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

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stuck on Stupid: More Katrina Funds Being Wrongly Diverted

Wind or Water?
Image from Mississippi Insurance Forum

by Ana Maria

Are you kidding me?! Taking $3.5 million of Katrina money that the elected representatives of the good people of America stipulated for law enforcement and spend it on the state's capitol, a full three hour plus ride from the Katrina-ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast? Good grief!!!?!?!?! What is wrong with these priorities?

Recently, I took a trip to Jackson, Mississippi, where the governor intends to spend the money. Everything looked . . . normal. What a joy to ride around and see the area's bright neon lights of area's businesses. Gas stations everywhere. Shopping malls, car dealerships, the works. I even stopped a cop to ask for directions.

Yeah, I still take it for granted that the cop is there to help. I'm from a small town where hearing sirens gives me thrills, not chills. See, police sirens remind me of . . . Mardi Gras! That glorious season from January until the day before the Catholic season of Lent begins. To this day, when I hear sirens, I think of that first. What can I say, childhood socialization is very powerful. ;)
I know, I know. You may be thinking to yourself, "Uh, yeah, honey. What else do you see in a city except those disgusting neon signs trying to grab our attention and blurring the beauty of the skyline? Where in the world has this woman been living?!" And the answer is . . . inside the Katrina-ravaged region, my friend. For ten months now, I've been living in the Katrina-ravaged region, and it is NOT Fun City, USA, either.

Our cities have had to battle with the Republican White House to waive the 10% matching funds requirement usually accompanying federal grants to municipalities. The compassionless ones sitting in the White House and their counterparts in the previously Republican-controlled Congress didn't see fit to use the brains God gave them to waive the requirement automatically--as had been done in other disasters such as 9/11. No ma'am, the American people had to elect a Democratically-controlled Congress for this kind of compassion and common sense to be implemented.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated, demolished, and destroyed homes and businesses throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast, our tax base was blown away with 175 mile-per-hour winds. Indeed, Hurricane Katrina blew away our home, places of worship, businesses, community centers, schools, businesses, and government buildings (jails, court house, police stations, fire stations, libraries, etc. and so forth).

Then, the Republican-lovin' insurance industry decided to have its way with us as well. Insurance companies like State Farm, Allstate, and Nationwide deliberately failed to pay on wind-related damages to our homes and businesses. Since May 2007, off course, I have written extensively on how the insurance industry purposefully betrayed its customers with abandon denying their wind damage claims and the devastating financial impact this betrayal has had on the every day lives of those of us living with decisions of those corporate greedy gutted goons. [See my diaries at Daily Kos for a quick read through my writings.]

Months ago, Barbour was trying to divert $600 million of low income housing monies to refurbish the Port of Gulfport. Now, the port needs financial help, that is certain. However, the elected representatives of the American people had appropriated for low income housing. Take a drive from one end of the Mississippi coast line to the other and you'll see a whole lot of nothing going on—to paraphrase the infamous words of Jerry Lee Lewis.

The photo from Coastal Cowboy's Mississippi Insurance forum? TODAY, you can go up and down plenty of streets of any city along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to see lots that remain looking just as the picture looks. Images like this could reflect the remains of what is left of someone's beautiful middle class home or a booming business.

See, businesses can't get up and running without two things. First, all things insurance from being paid for the wind damage to their businesses to purchasing affordable and available insurance on their buildings, goods, and business income. Second, they need employees to staff their businesses.

However, without housing for their employees and employees' families, the businesses are up the creek without a paddle. Can't build affordable housing when insurance is unaffordable or unavailable. Watch the short video of Tish Haas Williams, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, to get the message that businesses the insurance barriers removed and need it to thrive. Tish expresses this sentiment in no uncertain terms, and yes, that means passing Congressman Gene Taylor's multiple peril insurance legislation which now requires action from the U.S. Senate.

We need financial assistance just to get to our knees, as Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo says. Help us to our knees, and we'll get to our feet, Longo told the crowd at an early morning Katrina memorial this past August, the second anniversary of the storm.

So, this becomes our dilemma. We need the money for plenty of things, Congress appropriates it, and Republican Haley Barbour tries to squirrel away some of it for other purposes. This is crazy, particularly since the rest of the country thinks the Gulf Coast is back up and running as if Katrina were but a nightmare many years ago. Heck even folks here in the state of Mississippi think we're back up and running. With the governor himself acting as if we're so up-and-running that he can divert money for other needs, how else are the folks suppose to think? Short of coming down here and driving the beach road or through any of the beach towns where lot after lot after lot remains empty, who is going to drive home the point that we're all still working on making our vibrant recovery dream come true? Clearly, the most logical one for that important job is our very own Governor Haley Barbour. He should be the PR ambassador of our plight, our needs, and the torch bearer of our vibrant recovery dreams.

When it comes to this latest financial diversion, I completely agree with state representative Diane Peranich in her assessment of this disturbing new development in the way that the Governor is handling Katrina monies.

Rep. Diane Peranich, D-Pass Christian, who had not heard about the grant to the city of Jackson, said Thursday that South Mississippi should get all of the money, which the governor controls, because the federal government gave it for Katrina recovery.

"If he has given $40 million, it is still not enough, and the money was allocated from the federal government for that purpose," Peranich said. "I would hope that any of the monies were given for law enforcement on the Coast would go to the Coast.

"We're very grateful for the support and help that we have gotten, but we are not whole." Peranich said she hoped the remaining $3.5 million would be spent in South Mississippi. There are still many problems at the Harrison County jail, and many departments along the Coast need to replace their equipment, she said.

I am certain that there are plenty of unmet needs outside of what the Congress has addressed. I am equally certain that Governor Barbour's expert lobbying skills and connections can easily be put to great use to go to his buddies in the White House to obtain the needed funding without this shell game that is hurtful.

More than that, though, I know that down here inside Katrina Land, we are weary. We've been beaten up by Katrina, betrayed by our insurance companies, abandoned by FEMA, and neglected by the White House except at photo op time. We're tired and exhausted just putting one foot in front of the other. My very first blog entry was titled "Like Walking Through Glue." Those sentiments remains true today.

I just wish that when Governor Barbour tries to run off with money that should go to the Gulf Coast, his feet were glued in place. Perhaps then we could see all the money already given for our needs flow more quickly to the Mississippi Gulf Coast rather than stuck inside the Governor's hands.

With so many unmet needs for which these funds can legitimately address, we deserve an intelligent use of these funds as had been intended when Congress gave us the money with the flexibility to address our needs based on our own priorities. When it comes to setting those priorities, the White House and Mississippi's governor's mansion continue to exhibit their gears are purposefully stuck on stupid.

© 2008 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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Sop811 said...

Hey Ana Maria, thanks for the mention of the insurance forum today in your post. I met you back in August at Gene's gathering and had the pleasure of meeting your brother last month for the first time. Keep up the great work you do here!


Ana Maria said...

Thanks! I love that picture, and I love your caption even more.

Yes, I'm partial to my brother, too. ;)

- am