New Orleans Mayor Nagin Thanks Mayors for Help in Recovery from Gustav
By New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin
September 15, 2008
On behalf of the citizens of New Orleans, I want to thank The U.S. Conference of Mayors for the dedication and commitment you have shown to the entire Gulf Coast community as we have faced Hurricane Gustav and its recovery.
I especially want to acknowledge the strong leadership of USCM President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz who, along with USCM Second Vice-President Burnsville (MN )Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and Conference of Mayors CEO Executive Director Tom Cochran held an emergency conference call during the GOP Convention in St. Paul with mayors from around the nation, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and me. Mayor Diaz and the other mayors expressed their sincere concern and willingness to help us in any way possible.
Hurricane Gustav spared New Orleans the obvious physical scars that were left by Hurricane Katrina three years ago. Despite this, most of our city was left without electricity, our economy was shut down and our entire population was evacuated. As we recover, our citizens are struggling to rebuild their bank accounts following the costly evacuation and to refill their refrigerators following the power outage.
Following Hurricane Gustav, our community and the country were left with two important realizations. One is that the levees that protect our city can withstand a Category 2 storm. That awareness already is inspiring confidence in businesses who want to locate in our community.
The other is that we can successfully implement a multi-phased evacuation of the entire city. After I issued a mandatory evacuation order, the vast majority of our citizens left the city. We simultaneously used our City Assisted Evacuation Program to evacuate more than 18,000 residents who could not leave on their own. This program uses city buses to pick up residents from 17 designated pick-up points and transports them to the Union Passenger Terminal. From there, they are transported by bus and train to shelters in northern Louisiana and throughout the Southeastern United States. In the program, para-transit vehicles and ambulances transport those with special medical needs to the UPT.
Even with the success of this evacuation, our citizens are left with deep scars. I signed the State of Emergency in relation to Gustav on the day that we buried the last of the bodies of unidentified victims of Hurricane Katrina. Our people are weary and worn.
Yet, New Orleanians continue to demonstrate their commitment to our city and the will to persevere. We have made important strides in our recovery from Hurricane Katrina. We have begun recovery projects that will total more than $1 billion for City government and $3 billion for the Sewerage and Water Board. The Recovery School District is investing in new schools. The U.S. Corps of Engineers is working on our levees. Businesses are making critical investments and homeowners are rebuilding.
But in the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav, I am looking to the federal government to fund critical infrastructure gaps in our Sewerage and Water Board Systems, commit to building a Veteranís Affairs Hospital in downtown New Orleans and provide 100-year flood protection by 2010, rather than by 2011 as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has projected. I also continue to push for reform of the Stafford Act which governs disaster response. I want to ensure that no American city ever faces the trials that New Orleans has faced in accessing federal assistance for rebuilding.
Following Hurricane Gustav, I have committed to assisting the leadership and residents of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana and other hard-hit areas in any way we can. We also will offer assistance in Houston and other communities affected by Hurricane Ike. New Orleans has benefited from the kindness, generosity and friendship of many, and I will continue to pay it forward.