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

Monday, October 22, 2007

Canceling Barbour's Reverse Robin Hood Robbery

by Ana Maria

Look, I grew up right here at ground zero for Katrina. No, that isn’t New Orleans—though as a kid, I spent plenty of time there visiting my ton of relatives that live in that internationally beloved city which is but an hour’s drive west of the real ground zero. That city’s problems are definitely because of poorly constructed levees that crumbled under Hurricane Katrina., crumbled because engineers, bureaucrats and politicians failed to develop world class levees. When I talk of Katrina’s ground zero, I’m talking all about Mother Nature’s doings—hurricane force winds ripping apart houses that were 50, 100, 200 years old and tearing up the beautiful trees equal in age with which this region had been so blessed.

I grew up in Bay St. Louis, Miss. This is about a good 20-minute ride from a new ground zero for Katrina—the hotbed of dispute over housing money. After Katrina, Congress appropriated $5.5 billion for our recovery, including housing—as in for people, families, kids, the elderly, the disabled, the sick and the healthy.

Seems our Republican Governor Haley Barbour cannot figure out the difference between housing Mississippians whose homes Hurricane Katrina substantially damaged or destroyed and housing multi-national and multi-billion dollar corporations that use the Port of Gulfport. While the port is another aspect of our recovery, that is not the point. Rather, this is a straight out matter of fiscal responsibility, of Barbour’s failure to comply with the purpose of those monies. Period.

Just last night, I mentioned to a relative who comes down here regularly from his home in another state that to this day I can cross the bridge that connects my hometown of Bay St. Louis to the rest of the Gulf Coast. I can drive along Highway 90 from the other side of the bridge which puts me in Pass Christian and continue for at least 40 miles until I reach Biloxi. Not a single gas station has been rebuilt. Not a single one. Yes, I almost ran out of gas when I attended a fundraiser in Biloxi for the now Democratic nominee for Insurance Commissioner, Gary Anderson. I make certain that my gas tank is full before I leave the Bay. Upon hearing the revelation that no gas stations exist, my relative became aghast.

I told him that not that long ago there was an article in the local Sun Herald telling of a man pretending to be a cop. He’d turn on police lights on his fake car, pull them over, and well, the rest isn’t so pretty. The advice from one law enforcement officer was to turn on our emergency lights and keep driving until we get to a gas station. The follow up comment was that we wouldn’t have to drive more than five miles.

Oh yeah? Where? He must have reverted to pre-Katrina memories. That happens. We forget that we live in a world where basic things we all take for granted—like gas stations—just don’t exist for the time being.

Hardly any construction along the beach for that entire stretch. Now, folks, if there is no boom along those fabulous beach front properties, there is no construction boom for the rest of the communities here either and that includes for those with fewer resources for housing. The miles and miles of land along the beach are barren save for some trees that survived Katrina’s hurricane winds. The question is not whether the pre-Katrina residents will survive. Breathing alone is the definition of mere survival. The question is how they will survive, how will they get the opportunity to thrive.

This is America. We’re Americans. We can do better than all of this. As cynical as too many of us have gotten, we still harbor a desire to do better in our own lives, our communities' lives and the life of our country. We took Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to channel all those pent up feelings that the best of America existed in the days before the stolen presidential election of 2000 and we poured them into compassionate volunteering of time and energy and money all across the U.S.

The thing that gets me is that there really should not be any federal government money for Governor Barbour to swipe for his corporate cronies. Every one of those housing dollars should have already been spent or encumbered for housing.

Barbour is smooth-talking, back slapping, glad handling former lobbyist who is used to sweet talking or strong arming his way into whatever he wants. I’m sure that he can find other ways to fund the port’s refurbishing. The Los Angeles Times reported

Reilly Morse, a senior attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice's Katrina Recovery Office, says officials are operating according to a "reverse Robin Hood logic." Port officials, he said, have enough insurance and FEMA funding to recover from Katrina damage, and can explore further funding sources. "They do not need to rob the poor," he said.
And that is it in a nutshell. Reverse Robin Hood.
Our funds do not allow us to provide assistance to all of those 169,000 homes," said Donna Sanford, director of disaster recovery for the development authority. "We have to make difficult decisions."
Most of us outside of Katrina Land fully anticipated that everything would have long ago been completed. To think that most of the recovery hasn't begun and to realize that here in Mississippi the money is stuck in the state's capitol where Governor Barbour, a Republican, is doing his best to develop his Reverse Robin Hood skills . . . well, this is crazy!

There has long been plenty of money appropriated to help rebuild those 169,000 homes. Our federal government sent money for disaster relief for housing. The foundations should have long ago been poured, the 2x4s erected, the roofs and walls put on. Paint stores should have a steady stream of trucks unloading boxes of paint cans. That housing money would cycle through this area again and again and again. A vibrant recovery would ensue.

Rather than the headache of yet another Republican Reverse Robin Hood stealing money from the poor to hand to his rich buddies, we’d be complaining of the joyous noise from construction hurting our ears and then laughing about the headaches from all the banging and hammering and clanging. For over two years now, we’ve been looking forward to those headaches.

Before we can begin to raise hell about the GAWD-awful construction noise at all hours of the day and night, we need to raise a little political hell to shake those dollars lose from the hands from these Reverse Robin Hoods. These are federal dollars. Let's channel our energy into pouring a bit of fuel on the fire in the belly that Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) have already demonstrated. Each
have asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deny Gov. Haley Barbour's request to divert $600 million in Hurricane Katrina housing money for homeowners and spend the money repairing, expanding and improving the Port of Gulfport.
These two strong Democrats with backbones of steal have no need for a dose of Spineocrat. Mark Fiore, San Francisco Chronicle's fantastic video cartoonist, created this fabulous piece on Democrats and backbone.

Contacting Frank and Waters will encourage them to keep the pressure on HUD to spend the money on housing families.

This is how we can help to cancel Barbour's plans for his public Reverse Robin Hood robbery.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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