Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hillary Clinton on the "Right to Return" to New Orleans

From the June 28th debate:

MS. MARTIN: [W]ould you support a federal law guaranteeing the right to return to New Orleans and other Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, based on the United Nations Human Rights Standards Governing the Internal Displacement of Citizens?

SEN. CLINTON: I have proposed a 10-point Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda, because it’s sort of as a chicken and an egg issue, Michel.

First, we’ve got to get the hospitals back up. We’ve got to get the law enforcement and the fire departments -- you know, right now this administration has basically neglected with almost criminal indifference the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, in particular New Orleans and the parishes.

So even if we were to give people a right, there is nothing to return to. We have got to rebuild New Orleans, and it’s not only the protection from the levees, it is all the infrastructure. And until very recently, the administration would not give the people of New Orleans the same right we had after 9/11, which was to get FEMA money without a 10 percent match.

And we finally got that changed, but it was outrageous that it took so long.

In May she visited the city and explicitly called for rebuilding the city with significantly greater protection from future storms.

"I believe we should order the corps to achieve Cat 5 protection over time"

The "right to return" refers to a suit brought by many of the city's residents, particularly those who lived in the most devastated areas. They believe that the wealthier communities are trying to build a smaller New Orleans, purged of its poorest citizens. Federal reconstruction aid has been slow to arrive and gone largely to the city's land-owners. Before Katrina, a majority rented their homes and worry that there is no guarantee they will have anyplace to return to.

When the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans was lifted, residents of public housing, many of whom left with only the clothes on their backs, returned to find most of their homes locked and boarded up. This closure was not due to hurricane damage or flooding. In fact, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology architect's assessment in October 2006 showed no structural damage and minimal interior damage to most of these buildings because these all-brick structures were built to withstand such storms.

The city, developers and the feds are planning the largest urban renewal and black removal in U.S. history. While it's clear that blacks were hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, there is no aggressive plan to bring them home.

While HUD professes to want something better for public housing residents, its plan falls woefully short. There is no strategy to replace every unit that is demolished nor to increase the number of affordable housing units to meet growing needs.

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