What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Breath Of Fresh Air In Post-Katrina Mississippi

by Ana Maria

Today’s a big day in Mississippi. While there are plenty of contested local races throughout the state—particularly on the Republican side, the insurance commissioner is the most important statewide race because it impacts every individual, family, community, and every form of government inside the state.

Here on the coast, electing Gary Anderson as the Democratic nominee and booting out George Dale from office would clearly send more than a few ripples of joy throughout the Katrina-ravaged region. You see, the insurance crisis impacts so many things that most of us—myself included—just don’t think about until it is pointed out.

For example, I’m hearing how drug and alcohol abuse among teens and adults has dramatically increased since Katrina. Kids have no where to go—not a movie theater, skating rink, nothing. What is there to do? How are they to channel all the usual that comes with being a teen and all the unusual that resides inside of them because of Katrina’s impact?

Their friends may be scattered to the winds. The kids may have had to deal with death of friends or family members. Their homes may be gone, schools destroyed, social groups evaporated. Their families finances shattered because of jobs no longer available since most businesses were lost in Katrina. On top of that, little to no money for rebuilding the family home.

We know that communities everywhere struggle with this issue of teens and having places for them to go and activities to keep them occupied in healthy ways. Put on top of that having lost everything they’ve ever known including their social network that helps them go through those difficult years that transform kids into young adults. No wonder drugs and alcohol are rampant.

This past weekend, I attended a Democratic Women’s annual picnic in which many candidates or their surrogates spoke. I was honored to speak on behalf of Gary Anderson. The park was stupendously gorgeous with water to the one side of us, beautiful homes on another, and the beautiful green grass and trees everywhere.

My pitch was easy—all Gary Anderson voters, of course. Yes, I gave them a political hell raising activity: get out their address books and call all of their friends and family to ensure that they remembered to get out and vote. (I'm the same me on paper and in person—only a lot more lively in the flesh.)

The lady who spoke with me about the teen issue also talked with me about the level of depression hitting teens as well as adults and how she is losing friends to suicide, those who lose hope that their lives will ever get back to some level of normalcy.

I listened as she told me that another issue facing the Gulf Coast is the lack of affordable housing in the area and how the insurance companies have made it so that apartment complexes cannot afford to rebuild and that those that may be rebuilt will have to substantially raise the rent to cover the insurance rates.

I recall talking with a grade school friend some months back. Before the storm, her elderly mother’s apartment rent was about $500 a month. After Katrina, the rent nearly doubled—$900 a month. I don’t know about you, but if my monthly costs for housing doubled, that would be more than a bit difficult to absorb.

Most of us could not absorb it regardless of whether we are Democrats or Republicans, seniors or not yet seniors, single or married, Caucasian, African American, Vietnamese American, Sikh, Latino, disabled veteran, coach, nurse, lawyer or doctor. Whether we are salaried, self-employed, hourly wage or fixed income households, we all have “X” amount of money coming in—if we’re among the lucky ones, that is. Increasing household expenses in such a dramatic fashion makes life more than difficult to say the least.

By the way, my grade school friend’s family who received this shocking increase on mom’s rent? The family is Republican.

Increased teen drug and alcohol abuse, adult depression so overwhelming that suicide seems the only out of the unnecessary misery, skyrocketing financial burdens unfair under any circumstances. And what does Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale have to say about all of this?

“My mistake after Katrina was saying . . . some claims are not going to be paid because of water damage.”
WHAT?! The financial ruin of an entire region because Dale chose to turn his back on these communities, cities, towns, and every person inside of them. The emotional devastation that came as a result of Dale assisting his insurance industry buddies to create the largest financial disaster to hit the area probably since the Great Depression in the 1930s. And all he can think about is that his mistake was blurting out what was that he shouldn’t have gone public with insider knowledge that he was going to let the insurance companies get away with ripping off Gulf Coast residents?

Dale’s comments seem to have come from a set of talking points that the insurance industry would have supplied him.

I don’t know how a public official can be so completely devoid of taking personal responsibility for the ruin his own public policies have had on an entire region. I don’t know how a public official can be so completely devoid of an ounce of genuine compassion.

Who am I kidding? George Dale publicly campaigned on behalf of George W. Bush.

I pray that tonight will bring everyone on the Gulf Coast great joy at having helped to give George Dale his walking papers through electing Gary Anderson as the next Democratic nominee for the state’s insurance commissioner. While the insurance industry will have the wind knocked out of it, electing Gary Anderson will be a breath of air that surely to goodness we could all use especially here in post-Katrina Mississippi.

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