MOSAIC NOLA:The Gentilly Project

Monday, October 31, 2005

What Good is a Drug Store with no Customers?

Despite all of the CIA leak coverage and Supreme Court Justice controversy New Orleans made the CNN headlines again today. Repair work of a Walgreen’s Drug Store in the Uptown District destroyed in the flood was the subject of the most recent news coverage. Last week the New Orleans coverage entailed little more than the re-opening of a famous coffee shop in the French Quarter. The fact that the media is limiting its coverage to efforts focused on the more prosperous areas of NO seems to indicate that the repairs necessary at the more poverty stricken residential areas are being ignored. With all of the short-term concerns mentioned in Prof. Jett’s 10/27 post regarding residential housing needs, the media seems to be more interested in the glamorous aspects of repair. Who is steering the eyes of the media and how can we influence them?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Where is America

You know what's sad about this whole Katrina situation is the response of the general public. I mean it’s as if Americans have given up, save those who are directly affected and those who are in closer proximity etc. I talk to people about it all the time and I can't find anyone who really has a genuine concern or intention to make it better. It’s like all people want to do is have candle lit vigils, and talk about doing something. At some point awareness and concern are pointless. I feel sometimes the only way people (who don’t really feel connected to the struggle which is Katrina) will begin to help is if the opportunities are brought to their doorsteps for them to either accept or reject. Expecting people who are not connected to Katrina emotionally (or more), to take any sort of initiative in bettering the situation is a little bit much.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Today's Housing Issues in New Orleans

"They're focused over there," she said, gesturing toward the relative bustle of the city's French Quarter and Uptown district, where restaurants have opened and residents have returned. "They should be here, where we need help." - Reuters News today, quoting Mabel Howard, 77-year-old grandmother, resident of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.

Even among those who care about what happened to New Orleans residents, I've seen a tendency to think too much in the long run. The most critical period is in weeks and months, not in years. I've heard a joke where one economist, who is very theoretical and pays little attention to world, makes an observation about what is going to happen, based on what his models tell him. He says to a public audience: "In the long run, the economy will all be for the better." Almost immediately, someone in the crowd calls out: "In the long run, we will all be dead! Tell us about now."

Right now in New Orleans, judges will soon be capping evictions to 1000 per day so that they have a chance to process them. I appreciate that there's an urgency to "get back to normal" quickly, but how can the rights of owners be balanced with the rights of renters (renters who in this case might have no knowledge of the coming proceedings, or might be unable to return based on where they have been displaced). Must this be legal combat between the interests of owners versus the interest of renters?

Obviously, governments shouldn't do everything, but they can provide an environment where addressable problems (like those of Mabel Howard) might be solved. And governments can intervene such that we aren't reduced to raw legal combat - which typically benefits those who have relative to those who don't. Some suffering and legal disputes are inevitable following catastrophes like Katrina, but a whole lot more happens than necessary when various branches of governments don't balance efficiency and compassion.

And FEMA is apparently going to end its Katrina-related temporary housing programs on December 1. Housing issues are now, not the long run.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

been thinking

I hope this guy was just playing devils advocate!

I still don't believe it!!!

