Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Backlash

….is beginning. Texas, especially Houston, Dallas and San Antonio opened up their cities, wallets and hearts to the residents of New Orleans. Many, many of them were flown and bussed to the Lone Star State and housed in shelters, hotel rooms and apartments. Donations of cash, food, clothing and furniture poured in. FEMA and the city of Houston provided housing vouchers, Medicare agreed to pick up the health care tab and FEMA provided money for living expenses. Schools waived records and birth certificate requirements and took in all students with no questions asked.

It has now been six months. Many of evacuees are still here; the majority former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, which may never be rebuilt. These are the poorest, the least educated , the medically fragile and are ill equipped to cope with a series of disasters which would stagger the most well adjusted. These folks have lost their family support system and all that is familiar. Back in the Big Easy their safety net was tenuous at best and in Texas it is non existent.

All of New Orleans’s dirty laundry came with them. Gang wars, turf wars, drug dealers – career criminals who thumbed their nose at the Louisiana justice system. Our crime rate is soaring.

New Orleans schools were known to be inept, corrupt, and more interested in lining administrator’s pockets than educating children. The kids are low, low, low. They need counseling, they need remedial help, they need health care, they need parenting and they need manners. Fighting appears to be the problem solving method of choice. We are having problems and it is worse at the high schools. Schools are struggling and money that could be spent on education is going for additional security.

Texas never spent much on heath care for the indigent - we have some of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation. Our clinics were barely coping and now the Medicare wavers are running out and the emergency rooms are swamped.

FEMA took what little Section 8 housing Houston had and our own poor have nowhere to go. We had long, long waiting lists for public housing and they have suddenly become much, much longer.

Houston is a hard city to be poor. A car is almost a necessity, housing is expensive, social services inadequate and there is a long tradition of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. Low skill jobs pay barely minimum wage and there is a large underground economy of illegal immigrants who will work for well below that wage.

The Mayor of New Orleans now says he does not want any one to come back who “won’t work”. Many of the folks now in Houston cannot work. They have never worked, they have no skills, they are ill or they have multiple small children. Welfare has supported them for at least 3 or 4 generations and the culture of getting up every day and going to work is alien to them. They are the very old and the very young – grandparents raising their grandchildren and great grandchildren. The parents? In jail, on the streets, in and out of drug rehab, and unable to raise their children.

So, they are all ours. Thousands of new residents needing millions of dollars in services that Texas taxpayers must pay for. The Federal Government seems to have billions to rebuild Iraq but very little for the Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and other hurricane-affected areas.

The administration has taken NIMBY – Not in My Back Yard to a new level.

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