Saturday, September 17, 2005

Welcome to Bushamerica

Things don't look good for the FEMA Katrina survivors - at least not the poor ones. You remember when the hurricanes in Florida destroyed a few communities about a year ago. The misuse of government relief funds made a brief splash in the news when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of dollars were passed out to well-off folks who hadn't even suffered any damage in the storms.

What you didn't hear about were all the working poor who were wiped out and relocated to a "FEMA trailer camp" a few miles out of Punta Gorda, one of the harder hit towns. Well they're still there and the town doesn't seem to be interested in taking them back. The WaPo reports,
"You almost hate to say this because of the difficulties so many people have had, but Charley tore down some buildings that needed to come down and cleared areas for much higher kinds of uses," said City Manager Howard Kunik.

An old, damaged Holiday Inn on the town's waterfront, for instance, has been demolished and will be replaced with an $80 million condominium-hotel complex, and other upscale projects are moving forward....

... the city made clear that it plans to tear down a public housing complex on the waterfront to make way for much higher-income people.

"That land was just too valuable to have poor people on it," said community leader Isaac Thomas. He said that the local government is trying to help him and other black leaders save some of the modest but historic homes in the African-American East End, but that "it's a really uphill fight."
Meanwhile, the FEMA camp is due to be shut down in February and thousands of its residents still have nowhere to go. I wonder where they think they're going to get the service workers to staff all these new fancy up-scale properties if they force the poor out the area.

And we're going to let these politicians administer another $200 billion of our tax dollars to "rebuild NOLA?"
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Blogger Bostonian Exile said...

I have to be very cautious in phrasing this comment. Just so that's out there...

I was in Punta Gorda and the surrounding area last March, some six months after the hurricane, and the rebuilding had only just started. To think now that Katrina was profoundly more severe is a chilling thought to me.

It is really unfortunate that a lot of people will not be able to afford to return to their former neighborhoods. It is even more so that they have only until February to find someplace to go.

That said, the hurricane was, in my estimation, only a catalyst for the change in that area that was not only inevitable, but also was already well underway. In the fifteen years since members of my family started spending winters in a town about thirty miles from Punta Gorda, land values have gone through the roof as the Gulf Coast has become a new destination of choice for snowbirds who do not care for the hustle and bustle of the Atlantic coast. It is probably the only place in the nation where I had heard of a double-wide trailer selling for over $100,000, especially when most such homes in that area are barely insurable, if at all. Houses are purchased, and then either flipped for a quick profit or often razed to build a new home on the increasing valuable site.

The gentrification started long before the hurricane hit Punta Gorda. I truly don't know that the speeding of the process since that storm is more indicative of "Bushamerica," as you call it, than it is of anything else, but I just thought I would offer a little extra color to the piece you linked.

4:52:00 PM  
Anonymous KathyS said...

Eminent domain in the form of Mother Nature? Who'd have thought?

The one good thing to come out of Katrina and other similar disasters is the publicity the poor are finally getting about their plight. At a minimum, it certainly forces us to see what many of us chose not to before. Hopefully it will move people to start asking questions and demand answers. For instance, how can we hold ourselves up to be a Christian nation when we fail to provide for our neediest citizens?

3:11:00 PM  

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