A lot of us may not be blogging over the next few days, so here’s my wish to all of you for a happy holiday season, whatever it is you like to celebrate.
I haven’t been driving around much lately because I was busy studying, so maybe it’s my imagination, but I don’t think I’m seeing as many Christmas decorations in areas that flooded as I saw last year. Last year, the first Christmas after Katrina, people who made it back — some who were living in trailers, some living in tents, some in their gutted homes without gas, some without electricity, many taking cold showers, and eating MRE’s or cooking on camp stoves — people who were defying all odds and making it happen made a powerful statement about getting back to normal despite the odds by putting up some amazing Christmas decorations. If it’s true that there aren’t as many decorations this year, that would be very disconcerting because it would mean people are feeling defeated, or have already given up and moved away. More hopefully, it’s also entirely possible that people are just too damn busy fighting their insurance companies (still), and ICF for their Road Home grants, and the Corps of Engineers, and City Hall, and now, re-salvaging what they can of their salvaged Katrina possessions since the Sewerage and Water Board can’t handle a little rain.
A friend of mine was flooded again:
“The worst part about it, this is the stuff that survived,” said Steve Quick, who had just returned from school at Washington University in St. Louis to visit his girlfriend for the holidays.
Quick sorted through soggy pictures, stuffed animals and books, which he laid out to dry in the front room of his girlfriend’s apartment, which is still being renovated. His girlfriend, who was at work during the flooding, lives in a FEMA trailer next to the house.
I waded into River Road — ironically, in front of the Corps of Engineers office building — to push two flooded cars off of the street. As I was helping one driver blow water out of her engine block, I heard a loud thud as a driver trying to get out of the floodwater in a Toyota compact found a curb instead of a driveway. When he quickly jumped out of the car to examine the fabric burn on his forearm, I realized the smoke pouring out of the passenger cabin was coming from the deployed airbag.
It seems the problem was an electrical outage at Pumping Station No. 6, which would have slowed drainage throughout a huge swath of Uptown, Broadmoor, Carrollton, Jefferson, and Old Metairie, and silt-clogged pipes from Katrina flooding which FEMA still hasn’t paid to get cleaned.
I did find it interesting that the TP reporters caught up with Joe Sullivan, the general superintendent for the Sewerage and Water Board, even though he was on vacation. Sullivan couldn’t say how long the electrical outage at station 6 lasted, because of course, he was on vacation. So who’s in charge when Sullivan’s on vacation?
I’m also wondering why, if the city has so far had to pay for the cleanup of those drainage pipes — which were inundated by a disaster caused by the federal government — why isn’t Mayor Unseen Ray Nagin broadcasting this vital infrastructure project through a megaphone every day?
I find it difficult to imagine how four inches of water could cause so much destruction. I’m not convinced that The Times-Picayune got to the bottom of the problem, but Matt McBride has additional insights which, as always, merit attention. Here is blogging at it’s best — I mean, who has time to go around town in the middle of a rain storm to inspect the pumping stations (compare Matt’s report to the AP report in The Washington Post for an example of how media democracy is often far superior to corporate media). Good work Matt! Once again, New Orleans citizens are doing it for themselves!
One last item before I depart from this post. For those of us wondering whether or not citizens have power over local broadcasters, and can get them to serve the community better, Madison, Wisconsin has an answer.
Griper News is reporting that protestors forced Clear Channel to keep the Air America format on Madison’s 92.1 FM. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Madison’s struggle in the comments to a recent PGR post, “Raise the volume: Raze corporate media.” The problem there was similar to the problem here in New Orleans — the only difference here is that the corporate villain is Entercom.
Just three days after the Democrats won control of Congress, Clear Channel announced that it was going to kill the progressive Air America format in Madison. In New Orleans, Entercom didn’t wait to announce the change — they just did it, two days after the election. Entercom is now re-running the same content on 1350 AM that it simultaneously broadcasts on two other stations, 870 AM and 105.3 FM. How hoarding three licenses to broadcast the same content in any way serves the community isn’t just a rhetorical question. It demands an answer by Entercom executives, and we citizens should demand public hearings and an FCC investigation.
Incidentally, Entercom used the same excuse that Clear Channel used. They both said that the Air America format had bad ratings and wasn’t getting any advertisers. The truth is, they never had a dedicated sales staff to acquire advertisers, and they never promoted the format.
Maybe John Nichols of The Nation will now turn his attention from Madison’s fight, to give us a hand in fighting New Orleans’ corporate media villains. Not only should we demand an alternative to the ignorant rants streaming from 690 AM, 870 AM, 105.3 FM, 1350 AM, and 99.5 FM, but the community should be able to operate its own radio station, sharing the information we need to make our neighborhoods safe places to live in again.
Imagine if Matt McBride had his own radio show!