I don't know if I should be starting something like this though, because until now our blogs have been constructive and in many was encouraging. But I have to because this time I'm frustrated. I've already had a very colorful morning, and I have not been handling my emotions very well. However, one way or another, conversation about the rebuilding of New Orleans came up while I caught up on the latest news. I commented on the lack of togetherness in the rebuilding process and made a stabbing comment about the commitments and priorities of our President, suggesting that he be impeached. Yes it was an emotional inference, but it's definitely not the first time I've heard someone recommend that regarding President Bush anyway. Nevertheless, I sparked a harsh reaction from one of the persons sitting in the student center going something to the effect that:
There is no point in tapping heavily into the nations budget to rebuild New Orleans, because there has been enough money sunk into Katrina already anyway. Half of the population displaced in Katrina were not even significant contributors to the nations well being anyway, and that they've done enough sucking from the nipple of the nation anyway. He suggested that we were doing enough by simply having them in shelters and meeting the essential needs of them for now but it would be senseless to put rebuilding New Orleans any higher on his list of priorities right now. Most of those people were probably on welfare anyway so we are taking care of them now as we were before Katrina hit.
You can't even imagine how furious I was after hearing someone say like that. What a racist, provocative and jabbing remark to make. And after having the day I've been having already I felt so justified to just break his neck then and there. However, I gathered myself and said that people all over the world see America as the land of opportunity; we set the standard for human rights, liberties, and justice and if we don't do something about our own people in a time of crisis then our purpose as a nation among nations is obsolete. We have a commitment to our people fist regardless I they are white or not, and they all contribute to this country even if you recognize it or not. It's sad that someone like you would see as much as you do and comprehend less than a newborn baby. If it weren't for the fact that I'm a Dartmouth student AT Dartmouth College I would have thrown all intellect aside and bashed your face in for a comment like that. And here's the best part...then I walked away. I was proud of myself because I am not used to doing this, especially given the day I had been having. I don't ever want to revisit this day.

Can New Orleans Be Re-Built Cost Effectively Yet Hurricane Proof?

One can notice on the news that there seems to be minimal property damage in the Naples, FL area after the significant Hurricane Wilma winds ripped through yesterday. Naples is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the nation and was recently rebuilt up to a new “Hurricane-Proof” code post Hurricane Andrew in the early 1990’s. Is the lack of property damage due to these new expensive building codes or were Wilma’s 120 MPH winds just not as damaging as one might think. If we wish to rebuild New Orleans so that another direct hurricane hit will not destroy the city once again will real estate prices soar pushing out its former low-income residents? How do we balance solid, well-engineered housing with affordability, is it even possible?

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: Destruction Amplified By Human Error

Originally written for and posted at Blog for America

Three Independent Investigation into New Orleans’ hurricane protection system reveals a human role in all three of the major floodwall failures that left 100,000 homes underwater and Louisiana's approximately 1,000 hurricane deaths. The evidence presented implicates design flaws in the failures of two floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain, designed and built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to aid their mission of protecting the city from hurricanes, which collapsed when weakened soils beneath them became saturated and began to slide. The findings suggest that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, also built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helped amplify and intensify Katrina's initial surge, contributing to a third floodwall collapse on the east side of town.
The independent investigators believe the floodwalls themselves were the problem in the cases of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, the two canals near Lake Pontchartrain. The floodwalls were built on bad soil. As early as the 1980’s, trouble was detected 20 feet below the when soil tests revealed a thick layer of peat--spongy, organic soil that is soft and highly compressible when dry but very weak when saturated with water. Nothing was done then. And in 1994, a now-defunct a New Orleans firm involved in levee construction claimed that floodwall sections were failing to line up properly because of unstable soils in court documents. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint on technical grounds without specifically addressing the allegations about weak soils.
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a larger dirt-moving project than the Panama Canal created in the 1960’s, acts as a navigation shortcut to the Port of New Orleans and important to the large port industry lobby. It’s potentially negative impact was know prior to Hurricane Katrina. Three months before Katrina, Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at LSU's Hurricane Center, told a room of emergency managers that the outlet was a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the Corps' hurricane defenses, a "Trojan Horse" that could amplify storm surges 20 to 40 percent as the outlet amounted to a funnel that would accelerate and enlarge any storm surges headed for the city's levees. Using a supercomputer model after Katrina, Mashriqui concluded:
"Without MRGO [Mississippi River Gulf Outlet], the flooding would have been much less…The levees might have overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away."

When a federal agency, like the US Army Corp of Engineers, is responsible for ensuring the citizenries protection from natural disasters, it is vital that they don’t create non-natural disasters.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

As if it wasn't bad enough already!!!

