Bulldozer Politics
August 23, 2006 2:48 PM   Subscribe

New Orleans City Ordinance #26031 --...those who have not been able to make the necessary repairs to their battered homes by August 29th risk having their property seized and bulldozed by the city.... Bush says today: Katrina Repair Will Take Time, but time's up for many New Orleans residents. (more here from ACORN, who has been trying to help save homes there)
posted by amberglow (62 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
and just recently, from NOLA.com: Despite continuing pleas from community activists for relief from what one called "a merciless and likely illegal law," the New Orleans City Council took no action Thursday to amend the 4-month-old requirement that homeowners gut and board up flood-damaged homes by Aug. 29 or face having the city seize them and do the job. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:53 PM on August 23, 2006

Holy shit.
posted by Zozo at 2:58 PM on August 23, 2006

Such astonshingly callous action by New Orleans. Thanks for the information about how to help. It sometimes seems like the folks who need help and forbearance the most are the last to get it.
posted by owhydididoit at 3:02 PM on August 23, 2006

So many people are so scattered all over the place they don't even know of this ordinance--if they can get on a waiting list, it's enough to stop the city seizing and gutting, i believe.
posted by amberglow at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2006

They should have known better than to have participated in a hurricane.

“The United States government would not just stand on the sidelines as a local government began seizing the homes of vulnerable disaster victims, especially without notification...”


“... in our disaster relief efforts abroad.”


Still seems a bit surreal.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2006

(awaiting the inevitable "they knew when the deadline was, it's their own fault" posts)
posted by Thorzdad at 3:19 PM on August 23, 2006

Make regulations they can't comply with, then bulldoze their houses when they are found in violation: where have we seen this before?
posted by jam_pony at 3:20 PM on August 23, 2006

I believe it was in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:22 PM on August 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

Beware of the chocolate leopard.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2006

What turns out to be the explanation in HHGTTG is about wacky enough to explain the world.

Seriously, I suspect the powers-that-be are wanting to get rid of all those inconvenient poor people and sell the land to developers.
posted by jam_pony at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2006

The spinning has already begun: Katrina Survivor Meets Bush at White House.

L.A. Times: White House Begins Katrina Anniversary "PR Blitz."
posted by ericb at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2006

Own a piece of Katrina History!
posted by ColdChef at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2006

posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on August 23, 2006

posted by ericb at 3:40 PM on August 23, 2006

"all those inconvenient poor people" : You mean the ones forming the tax base written in red ink?
posted by mischief at 3:41 PM on August 23, 2006

Reuters: New Orleanians Heap Katrina Blame on Government.
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on August 23, 2006

This is just so reprehensible.
posted by effwerd at 3:46 PM on August 23, 2006

Is there some mechanism for keeping mischief out of these threads?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:07 PM on August 23, 2006

I've seen the real atrocities,
Buried in the sand,
Stockpiled for safety,
While we stand holding hands.

I'm living in the Ice age,
I'm living in the Ice age,
Nothing will hold,
Nothing will fit,
Into the cold,
It's not an eclipse.
Living in the Ice age,
Living in the Ice age,
Living in the Ice age.
posted by basicchannel at 4:08 PM on August 23, 2006

Consider what goes on in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, then consider which exact companies have been employeed to do reconstruction and security from the first day Katrina hit, then consider this post.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:19 PM on August 23, 2006

That's weird, I didn't know the Bush administration voted at the New Orleans City Council.
posted by allthewhile at 4:22 PM on August 23, 2006

That's weird, I didn't know the Bush administration voted at the New Orleans City Council.

They don't. They made extensive promises--repeated today--so of course they'll stop this, right? right?
posted by amberglow at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2006

While we're making Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy comparisons, I'll point out the sad fact that for most people, the whole New Orleans thing qualifies as a SEP.
posted by you just lost the game at 5:04 PM on August 23, 2006

This is a terrible idea, and I do not want to imply otherwise. But the best way to fight it is not to scream about its unfairness, it's to offer a reasonable alternative to the council. It's already been a year and they want to rebuild the city, which is pretty tough to do if you don't have the clean up done first. Is an extension of time going to resolve this or is there a better solution? I don't have the answer, but maybe some of you do.
posted by cali at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2006

If a house is posing some sort of hazard to people beyond its own property, then demolishing it after attempted notice to the owners is OK by me. But if there's no harm to others, why not wait for the owner to return? "[T]hey want to rebuild the city" is rather far from a reason to deprive disadvantaged owners. Doesn't the city council have enough work to do with properties whose owners can be contacted?

Taking ownership just because the owners don't meet some deadline that didn't exist when they left is the kind of outrageous injustice the 5th Amendment was clearly intended to prohibit, but I guess the Supreme Court has already thrown that out.
posted by jam_pony at 5:57 PM on August 23, 2006

Didn't they also confiscate all firearms from civilians in the area shortly after the disaster? So much for defending your home from the bulldozers...
posted by nightchrome at 6:01 PM on August 23, 2006

While this sucks, I can't figure out what else the city can do.

Most of the houses they will apply this ordinance to have been genuinely abandoned and are not salvageable except at a cost comparable to new construction. Now that the vegetation is returning they are a major harborage for vermin. It may be partly about gentrification but it also really is about health and safety issues; when you can smell the mold while driving through a neighborhood you have to do something.

Some of the neighborhoods aren't coming back and it won't matter because the houses will be demo'd anyway. Some of them will and it won't matter because the houses would be demo'd anyway when the people who have invested to rebuild start to demand it.

At least they're trying to get something done. It's not like our goodbuddies at the Federal level have managed to do anything useful.
posted by localroger at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2006

This article (linked from the ACORN page) makes it sound like the deadline is being extended in many cases.
posted by cali at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2006

just 2/3 of the Lower 9th Ward--that's not at all a lot, considering how widespread the damage was and still is. As of my August 18th Nola.com link above, nothing else (and no one else) has been exempted.
posted by amberglow at 7:37 PM on August 23, 2006

This has more on the $17 billion in direct housing grants Bush spoke about today, and other stuff not done: ...I googled and learned that there is a program called “Road Home” that has $7.5 billion for individual grants to Louisiana homeowners who want to rebuild and repair, and another $1.7 billion for relocation. And as of today, guess how much of the housing grant money has made it into the hands of homeowners?
Zero. However, 42 homeowners should get checks by the end of this week. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:10 PM on August 23, 2006

I recall a Wall Street journal article published a day or two after Katerina struck in which old-money New Orleans family types were interviewed (in their privately guarded untouched estates) about the disaster. Their response was, to paraphrase: 'If the scum come back and fuck this city up again, we're taking our money to some other state.' (I'll try to find the link.) While I understand the need for saftey, cutting back on vermin, etc, I'm sorry: this is unamerican. Not to mention fucking inhuman.
posted by Football Bat at 10:32 PM on August 23, 2006

Is the city government seizing the land as well, or 'just' demolishing the buildings on it and removing the rubble? I can see a possible case for demolishing unsafe buildings where the owners can't be traced. But just taking the land they're built on is nothing but officially sanctioned theft. If the land was owned by somebody, then the land ought to be held safe for them, or that somebody deserves to be compensated for the loss of their land.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:37 AM on August 24, 2006

"Is the city government seizing the land as well..."

I cannot find a single reputable news source that supports the FPP's links or gives any details about this city ordinance, not even the New Orleans Times-Picayune. For all we know, this whole story is a hoax.

However, I would not at all be surprised that Nagin finally figured out that the priority in rebuilding New Orleans means appeasing first those who pay the most in taxes or are willing to invest significant sums into the area.

