Non-stop tragedies in Louisiana
An old out-of-state friend called to touch base, and asked, “how are y’all doing down there?” I told him we were hanging in there, in spite of what seems to be one confrontation and tragedy after another. Of course you have to be optimistic about the future, but there have been some trying times in recent months, and a long way to go towards recovery in many parts of Louisiana.
I told my friend we are still recovering from racial strife after a number of killings, including three police officers just a few blocks from where I live. A community dialogue began, which was a positive sign, with numerous community and political leaders joining in. And then it started to rain.
Now, it rains a lot this time of year in South Louisiana. Afternoon showers are part of our late summer’s DNA. But it didn’t stop. The water poured down around the clock for 10 straight days. Canals and tributaries quickly filled in and backed up, overflowing their banks. Homeowners who had never experienced floodwater in their lifetimes made a run for safety wading or boating out of their subdivisions.
And Mother Nature just doesn’t want to quit. A potential hurricane is heading toward the Gulf right now with storm season hovering around Louisiana for weeks to come. The state just cannot seem to get a break. And there are so many unanswered questions concerning how homeowners can get back on their feet.
Flooding problems have become a statewide issue and a challenge for a statewide response by the governor and other political leaders. North Louisiana has experienced recent widespread flooding, damaging thousands of homes and flooding the interstate south of Shreveport. The recent downpours of rain spanned an overflow of water from the Texas line to a wide expanse north and south of I-10 to the Mississippi border.
So now the hard work of recovery begins. How much will FEMA initially pay to flood victims who have suffered major damage to their homes? And what about the thousands of homes without flood insurance? Will Congress give them a break even though three members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, voted against any flood relief for Hurricane Sandy victims back in 2012?
FEMA and the Federal Flood Insurance program drew up the current flood zone maps, but they have not been updated in years. Should a homeowner who lives outside a flood zone in an area that has never flooded expect FEMA to shoulder some of the blame for not anticipating the deluge that took place? Neither the state nor banking and mortgage companies have required flood insurance outside flood zones. So why should a homeowner have to carry the entire financial burden for rebuilding?
And what about lenders who refuse to turn over flood insurance checks to homeowners? Some banks and other mortgage lenders will no doubt take the position that the home may flood again, and they want their mortgage paid off. What recourse does a homeowner have?
The best initial suggestion is for the governor to appoint a Louisiana Flood Recovery Commission to deal with a number of such flood related problems. An organized lobbying effort in Washington, led by the governor, is necessary. Maybe visits and apologies to congressional members form both New York and New Jersey would be in order, to put aside any bitterness from Hurricane Sandy. Should the state borrow money for recovery efforts? Can it afford to because of Louisiana’s dire state government financial condition?
Louisiana has proven to be resilient in the past. But even an irrepressible populace can take just so much. And that’s when strong and creative leadership is needed. It would be an understatement to say that it’s crunch time in the Bayou State.
“A flood is cruel. Everything you had is ruined and you can see every picture of your family and children smeared and ruined. Everything you had is still there, but it’s useless – every bit of it. It’s cruel. I think I would have rather been wiped out by a fire.” — Flood victim Joe Fulton
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at jimbrownusa.com.