Archive for Monday, March 6, 2006

Delayed response to disaster irks Lawrence native

March 6, 2006


Lance Hill grew up in Lawrence but for a long time has lived in New Orleans.

He was there when Hurricane Katrina wiped out thousands of homes, killing hundreds of people.

"My wife and I live in Uptown," he said. "We didn't evacuate because we've been through enough hurricanes - we know that neighbors make the best first responders. They know where the elderly live."

Hill, 55, was raised in Lawrence. He was Lawrence High School student council president in 1968.

He read the news stories last month about the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee blasting federal officials for their ham-handed response to Katrina.

He's not impressed.

"They spent months conducting an investigation that reached the same conclusion that most Americans reached after the first day of the news coverage," Hill said during a recent telephone interview from his office at Tulane University, where he's executive director at the Southern Institute for Education and Research, an in-the-trenches program that fights prejudice and poverty throughout the Deep South.

Shortly after delivering food and water to evacuees at the convention center in New Orleans, Lance Hill listens to a distraught woman. Hoping to avoid being stopped by police, Hill had spray-painted "aid" on his car. Hill grew up in Lawrence.

Shortly after delivering food and water to evacuees at the convention center in New Orleans, Lance Hill listens to a distraught woman. Hoping to avoid being stopped by police, Hill had spray-painted "aid" on his car. Hill grew up in Lawrence.

He's especially irked that six months after Katrina, no one has been accountable for the decision to withhold food and water from the 20,000 evacuees stranded at the city's convention center.

After the hurricane, Hill, who lives in the nearby Uptown neighborhood, hauled food and water to the convention center.

Hill made four trips to the convention center on Sept. 2, four days after Katrina struck.

"I was turned away at gunpoint on the final trip," he said.

"I had mothers mobbing my car, begging for Similac and Pedialyte - baby formula - because their babies were dehydrating," Hill said. "It was just appalling."

Not all of New Orleans, he said, was destroyed. His neighborhood, for example, was without electricity for several weeks, and most of its streets were blocked by toppled trees.

Food and water were available.

"To this day," he said, "the perception is that incompetence prevented people (at the convention center) from getting relief when, in fact, it was a deliberate policy."

Officials, he said, feared that if the evacuees had access to food and water, they would be slow to leave the city.

"Marsha Evans, the president of the national Red Cross, said that on Fox News," Hill said. "She was crystal clear about it."

The decision, Hill argued, was rooted in racism.

"If Bill Gates, 20 Microsoft executives and their children had been at the convention center, do you really think they would have been deprived of food and water for five days?" he asked.

Chaotic conditions

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said he was not aware Hill had been turned away.

"This is the first I've heard of it," he said.

Smith said officials were caught off-guard by the events at the convention center.

"It was never intended to be a shelter," he said. "There were no supplies there."

Evacuees went there, he said, because it was above water.

"As soon as we found out there were people there, we began evacuation procedures," Smith said. He admitted conditions there were chaotic.

"There was a lot of frustration out there," Smith said.

Troops stopped people with good intentions from entering the flooded areas early on, he said, because "it was so dangerous; if you let people in, you'd end up with another victim."

Still, Smith praised Hill and other rescuers for their actions.

"We applaud any help that one New Orleans resident gave another," he said. "Their response can be viewed as nothing less than heroic."

'Get out'

Russell Henderson teaches social policy and community organization at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.

He said he also was turned away at gunpoint while trying to get food and water to people who had gathered at a church that, like the convention center, was not a designated shelter.

"I was told to get out," said Henderson, who's now leading Rebuilding Louisiana, a coalition of front-line social service agencies.

Henderson said New Orleans residents who remained in their homes despite armed troops ordering them to leave were responsible for saving hundreds of lives.

"The people who stayed behind knew who lived where, who had stayed behind and who needed help," he said. "They were the ones who went out in boats and rescued people."

Often, the boats weren't theirs.

Hill said when a neighbor found his missing boat, it was three blocks away and had a spray-painted message that read: "Thank you. This boat saved 150 lives."

