Friday, February 24, 2006

"FEMA's Contracting Disaster"

Sean Reilly, Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch:
WASHINGTON -- Understaffed, unprepared and utterly overwhelmed.

Such was the state of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's contracting shop when Hurricane Katrina struck last August, according to a new congressional report.

'Procurement officials acknowledged the initial contracting response was poor, with little planning and inadequate resources,' says the report, released last week by a House committee probing the response to Katrina. While the panel's findings of failures at all levels of government have gotten widespread coverage, the press has paid far less attention to an illuminating chapter on flaws in logistics and contracting operations.

Although FEMA's 'acquisition unit' was supposed to have 55 employees, for example, only 36 of those slots were filled when Katrina hit. For more than two weeks afterward -- in what officials labeled 'the real nightmare emergency' -- FEMA generally didn't bother with written contracts for food, ice, buses and other supplies. Instead, the agency 'simply instructed companies to begin work and submit vouchers for payment,' the report says.

With no apparent irony, the report's authors note that 'this could raise issues of enforceability' once written contracts are issued.
(More...) Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch is a project of the Institute for Southern Studies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Diane Rehm Show, 2/15: Katrina Recovery Update

The Diane Rehm Show : Katrina Recovery Update, on WAMU -- "several perspectives on what is and is not happening along the Gulf Coast." Guests include:
Gregory Kutz, managing director, Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, General Accountability Office

Senator Ann Duplessis, Louisiana State Senate, District 2

David Dismukes, associate director, Center for Energy Studies. Louisiana State University

John Logan, professor of sociology, Brown University

Professor Logan is the leader of a Brown University study mentioned on January 28 in this blog, the The Impact of Katrina: Race and Class in Storm-Damaged Neighborhoods.

Windows Media stream
Real Player stream

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Facing South" back in New Orleans

Chris Kromm, writing yesterday for the Institute for Southern Studies' "Facing South" blog:
We touched down at noon and have done a quick tour of the 9th Ward, Bywater and other hard-hit communities. We've also paid visits to one of the main center for the Common Ground Relief network and the NOLA office for Community Labor United.

Signs of definite improvement, with many towering piles of debris removed and individuals getting to work on their homes. But the main story is still of a city left behind.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Charity Hospital

Charity Hospital is one of the hospitals in New Orleans that may be scuttled because of Hurricane Katrina-related damage. The decision to do so now is controversial, says blogger Concerned for Charity:
My position is that Charity may very well need to be torn down or significantly remodeled, in the near future. However, in the near term people must provide effective and efficient medical services.
The initial post of the "Concerned for Charity Hospital" blog shows photos of apparently unscathed parts of the hospital, and states:
Note Charity's basement was drained on September 14, 2005 by the USS Iwa Jima's damage control team. As for the asbestos in the basement of the building, the basement can be sealed off from the rest of the building in the short term allowing for people to be cared for in the building. Instead according to WWLTV the tent hospitals might be moved from the Convention Center to Grocery Stores. The Blanco administration will not even attempt to do what is right for the people of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. Remember 70% of the doctors who chose to stay after graduation in Louisiana trained at Charity can we as state afford to loose this resource. As the state of health care in New Orleans so goes the state, too many of our professionals train there state wide.
This is state resource, when FEMA turns down a full buyout of the hospital what does Blanco's administration do it moves into the most vulnerable of the two state hospitals in New Orleans to flooding. This is a typical Louisiana temper tantrum you don t get your way so you deny services and tell the feds you need more money.
The blog refers to the Times Picayune article "Building repairs ranked by urgency," 2/6/06, which leads,
Prisons outrank charity hospitals, and repairing the Superdome is more urgent than fixing university buildings, according to a list that ranks the state's priorities for repairing government property damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hurricanes Katrina & Rita Web Archive

From the home page of the "Hurricanes Katrina & Rita Web Archive":
Internet Archive and many individual contributors created a comprehensive list of websites documenting the historic devastation and massive relief effort due to Hurricane Katrina. The sites were crawled between the dates of September 4 - October 17th. This collection, containing more than 25 million searchable documents, will be preserved by Internet Archive with access to historians, researchers, scholars and the general public.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brookings Institute: Katrina Index

The Brookings Institute is monitoring economic indicators in the regions struck by Hurricane Katrina. From this month's Katrina Index: Tracking Variables of Post-Katrina Reconstruction, by Bruce Katz, Matt Fellowes, and Mia Mabanta:
  • Demand for essential services in New Orleans continues to overwhelm the supply. Only 32 percent of the city's hospitals are open, and waits for emergency room visits have exceeded six hours. Over 9,000 children have now enrolled in the city's schools but only 15 percent have reopened and some of those are reporting difficulty accommodating demand. Electricity has been restored to about 95 percent of former customers, but power is only being used by 30-35 percent of the former customers, as many customers have either not returned or wait for the city to certify the safety of their electricity connections.

  • The dramatic drop in the unemployment rate is almost entirely due to a decrease in the size of the labor force in New Orleans and Louisiana. In particular, the metro area lost 42,000 people in its labor force between November and December, while the state of Louisiana lost over 100,000 people.

  • Louisiana created over 11,000 jobs between November and December, but lost over 100,000 people in its labor force. Mississippi, on the other hand, lost 2,000 jobs and about 2,000 of its labor force.

  • Hundreds of thousands of households continue to face major obstacles restarting their lives. Nearly 750,000 households remain displaced by Katrina, of which about 650,000 are receiving rental assistance, or about $800 a month. Mortgage delinquency rates skyrocketed between the second and third quarter of the calendar year. In the state of Louisiana, for instance, nearly one out of every four loans is now 30 or more days past due.

  • Traffic in and out of the city continues to increase, along with the number of people flying in and out of New Orleans' airport. In particular, over 47,000 cars now make there way across the Huey P. Long Bridge on a typical day, and nearly 174,000 people arrived at the city's airport in December.