Saturday, October 22, 2005.

For all the out-of-towners who keep asking me, YES, there IS a Flood Street in the Ninth Ward.  Really.

It has been over a week since I posted a Katrina blog entry, so there are a few things to catch up on.  We left Friday, October 14th to go to Navarre Beach, Florida for some rest and relaxation.  We were in Navarre Beach just two days before Hurricane Ivan destroyed much of the area, and this was our first time back.  We were scheduled to go back the week hurricane Dennis wiped the island out for the second time.  All of our trips this year have been canceled due to illness or disasters, and Hurricane Katrina didn't do anything to help.  My in-law's beach house on Navarre Beach was finally in good enough condition to accept visitors, so we decided to take a break and go.  

We drove out of Harahan the day the Twin Spans opened between New Orleans East and Slidell, and rather than cross the Causeway, I decided to chance it.  We left at 8:30 PM, and took I-10 to I-610.  As soon as we crossed out of Metairie and into Orleans Parish, everything was dark and there wasn't much traffic on the road.  It was kind of strange not seeing much activity, but what was simply astonishing was going over the High Rise bridge over the Industrial Canal.  There isn't a light on anywhere in New Orleans East.  It is totally dark.  As far as you can see, it is totally dark.  Totally dead.  Seeing all the destruction in the day time is one thing, but seeing the total darkness at night really makes you aware of how bad it really is.  

We didn't even try to stop in Mississippi...

We made it straight through really well.  I-10 in Pascagoula Bay has been fixed, and it's smooth sailing all the way to Florida.  We thought we were leaving a disaster area for a little break from that, but in truth, Florida is still pretty torn up from Ivan and Dennis.  It doesn't give me much hope that New Orleans is going to clean up all that fast.  

I've documented our little trip elsewhere.  If you're interested, you can see the Navarre Beach Diaries section for some family pictures.  I've documented the walks along the beach in my Hiking Journal.

This week has been nearly status-quo at work.  We're getting things accomplished, putting folks back together, and we picked up a new client on Thursday.  The people who used to service them aren't coming back after Katrina.  I think we'll pick up a number of clients that way...

Here at home, someone finally came and took all the tree debris from in front of my house.  I spent part of the day cleaning up the mess that was left, and the rest of today painting Virginia's bedroom.  In the evening, we met our parents for dinner at R&Os.  R&Os is a large, family-style place in Bucktown, which is just inside Jefferson Parish at the Orleans line.  It's just this side of the now famous 17th Street Canal.  Bucktown is a lakefront neighborhood that is to South Louisiana seafood joints what Madison Avenue is to advertising agencies. R&Os is a typical Bucktown place: large portions, large smoking section, large people, small decorating budget.  As it is, they have limited hours and a limited menu now, but at least I could get a fish platter and stuff myself with fried food until I was sick.  It felt like home.

We've started thinking about future things.  Christmas, for instance is canceled.  

Before I get into various other commentary, some photos are in order:


People need lessons in moving, I think.  I see this quite a lot these days.  People should know that you need special 
equipment to move your house.  You can't just throw it in the back of the truck and drive off.

I'm not sure if this if funny or not.

Try this and see if you can figure it out:

You can tell the locals because they wear the official footwear of Louisiana - white shrimp boots.
This is the barge on the levee at Empire.  They're going to need a really big trailer to move that boat...

Ya' gotta have FAITH.  I guess this car didn't have enough FAITH, you see...

This is another thing that the police should do something about.  All these cars having orgies in the front lawn just can't be moral.  
I mean, here's a threesome.  Do you really want your kids to see that?

More porn.  A Cupie doll suspended from a light in a Lakeview home.  
You have to wonder if flood water doesn't have a sense of humor...

A house washed into the middle of the street.  Amazingly, the power lines are still hooked up...  Hmmm...

The other side of the house...  At least folks still have some humor left.


OK.  Now to the ranting and raving...


Lawsuit: Jefferson parish officials violated pump policy

Maestri explains why Jefferson Parish evacuated pumping stations

12:14 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dennis Woltering / WWL-TV Reporter

A lot of people who live in Jefferson Parish are infuriated that their leaders evacuated the pump workers during Hurricane Katrina.

Some storm victims complained that decision caused the flooding that damaged their homes. Over the weekend, the parish government responded with a full page ad in Sunday’s paper—that taxpayers paid for—to explain the decision. The headline asks, “What happened?”

Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Management Walter Maestri explains the motive for purchasing the ad.

“What we're saying is, ‘Guys you need to know what we did, why we did it, when we did it. What went through our minds,’” Maestri said.

Maestri spoke about the unnerving phone call from the Director of the National Hurricane Center, warning Katrina is the hurricane everyone has always feared.

“This is the big one; this is the one that can kill. And when he told me that, the parish president said, ‘Pull the doomsday,’” Maestri said.

The ad explained how officials came up with the ‘Doomsday Plan’ after Hurricane Georges in 1998, back when Tim Coulon was Parish President.

OK.  This one is important a little later.  Esentially, Broussard is spending money on full page ads at taxpayer expense to try to save his political behind.  Of course, one of the first things they do is to blame someone else for the 'plan' they implemented.  The 'just following orders' excuse is one of the poorest excuses ever invented if you ask me.


FEMA eases restrictions on loan program for local governments

12:35 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE -- After a week of pressure from state and local officials, the federal government has agreed to change some of a controversial loan program's rules to make it less burdensome for local governments.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reduce the interest rate for local governments that borrow money from a $750 million fund set aside to finance basic services such as police and fire protection. Local borrowers also will not have to immediately start repaying the loans, as FEMA had originally said they would.

State and federal officials said the changes will make the loan program easier to swallow for local governments that saw their tax bases devastated by the recent hurricanes.

But several problems remain, chief among them a provision inserted by Congress that removes the option for forgiving the debt. In previous disasters, Congress has allowed the president to forgive loans if the local governments could not repay.

"I think it's a move in the right direction," said Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's chief budget officer. "We still have not seen how or heard how FEMA intends to actually implement this on the ground."

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, who helped steer the program through the Senate in early October, said he is working to get the law changed so the federal government can forgive the loans. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, introduced such legislation in Congress on Monday.

Local governments are automatically eligible for reimbursement for costs directly associated with the storms, such as debris removal and overtime pay for emergency workers. FEMA does not pay for routine government operations, which prompted the loan program.

One of the state's chief complaints is that the program requires local governments to sign a statement certifying they will pay back the loans. LeBlanc said it puts local authorities in potentially awkward positions by asking them to make promises they might not be able to keep.

LeBlanc also said the loans should be interest-free.

"Why should the federal government make money, in essence, on the disaster of these local parishes and local communities that have felt so much pain?" he said.

This LeBlanc guy makes a lot of sense to me...

Here's a snip out of another article about Broussard and Maestri's genious:

They discovered no building in the parish could stand up to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. So everyone, except some select administrators, plus police and fire first responders, would be evacuated in the face of such a storm. That includes evacuating the pump operators.

“I'm saying I know if I leave those men in those pump stations, there's a good chance that they'll die,” Maestri said.

OK.  Remember that.  It's important.

He said the parish is building five safe houses for pump workers, but they're not half finished yet.

The ad said the storm dumped more rain on the parish than the pumps could remove in six hours. And if the storm surge raised Lake Ponchartrain higher than the pumps, they couldn't have pumped the water into the lake anyway.


“One possibility is that the lake was higher than the pumps, and therefore we couldn’t have pumped the water against that head,” Maestri said, acknowledging that evacuating the pumps may have contributed to some flooding in Jefferson Parish.

I thought that just the other day he said there was no scientific evidence of that little fact...  Maestri also knows that the pumps CAN pump water against the head of a full lake.  They were designed that way.  Liar, liar, pants on fire...  If he doesn't know, then he's not qualified to hold his position.

Just about all of this has already been reported in the media, yet this is the first of four full page ads, with a total cost of $38,000 in taxpayer funding.

Maestri, who said he was asked to write the ads, believed the spending was justified in his view.

“I think it's providing this information that citizens need to have,” Maestri said. “We don’t want anybody to rush to a judgment.”

Rush to a judgment?  The judgment is a foregone conclusion...

Parish President Aaron Broussard could not be reached for comment about this story. A spokesman, Greg Buisson, said the parish will try to get FEMA funding to pay for the ads.

Bad news, dudes.  FEMA said they aren't going to pay for them.  Thanks for blowing my money, Aaron.


08:34 AM CDT on Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Associated Press

GRETNA -- Jefferson Parish residents are suing Parish President Aaron Broussard and the parish, claiming their east bank homes flooded after drainage pump operators were sent out of town before Hurricane Katrina hit.

