A little more than a week ago, the editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote an extraordinary open letter to George W. Bush. "We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," they wrote. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. Thats to the governments shame."
The city isn't pumped dry yet -- far from it -- and the news about the government's bungling continues to dribble in. And now, there's this: another letter from the Times-Picayune. While the paper's editors herald the first signs of a rebirth in New Orleans, they've got a message for Bush: "Don't kid yourself, Mr. President." Bush has begun to talk about how the people of New Orleans must make their own decisions about where and how to rebuild, paving the way -- or at least it seems to us -- to ease the federal government out of the equation as soon as the initial emergency passes.
That won't do, the editors say. "It will become easy -- with no evacuees on roofs, no starving, clamoring people at the Superdome and Convention Center -- to decide that you have fulfilled your commitment to New Orleans," they write. "That would be a huge mistake, Mr. President. The New Orleans that we and the nation deserve will be protected by thriving marshlands, walled off for floods, rebuilt even for its poorest citizens. It will be endowed with the schools, roads and new infrastructure that will allow it once again to be a viable urban center, a vital port, a cultural treasure to America and the world."
The editors say that they're "well aware" that the people of New Orleans can't rely on the government alone for help in rebuilding their lives. "But faced with a disaster like this hurricane, no community can fend for itself," they write. "Many of us cannot return to our homes because they were flooded, due to inadequate levees and an inadequate effort to restore the coastline of Louisiana. These are problems that successive administrations, including yours, have ignored.
"All of us deserve a chance to return to decent homes. New Orleanians also deserve to know that our federal government has made an all-out effort to ensure that a disaster like Katrina cannot happen again. Such an effort should include concrete and dirt, creative thinking, and a commitment that will last for years."