LA: Rebuilding Projects

Though dirt will not turn for at least another year on many of the 391 public rebuilding projects overseen by City Hall, restoration of all public buildings and other damaged assets will be complete by 2010, New Orleans Recovery Director Ed Blakely told the City Council on Thursday.

“We started very slowly with our projects, construction design and so forth,” Blakely said. “By the fourth quarter of 2009, most of the building activity will have been completed, and by 2010, it will be over.”

In a broad overview of recovery progress, Blakely stressed that the projects, from rebuilding police stations and playgrounds to planting trees along major roads, reflect priorities laid out by residents in post-hurricane planning exercises, including the Unified New Orleans Plan.

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Several council members and a slew of audience members, however, criticized Blakely’s spending breakdown, particularly how $411 million in federal grants authorized by the Louisiana Recovery Authority will be divvied up among council districts.

Does anyone believe this optimism?

AL: Locals Plan To Cover The Ice Debacle

State and local emergency officials said they are looking into plans to provide ice following a hurricane after federal officials said earlier this year that they would no longer supply it.

FEMA head R. David Paulison surprised many coastal leaders when he announced in April that the agency would only distribute ice for medical emergencies or life-threatening situations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has traditionally provided ice to disaster victims, particularly in areas with power outages.

FEMA should reconsider, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said in a Friday letter to Paulison. The agency’s new policy of leaving the job to state and local governments “would add layers of complexity, bureaucracy and delay to what should be a simple and straightforward task,” Taylor wrote.

Alabama leaders are now two weeks into hurricane season and are not sure how people would keep cool if a storm knocked out power.

After Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina wiped out power lines in south Alabama, residents waited for hours at distribution points to pick up ice along with water and ready-to-eat meals.

“Some people making these decisions have clearly never been in south Alabama on a summer day,” said Leigh Ann Ryals, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency director.

Ice isn’t just needed for comfort, said Walt Dickerson, Mobile County’s emergency director.

Some medications need to be kept cold, he said. And unlike food and water, residents can’t save up enough ice to last through more than a few days without power.

MS: FEMA’s Rebuilding Cheif Visits Coast

The general who is overseeing the Katrina recovery for the federal government spent Wednesday touring Biloxi to see the successes and learn about the challenges.

Maj. Gen. Doug O’Dell, the coordinator of federal support for the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, said he “mostly listened” when he met with Mayor A.J. Holloway. He plans to meet with Gov. Haley Barbour today and the new U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Steve Preston, later this week.

In Louisiana and Mississippi the recovery is “a tale of mixed results,” he said. “The challenge in Mississippi is different than the challenge in New Orleans, but nonetheless pressing. Public safety, law enforcement and schools have been largely restored in Mississippi, yet are still problematic in New Orleans. Mental health and housing are still two concerns in Mississippi.”

One of the challenges on the Coast is all the towns operated by a “tireless” mayor and a small staff. “The mayor is just as responsible, just as challenged to work through the FEMA project worksheets projects,” he said, as the much larger staffs of the parishes in New Orleans.

It is his job to identify the priorities. “In Mississippi,” he said, “it is housing, housing, housing,” circled with economic development.

He sees Biloxi ahead of other areas and said the city has a plan for recovery, but it requires patience. “There’s an energy in motion here that I don’t feel in other places on the Gulf Coast.”

First of all, Biloxi has recovered fair quick, but it is more the fact that the casinos control the town, more so than any other aspect.

LA: Tax Breaks

Tax breaks have always been popular, but with these breaks will come a short fall ijn income that is badly needed to help with the recovery of the state from Katrina and Rita.

The House agreed unanimously Wednesday to a $300 million-a-year income tax break for middle- and upper-income earners after narrowly beating back attempts by Democrats to steer more of the benefits to the working poor.

Lawmakers voted 102-0 for Senate Bill 87, which would roll back income tax rates to 2002 levels, before voters agreed to raise them as part of the Stelly Plan tax swap that also eliminated the state sales tax on food and residential utilities.

As the bill by Sen. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw, R-Shreveport, heads back to the Senate for review of the changes made by the House, it would raise the income threshold at which people begin paying the state’s top 6 percent rate from $25,000 to $50,000 for single filers and from $50,000 to $100,000 for married couples. The change would save single filers as much as $500 a year, while married couples could save as much as $1,000 annually.

Supporters of the amendment said the bill as currently configured would apply to about half of all taxpayers and that the largest benefits would accrue for those with the highest earnings. Many of those at the bottom or middle of the income scale would see little or no benefit from a Stelly rollback, while Smith’s amendment would have ensured that everyone who pays income taxes would see some savings.

MS: Beauvoir To Reopen

That shining beacon of the Confederacy, Beauvoir, last home of Pres, Jefferson Davis, will reopen soon.

In the history of Hurricane Katrina recovery, Beauvoir is a Humpty Dumpty “back together again” story getting national attention.

The restored 1852 National Historic Landmark reopens Tuesday with a public celebration and tours for the first time since the 2005 storm destroyed all but the house on the beachfront estate where Jefferson Davis spent his retirement.

Lovers of architecture and history, Mississippi Coast residents appreciating a positive sign of storm recovery, tourists, Davis family members and Coast and state VIPs will attend the morning celebration, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth.

MS: Ocean Springs Condo Experience

The city of Ocean Springs is the Coast own “yuppy” community. It is the more up scaled community for the young upward mobile individuals. I am not a fan of concrete and steel, I feel we have lost enough of the character of the Coast, thanks to that bitch Katrina. But if there must be condos then I feel that this is the best way to handle the fact.

The new Guyton Place mixed-use development in Ocean Springs is designed to blend into the downtown and encourage residents to walk to nearby stores and restaurants. Designed by architect Frank Genzer, Guyton Place is an infill development on Porter Avenue between Washington and Jackson streets. Along with 22 residential units is 5,000 square feet of commercial space for sale or lease. Smith said he would like to see a gallery, coffee shop, restaurant and community office space open at the complex. A landscaped courtyard is also planned.

If all goes as well as they think, then this is an excellent idea to help a Coast community to keep its original charm. More should be done along these lines, to include the old Markham Hotal in Gulfport.

Mississippi Coast: A Meeting Of The Minds

A meeting scheduled for Friday will launch an economic initiative to unite neighborhoods and businesses in several parts of the city.

At the “Ward 2, Ward 3” meeting, citizens will learn about hurricane recovery projects and opportunities. The meeting begins a movement to encourage investment and interaction between neighbors and businesses in the two wards.

Wards 2 and 3 include Old Town, Beach Boulevard and the waterfront to Washington Street, the Depot District, and the stretch of Washington running from the beach to Old Spanish Trail and then back toward Main Street.

As much as anything, organizers see the gathering as a meeting of the minds and a path to the future. Public works projects will be updated and development ideas may be discussed in a variety of areas.

The meeting is open to all comers. Invitations were mailed to property owners of record in the two districts, and to local builder’s groups. Representatives of the Main Street program will also attend, “to discuss possibilities of funding for small businesses,” Thriffiley said.

Representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers have been invited to give a briefing on the Bay St. Louis seawall project. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is also expected to have a representative on hand to brief residents on the pending Beach Boulevard reconstruction project.

May I suggest that one lives in Bay St. Louis then this meeting should be attended. Ask questions if you do not understand what they are proposing. If you do not attend then you have little say what there politicians are doing to your city.