LT. GOVERNOR LANDRIEU CALLS ON WHITE HOUSE & CONGRESS TO HONOR PRESIDENT'S PROMISE TO AMERICAN PEOPLE -- 12/14/2005
Office of Lieutenant GovernorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2005
LT. GOVERNOR LANDRIEU CALLS ON WHITE HOUSE & CONGRESS TO HONOR PRESIDENT'S PROMISE TO AMERICAN PEOPLE
"Time has come for answers, action and support"
(Baton Rouge, LA) - Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu traveled to Washington, DC for his fourth time since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.
"The people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast need answers, action and support from their Congress and the White House and they need it now," said Landrieu, "The time for political rhetoric and speeches is over. The people of Louisiana want to rebuild their homes and their lives; and they can't afford to wait any longer."
While in Washington, DC, Landrieu will work with Louisiana's Congressional Delegation and the Louisiana Recovery Authority to push for passage of the current supplemental at the $12 billion level in grants that can help kick start Louisiana's economy. Landrieu also will push for Louisiana priorities, including dedicated revenue sources that fund levee and coastal protection.
"We have heard the President's promises and we have toured many Congressional leaders through our devastated areas over the past months, now we need our federal government to show that they are committed to rebuilding Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in the same manner that they have supported rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan," added Landrieu. "To our friends in Washington I say, if you have Katrina fatigue, just imagine how we feel. We are about to lose one of America's greatest treasures. With rich history and authentic culture, Louisiana is the soul of America. We are a place that captures and cultivates diversity. We are the melting pot of so many cultures in language, food, architecture, art and music. Now everything about the culture that we have shared with the world is at risk."
Since the storm, Lieutenant Governor Landrieu has worked with tourism, hospitality and cultural industry leaders to make sure that efforts and plans to rebuild Louisiana's economy include the needs of these industries.
Landrieu stated, "Tourism, hospitality and culture represent the largest and fastest growing sectors of Louisiana's economy. Since the beginning of this crisis, we have spoken with one voice about the importance of our culture, heritage and diversity. I've spent a great deal of time before Congress testifying on this issue, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of our industry.
Attached to this advisory is a statement issued by Lieutenant Governor Landrieu calling on the President and Congress to support relief for the Gulf Coast before they recess for the holidays.
STATEMENT BY LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR MITCH LANDRIEU URGING PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS TO SUPPORT GULF COAST REGION
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Earlier this year, President Bush stood in Jackson Square, the birthplace of New Orleans. With the sacred St. Louis Cathedral as a backdrop, our President promised to "do what it takes" to rebuild our devastated region. President Bush's promise included the statement that this will "be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen."
This week, while making the case for our nation's investment in Iraq, the President traveled to Philadelphia where he stood with the Liberty Bell in his background. There, at the birthplace of our nation's democracy, the president called for continued support of the war in Iraq - an investment that is costing the American people approximately $7.1 billion a month.
According to the Congressional Research Service Report, the total spending since 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan for military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs, various foreign aid programs and funds for enhanced security totals about $357 billion to date. This year, the monthly figure for dollars spent in Iraq is 19% higher than last year.
Louisiana taxpayers alone will pay $2.1 billion in Iraq. Approximately 3,000 men and women from the Louisiana National Guard spent the last year in Iraq. During that time, Louisiana families suffered 22 casualties. It seems to me that if we can invest in the rebuild of foreign nations, then we should be able to find the way to rebuild the Gulf Coast region of our own country.
The time has come for our federal government to step up and show that they have the will and desire to support Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in a rebuild effort that has displaced almost a million and a half families, interrupted over 81,000 businesses, destroyed billions of dollars in infrastructure, and devastated the economy of an entire region of our country.
Over the past months, we have heard the President's promises and we have toured many Congressional leaders through our devastated areas. We now look to them to show their commitment to rebuilding Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in the same manner that they have supported rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. If we can rebuild Iraq, we can rebuild the Gulf Coast region. The time has come for more than a statement from our Federal Government.
The time has come for action and answers to the pressing questions we have about our future.
The time has come for Congress to pass this first relief package, so that the state's Recovery Authority and our local government leaders from across South Louisiana can move from the planning phase, and begin the rebuilding phase.
The outpouring of support from Americans has been overwhelming. In fact, nearly half of all American citizens have donated to hurricane relief, according to a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll. Most people say they gave because it was "the right thing to do."
Now it is time for Congress to step up - not only because it is "the right thing to do," but also because it is the smart thing to do for the economic and cultural vitality of our country.
As Louisianans, we recognize that we will only get the help we need if we first help ourselves. And let me assure you, collectively as a people, we are pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. We have endured agonizing losses - we have lost our loved ones, our communities and our homes. But we are leaning forward, rather than blinking.
Louisiana's tourism industry provides a good example of how Louisiana is helping itself and at the same time is in need of federal support. As Lt. Governor, I am the leader of the tourism industry and can speak to the industry's response to the hurricanes.