As if people of New Orleans didn't have it bad enough, now there are rumors that the New Orleans Saints will officially be moved to San Antonio next season. This not only affects the city economically, but it’s a direct reflection of how much New Orleans means to the USA. If New Orleans loses their football team, they will be losing a lot more than just Sunday Extravaganzas. They will loose a huge source of the economy, which is directly connected to the city’s spirit and culture. Why are people taking away from New Orleans when we should be giving to them? Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is doing nothing, to ensure the New Orleans saints will remain in New Orleans next year. This is pathetic and for once I wish Americans wouldn’t think in terms of money first.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: Death in streets took a back seat to dinner

Originally Posted At and Written For Blog For America

A Chronicle of FEMA’s Internal Interactions on the Evening of Aug. 31, 2005 (2 days Post-Katrina)

Marty Bahamonde, New England FEMA regional director and FEMA’s only body in the Superdown, e-mailed Michael Brown, then FEMA director and point person in Baton Rouge, to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours." He continues, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical…The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."

Micheal Brown’s press secretary, Sharon Worthy, emailed her colleagues

“He [Micheal Brown]needs much more that 20 or 30 minutes [to eat dinner]. Restaurants are getting busy. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise, followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

Bahamonde messaged a co-worker

”OH MY GOD!!!!!!! I just ate an MRE [military rations] and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants."

This chronicle demonstrates why my disgust does not have appropriate words. I can only support the sentiment expressed by Bahamonde in an email on September 3rd.
”The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch. ... I am horrified at some of the cluelessness and self concern that persists”

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: The Demographics of Return

Originally Written for and Posted at Blog for America

“Class, Color May Guide Repopulation of New Orleans” reads the headline of a front-page Washington Post article.

The Post presents evidence of the revival of two of the worst hit neighborhoods in New Orleans—Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward. The destruction was similar. The demographics were not.

New Orleans’ newspaper, the Times-Picayune, deemed Lakeview, decimated, using the headline "Homes Are Sludge Pits With Little to Salvage.” The similar destruction of the Lower Ninth Ward has been broadcast across America. These neighborhoods both saw Katrina’s horrific wrath.

However, the demographics of Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward are markedly different. Lakeview is 94 percent white; the Lower Ninth Ward is 98 percent black. 49 percent of Lakeview’s residents have a college degree; only 6 percent of the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward have a college degree. In Lakeview, 66 percent of children go to private school and in the Lower Ninth Ward, more than 33 percent of residents live in poverty.

Lakeview is now seeing signs of revival. The water is on and the smell of bleach, which kills mold, is strong. The thwack of crowbars and the whine of chain saws fill the air. Insurance adjusters have begun making rounds and the residents are home.

The Lower Ninth Ward still sits mostly empty as residents must leave by dusk and planners have raised the possibility of turning it into a flood-plain park.

This evidence logically leads to the Post’s headline, “Class, Color May Guide Repopulation of New Orleans” and the fear that New Orleans will be “whiter, richer and more homogeneous.” These are facts that I intuitively know—one that corresponds to the racial tensions and segregation present in pre-Katrina New Orleans and one that I’ve seen exaggerated by the anti-poor people policies of the current Republican administration. However, the documentation of this scenario in 2005 as an almost fait accompli by one of America’s largest and most national newspapers is, in a word, sad.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: Joblessness

281,745 Louisiana residents have filed for unemployment benefits in the seven weeks, citing the storms as the cause for unemployment, in the seven weeks since Katrina hit. This figure represents 14 percent of the workers in the state or 47 percent of all the workers in the seven-parish New Orleans region. In short, unemployment is widespread.
While Katrina has created jobs—primarily manual work in the construction, manufacturing, anything in the building trades, these jobs to do not present a viable option to many those left jobless.
But for many professionals, the work just isn't there right now with so many businesses still not functioning. Also, many people can't return to work because their homes are uninhabitable.

