Give him time, Obama tells New Orleans
Bending to give hugs like a sweetly somewhat feminine paternal hybrid figure, Obama tries to comfort New Orleans.
Telling residents of New Orleans that he understands their impatience, President Obama faced some irritated people at his town hall today in the city still recovering from 2005 Katrina. Of 120 state rebuilding projects FEMA says 76 have been completed and 1.4 billion federal aid dollars have been sent.
One man sparred with him, asking Obama why he seemed no different from W Bush in 2005.
The several hundred attendees had won the right to be present in an internet lottery.
NEW ORLEANS — Insisting he's "just getting started," President Barack Obama defended his administration Thursday against complaints from some residents of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast that federal help in recovering from the 2005 disasters hasn't improved much since he took office.
"We've got a long way to go but we've made progress," Obama told a town hall at the University of New Orleans. "We're working as hard as we can and as quickly as we can."
As a candidate, Obama criticized former President George W. Bush's response to Katrina, when the government showed up late and unprepared and the Federal Emergency Management Agency became the object of widespread scorn.
The storm killed some 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi — and damage has been estimated at roughly $40 billion. The damage is still starkly visible in New Orleans — in blighted neighborhoods of creaky houses, boarded-up businesses, structure after structure awaiting demolition and critical recovery work not yet started.
Obama wanted to use his first visit as president to the Gulf Coast to listen to residents' concerns about the recovery effort. And although most questions were on unrelated subjects, one man gave him an earful.
"I expected as much from the Bush administration, but why are we still being nickeled and dimed in our recovery?" asked Gabriel Bordenave, 29, of New Orleans.
"I wish I could write a blank check," Obama replied, promoting Bordenave to shout back, "Why not?"
Obama claimed progress since he entered the White House in January. He cited reconstruction projects that have moved forward after having been stalled by disagreements over whether the state or federal government would foot the bill. FEMA is working "around the clock to clear up red tape and to eliminate bureaucracy on backlogs that go back years," he said.
Most Recommended Comment
Redwater, Alberta, Canada