Times Picayne EDITORIAL We’re Counting on You, Mr. President — General Russel Honore Speaks at Coca-Cola Video — Bayou Buzz: General Russell Honore To Run Vs David Vitter In Louisiana US Race? — In radio address, Obama vows not to forget lessons of Katrina — In the Lower 9th Ward, joy and sorrow collide four years after Hurricane Katrina — State attorney general refuses to reopen Memorial Medical Center euthanasia investigation — Priest washed away by Katrina will be remembered by his parishioners —

WhatimissthemostWhat I miss the most….. Photo by Gayle Jenkins

Echoes of Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, Katrina’s storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans submerging eighty percent of the city. A June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers indicated that two-thirds of the flooding were caused by the multiple failures of the city’s floodwalls. Not mentioned were the flood gates that were not closed.

The storm surge also devastated the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, making Katrina the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, and the deadliest hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The total damage from Katrina is estimated at $81.2 billion (2005 U.S. dollars), nearly double the cost of the previously most expensive storm, Hurricane Andrew, when adjusted for inflation.

As of May 19, 2006, the confirmed death toll (total of direct and indirect deaths) stood at 1,836, mainly from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238). However, 705 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana, and many of the deaths are indirect, but it is almost impossible to determine the exact cause of some of the fatalities.

Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles (233,000 km²) of the United States, an area almost as large as the United Kingdom. The hurricane left an estimated three million people without electricity. On September 3, 2005, Homeland SecurityMichael Chertoff described the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as “probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes,” in the country’s history, referring to the hurricane itself plus the flooding of New Orleans.

Source:  Wiki



We’re Counting on You, Mr. President

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

Tomorrow we will mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which claimed the lives of 1,400 Louisianians and nearly killed a great American city. We will miss having you in our midst.

We know you don’t lack passion for our community and its recovery. Though you haven’t been here as president, as a senator you visited five times after Katrina. We remember well the fervor of your speech at Tulane University on your last visit, a year and a half ago.

“I promise you that when I’m in the White House, I will commit myself every day to keeping up Washington’s end of the bargain,” you said then. “This will be a priority of my presidency. And I will make it clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don’t end in places like the 9th Ward; they begin in places like the 9th Ward.”

We await the fulfillment of many of these promises. We are grateful for the federal aid that has flowed our way, including $14.7 billion in improvements to levees and drainage and other storm protection measures. And under your administration, the federal recovery bureaucracy has been eased, as even Republican officials here acknowledge.

But much remains to be done.

The wetlands and barrier islands that are the first defense of Louisiana’s energy coast must be restored if we are to survive long term.

Flood protection on a massive scale, the ultimate rampart the Netherlands saw fit to build, should be our model as well, a vital safeguard against a Category 5 storm and its surge. Such a substantial commitment, you told our reporter this week, “remains a strong goal.” For us and for the nation, it’s a vital necessity.

The economic revitalization of a new medical facility to replace the destroyed Charity Hospital would give New Orleans a shot in the arm it desperately needs. We urge you to see to it that the stalled project moves forward.

Our community is resilient and hard-working. Together with volunteers from around the country, we are striving to make this a better place than it was before the storm, with renovated houses, vastly improved schools and a unique culture that’s as vibrant as ever.

But there’s no substitute for the focus, the energy, the commitment that a president alone can bestow. There’s no substitute for you, as president, seeing our recovery and its halting progress with your own eyes, for taking time to walk in our shoes. So we ask you to bring your considerable intellect, your problem-solving ability, your influence to bear. When a president pays attention, so does the nation.

In the past week, we have hosted several of your Cabinet secretaries. We are grateful for their visits. We were especially impressed with Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan. On this, his third visit since his appointment, he brought his entire senior team with him and committed himself to “building back not just what was there, but building back better and stronger.”

That was music to our ears. But it would be a sweeter sound coming from you and spoken on location.



General Russell Honore To Run Vs David Vitter In Louisiana US Race?

Written by: BayouBuzz Staff, Friday-August-28-2009

In a breaking story, The Louisiana Weekly and Bayoubuzz.com have learned that the hero of Hurricane recovery, General Russell Honore is seriously considering entering the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat against incumbent David Vitter.   Honore, a Republican since the Reagan Administration and a registered Louisiana voter from his Zachary home, has spoken to friends and supporters in the last two weeks signaling that he is, according to one, “more than 50% sure that he will run.”