Making matters worse, the safety net is tenuous.
Louisiana’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund threatens to be drained bare.
And the US Congress has yet to pass legislation to extend unemployment benefits to those left jobless by America’s worst natural disaster. Two bills are before Congress. One proposal would extend jobless benefits to 39 weeks instead of the current 26, with the federal government picking up the tab for the additional weeks. A second proposal would reimburse $400 million the state's unemployment compensation fund.
Let’s ensure Katrina’s victims have a safety net and lobby Congress to take action.

Starting all over again

After listening to Marc Morial's speech, I found it thought provoking to say the least. However, during the Q and A session I began to wonder about the role each of the different help efforts. With the needs of the Evacuee changing somewhat spontaneously maybe the most effective relief efforts will be to establish a way to rebuild the city as well as the economic status of the Victims. Not simply donating money, food and clothes, but doing more to establish the victims. In other words if you are not already housing an Evacuee and their family then maybe the next best thing is to facilitate them moving back down to New Orleans. Giving them priority in the job market. Yes it is somewhat idealistic, but I believe at some point, Katrina Evacuees will want to return to their former lives in New Orleans. Morial's speech illustrates ways of doing this, and if anything should at least be given meaningful consideration.

Latin America Also Suffers with Katrina

Hurricane Katrina left millions of people without homes, possessions, jobs, and much more. However, we tend to forget the effect Hurricane Katrina had on the international community. I am from Panama, and I constantly hear about the consequences Katrina has left on Panama. The following translated exert is from La Prensa, a Panamanian newspaper:

“The passing of Hurricane Katrina has evoked an energy crisis generalized by insufficient gas in the region and our dependency as an importing country; therefore, we need to immediately examine the energy savings solution (National Hydrocarbon Policy) proposed by the National Government National Hydrocarbon several weeks ago. The production and refinement stoppage of oil in the Gulf of Mexico has a direct effect on the prices of gasoline and diesel that are imported to Panama.” [1]

This passage does not give you the overall outlook of what is going on, but currently in Panama, the following is going down:

1. Public transportation is increasing the fee from 25 cents to 40 cents, which does not seem that much here in the US, but the minimum wage in Panama is around $300 a month.
2. Because of the transportation increase, hundreds of high school and college students are protesting almost daily to maintain the current fare. (Pictures at
3. “La canasta basica” or the basic food items have constantly increased in costs because of increase in transportation costs.
[1]De Icaza, Fransico. El impacto de Katrina y las políticas alternas de energía

Monday, October 17, 2005

Other Social Issues will get their Attention

Most of us are familiar with the racial tension that has resulted due to the government's poor response to Katrina - I wonder what degree of attention will result from some other issues that have bubbled to the surface after this terrible crisis. These can't go unnoticed. As a society, we also have to deal with these controversies, either socially or through legislation:

*Euthanasia - New Orleans doctors were faced with the terrible decision of whether or not to put patients out of their misery when necessary supplies and expertise could not be brought into hospitals

*Price gouging - Not nearly enough has been done do prevent gas stations from charging $5/gal. in Alabama. After Ivan, some lowlifes were trying to charge naive elderly and foreigners $20,000 (!!!) to chop up trees that landed on their homes. Do something, W! Increase the penalties for price gougers, increase the efforts to find them; evacuees can get sandwiches without your help.

*Real estate opportunists - some are trying to buy up underpriced property from desperate or naive sellers who need to get money quick. I've read articles about plans to turn what were people's neighborhoods into commercial property or overpriced highrise apartments.

If you have any more issues to add to this, please do so. The more awareness about these, the better.

Away from apathy - Marc Morial makes sense

I wonder if the apathy is in part the answer to avoiding facing the issues that are before us. I find much of the reality too painful. I already feel as though the bureaucracy has taken over and I am powerless to make a difference. Apathy is soothing in this case.
If you have not seen Marc Morial's speech you should listen. It will help you feel again. He asks us to face the "super catastrophe" of Katrina. He also asserts a Katrina Bill of Rights: Rights to reconnect, vote, return, rebuild, work. Listening to Marc, and the detailed and thoughtful approach he presents, pulled me back in. There is much to be done and much that can be done.

