President Barack Obama is not from the South and thus may be a bit fuzzy on the tradition of the hostess gift, so his visit to New Orleans did not include specific new commitments to help the Crescent City and Louisiana face its second decade of Katrina recovery.
The president spoke movingly of the recovery 10 years after America’s most horrific natural disaster, finding in the resilience of the region a lesson for America.
“We’ll keep working until everybody who wants to come home can come home,” the president said.
We are not at all ungrateful for Obama’s support and the substantial investments by his administration to date. The president was rightly proud of the administration’s commitments of billions for not only stronger levees and flood protection but roads and schools and libraries. The city and the region cannot, though, achieve both the continued work of recovery and the larger goal of resilience in the future without additional commitments from the state and nation.
Even after all this time, it’s nevertheless welcome that federal and state agencies are working through the paperwork that tied up too many recovery grants for homeowners. Yet the roadblock of bureaucratic conflicts over some big projects — most importantly, expensive storm damage costs that could be reimbursed to the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board — need to be resolved.
That it did not come when Obama was center-stage does not mean that the U.S. government will not come through; Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was rightly praised by the president, told editors and reporters this week that he is confident that major breakthroughs are ahead on some of the remaining items on the city’s federal to-do list.
The president did not back away from his budget recommendation that would take from the Gulf of Mexico energy-producing states some of the revenue from future oil and gas leases. But the president made a point of saying the administration is committed to coastal restoration, particularly rebuilding the wetlands that will be buffers against future storms. That’s important.
We are grateful to the president for bringing the national spotlight to our city and region, remembering those lives lost not only in greater New Orleans but in Mississippi as well. And as he said, we’ve still got a road to travel, together.