The suit claims that Broussard and the parish "owed a duty to operate the drainage pumps" and "breached that duty by failing to man and operate" them.

The suit has been filed in state count in Gretna.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking class-action status, want unspecified damages and want the case to be decided by a jury. The lawsuit is assigned to Judge Henry Sullivan.

Only two plaintiffs are named -- Zoe AldigDe, of Metairie, and Chicago Properties Interests, a Metairie company.

Parish officials have said that 200 pump operators were evacuated to Washington Parish on August 28, the day before the storm, and returned the following day at 7 p.m. Broussard has said that leaving the operators at their stations during a Category Four or Five hurricane amounts to a "death sentence."

But the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the evacuation violates parish policy that requires that pump operators remain at their posts and that the pumps be operated under weather conditions such as those Katrina presented.

Oh my!  Someone actually got around to checking the parish policy!  Aaron should read it...among some other things about duty...

There's that "death sentence" thing again...


OK, so Kathy killed Nagin's idea of land based casinos in New Orleans.  Mind you, everyone was lamenting that Biloxi and other Mississippi coast regions had all done really well with their casinos and were way ahead of the curve on us for that.  But, Kathy killed it, so...

Mississippi casinos get okay to come ashore

10:25 PM CDT on Monday, October 17, 2005

Associated Press

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi placed its bets on gambling giants to help rebuild the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast with a law signed Monday by Gov. Haley Barbour allowing casinos to build onshore.

Having your economic ass spanked twice in a row is really stupid, IMO.


A bit of good news:  Cafe Du Monde opened on Wednesday:

I gotta get me some...


Here's a job I don't think I'd do for any money:


Broussard admits pump operators sent too far away

Ad in Times-Picayune admits some miscalculations

11:04 AM CDT on Saturday, October 22, 2005

Associated Press

GRETNA, La. -- The head of Jefferson Parish government has conceded that flood pump operators were sent too far away before Hurricane Katrina to be able to start the pumps before flooding ruined thousands of homes.

The statement from parish President Aaron Broussard comes after nearly two months of public criticism of his decision to evacuate the pump operators. Broussard is using parish money to publish an advertisement in the Sunday Times-Picayune.

In the ad, Broussard again says dispatching pump workers to shelters in Washington Parish was the right call. But he says most residents were aware of the plan. Broussard said the stations were not built to withstand a Category Four or Five hurricane.

The ad also describes in depth Broussard's wish list of projects that require immediate financing to fortify Jefferson Parish against another hurricane of Katrina's intensity or greater. Broussard says the plans include safe houses for pump operators, additional floodgates and increased levee and pump protection.

Well, at least he's finally figuring out that he's a moron...

But, wait!  Here's the kicker:


Official says he kept Jeff workers on job Broussard knew of order, Maestri says 

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 By Michelle Krupa 

West Bank bureau 

Providing an exception to Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard's unyielding stance that he evacuated all rank-and-file government workers before Hurricane Katrina to protect their lives, another top parish administrator has said he authorized 15 water department employees to staff their posts during the storm.

Oh my!  You mean he sentenced them to death?  That's what Aaron has been saying...

Walter Maestri, Broussard's emergency management chief, said this week that he authorized the workers -- nine on the West Bank and six in East Jefferson -- to ride out Katrina inside water treatment plants so they could maintain potable water for thousands of patients who could not leave local hospitals because of fragile health.

But it's perfectly OK to abandon them to flood water?  Hmmm...  I'm sensing a disconnect here.

His revelation, which came amid a groundswell of criticism of Broussard's evacuation of pump station workers, appears to expose a rift in Jefferson's "doomsday plan," the 7-year-old guide to managing parish resources in a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. And it could fuel the debate sparked last week about who holds ultimate authority over policy decisions in a time of crisis.

Broussard has maintained with fervor that, acting as Jefferson's legally designated authority under an emergency declaration, he sent all public employees except 11 top directors into exile because he valued their lives above the loss of private property to flooding or other forces. Maestri, however, said Broussard knew at the time about his decision to keep water department workers at their posts and did not overrule it.

So which one of them is lying?

Broussard said Tuesday he learned about the action only "a couple days ago" and did not know who made it, despite Maestri's acknowledgment that he made the call. Had he known water department workers were planning to stay in Jefferson during Katrina, "I would have ordered them out," Broussard said.

Broussard also said that if water workers had died because they were forced to remain at the plants, which were not built to withstand a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, the person who advised them to stay would face stiff consequences.

