New Orleans Groups Demand Federal Programs for Housing, Jobs, and Gulf Disaster

New Orleans, La. C3/Hands Off Iberville and other New Orleans Community groups will hold a press conference on June 29 at 5:30 PM in front of the Housing Authority of New Orleans headquarters to demand the federal government create a massive federal public works program to address the current housing, jobs, and Gulf oil spill crises. We will then attend HANO’s public hearing on their 2010-2011 annual plan and deliver this message to the federal-government controlled agency.

Instead of cutbacks planned by HANO, and other city, state, and federal agencies and officials across the country, we need an expansion of government services to meet unmet and pressing human needs. This initiative can be financed by immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and closing foreign military bases, ending and forcing repayment of bank and other corporate bailouts, and taxing the wealthy.

New Orleans remains devastated 5 years after Hurricane Katrina. Affordable housing remains scarce, with the city having the nation’s highest percentage of renters–41%–paying at last half their wages in rent and utilities. Homelessness has quadrupled, per capita, since Katrina, while over 34,000 families are on waiting lists for public housing and section 8 vouchers–and thousands more would sign up if HANO reopened the waiting lists! Charity hospital, the major provider of health care pre-Katrina, remains closed–not because of a “natural” disaster, but rather due to the very human, and intentional actions taken by Governors Blanco, and now Jindal, to kill public health care.

New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast are now being hit with the oil drilling disaster that is putting thousands more of people out of work and destroying communities and the environment. These city and regional disasters are on top of the worst economic depression since the 1930s facing the entire country, with over 20% of the workforce either unemployed or underemployed.

How are governments from the national to local level responding to these multiple crises? With more cuts to social services, further privatizations, while the wars and bailouts of the wealthy, and their corporations, continue. HANO’s proposed cutbacks for fiscal year 2010-2011 are representative of the austerity measures being taken by Republicans and Democratic Party-controlled legislatures, administrations, and agencies across the country. HANO executive director David Gilmore, who has played a major role in public housing demolition and privatization across the country over the last generation, is continuing that legacy in New Orleans. The 2010-2011 agency plan he crafted, in collaboration with the Obama administration, includes:

  • Demolition of all 127 apartments at the Florida development, and no plans to rebuild. Before its redevelopment, pre-Katrina, Florida had 734 units (see p. 33, HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11)
  • Demolition of approximately 500 scattered site apartments (of a total of over 700), with no plans to rebuild. HANO is working with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to decide their “best use”–i.e. handing over highly valued real estate parcels to developers (see pp. 34-43; 63, Attachment K, p,.10; HANO Annual Plan, 2010-11 ).
  • Privatization and demolition at Iberville. HANO plans to apply for a HOPE VI grant to “redevelop” the Iberville project into a “mixed income” development. As happened at St. Thomas, “redevelopment” and “mixed income” are code words for drastically reducing the current stock of approximately 850 public housing apartments, resulting in further displacement, hardship, and reduction in affordable housing (see p. 30, HANO Annual Plan 2010-11 )

Is there an alternative to the austerity and further misery planned by HANO and other levels of government? Do we have to sit idly by while BP destroys the Gulf and the government subordinates itself to these corporate criminals, relegated to providing security and public relations services? The success of US’s public works program shows there is an alternative: 75 years ago the Civil Works Administration, in four and a half months built or repaired 33,850 public building, carried out 3,220 flood control projects, built from scratch 1,000 airports and 3,700 playgrounds. Within the first week of its operation, it employed 1.1 million workers and employment peaked at 4.2 million. The total cost of the project was $30 billion in 2006 dollars.

In 6 years the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built 116,000 bridges, 5,600 new schools, 30,000 new public buildings, financed thousands of public murals, put on thousands of plays and concerts, paid for local histories and employed nearly eight million people –in a country with less than half our present population.

We can, and must, do it again.

New Orleans Community Groups Demand Federal Government Create Massive Public Works Program to Address Housing, Jobs, and Gulf Spill Crises.

