Monday, August 29, 2005


The networks have been delirious with a sort of a fever that comes with every impending hurricane. All day Sunday and into Monday, we have been inundated with news from the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area, with reporters placed strategically here and there, describing their trips from one spot to another, describing the expressions on the faces of those evacuating the coastal areas, describing the color of the sky. In fact, CNN had so many of their "names" down in the area that one wondered who was there to handle other news. It was a simple question to answer, because there seemed to be no other news.

Over and over, we saw the same pictures of a gentleman hammering plywood onto his window, slow-moving traffic on I-10, people clustering in front of the Superdome, the dismal sky, the blowing wind or lack of it, and the same meterologists from the National Weather Service describing the same forlorn forecast, predicting vast devastation for the Crescent City, for Biloxi, Gulfport, Ocean Springs, Mobile and all of the coastal communities along the Gulf Coast.

We saw authorities from FEMA promising to be on the spot when the hurricane had passed. We heard from the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Mayors, Governors, and even the President, who told people not to despair, that help would be on the way.

But no one mentioned a crucial event. The funding for the Corps of Engineers Flood Project which contained plans for further development in the New Orleans area are being hideously slashed. Not one station that I watched during their Weather Convention mentioned this startling fact.

In New Orleans City Business, Deon Roberts writes "In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding. "

Roberts goes on to say, "The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget.

The matter has now been sent to the Senate for approval.

New Orleans is one coastal city that has made efforts to ward off the effects of a raging ocean. One of the oldest cities in the United States, seventy percent of it lies below sea level. In order to preserve this city, its historical significance, its unique architecture, it is necessary to battle the ocean, its tides, its winds, its vicious storms.

Besides being historically favored and despite its beauty, which brings in thousands of tourists yearly, New Orleans is an important port. It also has oil refineries that provide about ten percent of our nation's fuel.

So why would funding for this crucial project be cut, while our money is spent building schools, hospitals and highways in Iraq, a country few of us visit or cherish as we do New Orleans? Years into this war, the Iraqi people show no desire to get along with each other, or embrace a Democratic way of life. They still carry on territorial battles, which is a bit like Texas declaring war on Ohio, and even the Arab States have voiced objections to the draft Constitution, claiming it makes no mention of Iraq's Arab heritage. Yet President Bush, stubborn to the core, keeps pouring our money into this bottomless pit of civil disruption and intrigue.

What is the use of building up a country in the Middle East, if our own country is reduced to deprivation, low wages, loss of resources, and the slashing of governmental programs aimed at keeping our citizens safe and secure? To deny New Orleans funding for flood projects is akin to allowing snowmobiles to roar through Yellowstone and lumbertrucks to cut huge paths through our wilderness. Keep it up, Congress, and we will have few resources for future generations to treasure and enjoy. Keep it up, President Bush, and we will be a nation of the very rich and the very poor.

So, while Anderson Cooper is standing in the wind in the Mississippi coastal regions, showing pictures of a stream of traffic jamming the highways as people rush to avoid Katrina, I'd like to remind him and other reporters that their job is to report the news, something they often seem to forget. To show these thousands of people rushing for safety in a country whose President has slashed funding to avoid such future havoc without one reporter mentioning the fact is just not good reporting......not good at all!

I would wager most people are unaware of that proposed slash in funding. Think of the millions, glued to their televisions during this crisis, who would have become aware of this budget cut and its ramifications! You missed your chance, Anderson. along with all of your peers, for whatever reason. It is a reporter's job to give us the news, but only the nationally unknown, obscure Dion Roberts seems to be paying attention.