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Excuse Me, It’s Illegal

Peter Whoriskey writing in the Washington Post tells us that Biloxi’s recovery shows post-Katrina divide

BILOXI, Miss. – Nowhere has the rebound from Hurricane Katrina been gaudier than along Mississippi’s casino-studded coast.

Even as the storm’s debris was being cleared, this city’s night sky was lighted up with the high-wattage brilliance of the Imperial Palace, then the Isle of Capri, then the Grand Casino. More followed, and so did vacation-condo developers.

Yet in the wrecked and darkened working-class neighborhoods just blocks from the waterfront glitter, those lights cast their colorful glare over an apocalyptic vision of empty lots and scattered trailers that is as forlorn as anywhere in Katrina’s strike zone.

Now, long-standing resentment over the way the state has treated displaced residents has deepened over a proposal by the Barbour administration to divert $600 million in federal housing aid to fund an expansion plan at the Port of Gulfport. The port’s recently approved master plan calls for increasing maritime capacity and creating an “upscale tourist village” with hotel rooms, condos, restaurants and gambling.

The way it works with FEMA money is that it can only be used to replace what was lost; it can’t be used to make improvements. This was one of the reasons offered for rejecting the claim for reimbursement from the aquarium in New Orleans, the bureaucrat said they didn’t simply replace the fish that were lost, they caught more fish who could have been younger and better than what was lost. FEMA money is also restricted as to use. Just because you may come in under budget for rebuilding a fire station, doesn’t mean that you can use what’s left over to make repairs to the sewage treatment plant.

Trying to shift housing money to port improvements while people are still living in FEMA trailers isn’t simply a bad idea, it’s a violation of the laws governing the money. The proper course for FEMA is to take back the $600 million, since Mississippi doesn’t seem to need it for housing according to the governor.

5 comments

1 Cookie Jill { 11.25.07 at 8:21 pm }

These folks don’t care about laws. They’re above them apparently.

2 Steve Bates { 11.25.07 at 9:08 pm }

Forgive the “partisanship” of my opinion, but Barbour is among the worst of the worst. He has consistently advocated illegal, GOP-partisan approaches to problems since before he became governor. His response to the Katrina aftermath is no different. Someone… I’m sorry, but it’s true… someone needs to charge him with his violations and take him to court. This is more than partisan unpleasantness: this is illegal action on Barbour’s part.

3 Bryan { 11.25.07 at 10:33 pm }

The worst of it is that he may get a pass, IOKIYAR. We are still going through this nitpicking crap from FEMA from three years ago, but Barbour received more money than Louisiana and seems to do just about anything he pleases, while New Orleans gets nada. The way this is getting done is partisan and class warfare.

4 Michael { 11.26.07 at 8:34 am }

Makes me wonder if the lobbying Trent Lott seems to be so eager to start doing mightn’t be related to this mess…

5 Bryan { 11.26.07 at 1:35 pm }

I think Lott is trying to avoid the restrictions on lobbying and is tired of being in the minority with no reasonable expectation of being the majority leader again. By quitting this early he has given the Mississippi Democratic party a chance to actually run a decent campaign and a Democratic majority in the Senate helps a whole lot.