- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2015

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama praised the recovery of New Orleans Thursday and said he had kept his promise to help the city rebuild.

“Across the board, I’ve made the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a priority,” the president told residents at a community center in the city’s Lower 9th Ward. “I made promises when I was a senator that I’d help. And I’ve kept those promises. This city is moving in the right direction.”

Mr. Obama toured neighborhoods that were hard hit by flooding when the hurricane made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005. More than 1,800 people were killed in Louisiana and four other states, and more than one million people were displaced from their homes.

The president pointed to a $14 billion levee system, a $1 billion new hospital, new housing and better schools as evidence of an improving city. He didn’t mention directly the administration of former President George W. Bush, under whose leadership the Federal Emergency Management Agency was roundly criticized for failing to respond effectively after the storm in August 2005.

But Mr. Obama said Hurricane Katrina “started out as a natural disaster” and “became a man-made one — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.”

He said social problems and inequities had been present long before the storm hit.

PHOTOS: New Orleans rises decade after Katrina — but gaps remain

“What that storm laid bare was another tragedy — one that had been brewing for decades,” Mr. Obama said. “New Orleans had long been plagued by structural inequality that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing. Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty. And so like a body weakened already, undernourished already when the storm hit, there’s no resources to fall back on.”

Recent independent reports have shown that black residents in New Orleans have fared far worse than others in the recovery. For example, 52 percent of black men in the city are unemployed.

And the administration has fallen far short of its goal in rebuilding rental housing in the city.

The president acknowledged that the recovery has been uneven, and said more needs to be done.

“Our work here won’t be done when almost 40 percent of the children still live in poverty in this city,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not a full recovery. Our work won’t be done when a typical black household earns half the income of white households in this city. Too many people, especially African-American men, can’t find a job.”

The president said his administration has revamped FEMA into a more effective agency.

“If Katrina was initially an example of what happens when government fails, the recovery has been an example of what’s possible when government works together,” Mr. Obama said.

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