New Orleans A fleeting group of well-dressed painters and builders have been passing through the neighborhood here on North Roman Street lately, stopping by just long enough to pound a few nails or apply a few strokes of bright-colored paint on the side of a newly constructed home.
These temporary crews are not fly-by-night laborers. They are politicians, making increasingly steady pilgrimages as the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches.
With a brush in one hand and a bucket of paint in the other, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., climbed a ladder Friday to join the list of those who have rendered a little political sweat, New Orleans style. He came to the same block where President Bush swung a hammer months ago and a group of Southern governors took their turn last week.
Not far away from the fast-rising homes in a neglected block of the Upper Ninth Ward, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., delivered a speech Friday. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was across the state leading a congressional delegation in Lake Charles, La., surveying progress made in the 11 months since storms devoured the Gulf Coast.
As politicians flock to New Orleans, they are practically tripping over one another these days.
When a plane from Washington arrived Friday morning, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., took Kerry and Obama by the hand and introduced them to a waiting quartet of volunteers who began telling the senators about the needs of the city.
The one-year point, Landrieu said, offers a prime moment to take stock of what is done and what remains to do. Her goal is to show - not tell - the story of New Orleans to every senator and as many members of Congress and governors who will take the time.
"It's a time to measure what have we done," said Kerry, who was on his third visit since Katrina. "It's a shame that it's going to take a one-year anniversary for everybody to refocus. I think people will be shocked by how little has happened."