As the fifth anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita approaches, Gulf Coast residents are still trying to rebuild their lives after years of broken promises and government neglect.
The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, the bill intended to fund reconstruction efforts that would have provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for displaced residents, languishes in Congress. Affordable housing eludes both survivors in New Orleans and those displaced by the storm. After the devastating oil spill that has wreaked havoc on the local economy, the Obama administration has failed to take substantive action against British Petroleum on behalf of Gulf Coast residents and small businesses. British Petroleum's real liability goes far beyond the $75 million cap imposed by the cowardly Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Why shouldn't they be held fully responsible for their criminal negligence? It's not for Congress and the administration to negotiate a number that works for BP, erasing the real cost of this disaster in the process.
Unfortunately, the only thing that is abundantly clear is that our government failed in protecting the residents of the Gulf Coast during the storm and it has failed them yet again by breaking the promise of a just recovery.
Without a doubt, coverage of the anniversary of the storm will generate plenty of discussion regarding individual stories of survival and triumph, of which there are many. But for far too long, the story of a rights-based recovery has been neglected. Residents of the Gulf Coast region have long called for real solutions to address the disparities exacerbated by the storm, including: an adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement(1) and a demand that no more federal tax dollars be used to fund post-Katrina development projects that result in racial disparities in housing, healthcare, education, employment and environmental protection.
What is most frightening is the reality that Gulf Coast residents still have little to no federal policy in place to ensure sustainable change and recovery. The vast majority of funds and temporary practices connected to Katrina/Rita recovery are discretionary -- not permanent. Washington is playing a political game with the livelihoods of Gulf Coast residents. It's not fair and it's time for decision makers to take real action.
The fifth anniversary of this disaster provides our country with the opportunity to investigate the policies at work in preventing a just recovery. The solutions that would enable such a turnaround in the Gulf are clear. It's now our turn to look toward implementing them so that Gulf Coast residents might have a chance to take back control of the future of the region.
The Katrina Information Network (KIN) is a collaboration of groups in the Gulf and across the country to build power for change. For the next 30 days, we will feature a dozen actions that anyone, anywhere can do to support Katrina recovery work. For more information about the 30 days of solidarity and our current campaigns for just recovery, please visit our website: http://www.katrinaaction.org
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