The news comes mere hours after Third District Congressman Charlie Melancon announced his firm intention to be the Democratic challenger to David Vitter in the fall of 2010.  Melancon, who represents the critical swing areas of Central Acadiana–a region known for crowing statewide candidates–has already proven a serious obstacle for the incumbent Senator to keep his job.

Even if Vitter should emerge victorious from the closed Republican primary, a bruising fight against Honore could leave the Senator financially and visibly weakened before the onslaught of a Moderate Democrat like Melancon–one of the leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus in the House.

While polls show Vitter as the clear favorite in both the primary and the general election, one very senior Louisiana Republican predicted that if Honore runs, “He wins.”   As that GOP party elder further explained to the www.louisianaweekly.com and Bayoubuzz on the promise of confidentiality, “All he has to say is ‘Stuck on Stupid’, and Vitter is toast.”

Military voters, who constitute a plurality of the Republican electorate, will flock to Honore, and the party leader in question also believes that the General’s race will matter to primary voters less than his social stands.   Honore admitted through aides to the Weekly that he is “pro-life and pro-family”.

In fact, Charlie Melancon’s announcement video centered on his relative social and fiscal conservatism as well, citing his support for small business tax cuts, a balanced budget, higher military and veteran spending.  He only said he was a Democrat once, but with the words, “I’m a pro-life, pro-gun, Southern Democrat. I have an “A” rating with the NRA, and I have been an avid hunter and fisherman my entire life.

I am a proud centrist — a Blue Dog — a straight-up-the-middle fighter for he little guy who is struggling to make ends meet.  That’s why my most rewarding moment as a Congressman came from a partnership with private organizations, Republicans, and Democrats after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We came together to alleviate the suffering and ensure people received the help they needed.   Party politics was the last thing on my mind. I got into public service to help people, period.”

The word “Independent” was Melancon’s most common theme in his announcement speech, eschewing partisanship with the words, “Well, first, those insiders in Washington need to spend A LOT less time scoring political points or sticking it to the other guy — they need to come out of their corners and bring people together. Because no matter if you are in Mamou or Monroe, it’s not whether it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea – the only question is: does it make sense for Louisiana?”

… The challenge for David Vitter are polls that on the surface look strong, but may turn weak when faced by a strong primary challenger like Honore’ and a general election contender like Melancon.   No one has polled Honore in a head to head contest with Vitter.  None the less, the Senator’s internal polling with Republican primary voters remains strong, over seventy percent, yet only half of the general electorate strong approves of the job the incumbent U.S. Senator is doing, on the surface a strange result in an increasingly GOP state that went for McCain by twenty points.

The DSCC Chair reported courted Melancon with the truism that John Treen and others have often noted about the nature of Louisiana state elections, “All things being equal, Cajuns vote for Cajuns. “In every statewide race where a candidate faced someone “who was either Cajun or represented Acadiana in Congress”, he or she lost, regardless of which political party in which he or she was registered..

The only two historic exceptions to that rule, the one-time political strategist and brother of Gov. Dave Treen noted, were the first Roemer/Edwards Gubernatorial race, where extenuating factors of court cases and corruption sealed the incumbent’s fate and the 2004 Senate race where Democratic divisions did essentially the same thing.

U.S. Senator David Vitter likely hopes that extenuating circumstances will also protect his incumbency against his newest Cajun challenger, Congressman Charlie Melancon, though they are less likely than in the past, especially if the incumbent has a bruising primary battle against a General who was dubbed “the John Wayne who saved us after Katrina”.   Honore has the status of a demi-God amongst some voters who were trapped in a devastated city after the storm.  His presence and command rescued and fed thousands trapped in the aftermath of the floodwaters breech…

And, while Mary Landrieu’s 2008 re-election showed that electing a Democrat to the U.S. Senate remained possible in increasing Republican-leaning Louisiana, she had Obama’s coattails.  Now according to the latest Gallup polls, the President’s job approval rating stands at 52%, drastically down from the overwhelming support he had at his inaugural.  That signals a public backlash and a GOP revival.   Of course, if Honore is the GOP candidate instead of Vitter, he could benefit from these trends.   But then again, so could the incumbent Senator.

Still, Vitter cannot do what others like Woody Jenkins and Suzie Terrell attempted with Mary Landrieu, brand Melancon as socially out of sink with Louisiana voters. The Napoleonville Democrat is ardently pro-life and opposes same sex marriage.

