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Fwd: [NOLA_C3_Discussion] re: The LRA: the Road to Hell

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  • les evenchick
    ... If you want to understand what poor and working people face in new orleans please read MS Cook s discussion below. Its long but worth it. ... To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31 1:28 PM
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      --- elizabeth cook <yocandra42@...> wrote:
      If you want to understand what poor and working people
      face in new orleans please read MS Cook's discussion
      below. Its long but worth it.
      --- Les

      To: NOLA_C3_Discussion@yahoogroups.com,


      http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2006/08/8637.php

      The LRA: The Road to Hell by Elizabeth Cook Thursday,
      Aug. 31, 2006 at 3:55 PM yocandra42@...

      The LRA pays lip service to publicly funded recovery,
      and serves the agenda for the Bush administration, for
      the privatization of recovery. I attended an LRA
      (Louisiana Recovery Authority) meeting yesterday,
      where they unveiled their "plan" for assistance to
      owners of rental property. This plan will provide $869
      million over 24 months for the restoration of rental
      properties in affected Louisiana parishes.

      Only catch is, it's not funded yet. However, the LRA
      representative, Fred Duplantis, seemed to think there
      would be no problem funding it, as it has a kind of
      "pre-approval" from the Department of Housing and
      Urban Development
      (HUD).

      Fred Duplantis is a "technical specialist" with ICF
      International, the firm hired, at a cost of $87
      million, to do this job for the LRA: "Under the
      contract, the ICF team will provide outreach to
      homeowners and assistance with the application and
      eligibility process, in accordance with state
      guidelines, for qualified homeowners and small rental
      unit landlords."

      Let me tell you right off the bat, that at least two
      outrageous items came out in this meeting:

      These monies will be available to "new investors" of
      rental property, including universities and employers,
      and non-profit corporations who want to get in on the
      act, and...

      While the David-Bacon Act (prevailing wages for
      federally financed work) does apply in the application
      of these monies, one homeowner complained about having
      to pay such high wages. The ICF fellow, Fred Duplantis
      said not to worry, he knows how to get around the
      Davis-Bacon Act, and would meet with her after the
      meeting. Apparently, his salary is a form of public
      investment to circumvent public laws.

      That's about the time that I disrupted the meeting.
      Basically I addressed these issues:

      I said that I find it appalling that there would be
      discussion as to how to get around the Davis-Bacon
      Act.

      I stated that this is a "set the bar low plan",
      designed only to rebuild 18% of the rental stock lost
      in south Louisiana , and that this proposed plan
      doesn't begin to address the need for affordable
      rental stock in the area.

      I suggested, strongly, that this program is designed
      to be a pay-off to developers and non-profit entities.
      It is a first-come, first-serve program, and those
      with the resources to apply first, will be the
      organized entities that already have their feet on the
      ground here.

      I stated that these funds should be earmarked for
      those owners of rental properties who lived here prior
      to Katrina, as many home owners, like renters,
      continue to be scattered throughout the country.

      Fred Duplantis said the LRA, in this rental assistance
      program, owner-occupants will be favored. It is
      difficult to see how this stated objective is factored
      into their formula though, as the competitive
      application process will favor those individuals, and
      most likely, organizations, who can hit the ground
      running and be the first to apply.

      My guess is the LRA, with instructions from the
      federal government, designed a program to give lip
      service to the desperate need for restored rental
      housing in the city. I think it is a plan intended to
      drive the low income home owners, those who provided
      affordable housing pre-Katrina, out of the city, and
      pay-off the political supporters of the Bush agenda:
      developers, non-profits keen on securing funds,
      universities as in Tulane, a key Bush administration
      supporter. The agenda: keep public housing closed and
      drive out low income renters and home owners. Squeeze
      the working class out of existence, basically,
      privatize all services, and forget about restoring
      public services pre-Katrina to any great extent.

      Those workers who choose to remain in the city face a
      bleak scenario: higher rental rates, higher utility
      rates, competition to enroll their children in
      privatized, charter schools, and a health care system
      still in crisis.

      Now these rental assistance funds will be available to
      those who agree to supply "affordable" rental housing
      for three years. The formula for affordable housing
      provided is, in Orleans Parish: $665 for an
      efficiency, $723 for a one bedroom, $840 for a 2
      bedroom, $1,086 for a 3 bedroom and $1,250 for a 4
      bedroom.

      After three years, rents can convert to market rates,
      and if public housing is still closed, and paltry
      assistance for rental owners still the case, New
      Orleans will be able to look forward to yet another
      spike in rents.

      This is not adequate rent control by any means, and
      again, looks and sounds like lip service to the
      concept of rent control and affordable housing.

      Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had 70% of the rental stock
      in south Louisiana; if you include St. Tammany Parish,
      it was 85%. New Orleans has a huge stake in this,
      obviously, as we need our affordable rental stock
      back, along with public housing, in order to enforce
      the Right of Return for New Orleans citizens.