Black neighborhoods

Six months after Katrina, Hill said he was struck by the differences in how New Orleans' mostly black evacuees are perceived versus the mostly white evacuees in coastal communities along the Gulf Coast.

"You don't hear anyone question whether cities like Pass Christian (Miss.) should rebuild," he said. "But in New Orleans, we have city councilmen saying people shouldn't be allowed back if they don't have a job.

"And there's a big debate over whether to rebuild the black neighborhoods because they might flood again," Hill said, "when, fact is, if the Mississippi (River) levee ever breaks there won't be one square inch of New Orleans that won't be under 15 feet of water. It would be a tsunami.

"It's like it's open season on poor people," Hill said.

Hill is the son of Gay Hill, Lawrence.


Linda Endicott 12 years, 3 months ago

I probably read the numbers wrong. It could have been a sub-group. Math has never been my strong point.

meggers 12 years, 3 months ago

The link I posted cites Census Bureau statistics. I think we agree on the overall point, but you might want to recheck your source. Are you perhaps looking at the number of a sub-group, rather than at the total number?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

"290,605 people in poverty in the U.S."

Uh, that doesn't sound quite right. Do you mean in Kansas?

Linda Endicott 12 years, 3 months ago

No, 290,605 is the figure that the federal census bureau gives for the whole U.S.

Of course, those are only the ones who are under the official poverty level...which is an arbitrary figure thought of by the federal government. We all know that this figure is a farce...

meggers 12 years, 3 months ago

There were over 37 million people in poverty in 2004. With the steady increase in this number over the past few years, compounded by Katrina, it's undoubtedly higher now.

Linda Endicott 12 years, 3 months ago

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 290,605 people in poverty in the U.S. in 233,702 of them are white, or consider themselves white.

This doesn't equate into "most poor people are minorities".

Now, as far as percentages go, there's a definite difference in how many people of each race are in poverty. The highest percentage in poverty, by race, are Native American.

But in sheer numbers of the poor, there are more whites than any other race.

And it greatly disturbs me that there are 290,605 people in this country that live in poverty. And this includes those who are the working poor.

Having a job doesn't keep you out of poverty...

meggers 12 years, 3 months ago

Actually, nb4d, I believe billyflay is trying to offer support for YOUR 'hate agenda'.

james bush 12 years, 3 months ago

There does seem to be something fishy about Hill. It does sound like more race bating.

SupplySide 12 years, 3 months ago

It's always the empty headed liberal that feels good about confiscating property and redistributing it to the "needy."I don't know why liberals hate guns so much,it's the only way they can make their self serving programs into law.

Mike Ford 12 years, 3 months ago

Actually Pilgrim (The first recipients of welfare from the Wampanoag People in 1621), I'll be thankful when the moron that you probably voted for is gone in 2008 and has done so much damage to this country, that you and your kind are ran out of office at the polls because of him.

mefirst 12 years, 3 months ago


And how many TRILLIONS of dollars have we spent spreading fighting our enemies i.e. communists, terrorists whomever? Funny, all this money WASTED on spreading democracy seems to be having the opposite effect...CREATING MORE ENEMIES!

bige1030 12 years, 3 months ago

I, for one, am a Liberal Socialist, and it makes me happy to see my taxpayer dollars go to help those in dire need. (Hey, my check to the IRS this year was almost $1300, so I have room to speak!) Sure, there are those who abuse the system, but abusus non tollit usum. The good outweighs the costs. After all, I love people, and people are priceless to me. I don't worship profit at all costs like the Capitalists do ("Oh, he's just another poor sap. What's his life to anyone. Why shouldn't he just die.").

The problem that we still have yet to solve with socialism is how to keep dictators from taking control. The Communists had that problem. There are a lot of people saying that the US is somewhat socialist, and by the way Bush is acting, I'm wondering if he's going to give up power in January 2009. (You know, dictators gain their power slowly - not quickly - so that's why I'm not going to jail for writing this. I'm not so sure if I'd be able to say that in a few years!)

