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New Orleanians gear up for long overdue rebuilding

January 7, 2009

Public planning of new New Deal Metro NOLA Public Works Program proposals

San Jose State University graduate student Kwame Thomas, left, leads a rally in San Jose for passage of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, a national effort to help victims of Katrina that was founded at San Jose State University. Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP
San Jose State University graduate student Kwame Thomas, left, leads a rally in San Jose for passage of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project, a national effort to help victims of Katrina that was founded at San Jose State University. Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP
On Thursday, Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m., at St. Jude’s Basin Street Hall, 410 Basin St., the citizens of New Orleans are invited to participate in a planning discussion with community panelists on a proposed Metro New Orleans Public Works Program.

This meeting encourages community participation in deciding what should be proposed for a federal effort to fund job creation and training for NOLA and regional public services and infrastructure. These include public housing, health, child care, education, transportation systems and roads, as well as libraries, the arts, historic preservation, energy-efficient buildings and installations, pollution mitigation, parks and playgrounds, wetlands and levees, and other public infrastructure and services much needed in the Metro New Orleans region, to be provided along the lines of the New Deal WPA (Works Progress Administration).

One or more of the participants will take the planning meeting’s conclusions to Washington, D.C., as part of a national delegation presenting such plans from various parts of the country to the new Congress and administration.

Panelists active in the community will discuss needs in public housing, health and education that such a federally funded, community-controlled program for public service improvements could provide through specific local and regional projects for skills training for useful jobs at prevailing wages. Neighborhood planning and oversight on needed infrastructure and services would keep the effort focused on regional needs and local job creation and work related income for workers, rather than on current bailout efforts, tax rebates, public guarantees of private bonds and “stimulus” income handouts, with systematic job-oriented training and backup services like child care and transitional housing.

The event is sponsored by Public Works NOLA, MayDay NOLA and C3/Iberville. For information, call Malcolm Willison at (504) 228-2899 or email him at malcolmrw2002@yahoo.com.

Gulf Coast Civic Works Project

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project was proposed not long after Katrina by Professor Scott Myers-Lipton of San Jose State University, and the young professor has been working with extraordinary creativity and diligence for its passage ever since. “His proposal captures, in simple language, a common-sense approach for rebuilding the Gulf, providing economic opportunity for Katrina survivors, as well as ‘restoring faith in the government’s social compact with its citizens,’” according to ColorOfChange.org.

“This is a plan that should be embraced by every member of Congress and every American. It’s a big, comprehensive initiative, but it’s not a bloated program. It speaks to core American values of community and individual responsibility and equality of opportunity, while recognizing the importance of culture and history. And fundamentally, it makes sound economic sense.

“There is no other plan that takes advantage of the economies of scale and available labor pool represented by the city’s former residents for rebuilding. And it fits perfectly with the stated desires of officials at every level, who say they want to preserve the character of New Orleans and to make it possible for New Orleanians to return,” concludes the description by the Black political organizing project ColorofChange.org.

“No region of the United States has a greater need for rebuilding its infrastructure and restoring its environment than America’s Gulf Coast,” writes Professor Myers-Lipton. “The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act funds ‘green’ resident-led recovery projects, building on the success of community organizations in Gulf Coast recovery to help meet the overwhelming unmet needs of the individuals, families and communities devastated by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. …

“The bill would create a minimum of 100,000 prevailing wage jobs and training opportunities for local and displaced workers on projects reinvesting in infrastructure and restoring the coastal environment utilizing emerging green building techniques and technologies. This program would empower residents to realize their right to return with dignity and create stronger, safer and more equitable communities.”

In an email to the Bay View, Professor Myers-Lipton writes: “So here is the good news! We are very close to getting the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project into the Second Stimulus package. Check out the Center for American Progress report – led by President Elect Obama’s transition co-chair John Podesta – encouraging Congress and President Obama to include $1 billion for Gulf Coast Civic Works projects in the second stimulus package. Also, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to support the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (Resolution No. R-08-61).”

The Center for American Progress report contains this paragraph under the heading, “Disaster relief”:

Gulf Coast Civic Works. $1 billion to create a minimum of 15,000 Civic Works jobs for local and displaced people to rebuild Gulf Coast infrastructure and environment. This will provide funding to the Office of Gulf Coast Federal Recovery Coordination to administer ready-to-go projects that will address the overwhelming unmet needs of the individuals, families, and communities devastated by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike.”