Will New Orleans Soul be Lost Forever?

The soul of New Orleans lied in its black middle/lower class population. They lived near or at the poverty level and rented their homes. Now insurance agencies are claiming that many families will not be covered for any of their losses. Will the re-birth of New Orleans take on an entirely new shape? Will economic boundaries prevent the poor inhabitants of these small but vital communities from returning to their homes? With an extreme loss of jobs in the New Orleans area people must migrate elsewhere to find work. How can jobs be established in NO to draw its former population back in and ensure that the culture remains intact? These small communities need strong political support to prevent the city from being re-built in a manner that does not facilitate New Orleans historic incubation of Black middle class Americans.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Not Propogating Apathy

This post was submitted by Mustafa Abdur-Rahim:

I was talking the other day to a friend who is an evacuee from Tulane. He wasn't too stressed out about his situation, and he didn't express a lot of feeling about New Orleans or its people. Granted his home is in California, but I feel he is separating himself from Hurricane Katrina as just one of his life's experiences. It didn't seem to him like a big challenge to overcome. I wonder if the same will happen to people who were really tied to New Orleans, the people who actually lived there. This wouldn't be good at all. If people who evacuated from Katrina don't feel like those who are wanting to help, then they might simply give up and join so many of us in our apathy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quiet Emergencies

Recently I've heard the concerns that people are "moving on" from Katrina relief. Could it be that the public doesn't have a clear sense anymore of what the needs are and how best they can help? It was easier to do when numerous media organizations were focusing on one crisis.

I was at the Tucker Foundation here at Dartmouth this morning, and Todd Kilburn pointed out a useful distinction to me: loud versus quiet emergencies. The loud emergencies are when a crisis gets lots of attention. Eventually these emergencies "go quiet" as they receive less public attention. It turns out there are specialists who know a lot about these distinctions. Seems to me like it takes a different kind of system to engage the public when a crisis like Katrina/Rita go quiet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steps We Are Taking

In yesterday's class, I talked about open-source development, Howard Dean's "open-sourced" grassroots campaign, and the grassroots-volunteer efforts to serve the needs of hurricane evacuees (what do these volunteers do that large bureaucratic organizations won't do?).

Afterwards, I broke the class into three groups to brainstorm how we might involve persons outside the class as co-participants in our project. Everyone in my class has an engineering background. There were lots of innovative yet plausible ideas. Maybe one thing we can do is find a way to share these ideas with you, in their formative stages.

The essence of what we are doing: helping cultivate places (or communities) where we can give and receive information about where to focus our efforts on behalf of the displaced people of New Orleans, many of whom are still scattered regionally and nationally. And yes, this does mean doings stuff off the Internet...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Where is Mother Theresa when we need her?

The New York Times, in an article entitled, "Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate" is a perfect illustration of the shell game going on among the nation's leadership. Jason DeParle gets all the sound bites I have been hearing too:
"We can't raise taxes now when the economy is hit so hard by Katrina."
"The programs we would cut to pay for Katrina are broken anyway." Then he goes on to list the various responses from helpless Democratic leaders. We are in a morass again.
Is it really so political to help the poor? I did not know that I had to be liberal to be compassionate. I thought economic prosperity was a conservative value, too.
I am not convinced we as a nation have to divide over this issue. Perhaps it is not an issue that can be solved at the federal level.
Maybe this is a "Mother Theresa" problem. By that I mean that the possible solution is to start with our own voices speaking about what we see that disturbs us, articulating what we feel is wrong, and inviting others to conversation. Then with those thoughts articulated, act on them in local, tangible and personal ways. Instead of getting caught up in the politics, offer one person help. People locally can start to organize around individual people, acting out of a spiritual personal connection to people in need -- like Macy Gray or Michael Moore did in their way -- by just listening to someone's story, by helping someone network to find a job, by feeding someone physically and spiritually.
I think the liberal are losing the war because they don't know how to fight the battle. There is still time left before daylight to change the plan of attack. It's poverty and hopelessness and isolation the liberals need to fight. Not the conservatives in Congress.
I have reached out to the Rebirth Brass Band and the New Birth Brass Band, both from New Orleans. Both from the areas of the city most affected. I have asked them how we might help them and help their communities. One story. One song at a time. No federal funding necessary.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Policing the Police?