      In Orleans Parish, 70% of rental property sustained
      major or severe damage, so Orleans Parish will get the
      lions share of the funds: $612,235,354. The numbers of
      units in Orleans Parish that sustained severe damage
      is 43,226. Calcasieu Parish, for example, had just 465
      severly damaged units; they will receive $6,586,069.

      612 million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but if
      you do the math, it is just 14 thousand dollars for
      every severly damaged rental unit. For Calcasieu
      Parish it would be the same: 14 thousand dollars per
      unit.

      But that's if everyone received a check who qualified.
      What is actually planned is "funding available through
      a series of competitive application rounds", to begin,
      theoretically, in November of this year.

      Now I'm no fan necessarily of landlords, particularly
      slum landlords and absentee landlords who gouged their
      tenants pre and post Katrina. What we will have here
      though, with this program if it goes through as
      designed, is intense competition between New Orleans
      natives who owned rental property, and new investors,
      including non-profits, who want to get in on the
      action.

      During the meeting, one very vocal woman said she was
      going to get on the horn and inform her favorite
      non-profits to begin the inquiry process for these
      funds.

      The LRA fact sheet on this program states who will be
      eligible to receive these funds: current landlords,
      any new investor, churches, nonprofits, universities,
      employer-sponsored housing, housing sponsors and owner
      occupants in 3-4 units.

      There is going to be a lot of competition for these
      paltry funds. Those who will be screwed are the
      owner-occupants who don't have the resources to return
      and get in on the process early, natives and residents
      of New Orleans who are part of the diaspora.

      To put it bluntly, the LRA has the citizens by the
      you-know-whats.

      Let's look at the elevation requirements. This is
      another tool being implemented by the LRA to squeeze
      the low-income home owners out of existence. FEMA
      releases its base flood elevation maps as an advisory.
      It is the LRA requiring home owners to raise their
      homes, beginning September 1st, as a requirement.

      This is absurd on the face of a very man-made
      disaster: the LRA should be applying its lobbying
      resources to force the federal government to do the
      right thing: repair and rebuild the levees as they
      should have been built in the first place, and restore
      the wetlands.

      Requiring the raising of houses, no matter how high,
      is an exercise in futility. $58 million will be
      allocated by FEMA for the raising of structures, but
      this won't begin to cover the costs, and many simply
      won't have the resources to raise their structures. If
      the levees break again, as they are likely to do,
      three feet higher won't make a bit of difference in
      many areas.

      The LRA is the front man for the Bush administration
      agenda: putting burdensome elevation requirements on
      already desperate and squeezed home owners, still
      waiting for that first check to be cut by the LRA, is
      to take the heat off of a failed physical
      infrastucture, the levees.

      The LRA board of directors is composed largely of
      politically well connected corporate representatives
      and citizens, and certainly, their actions so far
      reveal their bias.

      The failure of the LRA to scream and lobby for its
      citizens, and certainly someone should be screaming,
      that it purports to represent, for adequate
      restoration of all affordable rental housing
      long-term, not just 18%, not just for three years, and
      for reconstruction of all public services, unmasks the
      privatized reconstruction process for what it is: a
      front for those who would profit, and have profited
      off of the misery of Louisiana citizens who love their
      home, their cities and towns, and want to return.

      Billions have already poured into Louisiana, and if
      you drive around New Orleans, there is very little to
      show for it. In the complex and criminal layering of
      contractors and subcontractors in monies already
      spent, vast profits are being reaped by a very few,
      and our governor and legislature, and local officials
      are visibly mum on this.

      Long story short: no one is fighting for our true
      interests, and a few are divvying up the bounty.

      The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is
      desperately waiting for FEMA funding to repair its
      infrastructure. That $87 million allocated to the ICF
      could pay greater dividend if those well-paid
      consultants, like Fred Duplesis, were pressuring the
      feds for the funds needed to truly rebuild, and not
      just pay lip service to the concept of a public works
      program to rebuild.

      The Entergy parent company is getting off scott free
      so far, in terms of rebuilding the Entergy
      infrastructure, so the company is looking to pass off
      the cost to consumers. It has already sneaked in a
      rate increase, by charging customers in New Orleans
      for the upkeep of the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant.

      Bush stated recently, when he visited here a few days
      ago, that he doesn't foresee the area getting any more
      than the 110 billions dollars already spent, and/or,
      allocated. This is bad news for Louisiana citizens, as
      a good chunk of that money has landed in the pockets
      of big contractors, or simply hasn't yet been spent.

      It is unconscionable that energy bills here are so
      much higher than the rest of the nation. We are being
      squeezed to pay and pay and pay for reconstruction for
      this very man-made disaster, and Bush is able to
      breeze into town, say a few nice words, and convince
      people that he means well.

      In other words, its hell for citizens struggling to
      rebuild here, and I don't foresee any let-up in the
      financial pressures, particularly for the working
      class and working poor.

      I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for a
      majority of the populace to wake up.




      C3 means Concern, Community, and Compassion.



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      Les Evenchick
      New Orleans
      piratefish@...
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