Media democracy now!
For people waiting for their Louisiana Recovery Authority Road Home grants to rebuild their flood-damaged homes, the process is excruciatingly long, and the wait is intolerable. A co-worker's son was in the pilot group used to work out the kinks. His interview with an LRA representative to determine need was 3 1/2 hours. I can't understand why that's necessary. Any high-schooler could probably do the math: The difference between the assessed property damage and the insurance claim award up to the value of the best market appraisal. Whether someone uses tile or linoleum in their kitchen shouldn't be in the purview of bureaucrats. Notwithstanding the delay, it should be conceded that the program is probably ramping up about as fast as it can. There is room for improvement, and Micheal Byrne of ICF, the contractor administering the program, said that ICF will be handling a thousand applications a day by next week. It remains to be seen whether that target will be met.
If there's one person who ought to know how the program is going, it's "our (Dollar Bill Jefferson-endorsing) mayor" C. Ray Nagin. When told by Garland Robinette on WWL last Thursday that the LRA would be handling a thousand applications a week, however, Ray Ray's Mr. Cool response was, "That's news to me. I didn't know that." I'd like to confirm Ray Ray's statement, but -- although it has in the last couple of weeks shifted more attention to New Orleans recovery topics than Saints topics -- WWL is still inconsistent in posting archived audio. True to form, that Thursday interview with (arguably) the most important leader in New Orleans isn't available in the WWL archive.
Again, WWL might argue that it isn't required to post archived audio, to which I'd respond that as an FCC license recipient, WWL, like every broadcaster, is obliged to serve the community first, or risk having its license taken away to give another licensee a chance to do a better job. Furthermore, if WWL is going to advertise itself as the news leader and the official outlet for information in the event of an emergency, it should be required to live up to the standard it set for itself.
I'd go a step further and argue that all stations should be required to have a news staff and to broadcast news and community affairs programs. I'd argue that "our" local broadcasters should be required to have neighborhood meetings to make sure that the concerns of residents are being addressed in the local media. Think about it -- it's a win-win situation. Broadcasters would be delivering exactly what it knows the community wants to see and hear.
Imagine a gaggle of reporters from every media outlet in the city waiting outside the mayor's office for answers to vital recovery questions. I think we'd either know what's going on by now, or we'd have a different mayor.
The point is, there is far too little information getting to residents. Whether this recovery is going well or not, only residents trying to get back into their flooded homes more than a year after the worst government disaster in history could say. I hold our elected public servants responsible for the void of information as much as I do the media.
Why can't "our mayor" have a daily press briefing, for example, explaining the progress being made in the recovery process? The answer, I suspect, is that he wouldn't be able to report much that answers the concerns of residents trying to get a planning process jump-started with only seven planners in City Hall. The answer, I suspect, is that Ray Nagin would have little to say that would appease the approximately 300,000 residents whose homes probably haven't gone past the gutting phase -- if that far at all.
I pulled up behind a car with a bumper sticker yesterday that had one of those "Our Mayor" bumper stickers on it. Next to the image of Ray Nagin smiling smugly was the line "Let's keep New Orleans moving forward," to which I would ask, "Forward? Compared to what?" From my perspective, very little that's happening has anything to do with leadership in City Hall.
Tags: Hurricane Katrina | Katrina | New Orleans | Louisiana | America's Wetland | We Are Not OK | Rebuild New Orleans | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Ray Nagin | Recall Ray Nagin | Hurricane Katrina One Year Anniversary | media | Media Democracy | WWL