I received this today from Julie Smith, a well-known mystery writer from New Orleans and a long-time friend of mine. She has given me permission to share it with you. I'll let Julie talk now.
Dear Friends: We're in a panic down here, the second in three months. (You know what the first one was.) Somehow or other--I really can't think how--aid to Louisiana, rebuilding our levees, treating us like any Americans in trouble has become a political issue. It shouldn't be. Some of us are Democrats and some are Republicans, and we're all in it together. I've just learned the right-wing political pundits have begun taking us on--Rush Limbaugh in particular--with a ton of misinformation and vitriol. On the other side, there was 60 Minutes, with its shocking one-source documentary.Where all that's coming from I really have no idea. I honestly can't believe anyone could question of whether to appropriate money to rebuild our levees (and the rest of the city). We're an American city. We deserve to be treated as such.What makes us different from any other one? Crooked politicians? We've had them in the past, but we don't particularly now. So has your city, whatever it is. If this is what it's about, it's a smokescreen. Oversight can be built in to any spending plan, and it should be. What responsible legislative body wouldn't include it? Or is it about the concern that we just shouldn't have built a city here? Tulsa was flooded and it recovered. Anchorage had an earthquake and it was rebuilt. If The Big One hit San Francisco, there's no doubt in my mind anyone would debate rebuilding. The Times-Picayune wrote "they act as if we wore our skirts too short and invited trouble." That about sums it up. What's happening here? I've never been so bewildered.
The point of this letter is that we need you to write to your Congressmen (and women) to get us help. I'd also like to clear up a little misinformation I understand is circulating. Here are things I keep hearing:
1. New Orleans is a toxic waste dump. It isn't. Some chemicals have been found in some of the soil, but there are no alarming reports.
2. There are plenty of jobs, but no one wants to do them. This one is particularly galling--there's no place for anyone to live! Workers are camping in the parks and living in RV's. Not everyone can do that, and anyway, it's illegal. This is a huge problem, and it's not going to get solved without a lot of help from all branches of government.
3. The state misspent money that was supposed to go to levee repair. But the Corps of Engineers is a federal agency! One variation has it that the money was spent on casinos. The only reason we have casinos is to bring in tax revenue. We don't spend money on casinos--we depend on them for money.
4. Our public officials are so stupid we deserve to be deserted. You know, they're really not--and we don't. They're not Rudy Giuliani, (and don't we wish we had him!)--they're just ordinary people of slightly -above average intelligence from a backwater state, who never in a million years thought they'd be called upon to do this kind of a job. They're overwhelmed. It's too big for them. Would yours be any better? Would Giuliani? Consider this--9/11 knocked out 16 acres. Katrina and Rita together devastated 23,000 square miles. 9/11 was over--even the searching--in the amount of time the government took to even get some rescue units in here. Three months later, we're still a shell of a city. New York didn't lose 80 per cent of its land mass and 85 per cent of its population. Giuliani never had to evacuate an entire city. Who knows if even he would look good in our circumstances. And if you don't personally like our mayor and governor, since when do we punish citizens for making poor choices, anyhow? (Besides, you should have seen the other guys.)
5. Things are not getting back to normal here. Actually, the situation is quite dire. Things aren't bad for us personally, but we still don't have mail service or a landline phone. Try living that way. We don't mind because it's little enough, considering. Most-- not a little, but MOST of the city still has no electricity and no gas. Families are split, there's no place to live, schools haven't reopened. Hardly; anyone's come home because they can't--they have no homes, not even FEMA trailers. and no faith that the levees will be rebuilt,
Please, please take a minute to write your Congressmen and senators. If you can, even send the letter below out to your mailing lists, and ask other people to do it. Your help would be so much appreciated. What follows is a "friends and family letter" (as you can see, I wrote my own.), a letter for lawmakers, and a list of addresses. Many thanks for any help you can offer. Julie Smith
Sample letters and contact information for Congress can be found at Booman Tribune.