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Who Should Benefit from Rebuilding New Orleans ?

Federal aid, insurance recovery, and private aid are likely to exceed $200 billion. Some people are speaking up on the matter of who should benefit. This is not an easy issue. How do we compare property damage with loss of life or with disruption and trauma ?

Let the People Rebuild New Orleans. On September 4, six days after Katrina hit, I saw the first glimmer of hope. "The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants.... We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans." The statement came from Community Labor United, a coalition of low-income groups in New Orleans. It went on to demand that a committee made up of evacuees "oversee FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations collecting resources on behalf of our people.... We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans." It's a radical concept: The $10.5 billion released by Congress and the $500 million raised by private charities doesn't actually belong to the relief agencies or the government; it belongs to the victims....They all want to stay in Texas. "Almost everyone I have talked to says, 'We're going to move to Houston,'" Barbara Bush said in remarks to National Public Radio's "Marketplace." "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," she said. "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." Copyright © 2005, The Chicago Tribune Tribune staff reporters John Bebow, Lisa Black, Mary Ann Fergus, James Janega and John von Rhein contributed to this report....
Why many fear the other flood — black crime. A week after Hurricane Katrina roiled the waters of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain and flooded southeastern Louisiana, conservative commentator George Will compared the crisis with urban riots of the 1960s. On ABC's "This Week," Will voiced skepticism about the prospects for economic recovery in the region. "I hope New Orleans recovers," he said. "Newark hasn't from the '67 riots. Detroit hasn't from the '67 riots." At the time, it seemed an odd moment in an otherwise mundane discussion of the politics of natural disaster, since Katrina's devastation was fueled by nature, not social unrest. But Will's comments merely foreshadowed the fear and suspicion that churned to the surface as a few of New Orleans' violent thugs took advantage of the chaos to loot and maim. By the second week of the crisis, the grapevine was throbbing with unsubstantiated accounts of rapes, murders, pillaging and predators in and around New Orleans. Indeed, rumors of urban criminals run amok inspired a backlash in places such as Baton Rouge, La....Americans' generosity knows no bounds. If there is hope following the wretchedness wrought by Hurricane Katrina, we can see it in the selfless efforts of Americans near and far who were thinking about ways to help the victims even when the federal government was not. The front page of Tuesday's Post showed the generosity of Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna Entertainment, who opened 208 dormitories Monday at his Palms Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center west of Boynton Beach. Rallied by the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations, retirees showed up to make beds, serve food and cold drinks, carry bags and distribute calling cards. Clergy throughout Palm Beach County and their congregations gathered Tuesday night at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach to pray for and raise money for victims. The Urban League of Palm Beach County is accepting batteries, flashlights, baby wipes, toys, first-aid supplies, bleach, soap and toiletries at its office in West Palm Beach and at Congress Middle School in Boynton Beach....
Katrina gives us a chance to take on the cycle of poverty. As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina has given us an amazing chance to do something serious about urban poverty. That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty. It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide. The first rule of the rebuilding effort should be: Nothing Like Before.... 

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