The feds have appropriated the money and signed the major rebuilding contracts; all they need now is for the state of Louisiana to tell them whose names to place on the checks and hand over the construction blueprints.
posted by mischief at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2006

Nola.com is the Times-Picayune's website, mischief. Searching for news reports from May, when the ordinance was unanimously passed, will give you proof as well--try it.
posted by amberglow at 7:20 AM on August 24, 2006

I did. Their archive only goes back 14 days.
posted by mischief at 7:33 AM on August 24, 2006

City gives residents until Aug. 29 to act on damaged homes
04/21/2006--Associated Press via WWLTV news
posted by amberglow at 7:58 AM on August 24, 2006

More appropriate to the question at hand:

"The city attorney and several council members also said then that homes will not be taken away if not gutted and boarded up by the deadline."
posted by mischief at 7:59 AM on August 24, 2006

NOLA.com, 8/3 --Task force to uphold home-gutting rules-City urges owners to act before Aug. 29 deadline
... If owners don't take corrective measures after the initial warning, the city will send out notices giving them 10 days to take action or face the prospect that the city will seize and gut or demolish their buildings, Moses-Fields said.

The city will begin enforcing the gutting ordinance in City Council Districts A and B, then move on to Districts C, D and finally E, Moses-Fields said.

At the same time, city officials will seek to enforce other public nuisance ordinances, moving against owners whose properties have liens assessed against them for uncut grass, health violations and the like. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:04 AM on August 24, 2006

Moses-Fields is the City Attorney, mischief.
posted by amberglow at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2006

First, you all complain that government entities are not moving fast enough. Now, Nagin and the city council have made proactive decisions and you all complain that government entities are moving too fast.

You can't have it both ways, people.
posted by mischief at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2006

People are scattered to the 4 winds and over 40+ states--they and/or their heirs could not possibly all have known of this ordinance and the deadline concerning their property--it hasn't been widely reported at all nationwide--no CNN or MSNBC or Fox News links, no NYT links, no Washington Post or USA Today links, and only 1 tiny AP link--and we want it both ways? Funding doesn't come from the city, and it's been shown not to have been flowing to the city yet.
posted by amberglow at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2006

You can argue all you like, amberglow, but the more catastrophic the experiences of the people of New Orleans, the more pleasure mischief gets.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:36 AM on August 24, 2006

Yes, you want it both ways. Nagin is taking the very liberal step of promoting the good of all at the expense of a few. Nagin is taking the expense of gutting these houses onto the city; I haven't read anything about him sending the homeowners bills.

New Orleans has two choices, a slow meandering rebuild that pleases everybody, or a fast rebuild that will inevitably step on some toes.
posted by mischief at 8:39 AM on August 24, 2006

Wrong, Astro Zombie, I am doing no more than pointing out the contradictions.
posted by mischief at 8:41 AM on August 24, 2006

(tangential) Well, our house in Biloxi was dealt with by August 29... 2005! The words "Katrina Anniversary PR Blitz" nauseate me.

posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:21 AM on August 24, 2006

Nagin is taking the very liberal step of promoting the good of all at the expense of a few. Nagin is taking the expense of gutting these houses onto the city; I haven't read anything about him sending the homeowners bills.
He and the city will be sued mightily, God willing. The good of all is not demolishing people's houses and seizing their property because they haven't gotten their funding nor their repair work done according to this 1-year deadline--the good of all is helping the people of New Orleans get their homes repaired and rebuilt and city functioning again. Who do you think "all" consists of anyway? Why hasn't the billions promised materialized? Why aren't there public works projects doing the repair work? Why are all these people wholly dependent on private companies and non-profits and not their local and federal governments?
posted by amberglow at 12:27 PM on August 24, 2006

omg, Hal--you guys ok? what'd you do?
posted by amberglow at 12:28 PM on August 24, 2006

...In January the administration rejected a $30 billion plan for Louisiana as too expensive. The White House also balked at subsidizing the reconstruction of homes in flood plains, a policy that would have excluded all but a small fraction of Louisiana homeowners whose houses were significantly damaged.