And, all things being equal, Cajuns DO vote for Cajuns.   Whether Republicans will vote for an African-American hero General over their own incumbent GOP Senator remains to be seen…



In radio address, Obama vows not to forget lessons of Katrina

by Philip Elliott, The Associated Press

Saturday August 29, 2009, 9:07 AM

President Barack Obama promised Saturday that his administration would not forget what he called a tragic response to Hurricane Katrina. He said he would visit the still-recovering New Orleans before the end of the year.

Obama has already dispatched 11 members of the Cabinet to the region to inspect progress and to hear directly local ideas on how to speed up repairs to a region destroyed by flooding four years ago this weekend.

“None of us can forget how we felt when those winds battered the shore, the floodwaters began to rise and Americans were stranded on rooftops and in stadiums,” Obama said during his weekly radio and Internet address, released while he is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.

“Whole neighborhoods of a great American city were left in ruins. Communities across the Gulf Coast were forever changed. And many Americans questioned whether government could fulfill its responsibility to respond in a crisis.”

Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, killing more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi and leaving behind more than $40 billion in property damage. Hurricane Rita followed almost a month later, with billions of dollars in additional damage and at least 11 more deaths.

Obama acknowledged that recovery has not come at an acceptable pace despite recent moves to speed up the process.

“I have also made it clear that we will not tolerate red tape that stands in the way of progress or the waste that can drive up the bill,” said Obama. “Government must be a partner — not an opponent — in getting things done.”

Obama’s FEMA chief, Craig Fugate, has been cited by Gulf Coast officials and Obama administration officials alike for breaking through the gridlock that has delayed recovery.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., recently said he had a lot of respect for Fugate and his team. “There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done,” he said of the career emergency official.

In half a year, Obama’s team says it has cleared at least 75 projects that were in dispute, including libraries, schools and university buildings.

Even so, many towns remain broken, littered with boarded-up houses and overgrown vacant lots. Hundreds of projects — including critical needs such as sewer lines, fire stations and a hospital — are entangled in the bureaucracy or federal-local disputes over who should pick up the tab.

“No more turf wars,” Obama said. “All of us need to move forward together, because there is much more work to be done,” he said.


Ailhouetted man walks past a store window selling Mardi Gras souvenirs along Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans

Photograph: Shannon Stapleton

In the Lower 9th Ward, joy and sorrow collide four years after Hurricane Katrina

by Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune

Saturday August 29, 2009, 3:38 PM

In the Lower 9th Ward, bright red and orange tailored suits and plumes contrasted sharply Saturday with the empty concrete slabs and shoulder-high grass that still dominate this part of New Orleans.

Amid the lasting ruin at Galvez Street near Jourdan Avenue — near the place where the Industrial Canal ruptured badly, submerging every home here and sweeping many off their foundations — hundreds of native New Orleanians gathered to mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

It seemed that everyone — from the men of two social aid and pleasure clubs, the Revolution and Nine Times, to the hundreds parade-watchers — carried their joy with sorrow…

Longtime New Orleans organizer Malcolm Suber recalled how, as the first anniversary of Katrina approached, he got a $60,000 grant to support the commemoration and raised $40,000 more with a few phone calls.

He would call and people would say, “I’ll send a check,” he said. To him, the parade’s large proportion of newcomers showed that some of the activists once packed events like this have scattered. Suber also felt that more longtime New Orleanians either celebrated quietly with their families or treated Saturday as a regular day. “A lot of people are trying to put Katrina behind them,” he said.

As the parade passed a half-block away, Vernell Smith, 36, and his daughter Aaliyah, 7, paid little notice as they aimed a garden hose at a dusty air-conditioning filter in the backyard of a blonde-brick house on Derbigny Street. The family moved back about a year ago, after moving around and crowding in with family for too long, Smith said, moving in when the house was barely livable.

Though elbow grease has made the place home again, Smith was said he was commemorating Katrina in his own way, fixing it up just a little more.

Unlike the family across the street, who had stayed behind and drowned, Smith and his family fled Katrina to high ground Uptown. But they got marooned once the flood rose to about seven feet, recalled said. “We was in my grandma’s house,” Aaliyah said in a soft voice.

She remembered getting on her daddy’s back to get through the water, how no one could take a bath or use the restroom and how the helicopters came to get them and how she cried with her younger sister after they were pulled to safety.

