, but it has to be inspected before it's turned on. There are no grocery stores, no gas stations and no transportation in the 9th Ward.
"So why in the hell should we go back? It's nothing to go back for."
There is lots of local talk about how the entire political landscape of the state has changed. If you're not familiar with Louisiana, there is something you have to understand: The southern portion of the state (the democratic base) is the polar opposite with the northern portion (Bible Belt) of the state. It's almost like two different countries. I think you need papers to travel north and south of Baton Rouge. As we all know the entire southern portion of the state has practically been displaced. Landrieu, Blanco and Nagin has tons to worry about where their political futures are concerned. The next bout of elections are going to be very interesting.