SupplySide 12 years, 3 months ago

You see there is a fundamental flaw in the mind of the Liberal,this is of course viewing the human race for the way they wish and not for the trecherous predators we are. Just keep trying to cram that square peg of liberalism[liberal is Socialist just doesn't have the same ring as "progressive" or Liberal]into the round hole of human nature.The campus Quizlings no doubt will just keep trying to smash a lil harder. Liberals can't even grasp the basics of human nature.Like this is a world that is governed by that constant and continued use and threat of deadly force.Try to get your head around that basic and get back to me.SS

james bush 12 years, 3 months ago

What ever happened to the French help we heard was on the way?? Seriously! Wasn't there something said of French help in the news a few weeks ago?

Curious 12 years, 3 months ago

I haven't been to New Orleans when it was NOT under four feet of water in the low sections at some point in my visit. When it rains it floods because they can't pump it all out. Stores on some streets don't put much below table level. The carpets roll up and are laid on the sidewalk to dry out. Never made sense to me!

We should not encourage people to rebuild on a flood plain. Insurance companies should not cover it. And tax dollars shouldn't either. We have saved lots of lives by moving towns that flood and not financing homes on flood plains. Why should the gulf coast be treated differently?

Have a friend whose farm was destroyed in a Minnesota tornado. Government denied him a loan to rebuild because it was on a flood plain - a drainage ditch ran through the opposite corner of his land.

Don't get me started on California and building on the sides of hills that aren't stable!

kshaff03 12 years, 3 months ago

We weren't prepared for the disaster at many levels. We learn from it and move on.

I do, however, have a hard time accepting that we are spending billons of dollars rebuilding a city sandwiched between a river, lake, and an ocean. Not to mention the fact that New Orleans is sinking deeper into the ground.

New Orleans will flood again. Hopefully its not for another 200 years, but it will flood again.

meggers 12 years, 3 months ago


Since you appear to be fond of painting entire segments of our population with the same brush stroke, I'm assuming you won't be opposed to also labeling the entire middle-to-upper class of our society as corporate criminals and serial killers.

If you want to blame people for taking advantage of a flawed system, perhaps you should begin by focusing on the system that allowed it to happen.

I hate to break it to you, but the poor don't hold the market on fraud. Just take a look at Enron, the Abramoff scandal, and even Adam Taff.

nb4d 12 years, 3 months ago

Posted by billyflay (anonymous) on March 6, 2006 at 11:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)


i was going by the pictures of the hundred or so yellow buses that were floating in their parking spots,

HELLO!!! The buses weren't being used. That's why they were floating. Nagin blew it, that's my last comment to you left wing nuts who love the RACIST conspiracy theories.

Why don't you stop using Nagin's blunders and mismanagement to try to help your hate agenda?

nb4d 12 years, 3 months ago

Nagin used all his buses and taxis??? Maybe you should know the truth before you speak. Don't just go off of what you read on the internet blogs.

Hopefully, you were being sarcastic, and don't believe your own words.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years, 3 months ago

So if you are buried under your house after a tornado comes through, you'll dig yourself out and treat your own wounds. Thanks for the heads up. We can spend our time on others more generous.

kshaff03 12 years, 3 months ago

Gotta give Lance Hill some props though. He spray painted his own car for god's sake.

SupplySide 12 years, 3 months ago

Imagine if the six thousand people that were killed by the turn of the century Hurricane that hit Galveston had we have today.Things like satelite technology that SHOW A GIANT STORM THE SIZE OF TEXAS HEADING STRAIGHT FOR WHERE YOU LIVE!The ability to predict with amazing accuracy the storms projected path and where and when it will hit.We know the wind speed,we have seen past examples of disaster in Florida and elsewhere,much of the problems caused by morons that will not heed any warning. In short you had days and days of advance warnings about a cat five storm slamming where you live,which may I point out is in between two massive bodies of water and below sea level.So now it's debit cards and stupid white liberal guilt about fools that don't know enough to get outta the way of a giant storm.What weaklings we are becoming