What does the brutal beating of a 64 year old African-American man, by three burnt out White police officers tell us about the current state of law enforcement in New Orleans? How can we expect to rebuild a city that is currently being run by law enforcement members who are being accused of looting and other crimes themselves?


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Shelter Closures on Saturday Oct 15

Before Hurricane Rita hit, President Bush set a October 15 deadline to move Katrina evacuees out of shelters. It doesn't get much press coverage, but the deadline still stands. I couldn't find many recent articles written about this, but a USA Today article published last Wednesday has some key items:

"We're still going to shoot for that target" says R. David Paulison, acting FEMA director

FEMA has been trying to set up transitional housing for evacuees but has run into problems... The agency's plan to set up 30,000 temporary homes every two weeks also has fallen flat.

FEMA hasn't been able to secure enough public land for evacuees. And when land is made available, Paulison said, the agency has to put in water and sewer lines, electrical power and other basic services before it can allow people to move in. Paulison acknowledged the slow pace of setting up such temporary housing: "It's very frustrating."

There's a need for A LOT of temporary housing.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Per Request

This Forbes article from early September talks about - a site where users can annotate a Google Map with information about specific locations in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Rita, wider regions of Texas & Louisiana have been added too.

Can You Spare A Fiber-Optic Cable?

"The two miles closest to the Gulf and Biloxi Bay are incomprehensibly clobbered. Half a mile from the shore, literally nothing but trees and trash remains. Inland farther, many homes appear intact from the outside. Inside, those people who chose to stay or who have already returned sift through knee high mud and debris. It is not uncommon to hear people report that they literally have nothing left but the clothes they left with." -- NickTaranto, Dartmouth student (10/6 email update and photo from Biloxi, MS)

Nick Taranto is scouting ahead for a winter-break relief effort in Biloxi by Dartmouth students. After talking with people from many organizations there, the consensus is it is "far too early to begin planning a rigid trip for December." As Nick later explained to me by phone, volunteers will surely be needed but it is unclear what the exact needs will be then. He sees needs on the ground there changing daily(!).

Nick says there's a need now for a 8000-foot, multi-grade G-strand fiber-optic cable. Can you find one? If so, leave a message at 603-646-9156

Friday, October 07, 2005

New Orleanians - They Need You In October

This project has always had an emphasis on people from the start: how can we help others respond and work together - to address the community needs of evacuees wherever they are displaced? A good part of it is communication, so here we are. Thanks to MT for emailing me the audio report yesterday. Perhaps we should all talk more about the displaced as "New Orleanians" instead of just as "evacuees" (credit for image above: Steve Inskeep, NPR)

In the news, immediate action is still needed more than many people think. As the interim FEMA chief was questioned by Congress yesterday, the Boston Globe reports on where things are headed for New Orleanians who are displaced.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted that h
undreds of thousands of hurricane victims remain in hotel rooms and emergency shelters -- despite more than $2 billion already spent by FEMA for 120,000 temporary trailers and mobile homes. Only 109 Louisiana families have been put in those homes, while tens of thousands of state residents remain in shelters, she said.

So far, FEMA has spent $1.3 billion to help Katrina victims find homes, and 600,000 have registered for the rental program. But victims still in shelters face an Oct. 15 deadline, set by President Bush, to find more stable housing -- including apartments, trailers and in some cases, hotels. Meanwhile, FEMA is weighing whether to extend a program that reimburses the American Red Cross for the cost of hotel rooms for victims. That program is set to expire Oct. 24.