Then the girl fell silent. She looked down at her little white sandals as her father described their rescue. She then began rocking a little and singing, her little voice clear but quiet: “Wade in the water. God’s going to get you in the water, please.”

“Daddy, did bad people make the storm come?” she asked. “No, no,” he said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “That was nature.”

17oped2Memorial Medical Center on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans, its patients and staff steeped in floodwaters for days after Katrina. Airboats finally were used to evacuate survivors from the complex. Photo: Bill Haber / AP

State attorney general refuses to reopen Memorial Medical Center euthanasia investigation

by Mary Foster, The Associated Press

Friday August 28, 2009, 9:49 PM

Louisiana’s top prosecutor said Friday he will not reopen a probe into allegations of euthanasia at a hospital crippled by Hurricane Katrina, despite new statements from a doctor that he drugged a terminal patient to “get rid of her faster.”

Dr. Ewing Cook said that as staff at Memorial Medical Center desperately tried to care for and evacuate patients, making spot assessments of which ones might survive, he scribbled “pronounced dead at” on the patient’s chart, intending to fill in time and other details later.

“I gave her medicine so I could get rid of her faster, get the nurses off the floor, ” Cook told ProPublica, an independent nonprofit investigative organization, in a report to be published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine. “There’s no question I hastened her demise, ” he said.

Cook, who was a senior physician at the hospital when the storm hit, said state investigators who previously looked into the Memorial deaths never interviewed him.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said Friday he would not reopen a probe launched by his predecessor, Charles Foti, in which another doctor and two nurses were arrested on charges of second-degree homicide. A grand jury declined to indict them.

Any new charges, Caldwell said, would be up to New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, who said Friday he had not seen Cook’s statements.

“If new evidence comes forward, we would consider it, ” Cannizzaro said. “But the crux of the matter is intent. To prove murder, we must be able to prove intent.”

The hospital lost power and was surrounded by floodwaters for days after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm. Temperatures inside soared above 100 degrees, and 34 patients died. Medical examiners concluded many of them would have died regardless of the hospital staff’s actions.

On Friday, Cook defended his decision to increase the morphine drip to Jannie Burgess, 79, who was dying of uterine cancer and kidney failure.

“It was hot, over 100 degrees, four nurses were trapped on the floor caring for her, and we could not get her down, ” he told The Associated Press. If the hurricane had not hit, Cook said, the dosage still might have been increased.

“People who get the drugs we are talking about frequently build up a tolerance, so you have to increase the dose, ” Cook said. “But when you do that, every doctor knows what will happen.”

Cancer surgeon Anna Pou and the nurses have denied Foti’s allegations that they killed patients with overdoses of a “lethal cocktail” of sedative-painkiller mix, and Cook scoffed at Foti’s term.

“It’s not something that was mixed up on the spot, ” Cook said. “It’s always given with the intent of providing ease. The nagging side effect is that it shortens life, but you’re talking about people who are terminally ill already. They are not going to get better.”

969b61cbcf835008afa69a868a75cc79Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, LA. Image by James Cupit

Priest washed away by Katrina will be remembered by his parishioners

by Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune

Saturday August 29, 2009, 11:23 AM

On the fourth anniversary of his storm-related death, friends of the Rev. Arthur Ginart — “Father Red” — will gather Saturday for a memorial Mass celebrating the larger-than-life character who once dominated life in a small Catholic community at New Orleans’ edge.

Old friends will assemble to remember the superloyal Saints fan with the red hair and rough-cut sense of humor, the priest who for 29 years lived simply in a trailer behind the church. They’ll also reunite for one of the few times since Hurricane Katrina.

Some hope it will be the beginning of a tradition. “We’re not going to let his memory die, ” said Linda Giroir, a friend helping organize the 4 p.m. celebration at Resurrection of Our Lord Church in eastern New Orleans.

29nwGINARTThe Rev. Arthur ‘Red’ Ginart, 1941-2005

Neither Ginart nor his parish, St. Nicholas of Myra, survived the storm. As Katrina approached, Ginart, as usual, refused to leave his low-lying church far out on Chef Menteur Highway, near the community of Venetian Isles.

Ginart’s nephew, St. Bernard Councilman Mike Ginart, said “Uncle Red” initially suggested to relatives that he would leave for safer confines at Notre Dame Seminary if Katrina seemed to be a lethal threat. But the evening of the storm, he turned aside pleas from volunteer firefighters that he leave the rectory. In previous storm seasons, Ginart’s stubbornness proved a valuable resource.