No to Austerity. Public Works to Stop the Spill, Clean up the Gulf, and Rebuild America and World.

Press Conference: Tuesday, June 29, 5:30 PM at the HANO office, 4100 Touro St., New Orleans

For more information, contact Jay Arena at 504-520-9521

Protesters Plan to Bring Demands to Gulf Disaster Command Center

Protest the crimes of British Petroleum and the painfully slow and woefully inadequate response by both BP and the US Government

From the People’s Gulf Emergency Summit Saturday in New Orleans, we found out that the Deepwater Horizon Unified Response Command Center has moved to New Orleans, near the infamous Superdome where many poor and black people were forced to evacuate to after Hurricane Katrina.

We will be delivering provisional demands. Come out to show your opposition to the destruction of the Gulf.

When: Monday, June 21

Time: Noon to two

Where: 1250 Poydras St (Eni Petroleum)

Bring: your signs, bullhorns, and energy.

(There may be opportunity for Civil Resistance)

for more information: 504 644 7214 gulfemergencysummit (at) gmail. Thanks to Cindy Sheehan for design.

1) Stop oil drilling in the gulf, full compensation, retraining and new employment, including public works, for all affected

2) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the spill, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

3) No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer; those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

4) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Immediately end use of dispersants; full, open scientific evaluation of nature and impact of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6) Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

Fighting with the Brown Pelicans to Survive

By David Swanson

Way back in January, the ocean was still ocean, oil still oil, and combining the two had not yet occurred to us. The Conch Republic, the Florida Keys, was — in retrospect — a secure and pristine paradise.

The danger was of sunburn, not of crude oil on your skin or toxic chemicals in the air you breathed.

While I was there with my family, we enjoyed the sand, sun, and sea. But we wanted to see more pelicans. We wanted to see lots of pelicans.

So we went to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.

Well, it turns out that pelicans know what time it is. And if someone hands out buckets of fish on the shore at the same time every day, any pelican in the greater metropolitan area is going to be there right on time.

And that’s what they do there on Tavernier Key. They know the pelicans. They tag them. They doctor injured ones. And, if they want to check on how they’re doing, all it takes is several buckets of fish and predictable timing.

The pelicans didn’t have everything perfect, even pre-oil. The effects on the weather of our burning of oil we’re hitting the pelicans hard before the oil itself hit the water. These birds require a finely calibrated climate. They migrate from the U.S. gulf coast to the Keys with the seasons. And they need fish, fresh, healthy fish, and lots of it.

When the weather goes freaky with unusually cold or hot or dry periods, and when fish die, the pelicans are in danger too. We just didn’t know how good they had it before BP-USA dipped them and their world in oil.

At lunchtime, hundreds of pelicans show up with one thing on their minds.

Pelicans Before the BP Oil Disaster

If you watch CNN you’ll see heartwarming stories of how purchasing the proper brand of dishwashing soap at your local supermarket will contribute to the work of washing the pelicans off before dipping them back in the oil to die. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is horseshit.

The ocean is filling up with oil, which kills the fish, which kills the pelicans, and which — with a few more steps — kills all of us. The pelicans are canaries in this coalmine, and they are expiring.

There will be no more human enjoyment of the pelicans if this continues, and no more pelican enjoyment of anything at all. They will be gone, along with the world they lived in.

This does not strike me as yet another ho-hum project for the president to create a commission on or the oil baron primarily responsible to be annoyed by when he’s not yachting in another ocean. This is the worst damage we have yet imposed on the earth, an ongoing explosion of black liquid death pumping into paradise, and we’re taking it all pretty coolly.

Oh, but what can we do?

What would the pelicans do? When they want something, they don’t hesitate. If you don’t toss them the fish fast enough, they grab your legs. If that doesn’t work, they try to knock the bucket over. These are birds on a mission to survive. We’re on a mission to nap.

What should we be doing? Not yachting. Not golfing. Not deferring as people to our government or as Congress to a president or as that president to the criminals responsible.

