Friday, May 12, 2006

An article from


The Federal Emergency Management Agency is closing itslong-term recovery office in New Orleans, claiming local officialsfailed to meet their planning obligations after Hurricane Katrina.The office is responsible for helping the city devise a blueprint torebuild destroyed houses, schools and neighborhoods." FEMA cannot drive the planning — our mission is to support it. We canonly do so much and then we look to the city to embrace and beginplanning and managing," said FEMA's national spokesman Aaron Walker.

"Once they begin planning, we can re-engage with them."Of the 35 employees who initially worked in the long-term recoveryoffice, only five remained early last week, and they were waiting to bereassigned. Those five may continue to work on long-term recovery in adifferent office, Walker said.City officials were angered by the move, saying New Orleans is againbeing abandoned by the federal government. Deputy Mayor Greg Meffertsaid the FEMA office and the city worked in tandem initially, but had afalling out over funding earlier this spring."

We have a city that has an enormous planning need and you needplanners. To date, we haven't gotten any monetary support to bring inplanners," Meffert said.Several employees of the disbanded office agreed with Meffert, sayingthat at the beginning the office worked closely with city officials,helping implement their plans. They say the relationship with FEMA soured after the mayor's rebuildingcommission, a group of businessmen and community leaders asked tocreate plans for redevelopment, requested FEMA money this spring tohelp fund their planning effort.Brad Gair, then-director of FEMA's long-term recovery office, made averbal promise to city officials to fund the effort, Meffert said.

Gairhas since left the New Orleans office. "It appears the mayor's office misunderstood the commitment made: WhileFEMA is committed to the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast region,providing funding for planning does not fall under the federalguidelines of public assistance," Walker said.Eight months after Katrina, rebuilding has barely begun. One majorhold-up was the late release of FEMA's flood elevation advisories,which offer guidelines on how high homeowners should raise their homesfor flood insurance.


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