SupplySide 12 years, 3 months ago

We have spent in the trillions of dollars since LBJ's great society's war on poverty,which is nothing more than Socialism,and it has proven to be nothing more than an abject failure.You have the same solution for New Orleans. Are these the same "poor" that when given two grand by the feds they make crucial purchases with the money like sex toys booze and of course a tattoo.I mean the first thing I gotta get me is some new body art after the big storm.Poor in this country is wealthy to middle class anywhere else.The U.S. has the richest "poor" in the world.I am sick to death of this underclass that refuses to take personal responsability for their actions in the world we live in today.I think they oughtta send me a check just for having to see so much ignorance and governmental failure on my t.v. for weeks.HEY DUMMY GOVERNMENT WILL NEVER TAKE CARE OF YOU this should be the lesson of Katrina.

DaREEKKU 12 years, 3 months ago

SupplySide, some of these people were too poor to leave town....I'm very insulted that you label it "stupid white liberal guilt" because that's not what it's called a sense of decency. We should not resort to Social Darwinism when it comes to some of these empoverished people. I'm not saying we should pay for all that they own, but lets at least provide resources, jobs, education, so that they can get out. Put your money where your mouth is. I'll dump you in a city below sea level with people trying to evacuate and I'll only give you twenty dollars to your name....better yet ten dollars and then tell you that something is going to hit somewhere sometime and you try and get your way out with your spouse, three kids and parents. By the way, if you miss work anytime from up to two days before the storm you are fired and can't support your family after the storm. Oh, and you're too poor to afford a car as well. Ready, set, GO!

bankboy119 12 years, 3 months ago

Wow. Who cares what the Student Council president at LHS of the class of '68 thinks? It's the same old story.

SupplySide 12 years, 3 months ago

Just more of the same Liberal Socialist racist bilge,brought to you by lj in it's own World and esteemed thinkers from the erudite world of the campus. How disgusting are you Mr.Hill to interject race.Right outta the Ward Churchhill camp know doubt. Does anybody take care of themselves anymore or should we all sit around and wait for our debit card?When I get mine I'm getting me a new tattoo!It's gonna say Bush lied so Katrina flyed! Everybody know it's a President's job to protect us from storms.It's in the Constitution right? Is there help for the disorder known as Liberalism?SS

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm bothered by this statement:

"The decision, Hill argued, was rooted in racism.

"If Bill Gates, 20 Microsoft executives and their children had been at the convention center, do you really think they would have been deprived of food and water for five days?" he asked."

Race =/= poverty.

Bill Gates would be rescued because he's rich, not because he's white. It's important to remember that more decisions get made based on economic status than on race these days.

Yes, most of the poor are minorities, and most minorities seem to be poor. That's correlative, not causative. People aren't poor because they're black, or black because they're poor. They're poor because their parents were poor, because there is a social structure set up that encourages movement between middle and upper classes, but not between lower and middle classes. It happens that minorities have fallen into that gap more often, because historically race has been a significant factor in one's ability to succeed, but currently race is a minor factor and economic status a fairly major one.

This guy would do better to focus on the fact that it was the poor who suffered most in last year's hurricane season, regardless of skin color.

GOPConservative 12 years, 3 months ago

My, Supplyside, you certainly have a very strange point of view!

You claim that 64% of Americans, who polls showed were upset by the way the government kept food, water and baby formula away from those people for five days, are "liberal socialist racists." That's quite a claim, SS!

In the first place, what's this with calling those who complained about the way the Bush administration treated all those black people, "racists?" Are you one of those white power nutcases who thinks that anyone who supports racial equality is an "anti-white racist?"

Even today, it is obvious that the Bush Administration wants to discourage black people from moving back to New Orleans. It doesn't take a "liberal-socialist-racist" to see how most citizens of New Orleans were treated and continue to be treated, even though most had made New Orleans their home for generations.

BTW, wasn't the Soviet Union considered to be a liberal-socialist-racist State, SS? When our President and Congress support Stalinist policies with respect to privacy, freedom of speech and wiretapping, what does that make people like you who support such big-government totalitarianism?

