N.O. City Council - Katrina Evacuees Wanted Back In New Orleans - Only If They Work

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by GotZoom, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. GotZoom
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    GotZoom Senior Member

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    I like it. Of course, I'm waiting for someone to start screaming racism - they never did say in the article if the three City Council members were white or black. I'm assuming black because if they were white, Jesse and Al would be all over this.

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    New Orleans doesn't want its poorest residents back — unless they agree to work.

    That was the message from three New Orleans City Council members who said government programs have "pampered" the city's residents for too long.

    The news that some New Orleans City Council members weren't keen on the city's poorest returning home added another layer of discomfort in Houston, where local residents and elected officials alike have stretched to meet the needs of thousands of Louisiana residents in the months after Hurricane Katrina.

    Chief among the complaints: Houston didn't discriminate when New Orleanians — from the poorest to the richest — filled this city's homes, hotels, motels and shelters. And Houston didn't flinch when nearly 100,000 evacuees needed subsidized housing for up to a year. So why, asked one Houston city councilman, are only the educated, healthy and employable welcome back in New Orleans?

    "A city is a combination of all kinds of people," said Councilman M.J. Khan, whose district has absorbed most of the city's evacuees. "We definitely want everybody to be productive, wealthy and educated. But in any society it's not always possible. We cannot pick and choose who will live in a city."

    Khan was among those who responded negatively to the comments of New Orleans elected officials Monday, which were published by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    "We don't need soap opera watchers right now," said New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas, during a housing committee meeting. "We're going to target the people who are going to work. It's not that I'm fed up, but that at some point there has to be a whole new level of motivation, and people have got to stop blaming the government for something they ought to do."

    During that same meeting, according to the newspaper, officials with the Housing Authority of New Orleans shared their plans. Some residents who lived in public housing before the storm will be able to return. Future residents, however, will have to comply with new restrictions, including a series of questions about employment history and job prospects.

    In other words, people will have to express a willingness to work to qualify for public housing, officials in New Orleans have said.

    Later in Monday's meeting, Thomas, who is black, reiterated that his remarks were intended for African-Americans.

    "There's just been a lot of pampering, and at some point you have to say, 'No, no, no, no, no.' ... If our legs don't hurt, you can walk somewhere," he said. "I'm saying these things to motivate my people."

    Councilwomen Renee Gill Pratt and Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson agreed with Thomas.

    One evacuee in Houston, Angelo Edwards, called the statements politicking, saying that what New Orleans residents in Houston want most is affordable housing so they can return home.

    "We're not running for re-election over here," said Edwards, vice president of the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association. "What we're trying to do is find a way to come back home and rebuild the city. I hope those statements weren't a blanket indictment on all the residents of public housing in New Orleans."

    New Orleans has scheduled its city elections for April 22.

    Efforts to reach Thomas were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Clarkson said she and the other elected officials aren't targeting the elderly or disabled who once lived in New Orleans public housing.

    "But it is an indictment of those who can work, but don't work," she said.

    Clarkson also said the city eventually wants to bring everyone back, but needs to start with workers first, to create a tax base. Then, eventually, she said, New Orleans will have the resources to support everyone, including the unemployable.

    New Orleans' desire to pick and choose is a luxury that Houston didn't have, said Khan, remembering the immediate days after Katrina.

    "When this Katrina situation developed, we welcomed people with arms wide open," he said."We never scrutinized who should be coming into the city, we never turned anyone back. In the same way New Orleans cannot now say that everyone who is disabled, or cannot work, should have to stay in Houston."

    Shortly after Katrina struck New Orleans — and with Houston's shelters and hotels full — Mayor Bill White and other local officials devised a plan to provide long-term housing for evacuees.

    More than 80,000 evacuees signed up for the program, which provided one year of rent-free living in an apartment as well as free electricity and gas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reimbursing Houston for the housing program's expenses.

    A major component of this initiative, city officials said, has been reaching out to those evacuees in Houston apartments to help them obtain job skills and find employment.

    "Our overwhelming concern is one of helping people get back on their feet, and then helping them find a job," Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. "That's what the Houston mentality is, this is a working town."

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/3676263.html
     

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