"If they would have died, I would not only have fired him, I would have referred him to the district attorney for negligent homicide charges," Broussard said, adding that he is not investigating who made the call. "You don't Monday-morning quarterback after Katrina."

The buck stops here

Maestri, meanwhile, took full responsibility for the judgment, saying he made it midday Aug. 28 as the first wave of essential public employees, including pump station operators, boarded buses for Washington Parish, the evacuation destination set in the doomsday plan.

Water Director Randy Schuler "came to me, he was about to get on the bus with his people, and the question was asked: Will this (evacuation) shut off the water?" Maestri said. "And he said, 'Yes, within 15 to 20 minutes.'

"So I sat with Randy and I said, 'Is there anything else we can do?' " Maestri said.

Together, Schuler and Maestri reviewed engineering documents and SLOSH models, which gauge storm surge projections, Maestri said. Schuler said he could not comment without permission from the parish's public information office.

'It would be iffy'

Because the two-story water plants were at relatively high elevation near the Mississippi River and included interior rooms fortified with concrete blocks, Maestri said, he and Schuler concluded that water department workers could be safe there. Maestri admitted, however, that the buildings were not designed to withstand the sustained winds of 160 miles per hour and the 18- to 22-foot storm surge that the National Weather Service expected from Katrina.

"We determined that it would be iffy but that there would be a chance they would be OK there," he said. The facilities' location near West Jefferson Medical Center and Ochsner Foundation Hospital also figured into the decision, he said.

"If things (got) real bad, at least they would have a chance to make a run for (the hospitals)," Maestri said, noting that those structures also were not built to stand up to a strong hurricane.

Maestri said he weighed the lives of the parish's sickest residents, including those who required clean water for dialysis treatment, against the risk of keeping water workers at their posts. At least 1,700 special-needs patients weathered Katrina at Jefferson hospitals, officials have said.

"The fact that we would lose water immediately and that those people in the hospitals would be in real significant harm's way, I made that decision that we would keep those people in place," he said.

OK.  There's the bomb.  If it's not OK to abandon 1,700 special-needs patients in the hospitals, why is it OK to shut off the pumps and abandon not just 1,700, but thousands more to rising water?  

Drying up

The outcome was mixed, Maestri said. Workers were able to keep clean water flowing through Jefferson pipes for a short time, but Katrina's strong winds soon wrenched thick tree roots from their soil, tearing up water pipes and rendering the system useless.

Jennifer Steel, spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center, said the Marrero public hospital lost water pressure Aug. 29 at 6:30 a.m., minutes after Katrina made landfall at Buras. Water did not return until Sept. 2 at 8:45 a.m., six days before the water was deemed safe to drink .

Steel said the hospital tempered its four-day drought by having patients, staff and evacuated families drink bottled water, bathe with disinfectant cloths and relieve themselves in plastic bags. Dialysis patients, who all received a final treatment early Sunday before the storm, were bused Sept. 1 to dialysis units outside the storm zone, she said.

"The reality is, if we would have lost it a day earlier, it probably wouldn't have made a substantial amount of difference," Steel said. "We wouldn't have had water for showers, but what's one day when you have three or four or five days without a shower?

"The reality was, we were OK," she said. "The water for the dialysis patients was more for a concern for the long haul than the short term."

Which proves that Maestri isn't qualified because he doesn't know what he's talking about.  

Well, here's a little bio for you:

Before he was Emergency Management Director, Walter was Director of Juvenile Services in Jefferson Parish.  Obviously spent too much time around the kids.  

But it gets better.  You'd think that Walter would have some kind of credentials for Emergency Management, since he's the director, right?  Well, check it out:

Since 1996, Walter Maestri has been director of emergency management for Jefferson Parish, La., the bedroom community of the City of New Orleans. On a daily basis, Maestri prepares plans to deal with any "all hazard" emergencies for the metropolitan area. From 1970 to 1985 he served in various academic positions: Professor of Sociology at Holy Cross College, La.; Dean of Loyola University (New Orleans); and President of Holy Cross College, La. From 1985 to 1996, he held various positions in local government. Maestri's PhD. was awarded by the College of Education and Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi.

So the Emergency Management Director is a Psychologist.  Maybe he should examine Broussard's head...

That's about as funny as the Coroner of New Orleans being a Gynecologist - which he was...

And folks around here wonder why the place is so screwed up.







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