Monday, November 20, 2006

New Orleans Schools - More Ethnic Cleansing and Privatization

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Photo - PHRFOC People's Hurricane Relief and Oversight Cmtee
This past Saturday New Orleans and gulf region residents rallied at the state capital in Baton Rouge to demand their right to return to their communities at the "We Want Our Money" action at the Capitol Mall. Mike Klonsky also asks in his Small Talk Blog today:

Where did the money go?
The latest from New Orleans, which has become a Mecca for dozens of new, privately-managed charter schools while nearly half of N.O.'s traditional public schools sit virtually untouched since Hurricane Katrina, says Sunday's Times-Picayune.
So what is happening with the more thant $200 billion that is supposed to be spent on infrastructure? Business Week pointed out over a year ago, the political nature of Katrina spending has met with resistance:
"In reshaping the region, the White House senses an opportunity to push conservative programs to the max. ``Bush wants to try out ideas, under the color of an emergency, that he hasn't had success with so far,'' says Will Marshall III, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist think tank. Voucher-style aid, for instance, for all schools that take in students evacuated from the hurricane zone -- including private schools -- will stir strong opposition from teachers' unions and their Democratic allies."

Despite the ongoing privatization of the school system, the gentrification and ethnic cleansing of African American and other communities of color continues as well. The People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition on Saturday demanded that Louisiana Governor Blanco address the issue of residents' right of return:

Governor Kathleen Blanco has hijacked over $10 billion from the Federal Government. Congress appropriated this money to assist displaced people and to reconstruct New Orleans and other areas damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
To control these funds, Blanco created an extrajudicial body, accountable fundamentally only to her, called the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA). The LRA is wholly unrepresentative of Louisiana’s population, particularly of New Orleans, in both its race and class composition. The LRA is a who’s who of Louisiana’s rich and powerful. The LRA represents the interests of major developers, who are intent on preventing the return to New Orleans of its Black working class majority and turning it into the Las Vegas of the South.
The Asian American Movement EZINE - reports that Vietnamese American residents of New Orleans East successfully defeated a City plan that would have created a new toxic waste site adjacent to their community:

New Orleans East is home to the largest Vietnamese community in New Orleans. Despite being overlooked on the aftermath of the disaster, they were one of the first communities to return and resettle in the city.
However shortly after their resettlement, the city planned to create a new landfill Chef Menteur, only one mile away. This landfill would hold the debris, much of which was toxic construction materials such as asbestos, uncontained electronic components, and contaminants from the Katrina cleanup. Community residences feared that if groundwater seeped in or if faced with another flood, contaminated water would leak into the surrounding canals that flow into and around New Orleans East.
Many believe the city insists on dumping near New Orleans East because they want to save money. The contracted dumping company, Waste Management Inc., had romised a 20% kick back to the city of any hauling fees paid to WMI by FEMA.
Despite much controversy and opposition from surrounding communities, city officials still decided to follow through with the landfill plans, their reason being that the urgency of the situation would not allow for a period of public comments from the community.
On April 27, a federal judge had rejected a motion for a temporary restraining order for the dump. Although shocked by this decision, environmental and community groups continued to mobilize and rally against the construction of the dumpsite so close to home.
Finally on July 13, the mayor of New Orleans issued a statement that he would not renew the executive order that allowed the dump to open. It will be officially closed on August 14 in a resounding victory for this immigrant Vietnamese community.
For more info:
Peoples hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Committee
Learning From New Orleans - One Year Later - SF Bay Area commemorations

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