There should be an all-out night-and-day effort to stop this oil gusher. The national guard should be brought home to guard the nation. The trillions of dollars being put into wars for oil should be reinvested (ending the wars) into a war against the oil we do not want and cannot survive, and into an all-out crusade to create a renewable energy economy.

The oil should be claimed by our nation, and our nation should seize the assets of the company responsible.

The state of Delaware should decharter the US branch of BP.

BP and the government regulators who did not regulate it should be prosecuted.

The military and the rest of the government should end all contracts with BP.

All offshore drilling should be banned.

All restrictions on journalists in the Gulf of Mexico should be lifted.

Corporations should be denied their dangerous status of possessing the privileges of people with none of the responsibilities.

If anyone should be given the protections afforded flesh and blood people, it is the pelicans.

* * * * * *

David Swanson is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town.

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New Orleans Gulf Emergency Summit, June 19

Gulf Emergency Summit

Saturday June 19

Doors open 10:00 am

First Unitarian Universalist Church, New Orleans

5212 South Claiborne Avenue

Join Cindy Sheehan, John Clark, Larry Everest, and Gulf region activists, independent of the government and BP in making an ACTION plan. The People Must Act to STOP the Gulf Catastrophe!

The BP oil blowout is an environmental catastrophe, bringing great peril to marine and wildlife in the Gulf and threatening ecosystems of the planet. The spill is still out of control and spreading. It jeopardizes communities and livelihoods.

The government and BP have proven unable and unwilling to stop the disaster, protect the Gulf,or even tell the truth.

The people must come together now to stop this nightmare.

Millions are sick at heart and looking for ways to act. Many individuals and groups have spoken out, offered suggestions, volunteered to help, protested.

BP and the government – pursuing their own interests – have ignored people’s ideas, blocked public participation, suppressed and
harassed scientists, and prevented people on the Gulf from taking initiative to keep oil away from shore. This must not continue.

A broad, determined, and powerful “peoples’ response” is urgently needed – to get thetruth out, to protect the shores and oceans and deal with the ecological impacts, while exploring deeper causes and solutions.

The Emergency Summit will bring together scientists, people from fishing communities, environmental activists, progressives, radicals and revolutionaries, artists, intellectuals and all who want to halt this horror.

There will be testimony on the true scope and impact of the disaster and on what can be done to protect ecosystems, wildlife, and people. We’ll thrash out ways for people to act now – on different fronts and in different ways – and to galvanize many, many more, across the Gulf and beyond. The world is watching. We must not allow the Gulf and oceans to be devastated. Our mission is nothing less than stopping this catastrophe.

Draft Demands:

1. Stop oil drilling in the Gulf

2. The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop the spill and clean up the devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to efforts by people to save the Gulf.

3. No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer.

4. Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Full and open scientific evaluation of emergency measures like the use of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5. Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6. Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

Some of the hundreds of endorsers:

William Quigley, Loyola University; Legal Dir., Center for Constitutional Rights*

Michael G. Hadfield, Marine Biologist, University of Hawaii*

Larry Everest, author Oil, Power & Empire, Revolution newspaper

John Pearse, Prof. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz*

Eloise Williams, Lower Algiers Environmental Committee, New Orleans

Elizabeth Cook, Women United for Social Justice, New Orleans

Andy Washington, Civil Rights Activist, New Orleans

Survivors Village, New Orleans

Ben Gordon, Pax Cristi, New Orleans

Debra Sweet, Director, World Can’t Wait

Sharon Jasper, public housing activist, New Orleans

C3-Hands Off Iberville, New Orleans

George Mahdi, Social Worker, New Orleans

Endesha Juakeli, housing activist, New Orleans

Randy Poindexter, New Orleans

Rebecca Austen, New Orleans

Gilda & Sain Reed, New Orleans

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report

Dahr Jamail, journalist

Mark J. Davis, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy

Raymond Lotta, Revolution contributor, environment, socialist sustainable development

Everyone’s voice, ideas and energy are needed. If you can’t come, contact the Summit for next steps. Endorse the Summit & you’ll be contacted about the ACTION plan