The Washington Times - March 6, 2009, 08:27AM



EN ROUTE TO BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS. That’s a shot from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, one of many that shows rebuilding progress but also that there’s more to be done.


I spent most of yesterday in New Orleans with Secs. Napolitano and Donovan, who did not tour that neighborhood but pledged President Obama won’t forget the region.


We’re working on a larger project about the recovery effort, but I had a story in today’s paper highlighting their frustration with the sluggish pace of rebuilding.


NEW ORLEANS - President Obama deployed two Cabinet secretaries to the Gulf Coast region Thursday to signal that his administration will push stalled rebuilding efforts, and in a stark change to the backslapping that residents usually witness from federal officials, neither was shy about frustration with red tape.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan told residents that he is “personally disturbed” and even “angry” by the sluggish pace of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the new administration has freed hundreds of millions of dollars for affordable housing, moving assistance and the rebuilding of schools, fire departments and police stations destroyed during the 2005 storm.

The ruined Gulf Coast became a symbol of President George W. Bush’s time in office and his limited-government philosophy. Mr. Obama dispatched his top lieutenants early to try to prove that his approach to government can do better.

“We are getting a view of what has not yet happened and what needs to happen. We took these jobs to get something done and to move issues forward, and the Gulf Coast and this area is top on that agenda,” Ms. Napolitano said.

Although Mr. Donovan acknowledged the sight of the freshly painted homes surrounding him during a press conference in the once-leveled Upper 9th Ward, he said that “far too little progress” had been made on housing in New Orleans.

“To be honest, we have been disturbed by what we have seen and what we have not seen in terms of progress,” he said.


Read the full story here.


It ran on today’s front page, along with a photo of Brad Pitt, who caused a bit of hullabaloo on Capitol Hill.


His “Make it right” affordable and sustainable housing project in the Lower Ninth Ward is pretty fascinating. Here’s a shot I snapped earlier this week.



We’re on our way now to the hardest hit parts of Mississippi for the story and later today will see Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Gov. Haley Barbour. (My stuff from last year’s Gulf Coast trip here.)


Last night photo rock star Rod Lamkey and I met a guy who runs one of those Bourbon Street bead shops who brought up the president as we shopped.


“When people complain that I raised the prices I tell them to thank Obama,” he said, referring to the tax on cigarettes approved with the children’s health care bill and adding he didn’t vote for the Democrat.


 Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent,
The Washington Times


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