Friday, December 23, 2005

Tracking the Trailers and Other Rebuilding Errata

Mayor Whiplash Nagin has approved 98 trailer sites to provide locations for trailers to be located while New Orleans. Backlash to the siting decisions is expected.

Backlash is also expected to the forthcoming redevelopment plan that may call for some low-lying areas to be purchased and returned to wetland status instead of rebuilt. Watchdog groups say that a smaller footprint is needed.

The New Orleans local unemployment rate is 17.5%. Compare the national unemployment rate is about 5%. The rate for the area in November 2004 was 4.6%. This is a function of all the thousands of businesses affected and homes destroyed. It's a similar picture up and down the affected areas of the Gulf Coast. The national unemployment rate is 4.8%.

There's a bit of revisionist history going on with the oft-quoted Ray Nagin mention of 10,000 deaths due to the storm. Nagin should have taken a cue from Mayor Giuliani who stated that the death toll would be more than we could bear when asked of the death toll at the WTC on 9/11. He didn't give a number and wouldn't speculate. Instead, Nagin gave a number - and got slammed for picking an outlandish number. Sometimes the best thing is to say nothing at all. Nagin has yet to learn that lesson.

Corruption in contracts to remove debris? Say it isn't so. Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, in NYC after 9/11 as some of the debris was siphoned from proper sources and sold to scrap metal dealers.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Palace in Biloxi has opened three months after Katrina hit. The casino industry took a big hit in Mississippi, and it is a major source of revenue for the state and a major employer. Tourism on the Gulf Coast took a huge hit, and getting those parts of the tourism industry up and running will take years, but this is a positive sign. Highway 90 is also fully reopened for its entire length in Biloxi. Parts of the road had been washed out, and lights and signals had to be replaced. Companies continue to come together to assist in the rebuilding of homes and busineses.

With the tremendous loss of businesses and residents, some communities are talking mergers. Bay St. Louis and Waveland are considering merging operations because of Katrina:
Bay St. Louis city leaders have invited Waveland officials to discuss merging the two cities, while government experts prepare a study on the possible benefits.

Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped out the two cites, dismantling most of the infrastructure and destroying well more than half of the Bay-Waveland tax base.
Severe budget shortfalls have forced local leaders to ponder a radical idea that, before Katrina, was just something talked about by old-timers in barbershops.
Bay St. Louis has asked a group of experts on Mississippi government to study the possible benefits of consolidation, wanting to know whether a total merger with Waveland would be cost-effective.

The six-member Bay City Council seems to agree a merger is worth discussing. Waveland city leaders aren't so sure.

Waveland's Board of Aldermen has been invited to what would be a historic meeting with the Bay Council to discuss the idea for the first time, but so far, no one in Waveland has indicated such a meeting will ever take place.

"Waveland's aldermen and mayor have not come to the table," said Bay Councilman Jeffrey Reed. Bay Mayor Eddie Favre said researchers at the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University are planning to launch a study here early next year to determine whether a merger would be cost-effective.
FEMA money is still slow in coming to many.

The task of assessing homes for insurance proceeds continues, and insurance companies have to determine whether the damage was due to wind or flood (storm surge). That determination has tremendous consequences - wind damage is covered under the policies, but flood damage generally isn't covered unless there are rider provisions or separate flood policies. Companies have hired engineers to try and figure out what happened to each property - even where only foundations remain. This process is going to be repeated for every property affected by Katrina and Rita up and down the coast. There are tens of thousands of properties that have to be assessed.
State Attorney General Jim Hood has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi's major insurers, claiming among other things that the insurance exclusion for water damage violates the state's Consumer Protection Act and deprives consumers of any real coverage choices. Private lawyers also have signed up thousands of clients who want their property insurance claims paid.
Because of the public outcry, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale is offering a program that allows a disgruntled consumer to take his insurance company to mediation, where an objective professional will help the two sides try to reach a settlement.

"The Mississippi Coast endured six hours of severe hurricane-force winds before the wind-driven storm surge inundated places that had not flooded in recorded history," U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor concluded in a letter asking the House speaker to support federal assistance for homeowners without flood insurance.

"The insurance industry is badly mistreating the people of the Gulf Coast and is doing so with help from state and federal government policies. The states allow homeowners' insurance policies to exclude all damages caused by rising water, while the federal flood insurance program targets only flood-prone areas.

Some politicians have been blaming the GOP and the Bush Administration for their slow response to Katrina aid and relief. Apparently, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which raised a bunch of money for relief efforts on the Gulf Coast, has been sitting on a ton of money that it raised ($700,000). It's looking to start distributing the money in the new year. Why the delay? We don't know. But I'm sure that the Bush Administration is behind the delay...

This particular story has been picked up by a bunch of folks, including The Jawa Report, La Shawn Barber, Michelle Malkin,

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