Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Something" Happening Here.....But just for Congress

I went to Lakeview today. I drove around for 2 hours checking out this upper middle class area of NOLA. I spent time taking photos but also looking for the Congressional delegation which was to tour the area today. I found the place they were to tour which was right by the 17th Street Canal levee at which a major break occurred during Katrina.

I was there almost 2 hours before the Congress folks were scheduled to arrive and I found a cleaning crew getting an area ready for their tour.

There were also a few residents there who were planning to protest for Category 5 levees. They told me they'd not seen a crew there ever before. (I didn't see any such clean up crews as I toured Lakeview) Resident Jimmy Burns told me he asked them why they were cleaning and was told by the crew foreman that "we want to show we're getting something done." I was told Congress was scheduled to arrive at 4:00 and the crew finished their work a little bit after 3:00 and left. I did talk to one member of the crew before they left who said they were "under the Army Corp of Engineers by Phillips and Gordon" (ie contractors)

The residents were angry to say the least. They felt Congress was getting a cleaned up sanitized view that does not represent what they live with each day. I will say this. I got out and walked around quite a bit in Lakeview. You have to watch your step as there is glass, nails, metal and cables. In fact at one point I tripped over a large sheared off power line. While driving I thankfully saw and avoided a 2x4 with nails protruding out. So there is a safety issue. However the residents say they deal with that everyday. Nothing is cleaned up for them. As one said "Let them get in the dirt like we have to."

To illustrate here is a photo that's typical of what I saw in Lakeview (and there's much worse)......

Here's the Lakeview for Congress to walk about....

The crew scooped up all the debris, grated the dirt in the yards and even scraped all the drives and sidewalks clean. Believe me I didn't see any section of Lakeview this clean. The video below shows the crew at work and the end result.

As it got close to 4:00 more residents showed up as well as several local news crews and a few local politicians.....

So the residents were angry as it was, over the levees and the special cleanup, but to make matters worse.....Congress never showed. I was told by a WWLTV cameraman they had just gotten to the Lower 9th ward at about 4:30. So the TV crews hung out a while then left. The residents stayed longer but one by one left as they realized the Congress folks would never get to Lakeview before dark.

In the end a few people got their property cleaned....half a dozen down, Thousands and thousands to go. Perhaps the "plan" for New Orleans ought to be to have Congress "plan" a tour of every home in NOLA. Maybe then job would get done.

UPDATE: Today's Times Picayune reports that the Congress folks did make it to Lakeview late yesterday in the end and drove down the street at which I had been. They never got off the bus......
"Of course, they all come by but they don't stop," she said. "I wish they would have stopped. I would have told them that we were not supposed to flood."

Some of the lawmakers peered out bus windows at a man holding a sign in the air along the street criticizing the Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the levees. "Get out (of the bus), why don't you," the man shouted as the bus rolled past.
Video of cleaning up for Congress....


Anonymous robinhood said...

Good job Scout!!!!!
boy are they

scum sucking pigs

11:34 AM  
Anonymous karena said...

Scout, this is truly disgusting. Hastert is belly aching that he wants to see the money being spent properly, when the biggest graft would be from republican cronies with contracts, yet to create a make-believe image so the city won't be punished by withheld funds they have to rush around sanitizing the area where Hastert could plant his lazy feet if he bothered to get out of the car. Whew, longest sentence ever, but this really gets my goat.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Mimus Pauly said...

"We want to show we're getting something done," they say.

Where the hell were they in September?

1:26 PM  
Blogger Scott in Montreal said...

Perhaps these are the same guys who were supposed to bring the utilities up in Baghdad? They're still waiting, apparently. ...only check that out if it's true for you that misery loves company.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous janeboatler said...

I have been angry many times since Katrina and the man-made flood disaster, but when I read about the cosmetic clean-up for the benefit of the visiting legislators, I became furious.

I can't even imagine the reaction of the folks who lived there. This is a revolting demonstration of the Bush maladministration in cover-up mode, the mode which defines this administration. It's not about doing anything; it's about having the appearance of doing something.

I am grinding my teeth right now, as I write.

5:29 PM  
Blogger spocko said...

I'm posting this here as my little follow up. Now I know that in the scheme of things it's not a big deal to send a special team ahead of congress to fake a scene, but maybe someone will care if I can tie it to political pay offs or something like that. Is it a crime to lie to congress?

Keith Darce
James Varney
Times Picayune

Dear Keith and James:

On Saturday March 4, 2006 Keith wrote a story about Congress touring New Orleans. Would it surprise either of you (or piss you off) to find out that someone directed an Army Corps of Engineers subcontractor to send a clean up crew to one of the Lakeview locations Congress was going to visit specifically to do a quick clean up the morning of the visit? According to Lakeview resident Jimmy Burns, they had never seen a crew there before.

My associate, Scout, talked to one of the crew members before he left the scene. He said they were "under the Army Corp of Engineers by Phillips and Gordon" (i,e. contractors). Do you think that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker Dennis Hastert or other members of the delegation of 32 lawmakers would appreciate the phony impression this clean up work gives? Was this the only work done or were there more on their route? I understand the delegation was there to get an accurate impression of what was happening. How can congress get an accurate impression of progress (or lack of progress) if someone is directing crews to create a false impression of the progress being made?

I also noticed James has done some stories about the clean up process and I thought you might be interested in how it was manipulated to put on a good show for the Congress people who were in town this weekend. Perhaps you could call your contacts in the Army Corp of Engineers and find out who was giving Phillips and Gordon their marching orders for this project. Who was behind the PR campaign to direct contractors to clean up specifically on the delegation's route?

I know you have a lot to cover and are doing a Herculean job reporting on the reconstruction, but when someone implements an active program to mislead Congress on the clean up and rebuilding of New Orleans, I think both Congress AND Americans would like to know who is behind it.

If you would like more details you can contact my colleague Scout at This delegation deception clean up took place on March 4, 2006 in Lakeview at the 17th Street Canal levee area.

Scout was told Congress was scheduled to arrive at 4:00 and the crew finished their work a little bit after 3:00 and left.



cc. Rep. Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Dennis Hastert

1:50 AM  

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