Katrina Washout

How will the presidential candidates continue recovery efforts? Let's ask them.

In late August, as the Democrats convene in Denver to choose their presidential nominee, residents of the Gulf Coast will be about to enter their fourth year of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. You wouldn’t know it from press coverage of the campaign thus far. While the Gulf Coast recovery has popped up in the news here and there, coverage of the candidates’ rebuilding agendas has been all but absent. There are plenty of questions for the political press to raise. New Orleans and other affected areas still struggle with issues of wetland restoration, mental health, evacuee resettlement, housing, schools, criminal justice, and infrastructure. We asked journalists familiar with the Gulf Coast recovery to suggest questions for Barack Obama and John McCain.

What will you do to solve the insurance crisis that has made rebuilding and recovery impossible for thousands of homeowners?

- Stan Tiner, executive editor of the Biloxi Sun Herald.

What would you do to address the mental and emotional health problems that continue to plague adults and children?

- Hazel Trice Edney, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s News Service (a.k.a. The Black Press of America), has written about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans economy relies largely on tourism, a fact that has contributed mightily to the city’s slow recovery. Are there other industries you think New Orleans is particularly suited to develop? Would the federal government partner with New Orleans in creating a special incentive program, backed with major federal funding, to grow such development in the city?

- Sara Catania, a freelance journalist and former Los Angeles Times reporter, covered the effects of Katrina on New Orleans’s Vietnamese community.

The U.S. has no sensible national process for protecting New Orleans or other coastal areas from the threats of global warming, rising seas, and more powerful hurricanes. How would you address these problems?

- John McQuaid, a former Times-Picayune reporter, is a co-author of City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina.

Even before Katrina, New Orleans public schools were the neediest in our country. What responsibility does the federal government have to help rebuild and improve all public schools in New Orleans and ensure that every child has the same opportunities to attend a good school?

- Lesli Maxwell is a staff writer at Education Week. This year, she has been reporting extensively on the New Orleans school system.

How would you use the federal government’s powers to ensure housing and jobs for the city’s working poor and increase quality of life for those who have returned, while continuing to help reduce crime and political corruption in a way that maintains the city’s unique qualities?

- June Cross, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, followed one Ninth Ward family over eighteen months for a
PBS Frontline documentary.

Currently, thousands of residents are receiving help from federal FEMA and HUD vouchers, which are scheduled to zero out next year. Because of the spike in rents in New Orleans, many low-wage residents say that they couldn’t afford to live in this city without subsidies. How would you help keep housing costs within reach for the low-wage workers of New Orleans?

- Katy Reckdahl is a co-author of City Adrift: New Orleans Before and After Katrina.

A tremendous amount of oil and natural gas comes into the U.S. through Louisiana’s coastal areas. In light of this, what is the federal responsibility to help restore and preserve those fragile areas?

- Carl Redman is the executive editor of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Lawrence Lanahan is a Baltimore-based freelance journalist