“The whole time a hurricane was going on, people would call Father Red. He’d tell them whether there were alligators on the church steps, how much water was rushing through the Chef Pass, ” Giroir said. “This time, we should’ve made him leave. But second thoughts are no good now.”

Shattered and dispersed

Katrina’s winds and surge destroyed the church four days past Ginart’s 64th birthday. His body was never recovered. Months later, the Archdiocese of New Orleans closed the little parish.

A few weeks after the storm, the archdiocese celebrated a memorial Mass for Ginart in Baton Rouge, its residence in exile. And on a crisp fall day, Archbishops Alfred Hughes and Philip Hannan led family and friends in another memorial outdoors in front of the bare skeleton of the ruined church, Giroir said.

But since then, Giroir said members of the church community have scattered. And some still feel the need to come together occasionally in his memory.


Ginart grew up Irish in the 9th Ward, a ruddy extrovert whose earthly passions included a 1950s jukebox in his trailer-rectory, celebrating St. Patrick Day at Parasol’s in the Irish Channel, and the Saints, for whom he sometimes exhorted extra prayers after Mass — or blistered, when they were foundering.

Giroir said that during the woeful days of the “Aints, ” he once followed his altar boys away from the altar with a paper bag over his head, his shoulders heaving with silent laughter as the congregation laughed aloud.

While Ginart was protective of his remote parish, he also didn’t relish sharing living space with others during an evacuation, his nephew said. “He didn’t do well with other priests, ” Ginart said. “He was very set in his ways.”

In nearly 30 years at St. Nicholas, he promised families in the small, tightly knit parish that he would quit rather than take another assignment.

“Our parish was not a place to go to church, it was a whole family. It used to take us as long to leave church as it did for Father Red to say Mass, ” Giroir said. “People would tell each other where the fish were biting, whether the crabs were running. It was one big family atmosphere.”


Wounds linger

Giroir said parishioners still feel a sense of loss. Since the storm, many have scattered to other churches. The Giroirs sometimes attend nearby Mary, Queen of Vietnam, which hosted a memorial to Ginart last year, Giroir said. “They’re so gracious, so welcoming. You can’t say enough for them, but that’s such a big parish, and you don’t see your friends there, ” she said.

Giroir said that after the archdiocese closed St. Nicholas, parishioners offered to rebuild on their own and asked for a part-time priest. She said they sent petitions to the archdiocese, but never heard anything back. “We’ve never healed from losing Father Red, ” Giroir said. “A lot of people I talked to stopped going to church because of Father Red’s death. That’s no excuse, I know.

But the archdiocese has not done anything to help us heal those wounds.” Archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey noted the two memorials services for Ginart led by Hughes, but said she could not say whether an archdiocesan representative visited parishioners to discuss the closure with them.

Giroir said a few members of what was once the parish’s ladies altar society still have a little money. She said they want to use a bit every year to memorialize Ginart: to put a plaque in his honor in another church, or perhaps buy a bench under an oak tree at Resurrection of Our Lord parish. “We’re going to have a memorial Mass for him every year, ” Giroir said. “We’re going to use the money for little gestures for him. “We’re not going to let his memory die.”


New Orleans Churches – Photo and Story Credit Bob Moria

Legend has it that St. Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of mariners, once prayed over a fierce storm and calmed the rolling waters for a group of seamen. During four decades of hurricane seasons, it often seemed he was doing the same for the Rev. Arthur “Red” Ginart, pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Church on Lake Catherine.

“Every hurricane we ever had, he never left,” former parishioner Lorraine Hagen said. “He would say, ‘This is my place; I have to stay.”

… Ginart put his gregarious, people-loving stamp on the parish, becoming legendary — and beloved — for his plainspoken sermons and half-hour Masses.

“He was something else,” parishioner Jan Parr said. “He could say more in four or five minutes than most priests could say in half an hour.” Ginart would say he liked to get Mass over with so that he could have more time to talk to church-goers afterward. “He just loved people,” Michael Ginart said.

Frequent topics of conversation included the fire department — Ginart, whose firefighter brother died on the job, was a volunteer fireman and fire department chaplain — and the New Orleans Saints. His devotion to the team was so great, he once renamed the drive leading into the church “Saints Avenue,” and an adjoining street “Who Dat Lane,” Hagen said…]


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