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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dear Mr. President

From the front page of the Times Picayune 8-28-09:

We're counting on you, Mr. President
by The Times-Picayune

Dear Mr. President,

Tomorrow we will mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Louisianians and nearly killed a great American city. We will miss having you in our midst.

We know you don't lack passion for our community and its recovery. Though you haven't been here as president, as a senator you visited five times after Katrina. We remember well the fervor of your speech at Tulane University on your last visit, a year and a half ago.

"I promise you that when I'm in the White House, I will commit myself every day to keeping up Washington's end of the bargain, " you said then. "This will be a priority of my presidency. And I will make it clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don't end in places like the 9th Ward; they begin in places like the 9th Ward."

We await the fulfillment of many of these promises. We are grateful for the federal aid that has flowed our way, including $14.7 billion in improvements to levees and drainage and other storm protection measures. And under your administration, the federal recovery bureaucracy has been eased, as even Republican officials here acknowledge.

But much remains to be done.

The wetlands and barrier islands that are the first defense of Louisiana's energy coast must be restored if we are to survive long term.

Flood protection on a massive scale, the ultimate rampart the Netherlands saw fit to build, should be our model as well, a vital safeguard against a Category 5 storm and its surge. Such a substantial commitment, you told our reporters last week, "remains a strong goal." For us and for the nation, it's a vital necessity.

The economic revitalization of a new medical facility to replace the destroyed Charity Hospital would give New Orleans a shot in the arm it desperately needs. We urge you to see to it that the stalled project moves forward.

Our community is resilient and hard-working. Together with volunteers from around the country, we are striving to make this a better place than it was before the storm, with renovated houses, vastly improved schools and a unique culture that's as vibrant as ever.

But there's no substitute for the focus, the energy, the commitment that a president alone can bestow. There's no substitute for you, as president, seeing our recovery and its halting progress with your own eyes, for taking time to walk in our shoes. So we ask you to bring your considerable intellect, your problem-solving ability, your influence to bear. When a president pays attention, so does the nation.

In the past week, we have hosted several of your Cabinet secretaries. We are grateful for their visits. We were especially impressed with Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan. On this, his third visit since his appointment, he brought his entire senior team with him and committed himself to "building back not just what was there, but building back better and stronger."

That was music to our ears. But it would be a sweeter sound coming from you and spoken on location.

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