Apparently it was your intent to make it look like you are a "conservative" by calling other people names like "liberal socialist racists." I'm sorry to inform you, SS, but you are far from being a conservative.

When one supports the repression, the tax-sucking monopolies and the fiscal liberalism associated this corrupt administration and Congress, it certainly doesn't make one a "conservative"

But keep voicing your support for the fiscally-liberal totalitarians in Washington and keep sucking up to the theocratic-socialists like Brownback and Ryun.

Maybe they'll send you to Communist China to meet with the commie party bosses, who have been loaning most of the money to Bush-Cheney to piss away to Halliburton and the other tax-sucking monopolies that now own our President and Congress.

Just as the great President, Dwight Eisenhower, warned us, Washington is becoming a carbon copy of the old Soviet Empire replete with pretty much the same kind of politburo (the military-industrial-energy complex) sucking up our taxes and controlling Congress, the President and the Supreme Court.

badger 12 years, 3 months ago

So, SupplySide, where should they have gone?

For most of them, there was no out-of-town family, not even a cousin in Shreveport, to go to. Even if they'd had a family to go to, they had no cars and no way to get there. They had no money to pay the 3 bucks a gallon for gas (Exxon posted record profits after Katrina and Rita, by the way - it's called price gouging and it's despicable) that prices skyrocketed to, and even if they could pay, most of the gas companies didn't deliver to the threatened areas that week, so there was very little exorbitantly priced gas to buy.

It's all very well to say, "Hey, dummy, get out of the way of the storm," but when we've built an entire culture based on supporting a class of poverty, it's a little idiotic to suddenly expect them to work without that net with about three days' warning.

And for those just pointing fingers to the left, tell me why we've not had one substantive piece of welfare reform in the five years the Republicans have controlled not only the White House but also both houses of Congress. The Dems have been essentially powerless, a political minority, since Clinton left office. Why hasn't the right done anything to end the Socialist Welfare State, if it's just those darn socialist liberals? Everyone gets some responsibility for this, not just one side or the other.

You can't have it both ways. If the Dems are 'out of touch and out of power', then the Republicans have had five years of unobstructed Congressional time to make a move on fixing things. I'm not expecting a complete overhaul and an end to welfare. I'm just saying that perhaps they might have done...something?

Mike Ford 12 years, 3 months ago

With family in Pascagoula, Gautier, and Slidell, and two decades of experience in that part of the country, and roots that reach back before the arrival of white people to the coast, I have something to say.

New Orleans is what happens after white flight from the city. I remember going to a Lollapalooza concert at Lake Front in the Big Easy in 1993. I saw a sticker proclaiming, "Repeal the 14th amendment" on a car there. This is an amendment ending slavery from the Civil War era. New Orleans is symbolic of what's happened all over this country as white people tear up other white people' farms to create suburbia. In essense, the Theocratic Christians of this country are professing religion and intolerence simotaneously.

I grow weary of Con and Neo-Con speak to the effect of the "Great Society" . The reason it's failed can be attributed to the one thing Republicans are good at; tearing apart working programs that don't fit with THEIR ideology and replace them with either nothing or programs that reflect their flawed dogma. I once told a career-Republican at my work place that down-sizing is like cutting the 4th leg off an animal and telling it to walk. I said this to him as he was fired after 23 years of work. It' not that programs don't work, it's that they don't agree with the GOP's flawed views of government. I can say right now that I'd rather have an efficiently-ran and properly funded governmental agency than one where a gomer of a president appoints incompetent friends and allows dumb voters to blame people based on racism that they'd never bother to speak to on a daily basis for the inefficiency of a GOP adminstration that hasn't managed one thing well in eight years, except the destruction of trust in the world of this country, and the trust of ALL of it's citizens.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

"You see there is a fundamental flaw in the mind of the Liberal,this is of course viewing the human race for the way they wish and not for the trecherous predators we are."

This an obvious use of the "royal we."

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