Is you think the critical times are months away, think again. Small acts by you now will save lots of misery and lots of cost (which we will all have to bear) later. What tiny thing can you do today? If you can't do anything today, post an idea in the comments area below -- an idea that another person (not a group, not an organization, not the government) can do. Or click on the envelope icon below -- forward this message to someone you care about.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Perceptions of Evacuees

What is the perception of Hurricane Katrina’s evacuees? Through countless articles, I have found the following perceptions:
· Regarding the influxes of evacuees into Houston, a survey found that twenty-eight percent of the Houston’s residents said that the influx “would be good for the area, and 31 percent said it would be bad.”[1]
· All the evacuees are poor, African American people, when in reality there are thousands of Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic refugees that are living truly different evacuee experiences.
· The evacuees were stubborn and wanted to “wait out the storm.”
· “We're not used to feeling like we've got to be in prison. We're evacuees, not prisoners,” said Ricky Valentine, an Evacuee relocated to Los Angeles.[2]
Obviously, these are not all of the perceptions, but rather a brief few that really have caught my attention. Regardless of whether the evacuees are White, Black, Pink, Rich, Poor, Happy, or Sad, we still need to see how to give them some sort of help. It doesn’t always need to be money. It can be with clothing, volunteering, or just letting them know they are not alone.
[1] Poll shows split on impact of Katrina evacuees By MATT STILES Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
[2] Katrina Challenge for LA Mission by Mathew Wells.

Current Condition of Evacuees?

It seems like everywhere you look there is some form of information pertaining to the current condition of Katrina evacuees at one location or another. They are looking for jobs in Texas or fighting to recieve Medicaid back in Louisiana. Does anyone know of a more centralized source of information that breaks evacuee status down by state or region?


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why a MOSAIC blog?

The point of the MOSAIC blog is to have running threads of posts and visitor comments every day. It's not here for finished ideas. It's more for ideas and daily conversation. If you have something to say about reviving the NOLA spirit and its community (in all of its diversity), please do so. Questions or comments don't have to be on-topic to the post.

Ideas, weblinks, and next steps that you submit here will be tracked, organized, and posted in a separate public website - with the project plan and to-do lists - so we can focus here on the talk of community revival for New Orleans - and what you can do to help achieve it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Not really a return to civilization

I'm Monisha Sujan and I'm a New Orleanian. I'm currently in Burlington, Vermont. In later posts, I can delve into my story (a very fortunate one). However, today, I want to share the list of items a friend is taking with him when he returns home to New Orleans.

food for one month, mostly canned, boxed, jarred, dried and easy to eatw/out much fuss
18 gal. drinking water in gallons
15 gal. washing water in 5-gallons
1250 generator w/ 19 gal. gas--not enough to power fridge, AC, etc, but torun power tools, charge phones, computers, etc. and watch Big TVoccasionally
battery-operated little tv, radio, CD player5 gal. bleach, dilutable to 30 gallon solution
1 case Lysol spray
6 pair heavy-duty rubber gloves
3 pair work gloves
2 pair rain boots
2 pair steeltoe work boots
lots of old, throwaway clothes, along with regular clothes
50 aos safety dust masks
3 closed respirators
3 pair safety goggles
tools of all sorts, from muck shovels to caroebter's and electrician'stools, most of which I evacuated with
2 rolls duct tape
150 heavy-duty trash bags
20 rolls paper towels
20 rolls toilet paper
2 tubs baby wipes
paper plates, bowls, plasticware for 50 (sorry for the ecomurder, butwashing dishes will be a luxury until the city water is solved)
hand sanitizer/cleaner
lots of first aid, including bandages, alcohol, neosporin, antibiotics, etc.(already got hep A/B and tetnus shots)
Listerine, toothpaste, soap, shampoo
ziploc bags all sizes, 2 rolls aluminum foil
90 ea. D and AA batteries
1 1/2 cases wine, mostly reds
3 cases beer, mostly lagers
I bottle Irish
I bottle Kentucky
1 bottle Patron coffee tequila
5 half-pints Jim Beam (said to be very good bribes for National Guardpatrols when you're caught after curfew)
3 cartons Camel Filters
2 bags Bugler with papers
3 lbs coffee (and cans of evaporated milk--yuck)
candles, battery-operated mini-flourescents, maglites, million-candlepowerspot
1 pump shotgun w/ alternating loads triple-ought and double-ought fourpatch kit and 12-volt air pump (friend B says he's patched TWENTY flats inthe past 3 weeks, mostly from roofing nails in the road)

Not really a return to civilization

Monday, October 03, 2005

Why Is This Called MOSAIC?

