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Cynthia McKinney: "Katrina Homeless" Problem

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    McKinney warns of new underclass of Katrina Homeless By Rep. Cynthia McKinney Feb 16, 2006 http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_2440.shtml Senate
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2006
      McKinney warns of new underclass of "Katrina Homeless"
      By Rep. Cynthia McKinney
      Feb 16, 2006

      Senate Katrina hearings show litany of bad decisions (FCN, 02-16-2006)
      [Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), made the following statement February
      15, 2006 at the Select Committee to Investigate the Preparation for
      and Response to Hurricane Katrina.]

      Rep. Cynthia McKinney
      Thank you once again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to participate
      in the work of this Committee.

      And I thank Mr. Melancon, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Taylor for their
      participation in the important work of this committee. I know this has
      been and continues to be an extremely difficult journey for you and
      for your constituents.

      I would like to thank all the Members who participated in this panel.
      I hope a new working relationship will be the result.

      Before I turn my comments to the reports, let me first remind the
      Members that as we speak, there is a national emergency that demands
      our immediate attention.

      In the absence of decisive Executive action, an under-funded FEMA made
      its own executive decision to shelter hundreds of thousands of
      survivors in hotels, paying in some cases rates in excess of $400 per
      night, resulting in a windfall for hotel chains during their slow
      season, but depleting FEMA's budget. Now, with summer business coming,
      the hotels want the survivors out and FEMA is evicting tens of
      thousands of families from temporary housing.

      As a result of the President's failure to act, Secretary Chertoff's
      failure to act, and the failure of Congress to act, it appears we are
      about to see a new underclass of "Katrina Homeless" in America, even
      as Halliburton and other contractors take fifty per cent off the top
      of their sweetheart, no-bid Katrina contracts before subcontracting
      the work out at rock bottom rates.

      Given the vast amounts of money that has gone "missing"—billions of
      dollars—from this Administration's Iraq misadventure, it is scandalous
      that we won't provide housing to the survivors.

      What Katrina survivors facing homelessness need is enough assistance
      to rebuild their lives. Why did we offer a Victims Compensation Fund
      to 9/11 families but not to Katrina survivors? And why hasn't the
      Congress moved swiftly to pass or at least held hearings on HR 4197,
      the Hurricane Katrina Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration,
      Reconstruction and Reunion Act of 2005?

      Among the findings in my Supplemental Report is the fact that what
      left so many at the mercy of Katrina was poverty. In the greater New
      Orleans area, 65,000 minority residents lived in poverty before
      Katrina, compared with 85,000 whites. Thus, contrary to the
      stereotyping, poverty is not specific to race, even though Orleans
      Parish, which was 67% black, was hardest hit by the flooding.

      The poor, the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, these were the people
      who could not obey the mandatory evacuation order. If we wish to see
      that there is never another disaster like Katrina, we need to take
      urgent action to deal with poverty in this country. And here, I would
      suggest that the Congress hold hearings on House Concurrent Resolution
      234, Congresswoman Barbara Lee's Poverty Bill.

      Evacuation plans failed these people, as did the National Response
      Plan. We need a new National Response Plan. This is one of sixteen
      recommendations in my report.

      Rather than attempting to defend the indefensible, Secretary Chertoff
      needs to resign and allow this Administration the opportunity to get
      this straight—for the sake of the innocent people of the Gulf States
      and New Orleans.

      We need a National Response Plan that is sensitive to poverty and
      ethnicity. It is unconscionable that DHS would have a partnership with
      Operation Blessing, but not with a single black organization.

      Poverty cuts across ethnic divisions, but there is another side to
      this story. In the testimony at our hearings and in my report, there
      is a very clear pattern. In numerous instances, whites were evacuated
      before blacks while blacks were detained or turned back, as happened
      on the bridge to Gretna. The media stereotyped blacks as "looters" and
      whites as "takers" and fueled fears of blacks that led to the
      "invasion" of New Orleans, shockingly by hired mercenaries.

      Shoot-to-kill orders were issued in a city whose police have a history
      of abuse, and who will spare no excuse to jail young black men for
      petty offenses.

      Another area completely untouched by this Committee is the toxic
      aftermath of Katrina. Decades of pollution has made the sediment layer
      at the bottom of the Gulf and other water bodies highly toxic.

      Hurricane Katrina lifted this sediment sludge out of the water and
      spread it across all the affected regions of the Gulf. Not since
      Hurricane Betsy in 1965 has this happened on such a scale. As a
      result, arsenic and other highly dangerous chemicals are present at
      levels sufficient that much of the Gulf Coast could be declared a
      Superfund site. But the EPA is sitting on its hands, and will not act
      unless Congress instructs it to initiate a clean-up process necessary
      to protect the health and safety of the people of the Gulf Coast. I
      have introduced legislation to accomplish this, and I wish this
      Congress would consider it for the health and safety of our fellow

      There is much more to discuss. We have between 60,000 to 70,000
      survivors in metro Atlanta right now, and the needs are tremendous.

      But let me conclude by saying that what we are left with is the fact
      that while the hurricane washed its "toxic gumbo" ashore, it also
      stripped away the veil that often hides issues of poverty and
      persistent racism in America. We can choose to ignore these issues and
      hope they go away, but we know they won't.

      Alternately, we can rise to the challenge and work together to tackle
      these very difficult problems head on. The choice is ours.



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