Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cashing in on catastrophe, the survivors are left behind.

Who will rebuild New Orleans?

Are the citizens coming back to their homes, to clear the debris and begin rebuilding their lives, as we are shown people doing on the nightly cable news in Texas and Mississippi?


The New York Times has revealed that a Florida company with ties to Mississippi Governor has received a contract to remove debris at well above going rates. No companies from the affected Gulf Coast were awarded a share of the $2 billion in contracts, the Washington Post reports.

From the New York Times of Sept. 26
AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those no-bid contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

California-based Environmental Chemical Corp., Ceres Environmental Services Inc. of Minnesota, and Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Zephyrhills, Fla., will remove debris in Louisiana

But three communities in Mississippi, which found their own contractors rather than accept the terms offered by AshBritt, have negotiated contracts of $10.64 a cubic yard to $18.25 a cubic yard, including collection, processing and disposal.

And other experts have questioned AshBritt's fees. "Let me put it to you this way: If $15 was my best price, I would rebid it," said Mike Carroll, a municipal official in Orlando, Fla., with experience in hurricane cleanup.

According to Senate filings, AshBritt paid about $40,000 in the first half of 2005 to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Washington lobbying firm co-founded by Governor Barbour of Mississippi, who is also a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

And who are these companies employees? Why, one might has, has the government removed I-9 requirements (proof of citizenship) for people employing hurricane survivors? Yes, some people may have lost the Social Security cards. Given the reliance of Texas and Florida business on illegal aliens, I suspect that some if not many of the workers will be illegals. They work cheap, don't complain about conditions, and are easily disposable after. It's hard to sue your employer for work-related exposure to the toxic stew that coated New Orleans after you've been deported to another country.

It's not just the carpet baggers who are raking in most of the federal relief money. Or refusing to employee Katrina's survivors. F. Patrick Quinn III, hotelier and one of the leading lights of New Orleans business, in his efforts to get his properties open and ready for the lucrative FEMA contracts the NYT reports he is pursuing, has brought in Mexican immigrants from Texas to clean his properties.

Why, I might ask him if given the chance, would he not hire displaced New Orleanians?

Like most new money people in New Orleans, he is probably very class conscious, and not terribly fond of black people. Many working class New Orleanians still carry the racist attitudes we were all fed with our grandmother's Sunday cooking.

Mr. Quinn, who is trying to buy up more than a dozen additional hotel properties to add to his little empire of existing hotels, is a scalawag. For those not of a Southern extraction, a scalawag is a native who does the same thing as an outside carpetbagger--profit from the misfortune of others.

That he would bring in possibly illegal aliens to work in his hotels while the working people of New Orleans are scattered around the country by their government should surprise no one. For the people in power, it's all about the money. And as a result, the people of New Orleans will be left behind in all the dust and the smoke of the rebuilding.

Here is some more on Mr. Quinn from journalist Jeremy Scahill, recently returned from New Orleans:

I also...had the chance to meet one of the wealthiest of citizens of New Orleans, F. Patrick Quinn III. He is the single greatest owner of private rooms in New Orleans. He is currently -- he told me that his hotels are being looked at by FEMA to house the workers for the long haul of the so-called reconstruction. I was talking to him, as his head of security and he pulled off in his S.U.V., about 30 Mexican workers came out of his hotel, and one of his security guards said that they had been brought in from Texas, and in fact another news report, about Patrick Quinn, said that he had brought in workers from Texas as well. So, we have the reality of these shelters full of people wanting work and then you see Mexican workers being brought in from Texas, and when they're done, doing this dirty work, they will be put on the back of trucks, piled into trucks and they go to wherever it is that they were staying.

This man, Patrick Quinn is bidding for these contracts where FEMA potentially could come in and rent out hundreds and hundreds of rooms in his hotel and other businesses are struggling to simply stay alive or scramble to get federal money to rebuild, he is standing to gain a tremendous amount of money from these lucrative federal contracts. It must be noted that he is a major contributor to the Republican party. In fact, his wife was just elected in the special election to the state Senate. Her name is Julie Quinn..."

But he is not alone in his attitudes. Our Dear President's rush to suspend the prevailing wage regulations for federal contracts reminds us that there are many in power who think that a lot of us, and not just Negro Slaves, are a mere 3/5s of a citizen compared to their illustrious selves.

Further afield, the politically connected Shaw Group is receiving a mere $200 million in contracts, including the development of a FEMAville trailer ghetto in Baker, La.

The structures they will live in aren't the stylish, modernist prefab homes one might see in the architecture magazine, Dwell. They are airless metal trailers, poorly suited for 90-degree heat. In less than two weeks, 600 of these containers will be standing in a field just off Groom Road. Rows of Porta Potties and showering facilities will complete the FEMA-funded trailer-home subdivision, swelling Baker's pre-Katrina population of 13,500 by 2,000 more.

Baker's trailer camp -- and many others like it -- are being developed by the Shaw Group, a politically well-connected Baton Rouge company that has received at least $200 million in FEMA funds for post-Katrina cleanup and reconstruction. The Shaw Group is a client of former FEMA director, now lobbyist and "disaster pimp" Joseph Allbaugh who resigned in 2003 and arranged for the disgraced Michael Brown to become his replacement.

What sort of people prey so openly on the misfortune of others? How much longer must Katrina's survivors sit in shelters or sweltering trailers and watch this on the news?

Should there be any question in their minds that they have been abandoned by their country? Can anyone else who is not personally connected to a politician go to sleep tonight, knowing that if disaster strikes them they will get $2,000 and a months worth of of food stamps, and someone else will get all of the disaster relief?

Our leaders needs to step forward with a program that ensures that every possible job goes first to the people of New Orleans. Contractors should not be allowed to bring employees into the city who cannot prove they are residents of New Orleans. Anyone found in the city who cannot prove otherwise, and who is not a uniformed service member or affiliated with a reputable non-profit (which might exclude the Red Cross, but that is another post) should be ejected.

That includes the mercenaries hired by FEMA and local businessmen to "protect the rebuilding effort". (Protect it from whom, one might ask? The Salvation Army? The National Guard?)

There should be no FEMAville's hours from New Orleans. The simple solution is this: large areas of the metropolitan area will soon fall to the bulldozer. The Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish are almost certainly going to meet this fate. Lakeview is also at high risk.

Let's bring the bulldozers in now. And start putting those trailer homes on foundations in New Orleans. Sure, we can wait until hurricane season ends Nov. 1, but beyond that date, there is no excuse.

It's time to start preparing to bring home everyone who wants to come, and putting them to work at the clean up and recovery. If the city is going to recover, as businesses come back on line, they will need employees. People can transition from clean-up to more routine jobs in the port and tourism industries.

This is so obvious, one has to ask the question: what are FEMA's and the federal, state and local leadership's real plans? Blanco is already cashing in. Nagin is a former Republican and local executive, with close ties to the people making those ugly remarks in the Wall Street Journal about rebuilding a "different" New Orleans. The big FEMA contracts are going to Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root (the ones under investigation for spending tax dollars in Iraq like drunken sailors in a whorehouse).

Who is going to watch out for the folk?

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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