When I hear the word "mosaic," I think about the craft of pulling together lots of diverse pieces into a whole, but in a way that exhibits structure.

This comes into play when thinking about the New Orleans community. Anyone who knows the city well understands the bad that goes with the good. It was a very segregated place racially and economically. Can a restoration bring the various fragments of the city together, or will some pieces (those who are most poor and/or African-American) get expelled out. In response to Katrina, are we even appreciating the diversity of New Orleans as city? There was a pretty vibrant Vietnamese community in the New Orleans area....what happened to them? If we think in terms of a mosaic to describe the diversity that was - and could stiill be - in the city, the cultural richness that is New Orleans' history can be maintained.

As an organizational theorist, I also think of "mosaic" in terms of structures to mobilize the independent efforts to support evacuees. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees with individual needs are out there, and large bureaucratic structures will fall short. If we rely on them, the responses will be too slow, will have too narrow a perception of needs, and will be too expensive. It is too difficult for bureaucratic structures to keep up with the variety of changing needs. A more complex structure is needed that is more organic, fluid, and network like. Yet this structure must show coherence with its diversity. A 'mosaic' like structure is needed to give root to the volunteer potential that exists on behalf of evacuees.

That's what we are building here at Dartmouth: a mosaic structure. Building it right will require the participation from a lot of people who live in different places and come from different walks of life. We're working on that. Being online is only a part of the project. It can't be the whole.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

To-Do List For Community Revival

The goal of this project is to create an open organization committed to helping New Orleans evacuees take steps towards community revival. An open organization is one where any motivated participant can contribute irrespective of personal identity, organizational membership, or geographic location.

The project originated from a recognition I made a few weeks ago. Because of the news coverage, the suffering of the people of New Orleans reached millions of people and touched them in a personal way. Many kinds of feelings were generated - shock, anger, disappointment, shame... Many also felt a strong need to help in some way. As I watched so many people donate money and goods, I also saw that we were all capable of doing more. Based on what I knew from my own research on open organizations, I had ideas on how to realize the untapped volunteer potential. Further, I realized that making this a term-length project in my management course would be the most original and unique learning experience that I could offer my students about how organizations work, and about many organizations will look like in the future.

Based on conversations with people who had been displaced, as well as others who have been in direct contact with displaced people, a theme began to emerge:
Mobilization for Community Revival. As I spoke with many other people and received comments and feedback, I discovered the value of having a plan to translate this theme into actions. This plan consists of three major steps "to do."

The first of these steps is currently articulated as follows:
Create detailed (but clear) representations of who evacuees are, where they are located, and the districts that they come from - available in forms that are most easily accessed and capable of dissemination - so that others will appreciate the diversity of evacuee needs and dispel simple characterizations and assumptions of who evacuees are and what they need.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Katrina-related Help and Communication

I think one of the most signifcant (yet underreported) things about getting help to the New Olreans area is lack of phone access. The local area code - 504 - has had problems for WEEKS. It's ok if you have that area code and call out. Not so good if you're calling in. And I can't believe this problem has gone on for weeks. I can't believe it's not talked about much as part of the relief efforts. Part of the sense of disconnection that I've heard New Orleans evacuees describe is not knowing what's happening back in the city. This communications failure feeds into it. How much more assistance could be deployed if phones from the local area code worked? And it has been weeks since Katrina has struck. Cell phones from the New Orleans area code appear to have this problem even when the phone owner is from a distant place, far away from the Gulf Coast damage.