John Edwards has spent a great deal of time in New Orleans over the past three years. It’s been a big part of his battle to end poverty and bring awareness to a situation that shouldn’t haven even happened in the first place. But the second tragedy besides the failure of the levees is the painful lack of attention from this Administration for the continued struggle of those who wish to stay in New Orleans, their home.
On December 28th, 2006, John Edwards announced his 2008 Democratic Presidential bid in the 9th ward of New Orleans.
Edwards, 53, said he chose New Orleans as a backdrop to demonstrate that “Americans can make a huge difference” in helping those who need it most. Edwards stood in front of a home flooded in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina where repairs are just now nearing completion.
“New Orleans, in so many ways, shows the two Americas that I have talked about in the past,” Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, said. “It also exemplifies something I’ve learned since the last election: It’s great to see a problem and understand; it’s more important to take action and do something about it.”
John Edwards made New Orleans the example of what it means to say and to actually do something. He spoke about this in 2005 when he said that “Poverty is the great moral issue of our century,”.
Young people on college campuses have sparked movements in the past,” he said, invoking Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement and other sea changes in civil rights, the Vietnam War, and apartheid brought about by college students. “You can do it again,” he challenged them. “People living in poverty need you. And another thing: America needs you.”
Edwards was visiting campus as part of a 10-stop college tour to promote Opportunity Rocks, a nascent, student-led effort to motivate young people to fight poverty at the grassroots level through community service and political action. (Berkeley’s Opportunity Rocks chapter is headed by student Andy Solari, also president of the Interfraternity Council.) No longer representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, Edwards directs the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chairs the Center for Promise and Opportunity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to studying and alleviating poverty.
John returned to New Orleans in July 2007 to outline exactly what needed to be done about the failure of this Administration to help those still struggling to put things back together. It was only a couple of months ago that all the people living in the formaldehyde ridden FEMA provided trailers were evicted and left homeless, again. Not only that, FEMA covered up the dangers of these trailers on their occupants. You know, human beings that were already left behind by “Heck of a Job Brownie”.
New Orleans, Louisiana Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Today, Senator John Edwards will visit New Orleans to participate in Senator Mary Landrieu’s “Hope & Recovery” Summit, where he will announce six new proposals to strengthen recovery efforts in New Orleans and prevent another failure in federal response on the scale of what happened after Katrina and Rita hit. These proposals build on Edwards’ existing plan to help the Gulf Coast rebuild.
“Our government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been a national shame,” said Edwards. “But while our government continues to fail the people of New Orleans, the American people continue to take action to help rebuild. As president, I will make sure that our government does everything in its power to help New Orleans recover. We are not the country of the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina. We can prove it by fulfilling our moral responsibility to get New Orleans back on its feet.”
Edwards has visited New Orleans several times to help with rebuilding efforts. He announced his candidacy for president in New Orleans in December 2006. In the spring of 2006, he took 700 college students to the area to help rebuild.
Edwards’ new proposals address the health care crisis and spur economic growth in the health care sector, make the streets safe with a surge of federal resources, bring back residents by fully funding the Road Home program and addressing rental housing needs, hold government and private contractors accountable for waste, fraud and abuse, put someone in charge of federal recovery and rebuilding efforts and with “Brownie’s Law,” make sure political appointees at agencies like FEMA are actually qualified for the jobs to which they are appointed.
As president, Edwards will help New Orleans get back on his feet by:
- Addressing the nursing shortage and supporting the proposed biomedical corridor: Edwards will invest in nursing school capacity, offer up to full scholarships for nurses who commit to working in New Orleans and improve working conditions to keep nurses from leaving and to bring more back. Expanding nursing education programs will ensure access to health care while helping fuel development of the proposed biomedical corridor.
- Providing new resources to make the city’s streets safe: Edwards will provide funding federal funding for 500 new officers, and help the local law enforcement recruit returning skilled Iraqi veterans. Edwards will pay for the new law enforcement initiatives with an aggressive prosecution initiative to recover money from private contractors that used crony connections to secure Katrina/Rita recovery contracts and then ripped off taxpayers.
- Fully funding the “Road Home”: Edwards is calling on Congress and the President to keep their promises and help make up the $3 billion difference to people of the Gulf to “do what it takes” to help rebuild the region by bringing back residents while creating good renovation and home repair jobs.
- Putting someone in charge: Edwards will appoint a Chief Recovery Officer to channel presidential leadership, ensure accountability, cut red tape and deliver results for the people of the Gulf Coast.
- Appointing a Special Gulf Coast Inspector General: Edwards will appoint a Special Inspector General with subpoena power to offer the public a full accounting of recovery spending at every level of government and investigate irresponsible contractors, referring fraud for aggressive prosecution by the Justice Department.
- Passing “Brownie’s Law,” so agencies like FEMA get the job done: Edwards will enact a new requirement – “Brownie’s Law” – ensuring that senior political appointees actually are qualified to perform the job to which they are appointed. Brownie’s Law will require that heads of executive agencies and other senior officials have demonstrated qualifications in the field related to their job.
My personal favorite is “Brownie’s Law”. Imagine a President appointing the best person for the job, not who he liked to knock back beers with in the dorm at Yale.
And the issue keeps coming up for John, this is what he had to say at one of the many Democratic Presidential Debates.
And another thing, Hillary offered supporters a chance to have lunch with her and Bill if they contributed to her campaign, Edwards offered his supporters a chance to spend time in New Orleans with him to help rebuild. I wanted the chance to help him, it was about doing something, not just talking about it.
So, it comes back to New Orleans again and to John’s fight to end poverty. Tomorrow, Edwards has canceled campaign events in Super Tuesday states to address the issue of poverty, again.
Campaign officials said Edwards wants to highlight the fact that President Bush did not focus on New Orleans, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, during his State of the Union address. North Dakota and Alabama are scheduled to vote Feb. 5.
In a news release, the Edwards campaign called poverty “the great moral issue of our time.” In recent days, it said, “national discussion of important issues like ending poverty has given way to sniping and personal attacks between the two front-runner candidates. Ending poverty and fighting for the middle class is the cause of John Edwards’ life Ã¢â‚¬â€ and he will urge the nation to refocus on this important issue.”
Some people close to the campaign said Edwards also was disappointed that poverty got little mention in Democratic reactions to President Bush’s address, and he sees the New Orleans speech as a chance to refocus attention on the problem.
As I’ve stated before, Edwards is leading on the issues and hopefully his focus on New Orleans and poverty will force the other candidates to respond. Ending poverty and fighting for the middle class is the cause of this campaign. And most of all, it’s about giving voice to those who have no voice. New Orleans is the painfully accurate portrait of this problem, thousands of families, three years later, who still have not been able to rebuild. Streets are still littered with trash and even more gruesome, bodies are still being found, or what’s left of them. Is this acceptable in this Country? In any County?
If you think this is important, I’m asking you to help donate to John’s campaign. Supporters are organizing another grassroots fund raiser, this time with a symbolic goal that is much more attainable. Tomorrow is the day to donate, please do if you can.