And here is the text of New Orleans City Council Resolution No. R-08-618:

“WHEREAS, during the Great Depression, New Deal initiatives including the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the Civilian Conservation Corps gainfully employed workers that built or repaired 103 golf courses, 800 state parks, 1,000 airports, 2,500 hospitals, 2,500 sports stadiums, 8,192 parks, 11,338 schools, 12,800 playgrounds, 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings and 651,087 miles of highways and roads; hired 238 bands and orchestras; arrested 20 million acres of soil erosion, stocked one billion fish in lakes and rivers, and planted three billion trees; and

“WHEREAS, the benefits of the WPA projects are still seen in New Orleans through such city fixtures as Charity Hospital, the New Orleans Public Library in Bywater; the botanical garden at City Park; the Cabildo; Napoleon House; the Seventh Street Wharf; and the Audubon Zoo; and

“WHEREAS, in 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged and destroyed over 200,000 Gulf Coast homes, and damaged or destroyed schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, roads, community centers, bridges, parks, and forest land, and left over 100,000 individuals in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast unemployed; and

“WHEREAS, the extensive damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and subsequent damage caused by this year Hurricane Gustav underscore the need for environmental reform, including greener building practices, more efficient energy consumption, and a commitment to coastal conservation and restoration; and

“WHEREAS, notwithstanding the federal government’s response to this unprecedented disaster, New Orleans continues the difficult work of restoring our core infrastructure so that residents can return and enjoy the unique character of the City, and so that businesses can function effectively and continue to produce goods and services vital to the national economy; and

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act will ensure that real progress is made toward rebuilding and sustaining the Gulf Coast region through the establishment of a federal authority to fund resident-led recovery projects; the creation of 100,000 good jobs and training opportunities for local, displaced workers to rebuild infrastructure and restore the environment; empowering residents to realize their right to return with dignity and safety, revitalizing the local workforce, and helping create more sustainable communities and a better quality of life for residents and businesses in the Gulf Coast region; and

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act would rebuild vital public infrastructure and restore the environment, by specifically:
• Rebuilding and repairing public infrastructure including schools, police and fire stations, hospitals, parks, roads, water and sewer systems, and cultural centers;
• Building equitable flood protection and restoring marshes and wetlands;
• Serving as a national model for disaster recovery and infrastructure development; and

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act would create jobs and provide job training, specifically:
• Create a minimum of 100,000 jobs and training opportunities for Gulf Coast residents;
• Create a Civilian Conservation Corp for youth 17-24 to focus on wetland restoration, forestation, and urban greenery;
• Provide 15 grants for artistic projects to highlight Gulf Coast culture and history; and

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act would jumpstart the economy, specifically:
• Establish the Gulf Coast Recovery Authority to implement and coordinate the necessary federal response to the devastation of the Gulf Coast;
• Coordinate existing federal programs to ensure effective and efficient recovery;
• Create opportunities for local business through competitive contract bidding; and

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act would spur sustainable community development, specifically:
• Through the creation of local advisory councils, allow community groups and officials to determine what projects are needed;
• Focus benefits on the regional economy through first source hiring provisions;
• Strengthen the workforce by providing jobs and needed skills training and;

“WHEREAS, HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act requires accountability, specifically, oversight and community participation in all recovery projects; and

“WHEREAS, the severe devastation resulting from the impacts of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike are national tragedies that require the attention and consideration of every American, regardless of party affiliation or state residence; and

“WHEREAS, on November 14-16th the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University and the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project hosted “Rebuild the Gulf Coast, Rebuild America”; a conference attended by 63 students from 25 universities and 16 states to develop a strategy for the passage of HR 4048 within the first 100 days of the new Administration and the convening of the 111th U.S. Congress,

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, that it hereby expresses its support of efforts toward passage of HR 4048: the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, which would coordinate recovery projects, rebuild key infrastructure and ensure sustainable community development.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council hereby reaffirms its commitment to working closely with local community groups, the Office of the Governor of Louisiana, our state and federal legislators, the U.S. Representatives House Committee on Education and Labor and the Office of the President of the United States to further strengthen and enact this legislation as it moves through the Congress.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Clerk forward a certified copy of this resolution to The Honorable C. Ray Nagin, Mayor of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the New Orleans delegation to the Louisiana Legislature, the Louisiana delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, United States Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor and the Office of the President-Elect of the United States.”

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