The industry invested heavily in impacted regions - with the state investing significantly in a new advertising campaign and private investments totaling over $2 billion. Louisiana's damaged airport, ports, convention centers, restaurants and hotels rapidly brought their operations back on line to help restart economic activity in the state.
The industry quickly came together to develop a comprehensive strategic plan. Tourism officials have spoken with a unified voice and submitted an appropriations request to Congress that is exact and efficient. To assure that no relief dollars are squandered through political corruption or waste, the tourism industry has committed to third party oversight of funds. Phase I of our request calls for an investment of $698 million - primarily for the repair of tourism infrastructure and small business grants to those devastated by the storms.
This investment will generate significant economic return. This investment will get people back to work and generate significant tax revenue. Standing this industry up means jobs for our citizens. After all, tourism is the state's second largest industry, generating $9.9 billion in spending and employing more than 120,000 Louisianans. Consider two major events slated for 2006 - Mardi Gras typically makes a $1 billion economic impact and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival makes a $300 million impact.
Our goal as an industry is to create revenue so we can rebuild our communities and bring our citizens back home. Our mission is to help lead the economic recovery of Louisiana. And we need federal support to make this a reality.
In Washington, rebuilding Louisiana has been pushed down the line, and many in Congress have moved on to other issues of the day. According to media reports, President Bush is "currently completing a concerted public relations campaign aimed at rebuilding public support for the Iraq war." While the President has given at least four speeches in the past two weeks on Iraq, we wait in Louisiana for the President to send a message to Congress that relief for the Gulf Coast remains a priority for his administration.
Much has been written about so-called Katrina fatigue. To our friends in Washington I say, if you have Katrina fatigue, just imagine how we feel. We are about to lose one of America's greatest treasures. With rich history and authentic culture, Louisiana is the soul of America. We are a place that captures and cultivates diversity. We are the melting pot of so many cultures in language, food, architecture, art and music. Now everything about the culture that we have shared with the world is at risk.
The enormity of this tragedy is not something Louisiana State and local officials or Louisiana business community leaders have the capacity or responsibility to handle on our own. Congress must realize that Louisiana needs federal support, just like New York after 9/11, or San Francisco and Southern California after an earthquake or the Midwest after a flood.
The people of Louisiana have many questions that only can be answered by a show of support from their nation's leaders. Some have said that our state and local leaders have been "derelict" in not producing a comprehensive and cohesive plan for the rebuild. This may appear true if you are watching from Washington, DC. However, at ground zero the people of Louisiana continue to find ways to move forward under extraordinary circumstances for which nobody has a roadmap or a playbook.
Many of our leaders are working hard each and everyday to rebuild. While the media focus is on New Orleans, we can't and shouldn't forget that many Mayors, Council members, Sheriffs and Parish Presidents across Louisiana are spending the entirety of each and every day focused on the task at hand.
The debate we are having about our future is important. We would be "derelict" if we did not take this opportunity to engage in a thoughtful and deliberative process to address some of the most pressing socio-economic issues of our time. I personally reject the notion that some have offered that New Orleans will become a "white-middle class" city. I reject this notion, because I know that our diversity is our greatest strength, and I am committed to rebuilding our region with this in mind.
Until we have a plan for the future that seeks to address race and poverty, we will not be complete in our plans. I have called for a more streamlined government at the state, local and federal level; a more comprehensive education system that creates cultural opportunities for our children; a focus on a more diversified economy; and, a more regional approach to the way we do business. These ideas are based on my faith that we can create wholesale change in Louisiana that can be a model for the nation.
This is America's opportunity to rebuild a great part of America, and also to develop policies and models for how government can address the most pressing problems that communities across our nation face. Louisiana can be a test lab for efficiency, accountability, and results that show how government is supposed to operate. We urge Congress to give us the support that the President promised and the tools needed to begin to rebuild our homes and our lives.
The people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have fundamental questions that only Congress can answer: When will we have a dedicated revenue source to rebuild our levee system and coastline in a sufficient manner? What level of support will our local governments get to rebuild their infrastructure and economies so that they can begin to repopulate in a safe and coordinated manner?
This holiday season, we in Louisiana remain focused on our rebuild efforts. On January 1, Louisianans, first responders and volunteers - people of all races, ethnicities and religions - will stand together at an Interfaith Celebration in the shadow of the Superdome. This Interfaith Celebration will be a sign of faith, hope and progress. We ask Congress to reflect on the American people's generosity and Louisiana's determination. We urge Congress to help us start the New Year with hope rather than despair, with energy to rebuild and with the knowledge that our nation's leaders are committed to our rebirth.
This was an American tragedy that requires an American response. It is a tragedy of epic proportions, and it has many acts. Rebuilding this vital region of our country will require action that supports the rhetoric of our federal government. It is time for that action to begin - and only Congress can make it happen.