I received this today from Julie Smith, a well-known mystery writer from New Orleans and a long-time friend of mine. She has given me permission to share it with you. I’ll let Julie talk now.
Dear Friends: We’re in a panic down here, the second in three months. (You know what the first one was.) Somehow or other–I really can’t think how–aid to Louisiana, rebuilding our levees, treating us like any Americans in trouble has become a political issue. It shouldn’t be. Some of us are Democrats and some are Republicans, and we’re all in it together. I’ve just learned the right-wing political pundits have begun taking us on–Rush Limbaugh in particular–with a ton of misinformation and vitriol. On the other side, there was 60 Minutes, with its shocking one-source documentary.Where all that’s coming from I really have no idea. I honestly can’t believe anyone could question of whether to appropriate money to rebuild our levees (and the rest of the city). We’re an American city. We deserve to be treated as such.What makes us different from any other one? Crooked politicians? We’ve had them in the past, but we don’t particularly now. So has your city, whatever it is. If this is what it’s about, it’s a smokescreen. Oversight can be built in to any spending plan, and it should be. What responsible legislative body wouldn’t include it? Or is it about the concern that we just shouldn’t have built a city here? Tulsa was flooded and it recovered. Anchorage had an earthquake and it was rebuilt. If The Big One hit San Francisco, there’s no doubt in my mind anyone would debate rebuilding. The Times-Picayune wrote “they act as if we wore our skirts too short and invited trouble.” That about sums it up. What’s happening here? I’ve never been so bewildered.
The point of this letter is that we need you to write to your Congressmen (and women) to get us help. I’d also like to clear up a little misinformation I understand is circulating. Here are things I keep hearing:
1. New Orleans is a toxic waste dump. It isn’t. Some chemicals have been found in some of the soil, but there are no alarming reports.
2. There are plenty of jobs, but no one wants to do them. This one is particularly galling–there’s no place for anyone to live! Workers are camping in the parks and living in RV’s. Not everyone can do that, and anyway, it’s illegal. This is a huge problem, and it’s not going to get solved without a lot of help from all branches of government.
3. The state misspent money that was supposed to go to levee repair. But the Corps of Engineers is a federal agency! One variation has it that the money was spent on casinos. The only reason we have casinos is to bring in tax revenue. We don’t spend money on casinos–we depend on them for money.
4. Our public officials are so stupid we deserve to be deserted. You know, they’re really not–and we don’t. They’re not Rudy Giuliani, (and don’t we wish we had him!)–they’re just ordinary people of slightly -above average intelligence from a backwater state, who never in a million years thought they’d be called upon to do this kind of a job. They’re overwhelmed. It’s too big for them. Would yours be any better? Would Giuliani? Consider this–9/11 knocked out 16 acres. Katrina and Rita together devastated 23,000 square miles. 9/11 was over–even the searching–in the amount of time the government took to even get some rescue units in here. Three months later, we’re still a shell of a city. New York didn’t lose 80 per cent of its land mass and 85 per cent of its population. Giuliani never had to evacuate an entire city. Who knows if even he would look good in our circumstances. And if you don’t personally like our mayor and governor, since when do we punish citizens for making poor choices, anyhow? (Besides, you should have seen the other guys.)
5. Things are not getting back to normal here. Actually, the situation is quite dire. Things aren’t bad for us personally, but we still don’t have mail service or a landline phone. Try living that way. We don’t mind because it’s little enough, considering. Most– not a little, but MOST of the city still has no electricity and no gas. Families are split, there’s no place to live, schools haven’t reopened. Hardly; anyone’s come home because they can’t–they have no homes, not even FEMA trailers. and no faith that the levees will be rebuilt,
Please, please take a minute to write your Congressmen and senators. If you can, even send the letter below out to your mailing lists, and ask other people to do it. Your help would be so much appreciated. What follows is a “friends and family letter” (as you can see, I wrote my own.), a letter for lawmakers, and a list of addresses. Many thanks for any help you can offer. Julie Smith
Friends & Family Letter
Dear Friends and Family,
I am asking for your help. New Orleans cannot rebuild unless congress supports levee protection that will not fail when a storm comes. New Orleans is an important American city. Would people say to give up on San Francisco or Chicago or Miami or Anchorage or New York because it was just too expensive to protect? Well that is what I am hearing from the media across the country and from individuals in congress. The fate of greater New Orleans’ levees lies with the committees and lawmakers below. Please contact them in some way and let them know that New Orleans matters. However you communicate, use your own words, and speak from the heart. Please share this email with as many people as you can. Maybe in this way congress will hear that America really does care about New Orleans. If, by chance, you know any legislator personally, please contact them.
Letter to Lawmakers Here is a sample message. Feel free to just copy, paste and send it to all of these listed below.
I write to implore you to support legislation solely involving the re-securing and re-building of New Orleans. It is imperative that appropriate and immediate funding for the proper and timely construction of the levee system around the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area be approved.
New Orleans plays an important part in the economic welfare not only of the area but for the entire country! North, South, East and West depend on the vital traffic of goods and services that New Orleans and its people have always provided through its port.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; 509 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
20510; (202) 224-3344; Web site: <http://www.frist.senate.gov>
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, chairman; 113 Dirksen Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-5054; e-mail address:
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., ranking member; 311 Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-3954; e-mail address:
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; 522 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington,
D.C. 20510; (202) 224-3004; Web site: <http://www.stevens.senate.gov>
SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman; 393 Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-3324; Web site:
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., ranking member; 530 Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-2043; Web site:
SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman; 453 Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-4721; Web site:
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., ranking member; 511 Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510; (202) 224-2651; e-mail address:
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; 235 Cannon House Office Building, Washington,
D.C. 20515; (202) 225-2976; Web site: <http://www.house.gov/hastert>
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; 217 Cannon House Office Building; Washington, D.C.
20515; (202) 225-6536; Web site: <http://www.blunt.house.gov>
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman; 2112 Rayburn House Office Building;
Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-5861; Web site:
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., ranking member; 2314 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-3365; Web site:
HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE
Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, chairman; 303 Cannon House Office Building;
Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-2911; e-mail:
Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., ranking member; 1401 Longworth House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-5501; Web site:
HOUSE RESOURCES COMMITTEE
Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chairman; 2411 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-1947; e-mail:
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., ranking member; 2307 Rayburn House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-3452; e-mail:
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman; 2111 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-5765; Web site:
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn, ranking member; 2365 Rayburn House Office
Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; (202) 225-6211; Web site: