The First 100 Days in New Orleans

Let's see...Mayor Nagin's embroiled in twin scandals, involving his Sanitation Commissioner turning over private emails from city councilpeople and his former technology czar's ties with companies doing business with the city....the Sugar Bowl...a great Carnival Season...Bobby Jindal turned down some federal stimulus money, but accepted some, while spending most of his time fund-raising for 2012...And, oh yes, there was a new President.

What has Barack Obama meant to the city almost destroyed by federal malfeasance in 2005? The best, and the worst, one can say is that he's lived up to his campaign promises. He promised health-care reform, energy reform, a doubling-down in Afghanistan -- we're getting all that (or at least a fight for all that). He made a vague assertion that he'd make real the promises President Bush uttered that eerie, floodlit night in an otherwise-darkened Jackson Square, and all the administration has offered to New Orleans so far has been a fact-finding trip by Janet Napolitano, who observed that "no levee can be built high enough to withstand a hurricane like Katrina." So, more facts need to be found, at least for the DHS Secretary.

Here's one: there was not one dollar in the stimulus package, not one out of 700-billion-plus, to help the rebuilding of the tattered levee-floodwall system (despite the Corps of Engineers' statement, a few weeks ago, that, supposedly because of money shortfall, they would choose the "technically not superior" solution to the repair of one poorly-built floodwall; not one dollar out of 700-billion-plus to accelerate the restoration of the coastal wetlands that buffer New Orleans from stronger hurricanes, despite the fact that human activity, including Corps of Engineers-built canals and oil company pipelines, have caused most of the destruction of the wetlands. Not shovel ready? The only thing readier for a shovel is the hope that the new administration might really bring the nation's attention to the federal government's responsibility for the disaster, not just for the lackluster response, and might step up to its responsibility to do the job right this time.

All during the campaign, and then during the first 50 days, Obama partisans would say to me, "his heart's in the right place, just give him some time, he's got a full plate." Yet, the Corps is making decisions right now that chill the blood of New Orleanians concerned about their city's future, and Simon Cowell will be on welfare before this Congress will pass another stimulus bill. The money window is shut, and the administration has been content to focus the nation's attention on Latin American relations, on high-speed rail, on Bo -- on anything but the near-destruction of a great American city.

Nice 100 days' work. Happy Jazzfest.