The state finally won funding in July for the $9 billion ‘Road Home’ program, which pays homeowners up to $150,000 either to repair their damaged property or rebuild elsewhere in the state. People who leave the state are eligible for a 60 percent buyout. The money, which is being distributed through escrow accounts to prevent fraud, is just becoming available a year after the hurricane. ...

posted by amberglow at 4:52 PM on August 24, 2006

"Why hasn't the billions promised materialized? Why aren't there public works projects doing the repair work? Why are all these people wholly dependent on private companies and non-profits and not their local and federal governments?"

posted by mischief at 2:40 AM on August 25, 2006

For a bit more expanded answer (on the federal level anyway):

A) FEMA is not big enough to handle a situation like Katrina. True, FEMA responded marginally to past hurricanes, but none of those were of Katrina's scale. FEMA has neither the manpower nor the skillsets needed to rebuild a city. If the american public wants a federal government with that much power, the Constitution would have to be scrapped and a completely new system of governing would need creating.

B) A bureacracy is attempting to rebuild an urban setting that was built over centuries by primarily private investments. Cities grow despite their local governments, not because of them. Private investors build the long-lasting buildings and infrastructures; any projects by the local governments are generally retrofitted by way of low-bids or crony contracts, neither of which will achieve quality work.

On top of that, Shrub Inc. is a lame duck administration. They don't have to do shit about Louisiana nor Mississippi. This is one of the drawbacks to term limits; true, we do get rid of Shrub in two years, but in the meantime, as president he can pretty much concentrate on whatever he damn well pleases.

Counting on a government to solve the local ills of a country the size of the United States is asking for trouble, and if a solution is invoked, you can bet that almost no one will be satisfied.

This is the legacy left us by the founding politicians of the 1700s. If you don't like it, then either work to change it from its most basic levels or accept the fact that each individual is responsible for his or her own destiny.
posted by mischief at 3:09 AM on August 25, 2006

the 80% destruction of an entire city is not a "local ill" by any stretch of the term, and we had explicit promises from all levels of government--local, state and federal--to rebuild and repair. Those promises were lies--from all levels of government. FEMA exists specifically for incidents like Katrina and it failed. Our National Guard exists for these types of incidents too and it was absent. We have Federal things like FEMA and the Guard specifically because these disasters are not "local ills" and affect our entire country in many ways, from economics to population and social services to infrastructure, etc.
posted by amberglow at 6:24 AM on August 25, 2006

OK, believe in fairy tales then.
posted by mischief at 6:46 AM on August 25, 2006

It's not fairy tales--it's our government's sworn legal duty--it's why we have government, actually. If you don't want or need aid, that's fine. That's not the case for millions in the Gulf area, or who used to live in the Gulf area.
posted by amberglow at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2006

It's 1927 again (Huey Long, floods, levees, NO, FDR, and the beginnings of the New Deal)
posted by amberglow at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2006

A man who pulled a hoax on Louisiana officials and 1,000 contractors by presenting himself as a federal housing official said Monday he intended to focus attention on a lack of affordable housing.
"We basically go around impersonating bad institutes or institutes doing very bad things," said the man, who identified himself as Andy Bichlbaum, a 42-year-old former college teacher of video and media arts who lives in New York and Paris.
"That would be HUD. At this moment, they're doing some really bad things." ...

posted by amberglow at 4:20 PM on August 28, 2006

Katrina: It's all going according to plan-- ...Here's what the National Response Plan has to say about who's responsible for the Hurricane Katrina fiasco:

Overall Coordination of Federal Incident Management Activities
The President leads the Nation in responding effectively and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and efficiently to all Incidents of National Significance.

Any questions?

Oh, and the NRP was signed by every Cabinet secretary, as well as several other department heads. The entire administration. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2006

Can't just wash it away
posted by amberglow at 2:18 PM on August 29, 2006

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